Jangmadang to Be Converted to Farmers Markets

[imText1]Dandong, China — With toughened regulations of the jangmadang (markets) by North Korean authorities, merchants have been crowding to “alley markets” near residential areas.

Kim Chul Nam (pseudonym, Pyongyang resident, 48), who went to Dandong, China on a visit to relatives, said in a meeting with the reporter on the 11th, “After January 15th, with the strengthening of jangmadang regulations, markets within Pyongyang city proper have been turning into the farmers markets of the past.”

Kim explained, “With the restriction on conducting business in the jangmadang, residents have been congregating to ‘alley markets’ around residential areas. There are 1~2 of these markets in each neighborhood and there are at least 100-some people who conduct business in the alley markets of Doru 1 and 2-dong in Songshin District, Pyongyang. Before, there were only 30~40 people.”

He expressed, “Places that are larger than alley markets have been appearing. Under the Songshin overpass, a large market started operating not too long ago after six in the evening and when there are a lot of customers, 400-some people sell goods.”

He also said, “The recently replaced Party Chief Secretary of Pyongyang suggested supposedly to Kim Jong Il his view of converting the jangmadang into farmers markets and this suggestion was approved by Kim.”

He then relayed the sentiment of Pyongyang citizens, “Resentment against the Pyongyang Party Secretary aside, there have been a lot of resentment towards the General (Kim Jong Il), who immediately ratified the proposal without even visiting the jangmadang once.”

[The following is the interview with Kim in its entirety]

– What is the current situation of Pyongyang’s jangmadang?

“They have undergone extensive regulations since January 15th. With an inventory of goods that can and cannot be sold at the entrance of the jangmadang, the inspection unit and the security agents alternatingly go around and inspect the markets.”

– What is the extent of the jangmadang regulations? Is it merely formality or do they actually inspect them?

“Since last year, a lot of talk has been circulating about converting the jangmadang into the farmers markets of the past, but even up until January 15th, regulations weren’t so bad. The number of inspections was not so high and goods were not confiscated.”

But, after January 15th, public announcements were posted on all jangmadangs in Pyongyang and a mass-scale inspection took place. Not only has the number of inspections has increased, but if one is caught during the inspections, all of the goods are also confiscated. Because of the nature of the situation, the jangmadang is turning into the farmers’ markets of the past.”

– Then how have the people who used to trade in the jangmadang reacted? Additionally, what kind of a measure has the state offered to the people who used to get by from doing business in the jangmadang?

“Previously, there were also ‘alley markets’ on the sides of wide roads where there were heavy traffic, in crowded residential areas, or near the jangmadang. After January 15th, the number of people selling goods at the alley markets have exponentially increased. Those who cannot trade in the jangmadang have flocked to the alley markets.”

A portion of the people still secretly trade in the jangmadang. Simultaneously avoiding the inspection units, they refrain from putting out the goods and bargain with customers by holding up signposts. When they tell the passing-by customers, “This is what I have,” a bargain is reached. Of course, the goods are temporarily stored at a nearby residence and taken out after the bargain.”

The measure put forth by the government is foolish. It is essentially saying that merchants should go into procurement shops, marine product shops, and food shops as in the past, but due to the restriction in the number of people who can go into shops, such measures have not helped a majority of the people who used to do business in the jangmadang.”

– Are the procurement, marine, and food shops currently in operation? Are there a lot of people who use them?

“Yes, they are currently operating. However, there is a lack of a variety of foods and the price is relatively more expensive than at the jangmadang, so not too many customers frequent them.”

– If so, the alley markets have basically replaced the basic function of the jangmadang, so please tell us more specifically about the alley markets.

“There are generally 1~2 alley markets in a single neighborhood. I have gone out and seen the alley markets of Duru 1 and 2-dong and there are around 100 people who conduct business at these markets. Previously, there were only 30~40 people, but the number of people has increased significantly.

Due to the strict regulations, only a small amount of products are sold at a time. They want to minimize the goods that are confiscated during inspections or in the midst of flight once the units become restless.

Also, after 5:30 in the evening, the sight of people selling goods on busy roads or at bus stations have been appearing. They also have to undergo inspections, but the number of people who are selling goods are small and it is mostly elderly women who are selling simple food products, so the inspection units have gone easy on them.

There are also places larger than the alley markets. A large market operates under the Songshin overpass after six in the evening and up to 400 people have sold goods there.”

– 400 is a large size…don’t the inspection units regulate underneath the overpass?

“They do, but not as rigorously as the jangmadang. The units also regulate the alley markets or the Songshin overpass when the occasion calls, but they do not try to seize people who are trying to escape. The inspections end at the confiscation of goods.

The goods which are taken are handed over to beggars or to domiciles housing vagabonds, but I’m not sure…it is hard to say.

Under the overpass, inspections take place 1~2 times a week, but on those days, there is curiously hardly anyone trading. This seems to show that there is some sort of a deal between the inspection units and the people who do business there.”

– Do you have any other words regarding the current situation in Pyongyang’s jangmadang?

“According to rumors that have been circulating, the recently replaced Party Secretary of Pyongyang proposed the view to Kim Jong Il to convert the jangmadang to the farmers markets of the past. Kim Jong Il is supposed to have ratified the approval of the proposal, but the grievances of the civilians have been continuing nonstop. There is resentment towards the Party Secretary, but also towards the General who ratified the approval without having visited the jangmadang even once.”