The following is taken from an April 10, 2010 report from a local LFNKR staff member working in North Korea. The report examines rising prices in the North Korean provinces of Chonjin, Musan, and Haesan during the 11 days from March 30th through April 10th.
To celebrate the 98th birthday of the late dictator Kim Il-song (born April 15, 1912), the North Korean government distributed 7 kilograms of food to each person. According to our worker, the local government in North Hamgyong Province had to pull stockpiled rice out of its second military warehouse. This is unprecedented. Food shortages are obviously critical now. North Koreans are now whispering that the starvation of the late 90’s may be returning.
Insane price increases for food illustrate how desperately unstable the North Korean economy has become. The day the LFNKR staff member checked food prices in Musan, for example, prices were wildly higher than they had been just four months earlier.
Specifically, wheat flour was now almost 25 times higher. Rice was nearly 8 times more expensive. And corn prices had multiplied almost 5 times during the four-month period. The prices are rising not just day-to-day, but even by the hour. Those who don’t buy in the morning often have to pay more in the afternoon. The extremely volatile food prices are a clear indicator of the chaos rampant in North Korea. The failure of the recent currency reform adds to the people’s distrust of their own money.
Our local staff member reported that, amidst the currency reform failure, one bank president in Yanggang-do was recently executed for his failure to implement the reform.
The report also mentions that 5% of the soldiers of the sixth army corps located in North Hamgyong suffer from severe malnutrition and beriberi. Soldiers with beriberi symptoms are sent home, since the army has no medical facilities to treat the disease. Some have reportedly taken advantage of their temporary leave to escape into China.