Rice Priced Out of Reach in NK


Price of rice skyrockets after Kim Jong-il dies

On Dec. 24th we received another call from one of our LFNKR staff members in the Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. This member told us about the current food situation. The already tight food availability is worsening, which may result in many victims during the mourning period. In Rason, rice now costs 4,800 to 5,000 won per kilogram. However, the average monthly wage of a typical worker is only 2,000 to 3,000 won. Clearly, an entire kilogram of rice costs more than one worker can earn in a month. 

According to an ethnic Chinese lady running a small restaurant in Rason, the price of rice immediately before the death of Kim Jong-il was 3,800 to 4,000 won per kilogram. Possible reasons for this rise include concern over future availability of rice and withholding for market speculation.

Whatever the reason, rice has become very difficult to come by, partly because markets are currently closed. The ethnic Chinese lady dispatches employees every day to China, each of whom buys 50kg of rice. This is the most that one person is allowed to take out of China. She complains that with the 50-kg per day restriction, her expenses are much higher. But, she admits, there is nothing else she can do about it.

According to one man, president of the Rason Branch of a Pyongyang trading company, rice in Pyongyang City is now costing 3,400 to 3,800 won per kilogram, up from 2,000 to 3,000 won last week.

Another man, a North Korean who owns a trading company in China, remarked that an important reason for this rapid rise is the inadequate supply of food. Coupled with that, foreign exchange has collapsed. Everyone seems to be wondering how much higher rice will go, as well as how much rice will be available after the mourning period. This period runs until the 29th of December.