The growing number of North Korean vendors
traveling across provinces and regions to sell goods has given rise to a new
group of people who act as guides to specific destinations, in effect acting as
‘human GPS navigation systems’.
These guides typically provide their services for people who have arrived at
train stations or bus terminals from other areas on business or to sell goods,
Daily NK has learned.
service’ jobs that provide customers from other
regions at main stations and bus stops in major cities like Pyongyang,
Pyongsong, and Sunchon are new,” a source from South
Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday. “They will
either guide their customers to the address of their choice or provide
directions to that place in exchange for money.”
Such services are known to be available
across most major cities in North Korea, as confirmed by additional sources in
North and South Hamgyong Provinces.
It has already been awhile since drivers
with bicycles, carts, and three-wheeled motorcycles have been available to
transport goods and luggage at major train stations, but the ‘road guides’ are new. Some people, unaware
that this is a charged service, have happily been accompanied by these service
providers only to be asked for money at their destinations, resulting in
“The money they charge for a basic road
guide service is within the 1,000 to 2,000 KPW (0.12-0.23 USD) range, but at night, they can
make more by setting customers up with lodging services,” she said. “If they take their
customers to clean accommodations with good service, they can make an extra
5,000 to 20,000 KPW (0.58-2.33 USD).”
The area where road guide services are most
well established is Pyongsong, said the source. Once travelers get off at train
stations or the last bus stop, they are greeted by a flock of road guides who
greet them with a polite bow and savvy lines such as ‘the
best service to your destination’. They then quickly
pick up the bags and luggage of their customers and guide them to their next
destination often offering detailed explanations along with directions drawn up
“The guides are able to identify people by
their clothing and determine whether they are traders, law enforcement
officials (Ministry of People’s Security officers, who
act as police forces in the North), prosecutors, Party cadres, or military and
quickly adjust their fees based on that,” she explained.
“If their clients look unaware of their
surroundings or oblivious of social trends, some guides take advantage and
overcharge them by many times the original price.”
The emergence of this service is
particularly important in Pyongsong, where many visitors from other areas come
through because it is home to the country’s largest
wholesale market, is becoming more important for travelers as many end up
falling victim to robbery or theft. This is why, according to the source, more are choosing to pay road
guides for directions, if they are there for trade or other business.
*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.