District trolley service official in North Korea fired over fare raise

Kim Jong Un on new trolley bus in August 2018
Kim Jong Un on new trolley bus in August 2018. Image KCNA

The director of a district office for the Pyongyang trolley service was fired for illegally raising fares.

The Pyongyang trolley is a major form of public transportation in the city and costs just 5 KPW to ride. Buses, on the other hand, are more expensive and charge 2,000 KPW per four kilometers. The flagfall for taxis is 15,000 KPW.

The trolley service had long suffered from financial difficulties and the head of the service in the district raised the fare to 20 won throughout the day – except for commuting time – to pay for repairs. He was fired after the fare raise became an issue.

“The head of the Moranbong district office of the Pyongyang trolley service was fired after his raising of the fare became an issue within the government. The authorities inspected his office’s accounting books,” said a Pyongyang-based source.

Most of the trolleys in Pyongyang are aging, highly inefficient, and break down often. Transportation authorities have failed to repair the trolleys, blaming local district officials for not keeping them in proper condition.

“Trolley officials raised fares to pay for repairs to the cars, but this became a problem,” said the source. “That being said, residents wouldn’t mind paying 20 won if that means the trolleys run on time.”

The official in question raised fares to “self-sufficiently” deal with its financial problems, but the central government considered this a violation of state policies.

“Twenty won is not a lot of money to ordinary people. The district official raised fares to keep the trolley services running during commuting times, rather than to line his own pockets. People are saddened to hear that he was fired,” a separate source in Pyongyang reported.

“Pyongyang authorities, unlike in other parts of the country, are typically sensitive to petitions raised by local residents. They don’t want to upset Pyongyangites and consider any such action as a crime that affects the relationship between the party and the people.”

He cited a case from last year, when a sewage pipe at an apartment in Dongdaewon District in Pyongyang became blocked and laborers were sent to fix it, local residents collected money to provide the workers with lunch. However, this became an issue and the head of the district office was reprimanded.

While the increased fare was revoked with the firing of the trolley official, the lack of funds available for repairs means that local residents will continue to experience delays in the service.

Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.