Crackdown on Jangmadang Ineffective

The North Korean authorities issued a decree in October, 2008 aimed at shifting the existing market system over to a 10-day market system and restricting the range of items being sold, but by mid-March of this year there was no market where the decree had been properly implemented.

Decrees attached to the entrances to markets were all removed and only the specific list of restricted goods is posted there. However, secondhand goods have been strictly regulated in some regions, so conflicts between citizens have arisen.

According to a source from Shinuiju, the list of restricted items in the jangmadang was reported to each jangmadang on the 16th of March in the form of a decree issued by the Ministry of Commerce. The list includes almost all industrial products and contains a total of approximately 120 different items.

The source reported, “After being issued with the decree, there were some conflicts between traders and the guards monitoring them, but most are doing their business via bribes. Therefore, there are no changes in practice.”

A source from Hoiryeong said, “There was a public announcement posted on a notice board on the 19th of March, saying that all kinds of secondhand goods like industrial products, cloth and recorders will not be sold as of April 1.”

The source said, “On the 20th, jangmadang monitors in Sungcheon-dong, Hoiryeong confiscated secondhand products from traders and kicked them off the stands. Then around 30 traders protested, laying down at the entrance to the market and claiming that, “We would rather die than leave the jangmadang.”

“As the quarrel became more serious, even the People’s Safety Agency was called out. Some people got hurt.” After that, the crackdown loosened and traders started selling the products again on the quiet, according to the source.

A source from Hyesan also reported, “There is no decree so far on the notice board of the People’s Units or the jangmadang. Nevertheless, from the 16th to the end of this month cross-inspections are being carried out between North Hamkyung and Yangkang Provinces, so there are not enough products in the jangmadang.”

Conversely, another source passed on the situation in Pyongyang, “Decrees or lists of restricted items have not been released in Pyongyang, and even rumors of a jangmadang crackdown have not circulated.”

The crackdown on the jangmadang by the North Korean authorities was likely issued to prevent people’s indifference and attempts at evasion. However, the sources pointed out that in a situation where the people cannot find any other way to live without trading in the market, the decrees of the authorities are unjustified and only cause discontentment.