Changmadang, the border area between China and North Korea, trades with China, so the situation is different from Changmadang in Pyongyang and other southern North Korea.
In the cities of the border regions of China and North Korea, such as Sinuiju, Heryong, Onsong, Musan, and Hesan, where Chinese peddlers come frequently, it is easy to buy daily necessities such as Chinese clothing, shoes, soap, and tobacco.
However, the prices of these daily necessities from China rise as they move further away from the border area. For example, 15 won soap at the border area, 20 won at Hamhung in Hamgyongnam-do, 25 won in Pyongangnam-do, 30 won at Sariwon in Hwanhaebuk-do, and 35 won at Heju in Hwanhaenam-do.
Conversely, the price of food goes higher the further you go north. In the Yellow Sea South Road, corn of 30 km / km is 40 won at Hwanhaebuk-do, 50 won at Pyongangnam-do, 70 won at Hamgyongnam-do, and rises to 80 to 90 won at the highest. (Anchol brothers, “North Korea seen by a secret camera”)
Hesan has a long-standing tradition of trade with China, with a small but active black market where everything from dried fish to home appliances is traded.
In the 1980s, women were allowed to sell food and homemade goods in temporary markets, but large-scale business was still a special dark task.
My father joined a growing group of black market merchants, bridging the gap between the state’s planned economy. He started out with a small business.
He bought high-grade cigarettes in the black market of Hesan for 70 to 100 won a carton, and sold them inland for 7 to 10 won per cigarette. At that time, a kilo of rice was about 25 won, so you can see how valuable cigarettes were (Park Yong-mi, “The Choice to Live”)
Merchants who trade dark goods with China lived in low houses along the river, behind the markets. (Ibid.)
When my parents were children, the distribution was still maintained with support from the Soviet Union and China, so there were no hungry people, but only a few elites, and no wealthy.
Foreign clothes, electrical appliances, special foods, etc. were not available enough to meet demand even if they wanted, and if they went to a state-run department store, they sold such items, but the price was too high for most people I couldn’t buy it. If ordinary citizens wanted to get foreign cigarette words, sake and Japanese handbags, they had to buy them at the black market.
Usually, the route of entry for these goods was from China in the north (ibid.)