The coronavirus pandemic has created such a huge impact in the economy, putting some businesspeople in North Hamgyong Province into the thought of selling off their market stalls.
“The pandemic has made life increasingly harder for locals, and the ten-day intensive lockdown for participants of the Eighth Party Congress has impacted the vendors in particular,” a source based in Northern Hamgyong Province said in an interview with Daily NK last January 12.
“They have reached the point where they are even selling their market stalls – the key to their livelihoods,” the source added.
Due to the ten-day lockdown in Chongjin, the source said that all access to the market’s food stands, street stands, and food products have been shut down and triggered a protest among the vendors.
“Because of the [lockdown for] Party Congress participants, we’re unable to run our businesses, so we’re struggling terribly,” the vendor said.
“We used to live hand-to-mouth, but now we can’t even do that,” they complained.
The social distancing measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus also did not permit vendors to run their stalls all at once. Because they are taking turns going to the marketplaces, vendors had barely endured the ten-day lockdown and were left with no choice but to sell their market stands.
“In the marketplaces in downtown Chongjin, many local residents are selling their stalls,” the source said. “They are frustrated because the market stands they bought for RMB 30,000 are not selling for even RMB 15,000.”
While some are forced to sell off their stands, some who kept theirs are reportedly struggle to have a return of investment since commodities they purchase in expensive prices are being sold at low prices.
Those who run stands intended for industrial goods and those who have at least managed to acquire buyers, commiserate for their colleagues who sold off their stalls. To help out their fellow sellers, the source said that they are purchasing food products from less fortunate businesspeople.
“Local residents are saying that these times are similar to the days of the Arduous March. People back then sold their houses because of the sudden crisis, but now locals who have made their living through trade are now selling their market stalls. There is even talk of selling their houses and sleeping on paper in the streets if this situation continues,” the source said.
Faced with the changing times, some vendors have also risked and changed the commodities they are selling, according to the information gathered by Daily NK.
“With the fall in the supply of imported goods due to border closure, distributors and retailers are changing the wares they sell. This is creating chaos,” a source based in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK.
In Pyongsong’s Okjon Market, vendors selling food products like sugar, cooking oil and flour have decreased into half of the usual number. Those who put their stalls for sale are vendors of Chinese clothes or electronics.
“The marketplace has grown so quiet that people are wondering if [the government] has been using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down the marketplaces,” the source said.