Good Friends: Protests Erupted in Chongjin
Thousands of North Korean women staged a massive protest against age restrictions in the Jangmadang earlier this month, said Good Friends. Discontent had been mounting since mid-February when 15 women were executed for “helping villagers cross the border into China and engaging in human trafficking.” Via World Tribue:
In early March, the authorities began to dismantle stalls that were owned by women younger than 50. That infuriated women who were already agitated over news of executions. Hundreds of women swarmed the market manager’s office in protest. It was a spontaneous outburst almost never seen in North Korea, according to the sources. “They shouted and demanded either to let them continue doing business in the open market or otherwise resume food distribution,” a source said. “It was not like South Korean-style protests we used to watch on TV. There were no organizers or leaders, but the number swelled into thousands in a very short time.” The scene was scary and surreal. But even more bizarre was that security officers did not try very hard to disperse the gathering.
According to the sources, the protest continued into the next day, and the market management office withdrew the age restriction on March 5.
IHT is also reporting that due to the increasingly scarce food situation and international jitters, grain prices in North Korean Jangmadang have skyrocketed:
The spreading fear of hard times is already helping drive up grain prices in North Korea by up to 70 percent over last year, according to experts in Seoul and North Korean defectors in South Korea who help their relatives back home through Chinese intermediaries. Kim Young Hoon, a food security analyst at the government-financed Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul, said the North’s food problem was particularly vulnerable to the political mood. “When the mood is bad, there is cornering and hoarding at the markets and the authorities reduce rations to save for the future,” Kim said. “It takes a heavy toll among the weak. It’s clear that the problem will get worse this year.”
Interesting times are upon us.