Market fees in North Korea set for reduction in parts of border region

Market tax invoices issued in a market in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province
Market tax invoices issued in a market in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province. Image: Daily NK

Management and market fees collected from merchants for vendor stall usage in some of North Korea’s markets are set to be reduced, Daily NK has learned.

“Merchants working in the markets feel that business this year is worse than last. I’m not sure if the authorities were thinking about the merchants when they made the decision, but it’s good that they have reduced the taxes in Pochon, Sinpa and Kimhyongjik County,” said the source in Ryanggang Province during a telephone interview.

According to the source, market fees in Pochon and Sinpa County are relatively low compared to other areas. The fees for industrial goods were reduced from 1000 won to 500 won. Fees charged to vendors of food and ice cream were lowered from 500 won to 300 and 200 won, respectively.

The market fees are determined based on the size of the city, the size of the stall and the type of product being sold. The rough national average fees being charged per day as of early this year was 1500-2000 KPW for meat stalls, 1000-1500 KPW for industrial products (clothes) and 500-1000 KPW for food and vegetables.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ analysis of markets in North Korea, the authorities collect over $56 million USD per year from the markets. The largest market in North Korea, Sunam Market in Chongjin, generates an estimated $840,000 USD for the government.

Before the markets were formally recognized, market fees were 3-5 won until the early to mid 1990s, before being raised ten-fold in 2001, to 30-50 won. After the regime legalized the country’s private markets in 2002 with its ‘New Economic Management Improvement Measures,’ the fees rose another ten-fold.

In 2010, the fees stabilized and food stalls selling produce such as tofu were paying 500 won, merchants selling school supplies and cosmetics paid 1000 won and merchants selling industrial products and electronics paid 1500 won.

According to a separate source in Ryanggang Province, staff working at market management offices issue invoices to each stall and collect the dues.

“Market management offices need to collect fees to keep the market in order and manage the stalls but if business is not good, they can be quite burdensome to merchants. It’s good that the fees are going down, so at least people are not losing more money,” she said.

*Translated by Yongmin Lee

Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to