Despite COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, an increasing number of North Koreans in Ryanggang Province is picking berries on nearby mountains, Daily NK has learned. 

“Members of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea have started picking berries to fulfill their state-set quotas [of funds contributed to the government] largely because they are unable to earn much through market activities,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on June 25. 

According to the source, the authorities have increased the number of economic assignments that women and other groups have to fulfill as part of efforts to increase funds in state coffers. 

North Koreans in the province are not happy with the increased pressure to produce funds for the government, given they barely have enough to survive themselves.  

Still, things could be worse. North Koreans in Ryanggang Province are fortunate to at least have access to mountains that are full of berries they can sell. 

“Ryanggang Province has berries, and even though selling berries doesn’t bring in a lot of money, it does help people achieve state-set quotas,” the source explained. 

“On average, one kilogram of good-quality berries can be sold for around KPW 2,300. If you can manage to collect 15 – 20 kilograms per day, the market price would be around KPW 34,000 to KPW 46,000,” the source continued, adding, “Many people prefer doing this work because making KPW 30,000 at the markets these days is very difficult.” 

The source also noted that people are excited about being able to collect medicinal herbs and berries from the mountains to get their mind off the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some people even climb the mountains at dawn when it is still dark so they can collect the best berries,” he added.

North Korean authorities in the province have not taken any action to restrict people from gathering in the mountains to collect berries, despite a ban on group gatherings.

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

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.