North Korean’s Source of Survival: 'Jangmadang' Markets

North Korean’s Source of Survival: 'Jangmadang' Markets

The importance of Jangmadang markets for North Koreans to survive 

News Published 2024.03.26 | Sadie Kim

(Photo = Daily NK)

North Korea officially operates as a planned economy, where the government controls most aspects of production, distribution, and pricing. However, due to the insufficient supply of assets since the collapse of a state ration system in the 1990s, North Korea’s local market “Jangmadang” has been a significant source of food and other necessities. More than 72% of defectors who arrived between 2016 and 2020 said they never received government food rations in North Korea.

*North Korea's chronic food insecurity is the product of decades of economic mismanagement and the internal and external policies of the incumbent political regime (38north)

(Photo = Wolganjung-ang)

Despite its illegalness, such marketplaces sprung up across North Korea, being known as “the asset for North Korean women with their blood and sweat to protect their lives.”

(Photo = Yonhap News)

"North Korea is a place where the rich, who are active in the market are punished. But the market is a place where it cannot operate without money, and the rich are considered criminals and taken to prison," said Kim Ji-young, the North Korean defector in the event hosted by the non-profit Defense Forum Foundation.

(Photo = TASS)

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However, Jangmadang has apparently been a concern for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as it is being operated as a mixed market, opposing the central system of the government. Citizens are being awakened to new ways of life while experiencing new cultures through smuggled videos and other products.