Fringe market activities take a hit ahead of Party Foundation Day

The number of street alley markets has
dwindled recently in North Korea after the state announced it will crack down
on small markets that operate unofficially ahead of the country’s 70th
anniversary of Party Foundation day, Daily NK has learned. 

“Early last month, the Ministry of People’s
Security [MPS, the North Korean police] issued a declaration saying it will
crack down on alley and street markets in Pyongyang and other areas
nationwide,” a source from South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

“The statement said authorities will without question ban all market trade on
streets and that harsh legal punishments will be handed down to those who do
not comply.”

An additional source in North Hamgyong Province corroborated this news. 

The source described the atmosphere on the
streets and villages as being “unsettling,” after regional MPS officers started
beefing up security. As a result of these crackdowns, the source said, the
number of street and alley markets has nosedived, and those that still exist
are significantly smaller in size.  
 

“Because this, the elderly and some of the
lowest income families that had already been struggling to get by selling odd
goods around these neighborhood markets, have been hard hit,” said the source.
“Official district markets have limited spots, and the elderly and women often
don’t have the money to pay stall fees to set up shop at even the smallest
booth,” she said, explaining why they are so dependent on unofficial street
operations.
 

The move comes as as shock to most, as until now the authorities had tacitly approved
market activities both on the official and unofficial level, which have become
an essential part of people’s livelihoods. However, with only a month left on
the calendar for the 70th anniversary event, the state has been mobilizing
people in the masses for event preparation and cleaning up activities, while
clamping down on previously condoned market trade.
 

“Because of this indiscriminate crackdown,
vendors that had been selling cold drinks such as kka-kka-oh [popsicles or ice
cream bars] and shaved ice have all disappeared, creating a lot of
inconvenience for the public that benefited greatly in hot weather,” she said.
 

“Elderly people would sit at the village
entrance and sell things like sunflower seeds, tofu, vegetables, and
cigarettes, but now that’s all restricted, so workers who used to frequent
these places on their way home are finding things difficult.”
 

Those who are desperate enough to inch back
into the streets often face arguments with MPS personnel who spot them with
their goods laid out, according to the source, noting, “As soon as MPS officers spot these elderly people, they
run up to them and kick around their goods or confiscate them, making a huge
scene.” 

Consequently, some residents have outright complained to MPS personnel after either witnessing or experiencing firsthand the sudden, seismic shift in regulations. Others, particularly the elderly, harbor concerns that the move is indicative of “the leader showing his true colors,” according to the source.  

*The content of this article was broadcast
to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

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