March 05, 2010 08:01
North Korea's economy is essentially paralyzed since a disastrous currency reform in December.
Radio Free Asia on Wednesday quoted a member of an American NGO who recently visited the North to deliver aid as saying shops in Pyongyang are empty, there are few foreigners in hotels, and construction has come to a standstill.
The American recalled that even no kimchi, the staple spicy delicacy of Korea, was found among dishes of Korean food served in the Koryo Hotel. He wondered if the hotel could not afford to make it due to skyrocketing prices. He had visited the North for more than 10 years, but it was the first time no kimchi was served, he added.
RFA quoted a Western diplomat in Pyongyang as saying foreigners travel to the Chinese border town of Dandong at weekends because they cannot find daily necessities even in designated shops in the North.
Since the surprise currency reform, prices have soared and trade of daily necessities has come to a virtual halt, RFA said. Some 80 percent of North Koreans consider the currency reform a failure, it added.
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