North Korea’s central government recently issued a nationwide order directing localities to release military rice stores to local citizens.

A Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province reported yesterday that inminban (people’s units) in each district of Chongjin held meetings on June 23. “During the meetings, [inminban leaders] told participants about a special order by the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] to release rice stored up for the military,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The order included a promise to supply North Koreans with food for a three month period until the end of September.

The directive further stated that each family will receive five days’ worth of food per week, which the specific amount calculated on the basis of how many adults and children are in each family. Workers will receive 700 grams a day, while their dependents will receive 300 grams a day. Children below school age will receive 300 grams per day.

However, the order clearly stated that the rice will not be provided for free. In short, North Korean authorities simply plan to supply rice to people more cheaply than what is available in local markets.

chongjin security
A view of Chongjin. / Image: Daily NK

For example, while one kilogram of rice is currently going for KPW 5,800 at Chongjin’s Sunam Market, the same quantity of rice would be supplied to families for just KPW 4,000.

Daily NK’s source pointed out that North Korean authorities have long sold rice to people at “state-set prices,” despite using a word (gonggeup) that suggests these distributions are free. “While state-set prices for rice were extremely cheap in the past, the prices have gone up so much now that ordinary people are the ones suffering,” he added.

Moreover, the source reported that news of the release of military rice stores has led to slight falls in market food prices. “If the [government] does in fact supply food, prices may fall slightly [even further],” he speculated.

During the third plenary session of the Eighth Central Committee held recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un publicly admitted that the country is facing food shortages. During the meeting, he issued a “special order” aimed at improving the people’s livelihood, and it is highly likely that the order included a directive about the release of military rice stores.

North Korea’s leadership may soon release plans to deal with the country’s electricity and water woes given that it is focused on bolstering internal solidarity through “people-first politics.”

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