North Korea's Currency Debacle
Buying cooking oil a gram at a time.
Barbara Demick reports on the aftermath of the great North Korean currency debacle:
North Koreans who recently fled to China say many of their fellow citizens are losing faith in the regime of Kim Jong Il after a disastrous currency revaluation that wiped out savings and left food scarcer than at any time since the famine of the mid-1990s, when as many as 2 million people died.
....By the end of December...Chinese traders who had previously supplied markets didn't want to come into the country because of bans imposed on the use of foreign currency and the wildly fluctuating exchange rates. Food remains in such short supply that a single egg costs a full week's salary for many. Rice remains largely unavailable at state stores and can be purchased only illegally at about the equivalent of more than two weeks' salary.
One North Korean woman interviewed said common laborers under the new system were making about 2,500 won per month, barely more than $1 at the new exchange rates prevailing on the black market. Cooking oil is a luxury, so unaffordable that people buy only a few grams at a time in small plastic bags.
More at the link. Apparently public adoration of Kim Jong Il is still the order of the day, but it's finally taken a hit. And maybe his son's succession chances as well.