ri pyong chol
Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

As North Korean authorities are expected to strengthen COVID-19 prevention measures at the Second Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee (from Feb. 8 to 11) of the Workers’ Party, multiple sources have attested that locals are recently taking a strong interest in the direction of future policies.

A source from the Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Feb. 15, “During Lunar New Year, smugglers, merchants, and relatives called each other to discuss possible Party orders about strengthening the border lockdown.”

The source went on, “There is talk that there will be an intense inspection of the Party, military, and law-related organizations soon,” and added, “As smuggling has been put to a stop, even wealthy people are taking to the streets.” According to the source, some people are arguing that “we should at least be able to survive before they censor us.” 

In other words, concerns are being raised by local residents in the border area, which has been severely impacted by excessive COVID-19 prevention measures. 

covid quarantine
Disease control officials testing drivers for COVID-19 symptoms in Pyongyang’s Manggyongdae District. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

At one time, due to a rumor that vaccines would be provided by the international community, some people through that prevention measures might be eased. However, as propaganda continues on how quarantine measures cannot be delayed, some have begun arguing that people must “set up long-term survival plans” for themselves.

Inland areas are facing similar situations.

According to a source in South Pyongan Province, people are comparing the current economic crisis to the currency reform in 2009, saying that they feel as if they have been abandoned by the state.

This complaint is frequently voiced among wholesale merchants in the Pyongsong market. Most of them have entrusted large amounts of money to smugglers in the border area between North Korea and China, but as they have been unable to receive either money or goods, they are facing a crisis.

As a result, merchants are increasingly coming up with strategies to survive, such as changing the items they sell. There were many merchants who promised their families during Lunar New Year, “I’ll go out to the roadside and start all over again by selling rice soup.”

However, rumors are circulating nationally through phone calls that trade and smuggling will resume in March around the North Pyongan area, in which many local residents are placing their hopes.

In fact, trade workers in Yanggang Province and the North Hamgyong Province are reportedly weighing the possibility of moving their businesses to the North Pyongan Province.

*Translated by Esther Ra

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.