There has been an upswing in prices and exchange rates in North Korea as East Asia moves towards the lunar New Year’s holiday, which falls on the 23rd.
A source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province told Daily NK this afternoon, “The number of people in the jangmadang is rising and trade is getting more active, and so the Yuan exchange rate and rice price are both on the up.” According to the source, the Yuan is trading for 680 North Korean Won, while rice is hovering at approximately 4,300.
A source from Musan in North Hamkyung Province previously reported similar circumstances to Daily NK on the 16th, with the Yuan at 780 Won and rice and corn at 4,500 Won and 800 Won respectively in the jangmadang there.
The current situation follows on from a price spike before Kim Jong Il’s death on December 17th, the following mourning period (to the 29th) and criticism sessions (to January 8th). However, while at its height last month the price of the most expensive rice had hit 5,000 Won, by January 11th-14th it had declined to 3,000-3,500 Won in eastern regions. Now, however, with the holiday period ahead, prices are rising again.
“Although the self-criticism period ended, we still had to keep an eye on the security forces so the number of sellers in the jangmadang was what it used to be, but from a few days ago people started using the jangmadang as normal and the rice and Yuan prices started rising a bit,” the Hyesan source explained.
Interestingly, while the authorities have tried a number of measures to regulate the Sino-North Korean border and limit the use of foreign currency of late, sources report that the measures have only had a minor effect on prices and have not daunted the will of local people to trade at all.
Overseas currency is even being traded publicly somewhat more frequently now, sources report, showing the skepticism with which the people view official threats to stop the use of Yuan and U.S. Dollars in the market.
As the Musan source commented wryly, “People are saying that ‘If his dad couldn’t stop it, what is the young one going to do about it?’ and ‘As long as the Tumen River keeps flowing, they can’t stop the Yuan, the smuggling, or the defection.’”