Shutters Up for Jangmadang

Christmas Day saw the reopening of North Korea’s markets, the jangmadang, which had been closed since the announcement of Kim Jong Il’s death on the morning of December 19th. According to a number of sources, the authorities are portraying the move as a benevolent decree by Kim Jong Eun, who they claim had been worrying about the ability of the majority to access food.

Two sources from Yangkang and Hamkyung Provinces told Daily NK on December 26th, “They reopened the market on December 25th and people have been selling again since then.”

Market management officials reportedly claimed Kim Jong Eun issued the order to reopen the market as people would have otherwise had nowhere to purchase food during the mourning period. As such, it appears to be a move to give propagandists a chance to improve public opinion of the new leader.

According to sources, slogans are also already being hung on the walls of city, county and provincial Party organizations and industrial sites telling people to “Follow the orders of the Supreme Leader, comrade Kim Jong Eun, in striving towards the construction of a ‘strong and prosperous state’” as well as others saying things such as “We are victorious for we have great comrade Kim Jong Eun.”

At the same time, domestic media outlets are also in the midst of efforts to paint Kim Jong Eun as a ‘people’s leader’. One article in Rodong Shinmun on December 26th claimed that Kim Jong Eun ordered sugar and hot water to be provided for guests paying their respects to the body of Kim Jong Il, while an earlier article on December 22nd said that Kim had ordered porridge to be provided as well.

There are also a number of rumors going around, which most people believe originated with the Party. One in particular suggests that Kim Jong Eun is at the forefront of a drive to provide rations on and around Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16th.

Sources add that this is not new, and that similar efforts to glorify Kim Jong Il took place in 1995, a year after the death of Kim Il Sung. At that time, a month of rations was provided to many people, although the size of rations differed depending on region or organization, with some areas not receiving anything at all.

One source said, “People think that this time there will be a maximum of two months’ rations. Most people believe that such provision will either be false propaganda to lower the price of food in the market or an attempt to bring stability to the country in complicated times.”
The price of rice at market reopening was around 4,500 won per kilo in border regions, holding to the drop that occurred in the days before Kim Jong Il’s death following the arrival of 5,000 won rice earlier in the month.