North Korean authorities recently imposed price controls on food in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, Daily NK has learned. This strong-armed move came after there were signs that food prices could rise after the Hyesan lockdown was lifted on Nov. 21.

In a phone conversation with Daily NK, a source in Yanggang Province said controls have been in place on market prices in Hyesan “since late last month.” He further noted that price controls were put in place “due to the fact that prices continued to rise because food wholesalers were only buying – not selling – food after the lockdown was lifted.”

According to the source, prices of daily necessities and processed food climbed more than 10 times immediately after the lockdown was lifted. The price of a kilogram of rice also shot up as high as KPW 5,700, sparking chaos in local markets. 

Accordingly, Yanggang Province’s party committee convened an emergency expanded meeting on Nov. 25 to discuss several plans to “stabilize grain prices before the Eighth Party Congress.”

The party committee began by placing price controls on rice. Specifically, the committee defined raising grain prices as an “act [by merchants] that will hamper the stabilization of people’s lives” and an “anti-party act that represents a frontal challenge to state policy.”

Street market in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province rice sellers dollar rate
In this undated photograph, North Koreans are seen peddling goods at a street market in Hyesan, Yanggang Province / Image: Daily NK

Accordingly, “law enforcement agencies in the province, including provincial prosecutors, have been fully mobilized to control food prices,” according to the source. Essentially, the state has expressed its intent to directly handle the crackdown on grain prices rather than leaving it to market management offices. 

“Every last merchant” caught price gouging is reportedly being arrested. Those arrested are being threatened that they will never return to their stalls again. The authorities are confiscating their rice and placing it in grain distribution centers. 

Food prices have now begun to gradually stabilize in Hyesan following these crackdowns. The source said rice, which was trading at KPW 5,000 per kilogram on Nov. 26, had fallen to KPW 4,700 as of Tuesday.

Sources in other regions of the country have told Daily NK that prices of seasonings, sugar and other food imported from China are skyrocketing. Rice, however, is still trading in the KPW 4,000 range, according to reports from these sources. 

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