Pyongyang Citizens: Life Has Gotten Tougher Since the Summit

A source inside North Korea reported on the 26th of November that the country’s food distribution system did not operate properly and the regime strengthened its control over the market in the Pyongyang areas in the second half of November.

“Most residents of Pyongyang’s core districts such as Joong and Botongang district received their food rations. However, only a half of those who live in Moonsu-dong, Chungryu-dong and Soryong-dong of the Daedonggang district received their rations,” the source said.

“An announcement was displayed on a board in front of the Soryong- 2- dong distribution office in the Daedongdang district, stating, ‘Rice to be redistributed as soon as enough rice is secured,’” the source said. The source added that the crop distributed to the people was composed of 80 percent Annam rice and 20 percent corn, and many people complained about its poor quality.

The North’s food distribution system has worked out well in the west Pyongyang area such as Joongu, Botongang and Pyungcheon district. However, the regime has intermittently distributed food rations to residents in the east Pyongyang area such as Daedongang, Dongdaewon, and Sungyo district.

For instance, in August, no food was distributed in the east Pyongyang area. In September, only a half of residents in the area received food rations. In the following month, all received their food. In November, not all received their rations as in September.

When there is no food distribution, people have to procure rice by themselves in the market.

Unfortunately, that is not an easy task. Since the North Korean authorities have fixed the price of rice at 700 won/kg in the markets of Pyongyang, many merchants are not willing to bring out rice for sales. Instead, they clandestinely sell rice at 1,300 won/kg only to individuals with whom they are acquainted.

The price of rice went up to a high of 1,800 won/kg in the mid October, but now remains steady at 1,300 won/kg. As long as the regime tries to control the price of rice, few merchants would sell rice in the open market, thus contributing to a hike in prices.

In the mid November, corn was sold at 500 won/kg, pork at 3,000 won/kg, an egg at 200 won each, Chinese cabbage at 500 won/kg, and domestic cabbage at 300won/kg in the markets of Pyongyang. The rice of cabbage has rapidly dropped as the state released cabbage into the market because November is a season of preparing Kimchi for winter. Domestic cabbage was sold cheap due to its poor quality.

The regime continues to control the markets in Pyongyang. It prohibits all females under 48 years old from doing business in the market. In addition, merchants are not allowed to sell more than 15 items. The regime enforces its market regulatory measures by having organized groups of inspectors composed of young people and ordered them to regularly patrol markets.

The source said, “As the food situation is getting worse and the state is intensifying its control over the market, Pyongyang citizens begin to express a sense of disappointment with South Korean President Roh.” The source said, “After the inter-Korean summit meeting, many fostered the hope that President Roh would help solve food shortage problems and the regime would adopt reform policies. However, that did not happen. As the state tightens its control over the market, life has gotten tougher.”

“Some even went to so say that President Roh should not have come to the North,” said the source, echoing the uneasy sentiments among Pyongyang citizens.

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