A taffy seller in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province, recently bashed a police officer in the head with taffy cutting board. The incident demonstrates that tensions between streetside merchants and the police appear to be growing worse due to North Korea’s protracted COVID-19 quarantine efforts.

According to a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province, the taffy merchant — a man in his 50s identified by his family name of Kim — was selling his confections near the train station when he got into a tussle with a police officer cracking down on streetside commerce.

North Korea has been launching intensive crackdowns on streetside commerce in the name of emergency quarantine efforts since last year. According to the source, arguments between merchants and police officers are a frequent occurrence.

In this latest incident, the cop in question asked Kim to clear out before his goods got confiscated, but the merchant — desperate to sell just a bit more to earn enough to eat for the day — refused. He complained that the officer was asking him to “starve to death,” cracking down on him when he had nothing to eat.

grasshopper market exchange rate
A “grasshopper market,” or unofficial market, in a village near Pyongyang. / Image: Posted online by a Chinese blogger named Lóng Wǔ*Láng Zhī Wěn (龙五*狼之吻 )

When Kim refused to pack up, the police officer pulled him by his arm and kicked his cutting board. The merchant did not yield, however, grabbing the officer by the scruff of the neck. The situation immediately deteriorated into a donnybrook.

During the fracas, Kim used the taffy cutting board to bash the officer in the head.

“It’s not every day you see a police officer getting hit with a taffy board,” said the source. “The fight might have been between just a police officer and a taffy merchant, but if you look deeper, it’s an example demonstrating how fiercely people have to struggle to survive.”

The source said that assaulting a police officer is a punishable offense, even if you argue it was unavoidable. In the end, Kim was sentenced to three months of forced labor, and is currently doing time with a county labor brigade under the Ministry of Social Security.

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

Read in Korean

Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.