The gap between the rich and poor in North Korea is growing as the number of people trying to sell their family home to buy food expands in the aftermath of last November’s currency reforms, according to a source from inside the country.
The source from South Pyongan Province told The Daily NK on Thursday, “An increasing number of homes are being sold to buy food, and now it seems like about two out of every ten people around here have lost their home.”
According to the source, the rich buy up the houses, demolish them and build new ones to sell for a profit. Those who have amassed dollars or Chinese Yuan from trading are now turning to the housing market.
Even in Pyongyang, where the public distribution system continues to function, there are homeless people on the street, according to the source, who added, “When I was in Pyongyang, there were homeless people sleeping in the subway in large numbers.”
The source went on, “People’s lives are very difficult. There are even some who rely on digging up 5kg of wormwood, walking three hours to sell it, and only getting 100 won per kg.”
Currently, 1kg of rice sells for 400 to 500 won in Pyongyang, and 500 to 600 won in other areas.
The source also explained, “While public distribution still functions in Pyongyang, there are strict restrictions on movement, and even with our salaries we can’t buy food because there is too little.”
Since the economy is so bad, the crime rate is also going up, he added, “There are now more and more pick pocketing cases, and these days, they not only use small knives to steal purses, but even tweezers to pick stuff from pockets.”
The source’s assertion that there was public distribution until mid-June contradicts the claim of one NGO, which said that on May 26 the authorities ordered each area to look out for its own food supply. The source, when asked about the decree, said he was unaware of its existence.