North Koreans fighting back?

It seems that North Korea’s "50-day battle" against illegal economic activity (read: economic activity) is not surprisingly causing further instability. From the Times: It was at the end of last November that the Government announced a drastic revaluation of the won in an apparent effort to crack down on the country’s burgeoning free market economy. ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
KNS/AFP/Getty Images
KNS/AFP/Getty Images
KNS/AFP/Getty Images

It seems that North Korea's "50-day battle" against illegal economic activity (read: economic activity) is not surprisingly causing further instability. From the Times:

It was at the end of last November that the Government announced a drastic revaluation of the won in an apparent effort to crack down on the country’s burgeoning free market economy. All North Koreans were required to swap old won notes with new ones at an exchange rate of one to 100, knocking two zeroes off their value. Because of a cap of 100,000 won per family ((€526 at the official exchange rate), anyone with significant holdings of cash had their savings wiped out. 

Since then, reports of inflation and food shortages have trickled out of the isolated country via traders and smugglers in China, as well as North Koreans close to the Chinese border who take the risk of keeping illegal mobile telephones. According to such informants, quoted anonymously in the Seoul-based DailyNK news website, there has been “an explosion in the number of casualties resulting from popular resentment at harsh regulation of market activities by the security apparatus across North Korea.”

It seems that North Korea’s "50-day battle" against illegal economic activity (read: economic activity) is not surprisingly causing further instability. From the Times:

It was at the end of last November that the Government announced a drastic revaluation of the won in an apparent effort to crack down on the country’s burgeoning free market economy. All North Koreans were required to swap old won notes with new ones at an exchange rate of one to 100, knocking two zeroes off their value. Because of a cap of 100,000 won per family ((€526 at the official exchange rate), anyone with significant holdings of cash had their savings wiped out. 

Since then, reports of inflation and food shortages have trickled out of the isolated country via traders and smugglers in China, as well as North Koreans close to the Chinese border who take the risk of keeping illegal mobile telephones. According to such informants, quoted anonymously in the Seoul-based DailyNK news website, there has been “an explosion in the number of casualties resulting from popular resentment at harsh regulation of market activities by the security apparatus across North Korea.”

Agents of the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), which is conducting a so-called “Fifty Day Battle” against illegal enterprise, were reported to have been attacked and driven away as they sought out market activity in the city of Pyongsung in North Pyongan province. In the once prosperous industrial city of Chongjin on the country’s east coast, a steel worker named Jeung Hyun Deuk was reported to have killed an agent of the National Security Agency named Cho.

Even Kim Jong Il acknowledged in a recent statement that there are  "still quite a number of things lacking in people’s lives." If Dear Leader is indeed responding to popular resentment, things must be getting pretty bad. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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