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Season change drives cigarette sales

Season change drives cigarette sales

first_imgNews Season change drives cigarette sales AvatarDaily NKQuestions or comments about this article? Contact us at [email protected] News RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR News There are signs that North Korea is running into serious difficulties with its corn harvest Facebook Twittercenter_img SHARE Entire border patrol unit in North Hamgyong Province placed into quarantine following “paratyphoid” outbreak By Daily NK – 2015.09.25 10:51am News This is “NK Market Trends,” bringing youweekly updates on the North Korean economy. This week we sat down with reporterKang Mi Jin to discuss the latest trends; but first, let’s take a look at howthe jangmadang [market] has been doing. We’ll begin by providing a rundown of the priceof rice, the currency conversion rates, and the cost of other goods in NorthKorean markets. The price of 1 kg of rice was 6,000 KPW in Pyongyang, 6,000 KPWin Sinuiju, and 6,200 KPW in Hyesan. The USD was trading at 8,260 KPW inPyongyang, 8,200 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,320 KPW in Hyesan. Moving along, thecost of 1 kg of corn kernels was 2,300 KPW in Pyongyang, 2,250 KPW in Sinuiju,and 2,300 KPW in Hyesan. One kg of pork was selling at 14,500 KPW in Pyongyangand 15,000 KPW in both Sinuiju and Hyesan. Gasoline was trading at 9,000 KPWper kg in Pyongyang and Sinuiju and at 7,000 KPW per kg in Hyesan. Finally, 1kg of diesel fuel was selling at 5,500 KPW in Pyongyang, 5,100 KPW in Sinuiju,and 5,000 KPW in Hyesan. This has been a rundown of the latest market prices inNorth Korea. -Thus far we have heard about the priceof goods in North Korea. We have heard that cigarettes are selling especiallywell in the markets of Yanggang Province, and are wondering if there has been asudden uptick in the number of smokers. For more on this, we turn to specialreporter Kang Mi Jin. Yes, the lure of cigarettes seems to beproving particularly tempting to men these days as we have heard that they areselling very well in the markets. Yesterday we received some information aboutcigarette prices over the phone, and Daily NK also heard from sources inYanggang Province that cigarette sales have taken off since the beginning ofautumn in the Hyesan markets. I bet you are wondering why the increase incigarette sales corresponds to the changing of the seasons. -Yes, we are extremely curious. Well, as you know the coming of autumnmeans that citizens everywhere are farming their small plots of land. However,since the end the famine in the 90’s there has always been one object that canbe exchanged anytime, anywhere, simply, and without a burden to the giver orreceiver as a bribe. And that object is a cigarette. When people harvest their corn or potatoes,they have to transport the vegetables from the fields to their houses in a car,truck, oxcart, some type of vehicle. Everyone says that you get the bestservice from the driver if you give cigarettes along with the fee. Drivers whodon’t receive cigarettes from someone will just drop off the vegetables in thegeneral vicinity of a person’s house, or sometimes right by the field. Butdrivers who get cigarettes will drop off the harvest in a place that isconvenient for the customer. Sometimes they will even give him or her a ridefrom the fields back to their house. Talking about this brings up memories of myown life in North Korea. I remember my uncle asked a friend of his who was adriver to help him transport his harvest. He paid him and even gave him 5kgworth of gasoline for his car. My husband at that time, probably because hereally loved Cat brand cigarettes, gave a pack to the driver. Well, that daythe driver, maybe because he had received those cigarettes, was exceptionallyhelpful. He transported not only our harvest, but also our neighbors’. When he stopped at our house to unload, thelittle old lady next door said to him she could just carry hers over because itwould be difficult to maneuver the car over to her house, but he went ahead anddelivered the goods to her doorstep anyway. That day was the first time Ireally felt the power of a pack of cigarettes. Because a pack of cigarettesputs you into another league where you can ask for additional services,cigarette sales skyrocket in the fall. There is also one more reason that salesgo up, and that is because in the fall, household wealth increases, so men cansmoke more. -I’m curious how much cigarettes are sellingfor right now in Hyesan Market in Yanggang Province. According to our sources, a new cigarettedebuted last quarter and is selling at relatively expensive prices in themarkets: 3,300 KPW in Pyongyang and Cheonji, 2,650 KPW in Pyonghwa, 2,600 KPWin Rason, 2,000 KPW in Gangseon, and 1,350 KPW in Pungnyeon. It may seem likeit’s mostly individuals with economic stability that smoke, but that’s notactually the case. Even smokers with tighter budgets are able to purchasecigarettes in the fall, as the food situation is much more forgiving than inthe summer. With the abundance of the fall season, evenif it’s not much, I’ve heard that some cigarette lovers get splurge a littlemore. Cigarette vendors use this opportunity manipulate market prices a littleat a time, although it’s not a huge difference. Also, in mountain and farmingvillages, where people buy cigarettes in bulk, prices are actually lowered.When supplies end up running dry, prices are raised to compensate. -I’m assuming the aforementioned brands of cigarettesare produced domestically. Do you know where the raw tobacco is grown? Yes, those are all produced in North Korea.Each area has its own cigarette factory and brand name: “Hometown” and “Heaven”from the factory in my hometown, “Peace” from the factory in Pyeongyang,“Glory” and “Paradise” from the factory in Daesung, and “Pyongyang” from thefactory in the Ryungseong area.  