North Korean officials reopened hundreds of markets two months after a major economic upheaval sparked riots and left scores starving in the impoverished communist nation, an activist said Thursday.And now some of the details (also NYT):
Pyongyang in late November ordered citizens to turn in a limited number of old bills in exchange for new, redenominated currency in a move seen as a bid to reclaim control over the economy.
The order triggered unrest among newly middle-class merchants who lost their life savings and among those going hungry without access to the markets that filled the gap after the regime's rationing system fell apart in the 1990s, analysts and activists said.
Inflation surged because state-run shops couldn't keep up with demand, said Dong Yong-sueng, a senior fellow at Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul.
Food became scarce, and the price of the few goods available rose dramatically, said Cho Myung-chul, an analyst with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul.
Seeking to soothe mounting anger, the government has begun easing restrictions on markets in recent days, one South Korean official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information involves intelligence-gathering activities.Among other things, the article also notes that people have taken to referring to the Dear Leader simply "Jong-il" (i.e., without his grand official title), which is a no-no if you're trying to show respect. Or stay out of prison. It would be like snidely calling the president "B. Hussein Obama," only with the threat of being beaten to a pulp. Again, I see this as a sign of an unraveling.
The official did not provide details, but Seo -- the defector-turned-activist -- said North Korea last week reopened hundreds of state-run markets that had been ordered shut following the currency reform.
Rice and other staples are now "freely traded" at markets, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said in Seoul, citing unidentified sources privy to North Korea affairs.