North Hamgyong Province has reportedly commenced preparations to build “general stores” in accordance with a Central Committee order to build “a new commercial network.”

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Friday that the Central Committee issued an order on Oct. 11 calling on local authorities to research ways to better supply daily necessities to the people and “build a new commercial network.”  The order called on authorities to draw up a basic design plan by the end of November and begin operations of the new network by the end of the year.

In accordance with the order, the government of North Hamgyong Province is reportedly discussing with the provincial ruling party committee and people’s committee plans to build a new commercial network in keeping with “local conditions.” The authorities are drawing up the basic design based on these discussions.

Accordingly, North Hamgyong Province is conceptualizing a plan that would operate provincial markets in accordance with current conditions, while inviting private investment to build new general stores of various sizes in densely populated areas, or to expand existing stores.

market prices
Vendors and customers at Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province / Image: Daily NK

The province has reportedly revealed that the new or expanded shops will sell items at lower-than-market prices “as the new commercial network is being built under state guidance.” It is also accepting applications from locals who would like to manage the new shops.

The source said the province says the strengths of the new network are that the shops will include all items currently available in markets, that anyone can deliver goods to them, and that shoppers can easily purchase anything they want as long as they have the money.

The source said the provincial authorities are pointing to other strengths as well, namely, that managers of each shop share the profits according to a precise, fixed ratio after the state has taken its cut, and several merchants can split their time, with no need to spend all day on a cramped market floor.

However, some people are reacting to the scheme with skepticism.

The source said there were already plenty of shops besides markets; the problem is that there are now no goods. “So the locals who have heard the news don’t know whether the new commercial network will be managed properly, and are at a loss as to whether to accept the province’s propaganda,” he said.

Meanwhile, merchants in local markets are reportedly expressing concern about their future upon hearing news of the new commercial network. They are worried that if there are even more shops and their items are cheaper than market prices, “it could grow even tougher to do business.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to