The North Korean authorities recently announced the intention to sell all industrial products in state-operated stores, soon after announcing the revised “10th-day famers markets,” which open only on the 1st, 11th and 21st of every month, starting from next year.
According to an inside source in North Hamkyung Province, a new instruction on the sale of industrial products in state-operated stores was introduced during the latest cadres’ lectures. As rumors of the large-scale entry of Chinese goods onto the market due to Chinese loans circulate among people, there has been in a flutter in the market.
The source stated that the idea of industrial product sales was introduced during a cadres’ lecture on the 29th of November under the title, “measures to improve the current situation and people’s lives,” which also explained the transformation of the current market system into the “10th-day farmers market” system.
In the source’s opinion, “It signifies the government’s attempt to monopolize the industrial-product market, which was actively and spontaneously established by the people after the ‘march of tribulation’ in the late 1990s. Industrial goods to be sold in the state-operated stores would include both Chinese and North Korean products.
During the lecture, it was stated that “All industrial goods that have been passing through the jangmadang (markets) must now be sold in the state-operated stores and only vegetables or certain agricultural products can be sold within the farmers markets,” which suggests the prohibition of individuals selling food-related products and industrial goods.
With regard to the backdrop of this policy, the authorities explained that, “The current market was a temporary measure taken by the state considering the difficult situations caused by the march of tribulation. However, the markets after some time deviated from the state’s intention and socialist economic principles and have become a hotbed of crimes generating capitalist and anti-socialist trends. Therefore, we are ridding ourselves of all markets and reviving the farmers market.”
The source explained that this measure does not seem to “simply control the markets. But if they begin selling industrial products in the state-operated stores, they would be able to circulate money within the regime that has been circulating within private markets and among individuals by tying purchase profits to national banks.
He said, “Due to the jangmadang, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. And, because money is not flowing within the regime, the authorities are getting rid of private sales to revive the banks so as to recover the regime economy… It seems the state-controlled economy will become better next year” he added.
However, the source also relayed that “Although they announced the selling of industrial goods only in the state-operated stores from next year, nothing, regarding exactly when and how, was mentioned during the lecture.”
“There is also another rumor that even ‘procurement stores’ would have to sell products on the same price level with the state-operated stores, or they would have to close down. It basically signifies that the regime will not permit any form of private sales, by selling all products that had been sold by individuals” he added.
The source reported that there have been heated debates on this decision among North Koreans.
“Famers gladly took this decision that industrial goods will sell in state-operated stores because they have been complaining that they sold agricultural products at next to nothing while buying industrial goods at such a high price. They are expecting that industrial goods will cost less than now” the source reported.
“However, workers in urban areas are extremely concerned that they cannot sell anything in the jangmadang. An average workers’ salary is 1,500 North Korean Won and if individuals are not permitted to sell, workers’ families will be harshly affected” he forecasted.
The source continued on and said, “Even though they say workers get paid well, how are they expected to live when a pair of military boots costs 9,000 North Korean won. One month’s salary is not even half a kilo of rice.”
The source in the end expressed concern because workers began “explicitly complaining about cadres who only fill themselves up. I personally think that there will begin a massive war within the markets starting from New Year’s Day”.