“The Price of Cabbage in North Korea Is Prohibitive”

[imText1]With the kimchi preparation season ahead, South Korean housewives are afraid to open their wallets due to the threefold increase in the price of cabbage and radishes compared with last year. Similarly, the skyrocketing price of cabbage in North Korea has also caused concerns about the Kimjang (kimchi preparation) season.

Lee Ok Ran (45), who trades in Hoiryeong, relayed in a phone conversation with DailyNK on the 25th, “Due to the flood damage and the delayed seedtime, the cabbage harvest has decreased significantly. In mid-October, we will enter the Kimjang season but are worried because the price of cabbage has risen exorbitantly. The saying that the price of cabbage is like the price of gold seems fitting now.”

Ms. Lee said, “Large cabbage has not been reaped yet, so mostly cabbage from China is being sold in the Jangmadang (markets). Unripe cabbage made in North Korea is being sold at 450~500 won per bundle and Chinese-produced cabbage costs around 1,800~2,000 won.” Last year, North Korean-produced cabbage was sold for 200~250 won per bundle.

She explained, “Chosun (North Korea) cabbage has a lot of insect traces and the leaves are tough, while on the other hand, Chinese-produced cabbages are of better quality; this accounts for the more than twofold difference in price. Mostly, the party leaders rather than average civilians buy and eat these cabbages.”

With the price of North Korean cabbage soaring, the cost of imported cabbage has increased that much more significantly.

Ms. Lee added, “In the winter, there is only one type of side dish—kimchi–so it is referred to as ‘a half-year’s gourmet food.’ At this time, if we cannot prepare kimchi, we will not see kimchi for an entire year.”

North Korean civilians prepare for Kimjang by harvesting cabbage or radish seeds, planting them beginning in late July immediately after reaping wheat and corn, and begin the harvest and preparations for Kimjang from the end of October.

The cabbage scarcity is due to the losses incurred in the August floods, when the cabbages were just starting to sprout.

The North Korean Central News Agency and the Chosun Shimbo issued by Chongryon (General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan) reported on the 10th, “In some areas of South Pyongan and Kangwon, collective farm laborers plowed the fields submerged in the flood and have started re-sowing.”

The North Korean farmers started sowing cabbage and radish seeds again, but the amount of the harvest is expected to be half of the annual average. As a result, North Korea’s “Kimjang combat,” which will begin in mid-October, will face a huge setback.

In North Korea, using military language such as “combat” for important events is customary. Just as there is the spring rice-planting combat, the summer weeding combat, and the fall harvesting combat, the words, “Kimjang combat,” are used during Kimjang season.

In the northernmost part of Yangkang, North Hamkyung, Kimjang season begins in the middle of October. Come November, all regions of North Korea, such as South Hamkyung, Jagang, North Pyongan, South Pyongan, and Hwanghae are swarming with combats.

However, the price of cabbage has risen exorbitantly this year and by Kimjang season, the price of hot peppers and seasoning will have skyrocketed. Therefore, concern over the North Korean people’s survival through the winter is increasing.