Although North Korean corn prices had risen by over 60% ahead of Lunar New Year and Kim Jong Il’s birthday, they seems to be stabilizing somewhat. However, as prices remain in the range of KPW 3,000 in some regions, North Koreans are reportedly voicing their dissatisfaction.

A recent investigation by Daily NK found that as of Mar. 2, the price of corn in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, was KPW 2,800 per kilogram. Compared to Feb. 23, when the price of corn had risen to KPW 3,620 won per kilogram, the price has dropped by over 20% in ten days.

The price of corn had skyrocketed within a very short period last month, as North Korean authorities ordered holiday gifts such as candy or crackers to be manufactured using cheap corn.

However, as the price of corn had increased temporarily due to production activities aimed at supplying presents for the holidays, it seems that the price of corn is falling somewhat again.

Corn harvested in Yanggang Province in 2017. / Image: Daily NK

Daily NK has also confirmed that the prices of corn in other inland regions have dropped to just below KPW 3,000 in March. 

As the sudden rise in prices caused a decrease in demand, this has naturally led to a slight decrease in prices. 

“As the number of people buying corn decreased, the price of corn has also dropped,” the source said, adding, “The authorities have not adjusted prices, distributed corn, or taken any other measures. ”

As the source’s statement suggests, there does not seem to be any evidence that the authorities have given orders to lower the price of the corn.

However, depending on the location, some border areas such as Musan or Hoeryung in North Hamgyong Province are still trading corn at KPW 3,000 per kilogram.

This is because much of the country’s corn production is centered in North Hamgyong Province, and the region is thus directly affected by a decrease in the supply of corn. Additionally, many of the province’s residents are suffering economically, meaning that demand for corn remains high.

In contrast, inland areas such as Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, have continued to trade corn at prices just shy of KPW 3,000, even when the price of corn skyrocketed last month. Despite the recent drop in prices, the cost of corn in these regions has been hovering at levels stretching from KPW 2,300 to 2,700.

As a result, people in areas on the Chinese border such as Musan, Hoeryong, and Hyesan are continuing to voice frustrations with the increased price of corn.

“People in poverty who had subsisted on corn instead of white rice are suffering the most,” the source said, adding, “They had managed to acquire corn to eat during their meals, but now that even the price of corn has risen, many people are lamenting, ‘How are we supposed to keep living?’”

*Translated by Esther Ra

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Seulkee Jang
Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time reporters and covers North Korean economic and diplomatic issues, including workers dispatched abroad. Jang has a M.A. in Sociology from University of North Korean Studies and a B.A. in Sociology from Yonsei University. She can be reached at skjang(at)