Workers from North Korea’s Chongjin Railway Department restoring roads on Sept. 15 after t
hey were destroyed by flooding. Image: Rodong Sinmun
Hit by the worst flooding in decades, North Korea is working to stabilize prices in the affected regions of North Hamgyong Province. The state has placed restrictions on panic buying of rice and ordered a hold on price hikes, with Ministry of People’s Security officials policing the markets, Daily NK has learned.
“The prices of various goods including rice are not much different from before the floods,” a source in North Hamgyong Province reported to Daily NK in a telephone conversation. “MPS agents and patrol teams have been deployed to suppress hoarding of rice and price gouging of other goods.”
“(Soon after the flood) a vendor tried to raise rice prices from around 5,000-5,300 KPW [ .60-.65 USD] per kilogram to 8,000 KPW [0.97 USD],” the source said. “But due to surveillance by the security personnel, they were unable to.”
The source reported that in Hoeryong city, rice prices had surged to 6,000 KPW [0.73 USD] at one point but have now returned to the 5,000 KPW [0.60 USD] level. Pork prices remain the same at 13,000 KPW [1.58 USD] per kilogram, and other goods also remain stable.
The aggressive push to control prices is being seen as an effort to prevent public sentiment toward the leadership from turning sour, as would be the case if market prices began to skyrocket due to a drop in supply from a crippled distribution network.
While active pricing restrictions have not previously been employed by Pyongyang since Kim Jong Un assumed power, by doing so under emergency conditions, the regime is also considered to be demonstrating that it has the means to.
“Just until early this month, a lot of people were complaining about things, but that seems to have died down a little now,” added a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.
A simultaneous increase in the distribution of state rations and relief supplies is likely contributing to this. A week’s worth of food and supplies collected from across the other regions of North Korea are currently being handed out.
A different source in the same province reports that the state has provided a number of essential daily items to residents. For food rations, people have received corn and rice.
“For relief supplies, they are giving people a set of blankets, clothes, undergarments, spoons, and chopsticks among other items,” she said. “It seems like they have been collected from each state factory and inminban (people’s unit) for distribution.”
The source added that because the supplies have been cobbled together from different sources, each household has a slightly different set of items, with some missing certain items like blankets or underwear.