Residents of Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, are reportedly complaining of hardships with travel inside the city blocked and markets closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday that inter-district travel in Chongjin has been blocked “as an emergency measure by the government to stop the spread of the infectious disease [COVID-19].” Locals are unable to prepare kimchi “as they are unable to buy ingredients for the kimchi-making season such as cabbage,” he added.

According to the source, loudspeaker vehicles from the Chongjin party committee’s propaganda department have been going around downtown residential districts daily since mid-November, issuing dire warnings that “since the infectious disease is spreading, residents must not leave their own district for any reason.”

In fact, with patrols – including security personnel – guarding all downtown roads, cars or carts carrying cabbage to and fro are nowhere to be seen, despite it being the height of the busy kimchi-making season, according to the source.

“Every year around this time, Chongjin residents make kimchi with cabbage brought in surrounding farms or farmers’ private gardens, or with cabbage smuggled in from China, but this year they can’t even think of making kimchi with the distribution [of goods] halted and cabbage prices soaring,” he said. 

Chongjin Bag Factory in North Korea
The Chongjin Bag Factory / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Normally, a household would spend RMB 200 (about USD 30) for cabbage to make kimchi, but this year, they have to spend RMB 1,000 (about USD 152), causing exasperation among locals. 

On top of that, North Korean authorities have shut down downtown markets, driving out all the sellers, who must now sell their wares on the move.

“With markets closed for the time being, locals near the Sunam Market have moved to the embankment of the Susong Stream to trade their wares,” said the source. “Even then, security personnel and patrols kick them out, so they are selling their goods on the move.”

Locals are reportedly complaining about the situation, saying that authorities “should allow them a livelihood even as they try to control the infectious disease [COVID-19]” and “everyone will starve to death at this rate.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to