As the icy grip of winter hits the Korean peninsula, the cost of heating homes in the North has spiked.The approximate doubling of the price of coal since this time last year is seemingly to blame. Today’s temperature in the capital is estimated to reach a low of -13°C.
A source based in North Hamkyung told the Daily NK on Tuesday that, “The price of coal has risen to the point that most people in urban areas wouldn’t even dream of buying it. Last year it was about 150,000 won per ton, but right now it is up to 300,000 won in some places.”
The rising price of coal is believed to be a result of a lack of supply in the market. The Daily NK source suggested that the reason was lower production coming from the mines in the North and increases in the cost of transporting goods. These difficulties are also probably being exacerbated by Chinese-North Korean trade in coal as the amount of coal heading to China from North Korea has increased.
The price of coal is naturally making it difficult for the poor to live comfortably. The source said that, “Poor families aren’t buying coal because it is too expensive, meaning that they have to spend time preparing firewood. There have even been clashes between families over it.”