Markets Proliferate Under Kim Jong-un

  • By Kim Myong-song

    September 21, 2016 11:12

    The number of open-air markets in North Korea has doubled since 2010, a pundit said Tuesday. Their number increased from about 200 in 2010, when former leader Kim Jong-il was still alive, to some 400 during the reign of his son Kim Jong-un, according to analysis of satellite images by Curtis Melvin at Johns Hopkins University.

    "About 1.8 million North Koreans go shopping in these markets every day," an intelligence officer here said. "Most ordinary people except the elite in Pyongyang and soldiers depend on them."

    The development seems to have helped buffer people from the shock of international sanctions.

    "No matter how tightly the UN Security Council knits the sanctions network, it's still hard to prevent ordinary peddlers from crossing between the North and China," a source said. "Ordinary North Koreans don't suffer too much of a blow in their day-to-day lives because of the constant influx of Chinese-made daily necessities and food into the markets."

    Six months since the UNSC tightened sanctions in March rice prices are stable at 5,000 won per kg throughout North Korean markets.

    "Thanks to booming markets, once-poor villages near the border are now better off than inland villages," another source said.

    That is also helping to contain discontent with the regime. But the markets could spell trouble for the regime in the long term if they give rise to commercialism and show up the shortcomings of the Workers Party in providing effectively for ordinary people.

    "Kim Jong-un is turning a blind eye to the spread of markets because he's confident that he can rein them in any time," a researcher at a government-funded think tank here said. "But the time could come when they slip out of his control."

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