Stall transfers yield big profits at the market

The number of stalls at North Korea’s
markets has been on the rise, thanks to the easing of government crackdowns on
sales and an ensuing boom in business. This has led to fierce competition to
snatch up stalls that are popular with customers, Daily NK has learned.

“There has been a growing number of people
looking to take over stalls at the market,” a source in Yangkang Province told
Daily NK on Tuesday. “In the past, vendors who made good money and wanted to
transfer their stalls to move to other locations would have trouble selling off
their former spots, but now everyone is trying to buy one and get in on the

The word “buy” in this context more
accurately refers to the payment of a transfer fee, initially paid in one
installment by vendors to establish their operations at a given market; new
merchants wishing to take over an existing space must pay this fee–factoring
in appreciation–directly to the previous tenant, which market management
permits. The new occupant then takes over payments of the daily selling fees,
payable to market management, required to do business in an authorized stall.

Most use the profits of a stall transfer as
seed money to start a new business, either selling something more profitable at
the markets, or in other cases, dispensing with small-scale retail altogether.

He explained that those looking to venture
into larger scale operations, generally prompted by the burdens of hauling
goods into the market on a daily basis to set up and sell, turn to distribution
and wholesale operations as options offering higher profit margins with less of
the unwieldy aspects presented by hawking wares from a stall.  

A sought-after stall, roughly 2.5 meters
wide, in Hyesan Market will sell for about 4,500 RMB, or roughly 5.9 million
KPW–a hefty sum, particularly by North Korean standards. This prohibitive
price, however, does little to prevent such stalls from being scooped up almost
immediately, according to the source. In fact, the dearth of stalls garners the
most complaints from the ever-increasing number of residents looking to do

“These days, as soon as a new stall is
available, it’s sold,” the source asserted. “The good locations have people
standing in line to buy them– they’re that popular. Even if the prices they ask
for are really high, people still buy them.”

He added that the state’s countenance for market operation, despite stepping up
surveillance on the borders, is integral to both residents’ survival and that
of the leadership. “The authorities know very well that on top of making people
attend ideological lectures and mobilizing them for public construction
projects, if they bar people from sales at the market it will only exacerbate
their sense of distrust towards the state.”

Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to