North Korea Today No. 217 - Sep 2008
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Yeonsah County: People Growing Angry Over Party Control of the Market
Yeonsah County, North Hamgyong Province, people are growing more angry over party control of the market. Food aid from the US has not been distributed to the factory workers and other households in this county. Most people barely keep their body and soul together by farming in small fields. The big problem is obtaining alternative food sources since small businesses are the only place to get food. However, there are many restrictions in order to open a small business. For example, the age limit forbids anyone over 40 from opening a small business. Trade must occur in assigned market areas. The market space does not provide enough room for all the people who want to do business. Even if they are willing to pay the market display fee of 500 NK won, there is still no enough room for everyone. Some business who sells medicinal items and local product can not make enough profit so some set up shop illegally outside of the assigned market area to avoid market display fee.
The market management office checks each businessperson's age and cracks down on people running their business outside of the assigned market area. The officials either fine them 500 NK won or get them to attend re-education course for an entire day. "If we use one day for re-education without making money, we end up with no food next day. It makes our situation worse." said Jung Myong-hee (43). She also added that anger amongst the small business operators has been increasing.
Onsung County: Market Regulation Stir up Residents
Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province, as market regulation has become stricter, complaints among the residents are rising. The residents and peasants who have trouble getting food sell domestic animals, eggs, medicinal herbs, and farm product from small farming fields. This is the only way they can buy other food. Every fair day, the market is packed with people from many places. The market management office cracks down on people who sell outside of the assigned market area and who do not follow the age limit regulations. The accused end up with fine NK 500 won. Otherwise they have to attend re-education class for a day until 5:00pm.
Some accused elderly beg, "I won't sell outside of the assigned market area. Please let me off the case." However, the enforcement officials do not let them go home until they pay the fine. Some of the accused get as mad and they curse and swear at the officials. "We are treated so badly, the officials won't get away with it." Some residents yell after they are discharged.
The accused, Jang Soo-young (41), was caught when she sold her fares on a small residential street. She said furiously, "It is hard to bear this situation. We have no other way to get food. If they are so hard on people, it could get everybody into big trouble."