Since the North Korean security forces have been on special alert for the last two weeks in advance of the Delegates’ Conference, there has been a contraction in market activity, and this is forcing up rice prices.
In September, when farmers normally start harvesting, rice prices tend to drop, but because regular citizens do not know when the Delegates’ Conference is going to start, things are not easy this year.
A source from North Hamkyung Province told The Daily NK yesterday, “In Hoiryeong Market, rice was 1,000 won per kilo in late August, but today it is 1,300 won. The reason is that the special alert has been in force for around two weeks in the run up to the Delegates’ Conference, so there is less food trading going on.”
During any “special alert,” which the authorities impose in preparation for important political events, controls over migration and so-called “anti-socialist” activities are reinforced on pretexts of national security and rooting out espionage agents. The selling of rice is one thing which is subject to control.
Meanwhile, the most desirable corn is currently worth 750 won per kilo, according to source. This is corn produced last year; newly harvested corn costs 500 won. People tend to prefer old corn to this year’s corn because when they put it in water to cook, its volume increases more.
The source also explained that the people know exactly who to blame, saying, “People are complaining that last spring the authorities irritated them in order to wage war against South Chosun, and now they are being bothered with the Delegates’ Conference, which is still on hold.”
“Due to a crackdown on ‘grasshopper traders’ around markets, only traders who can afford a stall within the market can do business,” he went on. “It is natural for rice prices to rise because there are fewer rice sellers.”
Grasshopper trader means one who does business in alley markets, moving location in order to avoid the authorities.
The source noted, “In late October or early November, food prices may stabilize, but I am not sure because flood damage was so serious this year.”
With rising rice prices, exchange rates also rose; in Hoiryeong, one Yuan is now worth 235 won, which is 10% more than in late August.