With Chusok just three days away, the prices of imported goods (mainly from China) sold in various parts of North Korea are not showing signs of falling, according to a source in North Korea. 

“Even though there are instances of Chinese goods sometimes entering the market, prices are still not falling,” a Yanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Sept. 28. “Most Chinese products, whether they are daily necessities or food, are traded at the same or even at slightly higher prices.” 

The main cause that has led to this increase in prices is closure of the Sino-North Korean border. The source’s report suggests that the drop in the supply of goods due to the border closure is why the prices are not falling. 

Although North Korean authorities sometimes import daily necessities, this has little impact on the market because the donju, North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class, and cadres with power and money are able to claim these items first. 

Despite the fact that school is still out of session, prices of school supplies such as backpacks and pencils are showing no signs of falling. The source reported that there have been no changes in the prices of so-called seasonal products such as fans.

“The prices of fans always start to fall around this time of the year, but this year the prices remain similar to what they were during the summer despite the fact it is now autumn,” the source explained. 

Food prices have fallen slightly compared to summer, but they are still more expensive compared to the same period last year. This has resulted in extra pressure on citizens who have been preparing for Chusok.

commodity prices broker
North Korean merchants sell goods on the fringes of a market in Sunchon, South Pyongan Province in October 2018. / Image: Daily NK

“In the summer, when the trade of food products was in full swing, the prices of Chinese condiments soared. Although the prices have gone down a bit now, these products are selling for around KPW 11,000, which is about KPW 3,000 to 4,000 higher than last year,” the source explained. “The same is true for other Chinese products which is why an increasing number of residents are saying they will have to prepare their annual Chusok memorial service table in a more simple manner than usual.”

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that the prices of agricultural goods may rise due to the damage caused by the record-breaking monsoon and typhoon season. 

According to the source, many North Korean are hoping that trade with China will resume soon because that country has declared victory over COVID-19. In general, however, most people are anxious and worried that the remainder of this year will not be easy.

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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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 dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.