Rice and Yuan Zooming Up in Yangkang

The price of North Korean rice and the Yuan exchange rate have both reached post-2009 record levels in Yangkang Province, with domestic rice surpassing 4,000 won/kg and 1 Chinese Yuan selling for 720 North Korean won on November 28th.

Although a geographically remote location when seen from within North Korea, Yangkang Province act as a barometer for the situation in other areas because it stands alongside the capital Pyongyang and the Shinuiju-Dandong area as one of the most marketized, active trading locations of all.

Speaking with Daily NK today, a source from the province commented, “In the daytime on the 27th, the Yuan price, which had risen to 780 won, fell back to 720 won; however, the discomfort of the people is continual,” before adding, “Because of the rising exchange rate, the rice price also went up to 4,000 won.”

According to the source, as the price of North Korean rice hit 4,000 won/kg, that of Chinese rice also reached 3,200 won and sticky rice 5,000 won.

This means that the price of rice in Hyesan, the provincial capital, has now risen 500 won in two weeks, while the value of the North Korean won has depreciated by 120 won over a similar period.

The cause of the problem stems from a number of sources, but at the top of the list is a lack of faith in the North Korean won and the continual desire on the part of people who hold currency not to do so in domestic money.

As a result, the source said that traders are not selling their products, preferring instead to watch for changes, and with customers less likely to buy at such inflated prices, the overall effect is that trading volumes in the market have fallen drastically.

He explained, “There is even one rumor out there suggesting that by year’s end the price of the Yuan will have reached 1,000 won and that before long rice will have gone over 5,000 won. Rice traders are not selling their stock, saying that ‘if it gets more expensive, I’ll sell’, and so those citizens who are unable to get food together are looking pretty uneasy.’

Meanwhile, the new price records present a sense of cruel irony for a country about to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the November 30th, 2009 currency redenomination.

“This is all the fault of the government, which organized the currency redenomination and destroyed the value of Chosun money,” the source agreed, complaining, “The price of everything is soaring, so the time has come where we can’t even buy blocks of tofu to eat.”