Shenyang, China — A news report about a protest supposedly involving a few hundred citizens in Sinuiju on the 18th, released by a South Korean newspaper on the 23rd, appears to have been highly exaggerated. It was just an argument over stall fees between traders and market managers, sources say.
The commotion revealed by a domestic South Korean newspaper occurred at Chinseon Market near Sinuiju Stadium, where a number of fabric and shoe factories are located. The disagreement was triggered by a notice stating that fees would double from 4,000 to 8,000 won a month, or 400 won a day. At current prices, the new stall fee is enough to buy corn to feed a North Korean adult for more than two weeks.
When a member of market management insisted that traders had to follow the regulations unconditionally as an order handed down by the municipal commercial management office, some got so angry that they threw trash at the manager, shouting that it was too much to take and asserting that illegal grasshopper trading, meaning without a permanent stall in the legal market, trading in nearby alleyways illegally while avoiding the eyes of community watch guards or People’s Safety Ministry agents, would be better for them.
Eventually, ten or so agents from a PSM strike force were able to calm them down. Nevertheless, during the incident other traders came along to watch the commotion, so in the end over a hundred of people were gathered in the one area.
After around 30 minutes of complaint, the traders were finally dispersed. Some got hurt during fights with market managers, but there were no serious casualties. Additionally, there was no military presence.
The source explained, “Since market managers are not members of law enforcement, traders were able to grab them irately by the collar and shout at them for raising the fees.”
“Commotions like this are common,” he went on, “so there is no serious uneasiness about it,” and went on, “in addition; community watch guards kicking grasshoppers out of alley markets, then them going back there and trading again is a daily routine. Therefore, physical fights are really common between traders, community watch guards and market managers.”
Finally, he noted, “In Shinuiju, it is generally calm,” and, regarding another report on cell phone usage which suggested that phones had been cut to avoid giving the people access to information on Middle East protests, said, “There is no evidence of that. People are still using cell phones.”