While North Korea has long deferred to market-set prices for goods and services based on organic supply and demand, some areas of the country have recently seen the reintroduction of state-set prices. Observers in Ryanggang Province have put forward several interpretations as to why this pricing system has reappeared.
A Ryanggang Province-based source reported on January 3 that from the end of last year, rice, corn and other products at a rice mill in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province were given state-set prices announced in the July 1 2002 Measures.
The price of rice at the rice mill is now officially 44 KPW, while corn goes for 24 KPW. Markets, however, sell rice for 5,200 KPW while corn sells for 2,100 KPW, meaning that the market-set prices are some 100 times greater than state-set prices.
“Rice mills in Hyesan began putting state-set price tags on their products from late last year, but there’s no reason for it because no one buys pays attention to them,” added a separate source in Ryanggang Province.
Rice prices skyrocketed in the mid-1990s when supplies dwindled. The North Korean authorities increased the state-set price of rice from 7 jeon to 44 KPW when the July 1 Economic Management Improvement Measure was announced in 2002. These prices, however, were largely ignored in the markets. The state then tried to force vendors to sell rice at state-set prices after the 2009 currency reform, but these efforts also failed due to astronomical inflation levels. ......