Mass Protest Incident in Hoiryeong

[imText1]On Tuesday, a number of residents in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyong Province mass-protested in front of the Nammun (a south gate) market for “compensation of market refurbishment payment” and against the merger of Hoiryeong markets, according to a North Korean source.

The inside source told the Daily NK through a telephone interview that evening ,“From this morning, more than a hundred shopkeepers, their families and the residents of Nammun district rushed to the market management office to request compensation of market refurbishment fees and repeal of Nammun market closure.”

The informant said that the mass protested against the local government because they were stirred by the authority’s decision. It is extremely exceptional that such a mass protest occurs in North Korean society.

They formed lines to present their opinions and in the meantime, some traders shouted phrases such as “Refund the refurbishment payments!” The primitive type of protest in North Korea, in which any kind of private mass activities are forbidden, means much more than western societies’ demonstrations. “No one particularly led the incident,” the informer testified, “but outraged merchants poured into the management office as a group.”

Security officers forcefully dispersed the protestors and crowd.

He added that Hoiryeong local security officers, fearing a spreading of the protest, forcefully dispersed the protesters and crowd. And it was not clarified whether any of the protestors got arrested.

Nammun market is two kilometers southeast of Hoiryeong city, and a frequent place for shopping of food and other basic supplies by local residents.

The incident occurred when the market management officials started to remove the market.

The officials had been collecting three thousand NK won per trader as “refurbishment fees” since late October.

That morning, however, the market management office ordered all the markets in Hoiryeong to be combined with newly constructed Hoiryeong Market, which is located former Hoiryeong Southern middle school, unilaterally, and started to remove the shops in the Nammun market.

Shopkeepers of Nammun market, having been unaware of such a decision, could not accept the order, the informant told the Daily NK. And none of them was guaranteed with a spot at the new Hoiryeong Market; even if one was, there would be a lot of time and money to be spent before actually having a shop at the new market.

Those shopkeepers of the Nammun Market, waiting for the opening hour, saw the removal of their stands, and sought the management officials. When they found any official unavailable, an angry outburst came.

There was a violent clash among angry residents.

The stand-owners and their families went to the office and asked accountable senior officials for compensation, which they did not receive. One protestor reportedly shouted, “It is ridiculous to walk five kilometers (to the new Hoiryeong Market) to buy a piece of Tofu!”

It was informed that amid the protest there was a violent clash among angry residents. When a man watching the demonstration said it was meaningless to protest, shopkeepers assaulted him for collaborating with the officials.

As soon as an act of violence happened, tens of security officers came to the site and dispersed the protestors and bystanders. Meanwhile, traders vehemently resisted and abused the security guards.

The newly built Hoiryeong Market is constructed at the site of closed Hoiryeong Southern middle school with about 700 sale stands, which are one meter long and a half meter wide. A down payment of 200,000 NK won (US$690) and daily rental fee of 10 to 30 won are required for a stand. Black market exchange rate is over 3000 won per US dollar while official one is 140 per a dollar.

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