North Korean authorities recently dismissed the director of the Tongchang Sanatorium in Tongchang, North Pyongan Province, for filling his pockets by selling mineral water at a much higher price than state-mandated pricing, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK last Thursday that a man named “Kwon, the director of the Tongchang Sanatorium in Taedong, Tongchang County, was dismissed in mid-March for greed and self-interest because he filled his pockets by selling mineral water to everyone outside the area surrounding the sanitorium at more than ten times the government-set price.”

According to the source, an Academy of Sciences report published a year ago categorized water from the Taedong aquifer as healing waterdue to its slight acidity. Slightly acidic water allegedly has health benefits, especially for people suffering from chronic gastritis, pyelonephritis (a severe organ tissue infection), stomach ulcers, and duodenal (small intestine) ulcers.

The government priced the water at KPW 600 per 10 liters in Taedong. However, Kwon came under fire for making a profit by selling the water to people from other regions for a much higher price.

In fact, Kwon sold the water for 13 times the government-mandated price, or KPW 8,000, to all customers from outside Taedong, including travelers. He justified the price increase by claiming that the profits would increase the budget for a factory attached to the sanatorium.

North Korean bottled water being sold throughout the country. / Image: Daily NK

Although Kwon made money by changing the price, the profits did not improve the sanatorium’s financial situation. After he neglected to distribute his profits to sanatorium workers even once, disgruntled workers began raising complaints within the organization.

“It’s already crazy that we have to buy the mineral water from our own hometown for KPW 600. Why should we pay the inflated price of KPW 8,000 [for the same thing]?” residents of other villages in Taedong County reportedly asked. “Is the money really going into state coffers [like Kwon says]?”

“Eventually, someone filed a petition against the sanitorium director. Provincial people’s committee inspectors came down to investigate and began bringing problems to light,” the source said. “[The authorities] criticized the director because all he did after making all that money from selling the water was give the few workers at the sanatorium a one-time holiday provision of half a bottle of cooking oil and 500 grams of pork.”

Kwon was dismissed from his position and forced to become a general laborer immediately after the inspection found that he had “malicious greed” and sold the mineral water at an inflated price.

After notifying the North Pyongan Province’s party committee of the issue, the authorities have suspended sales of mineral water in the area for the time being.

*Translated by S & J

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to