The people of North Korea use the price of rice grain to gauge what is going on in and around the Korean peninsula and the future of the Kim Jong-un regime. They have no way of direct communication with the outside nor any tools to analyze the actual state of affairs, and the rice price at the marketplace (장마당) is an indicator as to which way the wind is blowing.
The people went into a state panic because the price of rice grain jumped by more than 700 NKWon per 1kg last few days.
A Liberty Korea correspondent inside North Korea said, “Everyone has anticipated that the rice grain price would go up soon, but nobody imagined that the price would jump this high in a matter of a few days.”
Marketplaces along HamKyungBukDo was going for 4,800 NKWon as of November 30, but it is 5,500 NKWon per 1kg as of December 4. Corn grains, the usual staple for the hoi polloi, has gone up from 1,400 NKWon to 2,200 NKWon per 1kg.
The correspondent said, “The rising price is a big problem, but not knowing the cause of this drastic jump makes the people more anxious. The surging price is an indication of an unusual development surrounding North Korea.”
The correspondent explained that “At present, the food vending counters are empty, with only rice brokers hanging around nearby. If a farmer shows up with any grains, they swarm the farmer. There is a tremendous shortage of rice despite the high price.”
Another correspondent, a party official, said, “The food prices rose quickly after the news of the summit meeting between Trump and Xi. I think it was because of Kim Jong-un’s worry that the Trump-Xi summit could lead to a reinforcement of sanctions. Kim’s excessive worry impacted the food prices at the marketplaces. He was anxious that China would join the US in sanctions against the grain export. That was why the price jumped up.”
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