Samjiyon Market was abruptly shut down yesterday in what may be part of preparations for a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the city, Daily NK sources reported yesterday.
“The market management office told merchants not to open their stalls at 1 PM yesterday, an hour before the market opened,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK.
“Merchants were told not to open their stalls, even those out in the street near the market and other vendors in mobile stalls who are licensed to do business by the state,” the source added.
The market’s management office also told merchants not to enter the market “until further notice,” the source said, adding, “The authorities have completely shut down the market.”
The entrance to the market on Samjiyon Village Street is shut, Daily NK sources in the city confirmed.
“The market closure doesn’t seem connected to the coronavirus [COVID-19] because no merchants have been quarantined,” one source told Daily NK.
A KIM JONG UN VISIT IN THE WORKS?
Some people in the city are reportedly speculating that the closure of Samjiyon Market is part of preparations for Kim Jong Un’s visit to the city.
The market has generally shut its doors when a visit by the North Korean leader is imminent, sources said.
Doubts remain among local city residents about whether Kim will show up, however. Daily NK sources are not aware of Kim’s special train passing near Samjiyon, nor are there other signs of an imminent visit.
That being said, Kim could be heading to Samjiyon by special car or plane, sources speculated.
Kim last visited Samjiyon in early December to take part in a ceremony commemorating the completion of the “second stage” of construction in Samjiyon. Samjiyon was also designated a city at that time, an upgrade from its previous designation as a “county.”
Kim visited Samjiyon three times in 2019, but has not yet made a visit to the region in 2020.
BEAUTIFYING THE CITY
Daily NK sources also noted that Samjiyon is in the midst of a city-wide “beautification campaign.”
North Korea has designated March and April a period for “spring cleaning” aimed at “cleansing” the “physical and mental state” of North Koreans. The period is also meant to get the population ready for celebrations surrounding Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15.
The cleanliness campaign involves repairing and beautifying streets and their surroundings, including putting new paint on buildings.
A recent Rodong Sinmun article described March and April as the “spring clean-up” period and stated that it is a crucial time to clean the streets, towns, workplaces and homes along with “reinforcing ideological convictions” among the public and “arm” them with “patriotic spirit.”
“The local people’s committee has ordered the population to sweep the streets, wipe down statues, pick up trash, and even remove laundry visible from the outside of apartment buildings,” one source in the city told Daily NK.
Some of the city’s residents reportedly suspect that the combination of the closure of the markets and the people’s committee’s orders to beautify the city may point to an imminent visit by Kim Jong Un.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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