Economic difficulties are reportedly forcing residents of Yanggang Province to give up making winter kimchi for the second straight year.
In a telephone conversation with Daily NK on Monday, a source in Yanggang Province said people usually begin the kimjang in mid-October.
The kimjang is the Korean tradition of communally preparing kimchi for the winter season.
The source said people are having such a tough time that “they cannot even prepare cabbage.”
According to the source, kimjang begins a bit early in North Korea. Especially in Yanggang Province, the coldest region in Korea, the kimjang should be in full swing by now. However, the kimjang reportedly began about 10 days later than last year. This means preparations themselves got off to a late start.
Moreover, last year, many locals went to the market to check out the price of cabbage or radishes, regardless of their difficulties. This year, however, they are not even bothering to go.
As of Oct. 28, the price of cabbage and radish was KPW 1,500 a kilogram each in the markets of Hyesan as of Oct. 28. This was a bit higher than the same time last year, when they were KPW 1,200 and KPW 700, respectively.
North Korea suffered poor harvests due to drought and insufficient fertilizer. What’s more, a crackdown on street commerce has helped drive up prices.
On the other hand, the price of red pepper powder has considerably dropped compared to last year. A kilogram of pepper powder is currently KPW 15,000, 66.7% less than what it was this time last year (KPW 45,000).
Meanwhile, Daily NK reported on Oct. 20 that the authorities ordered provincial governments to autonomously provide autumn vegetables ahead of the kimjang season. This was essentially an announcement that the central government would be providing no vegetables.
The source said the authorities are not “guaranteeing a living” as they seemingly focus solely on controlling markets and people while “using the coronavirus as an excuse.”
He said it might be the height of the kimjang season, but frustration was growing among people who are simply watching the season pass without a provision of vegetables from the government.