Personnel from Yanggang Province’s Ministry of Social Security are engaged in a frenzied crackdown against street vendors, arresting any they encounter.

A source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Aug. 29 that “on Aug. 24 a cat-and-mouse chase took place in Hyehung District, Hyesan, between street vendors and personnel from Ministry of Social Security and local inspection teams,” and that “this kind of thing happens almost every day now.”

As part of their efforts to acquire money for the purchase of daily sustenance, street vendors bring less than KPW 150,000 worth of sundry goods and food to sell at the entrances of alleyways. However, local police are cracking down on this practice and confiscating the entire inventories of the vendors without caring about why they are selling goods this way. 

The average daily income of a street vendor is approximately KPW 2,000 to 4,000, but the fines required to recover confiscated items can be more than twice this amount, ranging from a minimum of KPW 5,000 to a maximum of KPW 10,000. The source explained that, as a result, if vendors are caught in the crackdown and pay a fine, their families go hungry.

Under these circumstances, vendors make every effort to escape the grasp of the authorities when they sell goods on the street. 

Street market in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province rice sellers dollar rate
In this undated photograph, North Koreans are seen peddling goods at a street market in Hyesan, Yanggang Province / Image: Daily NK

Choe, 43, was arrested on Aug. 22 in Hyesan District while selling vegetables in an alleyway.

Choe pleaded with the authorities, saying “I just got here, and I have no money. Give me a break this time, and I’ll pay the fine as soon as I sell something,” but the officers responded by taunting: “Why are you doing business if you have no money to pay the fines? Going around and enforcing this crackdown is hard on us, too.”

Choe grew heated, responding: “If I can’t earn today, my entire family will go hungry. I have no choice but to take insults from people like you while I break my back selling from dawn until dusk. You call us traitors? Why can’t we do business in peace?”

“The police have recently been carrying out a frenzied crackdown against street vendors under the pretext of enforcing an order issued last April to wipe out the businesses of street vendors,” the source said, adding, “Their wallets have gotten lighter because of the extended border closure, and they’re cracking down on street vendors and levying fines for cigarette money.”

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