Ordinary North Koreans face more difficulties amid rising commodity prices

A ‘grasshopper market’, or unofficial market, in a village near Pyongyang. (Chinese blogger Lóng Wǔ*Láng Zhī Wěn)

Prices in North Korea’s major markets have been rising lately. The country’s citizens bear an increasingly heavy burden as exchange rates soar and prices continually rise for items that have a significant impact on livelihoods such as grain, gasoline and diesel.

According to Daily NK’s regular price survey in North Korea, the market commodity that has risen in price the most is oil.

On Monday, a kilogram of gasoline cost 13,200 KPW in Pyongyang, 12,700 KPW in Sinuiju and 12,500 KPW in Hyesan.

That’s up 68-98% from Jan. 11, when a kilo of gasoline cost just 6,680 KPW in Pyongyang, 6,970 KPW in Sinuiju and 7,440 KPW in Hyesan.

Diesel prices have climbed even faster than gasoline. On Monday, a kilogram of gasoline cost 9,600 KPW in Pyongyang, 9,450 KPW in Sinuiju and 9,500 KPW in Hyesan. That’s 92-116% higher than it cost on January 11. In Pyongyang, the price of diesel recently soared to more than double what it was at the start of the year.

The rise in international oil prices following the Ukraine crisis may have played a role, but the price of oil in North Korea is rising much faster than international prices.

According to GlobalPetrolPrices.com, which tracks oil prices around the world, a liter of gasoline in China cost 9,381 RMB (about 7,646 KPW), while diesel cost 8,433 RMB (about 6,873 KPW) on Monday.

Even taking transportation costs and trade and distribution margins into account, the market price of oil in North Korea has risen significantly.

The sharp rise in North Korean oil prices is closely linked to the measures taken by the authorities to control oil sales.

Daily NK reported last month that small teams of prosecutors had launched a crackdown on private oil salesauthorities confiscating oil stocks from merchants caught selling oil in the markets.

This may be linked to the government’s efforts to give state agencies early advice on oil as import prices rise due to rising international oil prices and falling value of the local currency.

Market prices for cereals such as rice and maize also continue to rise. On Monday, a kilogram of rice cost 5,100 KPW in Pyongyang, 5,300 KPW in Sinuiju and 5,400 KPW in Hyesan.

The price of rice climbed above 5,000 KPW for the first time this year, after remaining below 5,000 KPW since late last year.

The price of rice has increased by 13-15% compared to January 11, when rice cost only 4,500 KPW in Pyongyang, 4,600 KPW in Sinuiju and 4,700 KPW in Hyesan.

The price of corn rose even faster. Maize on Monday cost 2,730 KPW in Pyongyang and 2,700 KPW in Sinuiju. Essentially, it’s up about 25% since the start of the year.

Public discontent rises as market prices continue to climb. North Korean authorities offered special gifts of pork, eggs, seafood, fruits and vegetables to cadres and civilians to mark the birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on February 16. , although these giveaways have largely focused on the Pyongyang region.

However, people complain that the authorities should have provided foodstuffs such as rice or maize instead. In particular, criticism is stronger in regions that did not receive the gifts.

A resident of the North Korea-China border region told Daily NK that although freight trains have been returning to North Korea filled with rice and flour since the start of the year, none of this has happened. reaches the population. He also noted that authorities have provided school supplies and school uniforms to children to mark the start of the school year on April 1, but this will not solve immediate food shortages.

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