(FILE PHOTO) A woman offering ready-made Chinese goods to a customer at a market. Nowadays, many Chinese products have disappeared from the market. Photographed in Suncheon, South Pyongan Province in 2012, Reporter Kim Dong-Cheol (ASIAPRESS)

All consumer goods to have new government-set prices

Since early February, North Korean authorities have implemented a "national unified price system" for domestic consumer goods sold in state-run stores and grain sales centers (food outlets).

According to a reporting partner living in northern North Korea, a 200-page booklet detailing the selling price of each domestic product was distributed to state-run stores. The reporting partner stated:

"All domestic products sold in state-owned stores, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shoes, soy sauce, salt, and food, have the same government-set prices as before, but the prices are subject to change. Entrepreneurs are concerned that the state will try to dictate market prices in the future."

Priority given to domestic products to push out Chinese ones

Until around 2019, Chinese products dominated the North Korean market for most general consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, and general merchandise, but the Kim Jong Un /regime's prioritization of domestic products and the COVID pandemic have caused imports of consumer goods from China to plummet. The authorities are implementing strict controls to ensure that domestic goods are sold through state-owned stores, and the introduction of the "national single price system" appears to be part of this.

Another reporting partner commented on the distribution of domestic goods:

"Domestic products are inferior to Chinese products, but they are still okay (in terms of quality). However, the state-owned shops don't always have the goods and only sell them when they come in... As the market has become more (government) controlled, there are fewer goods available, and people are gradually using the stores (more and more). But the government-run stores are inconvenient because they have a fixed-price system, so you can't bargain or trade, and you can't pay later." (ISHIMARU Jiro / KANG Ji-won)

ASIAPRESS communicates with its reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

A map of North Korea (ASIAPRESS)