Transportation Options Taking Off

More independent transportation companies, run by the donju, or new affluent middle-class, are
springing up in North Korea’s main transit hubs and driving up fares.

“There is a growing number of bus and truck
companies operating not only in Pyongyang but nationwide,” a source from North
Hamkyung Province told Daily NK last Friday. “People are buying buses or trucks
and then paying the state a certain fee to open up transportation companies authorized
by the central authorities.” 

She explained that those members of the donju with significant amounts of money establish
contacts with central bodies and win over the right to operate. “The ‘Pyongyang Transit and Trade Company’ and the ‘General Bureau of Transportation,’ which fall under the Cabinet, write up permits for individual
donju and are authorizing the operations in exchange for a certain amount of
the profits,” she said, adding that each region has bus companies that come from those two Pyongyang-based offices, creating a de facto public-private collaborative operation. 

The donju, by importing second-hand buses from China
for 3,000 to 4,000 USD, are overtly raking in profits and revolutionizing bus transportation in North Korea; personal bus
transportation was only available in two to three cities in the early 2000s, including Pyongyang, but now it has spread nationwide. According to the source, some companies own anywhere from dozens to hundreds of buses.

“The fare between Chongjin and Musan used
to be 8,000 KPW [1 USD] until just two years ago, but now it has jumped to 50,000 KPW [6.25 USD].
The bus that runs between Chongjin and Kim Chaek is currently 80,000 KPW [10 USD] – ten times
the original price,” she noted. “Donju are raising the fares to whatever
they want depending on the oil prices and exchange rate with the Chinese yuan.”

In the North’s main cities, state-run trams,
trolleys, and long-distance buses do operate, but the vehicles are old and the companies beset by economic difficulties. The number of donju-run companies, however, is increasing by the day, leaving the state no
choice but to accept their money and grant them license to operate.

“People are happy that there are more
options for transportation but there are a lot of complaints about the
expensive fares,” the source said. “Some say it’s not unusual for such
companies to be operating in the way they do considering the dilapidated
condition of state companies, but in the end it’s the regular people who bear the brunt of it all.”

*The contents of this article were broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.