State interventions in the market has led to price drops for some commodities in North Korea’s local markets, while other commodity prices remain higher than before the shutdown of the Sino-North Korean border in late January, Daily NK has learned.

Daily NK sources reported that imported sugar, which was sold for KPW 6,500 per kilogram at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, now costs KPW 5,500 per kilogram after North Korea ordered sugar distributors to release their stocks into the market.

Soybean oil prices have also reportedly fallen after the state ordered distributors to increase their supply to the markets.

markets
Street markets and stands in various agricultural regions of North Korea / Image: Daily NK

“Sugar and soybean oil now cost a bit less than they did a couple days ago. People are feeling better about that,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Feb. 19.

The source also added that fuel prices have begun to stabilize, likely due to state intervention.

Other commodities, however, are still more expensive than they were before the closure of the border, sources said.

“Rice is still selling more expensively than usual, at KPW 6,300 a kilogram,” one source told Daily NK.

“Eskimo, a Chinese brand of ice cream, now costs KPW 1,000 instead of the normal KPW 700. Cloth-covered shoes that require soles made in China now cost KPW 13,000, which is KPW 1,500 more than normal,” he added.

The source also reported that North Korean goods are increasing in price, with soybean milk costing KPW 4,000, which is KPW 500 more expensive than normal. A package of tofu now costs KPW 1,300, a jump of KPW 300.

Daily NK sources said that the spread of COVID-19 has made a greater impact on commodity prices than international sanctions ever did.

“Even severe sanctions implemented by the ‘enemy forces’ didn’t prevent smugglers from bringing in goods [from China] and fill local markets with products to buy,” one source said.

The source also reported that North Korean flatfish, dried shrimp, mackerel, and shellfish have experienced slight increases in price.

Water purifiers used in homes reportedly have risen by around KPW 20,000, and even TVs and refrigerators have seen price increases, the source added.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.