Some also roll their own cigarettes athome and sell them branded as whatever spare pack they have laying around.While there are cigarette factories here and there, the tobacco harvest happensprimarily in Seongcheon (South Pyongan Province) because the tobacco leaves arequite popular and the harvest is consistently good. I actually remember goingon trips to Seongcheon as a middle school student and seeing the picked tobaccoleaves on drying racks. I thought it was really cool. -Oh, so the tobacco comes from Seongcheon! Idon’t think I know too much about that area. Are there lots of people who enjoythe cigarettes produced there? I feel like most of the people fromSeongcheon smoke the tobacco produced nearby. That reminds me of when I visitedmy relatives who live there and saw my cousins enjoying some local cigarettes.Tobacco farming definitely supplements farmers in the Seongcheon region, butits popularity has dropped nationwide with the introduction of daecho [driedherbs] from Yanggang Province. Have you ever heard of daecho before? -I haven’t, is it a type of tobacco? Yes, daecho is also a strain of tobacco,but it is much stronger than the Seongcheon variation. Because of this, daechocigarettes are sold alongside a label clearly explaining the product. It makesme laugh just to think about it. -Why is that? How do they label it? Well, the vendors put up a sign above asack filled with daecho describing how strong it is, “Just one puff will takeyour breath away, two puffs will make you dizzy.” But the residents in thenorthern mountain region smoke the heck out of the stuff! This is just a littlemore about the tobacco from Seongcheon and daecho from Yanggang Province, butnow that it’s the fall season, the vendors are happy to hear that the packagedcigarettes are selling quite well at the jangmadang. -Is there any other reason for the increasein sales of cigarettes other than the fact that we’re entering the fall season? Sure. As you know, Chuseok is just aroundthe corner and everyone will be gathering with family and loved ones.Therefore, men that smoke are buying cigarettes in bulk in order to share withfamily and friends for the holiday. You can imagine how well cigarettes arebeing sold at market right now. When my husband was still alive, we would buyhuge cartons of the daecho cigarettes for his birthday or other holidays, butespecially for Chuseok. So, I think that we should offer at least a pack torelatives and friends during Chuseok. Not just ours, most other familiespurchase large amounts of cigarettes for the holidays also. Therefore, thereare a lot of people who try to buy cigarettes well before Chuseok in order toavoid the peak in price. -You also mentioned before that many peoplemake their own cigarettes at home. Could you expand on that a little more? They do. There are some that make their owncigarettes at home to sell later. Vendors will establish connections withworkers at cigarette factories and then obtain some of the cigarettes illegallyto reproduce at home. According to inside sources, “There is little to nodistinguishable difference between these counterfeit cigarettes and thelegitimate ones from the factory.” The quality of these “copy-cat” cigarettesis so good that the vendors themselves say they can’t tell the difference. Thevendors can then save some of their profits by using the counterfeit cigarettesas bribes when they travel to Pyongyang or Rason. That’s because it’s quitecommon to offer cigarettes as a bribe when the vendors travel to another areaand in using the fake cigarettes instead of the real ones, they’re able to savesome of their losses. This is because the fake cigarettes are cheaper that the realones and it’s this currency of cigarettes bribery that is the catalyst for theentire counterfeit cigarette production. -I’m sure the counterfeit cigarettes made athome are also sold in the market. I wonder if ordinary people can spot the realfrom the fake ones. That’s right. Most people have a hard timedistinguishing the fake ones from the real cigarettes. This is because thecounterfeit cigarettes made at home are produced with the exact same materialas the real ones from the factory. We’ve heard from defectors that ever sincethe 90’s, the North Korean people have to improvise, making a living in themarket and it’s because of this that most people can’t tell the differencebetween genuine products made in the official factory and the counterfeit onesmade by these entrepreneurs. This isn’t limited to only cigarettes though.These counterfeit products range from shoes to various everyday items. -So, what’s the difference in taste likebetween factory and homemade cigarettes? According to a friend that used to makecigarettes, the homemade ones have a unique taste of their own, which is causedby the blending of genuine tobacco from the factories and raw tobacco that wasnot fully processed before being sold in backdoor deals. Fully processedfactory tobacco is dipped in sugar water, giving it a lighter taste. But, Iremember hearing that semi-processed or unprocessed tobacco has a differenttaste from the real stuff.  North Korea tries to accelerate building of walls and fences along border with Chinalast_img read more