Vendors pull in more business with customer service

[As Heard in North Korea]
Unification Media Group  |  2017-01-11 16:44

"As Heard in North Korea" articles contain the content of Unification Media Group [UMG] radio broadcasts into North Korea. UMG is a consortium created by Radio Free Chosun [RFC] and Open Radio for North Korea [ONK], shortwave radio stations targeting North Korea; The Daily NK, an internet periodical reporting on all aspects of North Korea; and OTV, an NGO-based internet television channel.

It's time for another episode of the weekly series Market Trends, where we look at the latest developments in the North Korean economy. Today we want to share stories about the restaurant business and other services provided in the marketplace. We have special correspondent Kang Mi Jin with us to report on some of the newer developments occurring. 

Hello. The weather is cold these days isnt it? When its cold we often think of hot food. A hot bowl of soup can really warm you up on a cold day. In North Korea, where the climate is colder and the winds harsher than in South Korea, hot food is on everyone's mind this time of year. 

Potato noodle soup is popular with the residents of Ryanggang Province, a region known for being particularly mountainous, even in North Korea. Red bean porridge, a dish traditionally eaten on the winter solstice, becomes more available from then on. 
Food vendors at the jangmadang (market) are always contemplating new seasonal products to sell that will yield more profit. Just about everyone is entering the market business these days and as a result, product quality has risen and competition for customers has become fierce. These days, there is more emphasis on the consumer. 

Especially during winter, vendors in the jangmadang themselves also seek hot food, driving up demand for winter solstice porridge. Its popular because its warm and is not commonly made at home.  

The market vendors react to the needs of the customers. For example in Ryanggang Province, food stalls put small dough balls made from potato into the porridge for added flavor. 

According to Daily NK sources, many vendors have started a type of delivery service, selling winter solstice porridge during lunch hours around the marketplace. They are also providing freshly-made kimchi free of charge, leading to greater popularity. 

What about potato noodle soup? Is it still a popular winter dish? 

Yes, in the northern alpine regions of Ryanggang or North Hamgyong Province, potato noodles reign supreme and its the most sought-after dish in both summer and winter. In the summer, its served cold and in winter its served in a hot soup. Potato noodles are also popular with consumers at the markets in the northern parts of North Korea, as well as the inland regions of South Pyongan province such as Pyongsong and Pyongyang, regardless of the season.  Where there is demand, there is supply, and many stalls sell potato noodles, not only at the jangmadang, but also at private restaurants too. 

How are prices different in the jangmadang compared to private restaurants? 

There are places where they make noodles for you if you bring your own potato starch. Cost wise, this is much more economical than buying a bowl of potato noodles at a stall and the service is popular among thrifty housewives and women with little time on their hands. 

At the Hyesan Market, a bag of potato starch is being sold at 5000 KPW per kilo. If you take this to a private restaurant, they will press the starch into noodles for 3000 KPW. A kilo of potato starch supposedly makes 10 bowls of noodles. Isnt it amazing that you can get 10 bowls of noodles for just 8000 KPW? 

On the other hand, a small bowl of potato noodle soup without meat is sold for 1000 KPW at the jangmadang. A big bowl of potato noodle soup with egg and a few pieces of pork sells for 5000 KPW. So spending 8000 KPW at the jangmadang will satisfy two to three people, but if you spend that money buying noodles at a private restaurant, you could feed a whole family. There are many residents who buy noodles from private restaurants, as it is much more economical to make homemade seasoned broth with pan-fried scallions to add to the noodles than to eat at the jangmadang. These days, private restaurants have no time to rest as they work from morning to night.  

Listening to this makes me curious about the taste of potato noodle soup. I heard there are a few places specializing in potato noodles here in South Korea. I do want to try them if I get the chance. We'll close with a rundown of the jangmadang prices, updated as of December 29 (with no change from an inquiry on December 22).

The price of 1 kg of rice was 5,400 KPW in Pyongyang, 5,180 KPW in Sinuiju and 5,520 KPW in Hyesan. The cost of 1 kg of corn kernels was 1,080 KPW in Pyongyang, 1,070 KPW in Sinuiju, and 1,110 KPW in Hyesan. Rice rose 250 KPW in Pyongyang, 80 KPW in Sinuiju, and 320 KPW in Hyesan.

The USD was trading at 8,060 KPW in Pyongyang, 8,010 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,230 KPW in Hyesan. The Yuan was trading at 1,200 KPW in Pyongyang, 1,180 KPW in Sinuiju and 1,200 KPW in Hyesan. One kg of pork was selling at 12,700 KPW in Pyongyang, 12,000 KPW in Sinuiju, and 13,000 KPW in Hyesan. Gasoline was trading at 8,000 KPW per kg in Pyongyang, 8,000 KPW in Sinuiju, and 8,150 KPW per kg in Hyesan. Finally, 1 kg of diesel fuel was selling at 5,500 KPW in Pyongyang, 5,700 KPW in Sinuiju, and 5,500 KPW in Hyesan.

*Translated by Suki Son
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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