In North Korea, a packet of coffee costs $ 100, and that’s a problem for Kim Jong Un
In the capital Pyongyang, the prices of some basic necessities are said to be skyrocketing. Experts say the prices of rice and fuel are still relatively stable, but the prices of imported staples such as sugar, soybean oil and flour have increased.
The costs associated with some locally produced staples have also skyrocketed in recent months. Potato prices have tripled at the famous Tongil Market, where locals and foreigners can shop, Pyongyang residents said.
Residents also revealed that non-essential items such as a small packet of black tea can sell for around $ 70, while a packet of coffee can cost over $ 100.
Kim did not disclose the extent of the shortages, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated that North Korea was in short supply of around 860,000 tonnes of food, or l ‘equivalent of just over two months of nationwide supply.
The situation was dire enough in April that Kim urged the North Koreans to undertake another “hard march,” a term used to refer to the devastating famine in North Korea in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
The admission that the state’s planned economy cannot even feed its people may seem out of place for a ruler whose family is portrayed in propaganda as infallible and almost divine.
Kim has shaped his national image as a man of the people, a leader who constantly meets the public and is dedicated to improving the daily life of one of the poorest countries on the planet. His stated goal since taking power in 2011 has been to improve the lives of most North Koreans.
However, unless it radically changes North Korea’s inefficient planned economy, frees nearly 120,000 political prisoners believed to be held in gulags, or withdraws its nuclear weapons program, experts believe Pyongyang will struggle. to achieve Kim’s goal.
Relations with Washington and negotiations on sanctions relief appear to be a distant concern, at least for now. Kim only mentioned talks with the United States on Thursday, the third day of this week’s important political meeting and agenda item four.
According to state media, Kim has analyzed the North Korean policy of US President Joe Biden and now believes Pyongyang must “prepare for both dialogue and confrontation.”
The Biden administration has made it clear that North Korea, its nuclear program, and allegations of large-scale human rights violations in the country are an important part of its foreign policy agenda.
Although the White House says it plans to pursue a “practical and calibrated approach” that differs from the strategies employed by the Trump and Obama administrations, North Korea remains the same intractable foreign policy problem that plagued recent predecessors of the United States. Biden.
CNN’s Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae contributed reporting.