Coal prices in North Korea spike in April

North Korean coal briquettes
North Korean coal briquettes. Image: Daily NK

The price of one ton of coal in March, which was around 25-30 dollars, spiked to around 37 dollars in early April, according to sources in South Hamgyong Province.

Sanctions on North Korea have led to a fall in coal exports and an increase in the amount of coal available in the country’s domestic markets. Small-scale coal businesses are buying cheap coal in the markets to create briquettes for local sale.

Sources report that the increase in coal prices is due to rising demand for heating sources and for factories that produce foodstuffs, as well as a fall in supply.

“Coal that sold for around 25 dollars in early March in Hamhung and Hongwon County now goes for around 30 dollars. Thirty dollars is how much coal went for when there were a lot of exports,” a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

“Kowon Mine is in Hamhung, which makes a lot of coal so the area’s coal prices are cheaper. But this year the coal is more expensive than usual.”

Sales of coal for winter heating usually occur in September and October. In April, North Koreans tend to stock up on coal for the following year to avoid higher prices when demand spikes in the winter.

However, as a separate source in South Hamgyong Province noted, April in North Korea still brings cold weather and many North Koreans still need fuel for heating and to prepare food to sell at the markets.

“But it’s difficult to even get wood to burn for heat these days,” he said, explaining that the state has increased wood prices due to the fall in coal prices.

He also questioned the tendency to connect the rise in coal prices with coal exports.

“Minerals from Musan Mine are smuggled out and coal is generally smuggled out the same way, so people say that these smuggling activities have caused prices to rise. But it’s not clear whether that’s actually true,” he concluded.

Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to