News of US-DPRK summit failure spreading rapidly among North Koreans

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the Hanoi Summit last mont
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during the Hanoi Summit last month. Image: KCA

News that the second US-North Korean summit ended in failure is rapidly spreading among North Koreans. Before the North Korean state officially announced the summit on March 8, rumors that the summit had failed were already spreading. Residents are now continuing to talk about the summit and what happened.

“Locals are saying that Kim Jong Un met with Trump and failed to gain anything,” said a South Pyongan Province-based source on March 11. “There are rumors that Kim didn’t conduct the negotiations in an intelligent manner so he was unable to get anything through the negotiations, and that as a result, sanctions will get worse.”

The source also noted that the authorities are cracking down on markets more. Local high-level officials in South Pyongan Province, including the provincial party committee director, people’s committee director, Pyongsong party committee director and people’s committee director, along with the provincial head of police and municipal head of police, conducted an on-site visit to Pyongsong’s Okjon Market.

A source in North Pyongan Province said that after the visit, the number of people in “worker monitoring teams” increased and market management offices tightened their control over merchants.

Moreover, teams focused on maintaining order in the markets are chasing away merchants selling wares on the roadsides outside the market, as part of efforts to “clean up” the area. After Kim Jong Un’s visit to Vietnam, merchants in the markets have not been allowed to gather amongst themselves to talk anymore, the sources said, in what appears to be an attempt to prevent residents from spreading rumors.

“The heightened control has led merchants to say that the authorities are taking their frustrations out on innocent business people,” the North Pyongan-based source said.

In Pyongsong’s markets, the authorities are strengthening their control over the buying and selling of goods. Merchants, however, have fought back against attempts to confiscate their goods and there have been frequent scenes of merchants getting very angry with officials conducting the crackdowns.

“There has been a fall in demand for manufactured goods and electronic products recently,” said a separate source in South Pyongan Province.

Vendors and customers at Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province
Vendors and customers at Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK

“Merchants are lowering their prices to make up for this, but nobody’s buying,” he continued, referring to the fact that during the winter, farmers usually buy home appliances with the money earned from selling their harvest, but the poor harvest last year means that farmers can’t buy anything.

Recently, many farmers and ordinary North Koreans have been avoiding the markets in general due to a lack of money. This has led to a fall in sales.

“People just head to the grain stalls in the markets, nowhere else,” he said. “The markets are full of people trying to buy 1-2 kg of food for their families after a hard day’s work.”