FILE PHOTO: A state-run shop in Pyongyang with various kinds of snacks on display. (©Daily NK)

Salesclerks at state-run shops in North Korea have been leaving their jobs recently, Daily NK has learned.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province said Thursday that “salesclerks at state-run shops in Chongjin have been quitting recently,” adding that this was because “they haven’t been receiving what they were promised in return for selling items from the people who put goods in the shops.”

According to the source, there are two types of salespeople in state-run shops. The first are people with money who put items in the shops and sell them themselves, giving part of the profits to the state.

The second are people who simply sell items without investing any money. They receive a monthly salary for selling items placed there by other people. They work as clerks in state-run shops, but are paid by the owners of the goods, their actual employers.

Clerks of the second type have recently quit because they are not being paid properly, the source said.

“People who just sell things without investing money work from 8 AM to 6 PM selling goods and doing all sorts of other things around the shop, but they barely get paid RMB 100, so they leave their shops to find other ways to make money,” the source said.

A 30-year-old Chongjin resident was promised RMB 500 a month when she started working as a saleswoman in December, but has never received the agreed amount. She barely received a two-month total of RMB 200 for March and April after complaining repeatedly, and finally quit the store about 10 days ago, feeling she could no longer work there.

“It’s true that items aren’t selling and business is bad,” she said, according to the source. “But if I don’t say anything, they try to pay me nothing, and if I ask for money, I become a shrinking violet, so I feel like a criminal. So I quit, thinking it would be best to earn money on my own, even if I have to sell vegetables on the side of the road.”

People choose to take the easy way out and quit rather than constantly begging or demanding money that has already been promised to them.

“Other women who have recently quit their businesses say that vendors who do not put up money are little more than farmhands,” the source said. “Most are in their 20s or 30s, and they joined because they thought working in the shops – a young woman’s job – was clean and better than working in the markets. But now they feel bitter.”

“People are saying today that smuggling is not what it was before COVID-19, and if things continue as they are, we’re going to live in a world where all we can do is twiddle our thumbs,” the source said. “People are hoping that all forms of distribution will get better, like before COVID-19, so that markets will pick up and locals can make a living.”

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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