New gas stations putting private sellers out of business 

Gas Station
A gas station on the outskirts of Pyongyang. / Image: Daily NK

At least four state-owned gas stations are operating in the Ryanggang Province city of Hyesan and two additional stations are set to open soon, raising concerns among independent fuel traders who compete with the stations, Daily NK sources reported on September 6. 

“There are more gas stations opening these days, and the trend has caused concerns among independent sellers of gasoline,” a Ryanggang Province-based source said. Daily NK has long reported on the struggle between independent sellers and state-run gas stations

Two of the stations are in the Songbong and Hyehung districts of the city, while two are in Komsan village. The additional two gas stations will open in Songbon district No. 2 and Yonbong district. 

North Korea has shown no signs of gasoline shortages despite some analysis suggesting that the country’s supplies are low due to international sanctions. Regular gas and diesel fuel prices decreased earlier in the year. Although gas prices increased to 15,000 KPW per kilo at the beginning of the year, they now have fallen to around 8 – 9,000 KPW. 

“The increase in gas stations has been driven by the rising number of cars on city streets and a wider distribution of gas,” the source said. “Drivers know that gas stations will have stock.” Private sellers of gasoline, however, are facing declining sales, the source said, adding that some of these gas traders are changing to sell other products.”

Fighting against the tide

To combat competition from gas stations, private gas sellers are maintaining good relationships with gasoline wholesalers and even transporting gas to them, another Ryanggang Province-based source told the Daily NK.

“In the past, gas sellers earned money more easily than other kinds of merchants,” the source said. “But the spike in the number of gas stations has made many private sellers rethink their business. They’re concerned because it’s not easy to just change what they sell that quickly.” 

The source also added that more and more drivers will begin to use the refueling stations because they know private sellers will have little incentive to provide cheap and good quality gasoline if their bottom lines are being eaten away by the new station.

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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