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S. Korea says up to 1.8 mln N. Koreans use markets per day

All Headlines 10:45 December 27, 2015

SEOUL, Dec. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's intelligence authorities said Sunday they estimate that up to 1.8 million North Koreans use markets a day, in the latest sign that North Koreans rely on markets for survival despite crackdowns.

It means more than seven percent of North Korea's 24 million people use markets in a country where a decades-old food rationing system for ordinary people has collapsed.

The authorities said the number of markets has grown to about 306 across the country, providing North Koreans access to daily necessities.

By region, South Pyongan Province is home to the largest markets with 37, followed by South Hamgyong Province with 36 and North Pyongan Province with 34. North Korea's capital of Pyongyang has 23 markets, the authorities said, without elaborating on how they obtained the information.

North Korea closed the markets in 2009 when it carried out a currency reform, though it later allowed people to reopen the markets amid public anger over shortages of food and daily necessities.

Around 77 percent of 146 North Korean defectors in South Korea said that they had an experience of selling products in marketplaces in North Korea, according to a poll conducted by the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. Food, clothes, cosmetics and luxury items are being traded in marketplaces, according to North Korean defectors. Even delivery services have emerged as mobile phone usage has increased, they said.


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