The North Korean authorities in Hamheung are demanding 150,000 won from each trader in local markets to support construction projects in Pyongyang, according to a source from the city.
“Since the start of October, Hamheung Municipal People’s Committee has been taking money from market traders on the premise that ‘You have to give material support to Pyongyang construction workers,’” the source told the Daily NK today. “In the case of traders in the markets in Hoisang and Sapo, they are being asked for as much as 150,000 won each.”
Hamheung is the most famous industrial city in North Korea, and as such has larger markets than many other places. Thus, given that each of the two markets mentioned by the source has more than 500 traders, if the authorities were to reach their goal figure then they would be able to take 75,000,000 won from each one.
However, the Market Management Office for each market already receives 300-500 won per day from traders in the form of a ‘stall tax’, with sellers of home appliances and other high priced goods paying 500 won and those who sell food only paying 300 won. Thus, 150,000 won represents a huge cost, and many traders are apparently reacting to the demand with incredulity.
The source also noted that this does not appear to represent a central Party directive, with only traders in South Hamkyung and Yangkang Province having been hit by it to date.
“In Hyesan Market in Yangkang Province, it is 100,000 won per trader,” the source revealed, adding, “It seems like a case of the provincial Party preparing funds to support Pyongyang construction by taking money from traders.”
Elsewhere, although traders are now angry at the demand for funding, everything else is good, with official market controls being very lightly implemented at the moment, according to the source.
“The market is open from morning to night, and with the exception of the usual crackdowns on grasshopper traders there are no notable inspections,” he revealed.
But then, he added sarcastically, “They are taking money from the market as if it were some kind of state industry, so maybe that’s why they are leaving it alone.”