NewsNorth Korea embraces new trend which leads to an immediate problem

North Korea embraces new trend which leads to an immediate problem

Ryomyong Street, district of Pyongyang
Ryomyong Street, district of Pyongyang
Images source: © Getty Images | 2019 Getty Images
ed. PJM

5:52 PM EST, December 5, 2023

Electric bicycles are gaining popularity in North Korea. In a country led by Kim Jong Un, only a selected few can afford such an extravagance. However, those who can afford these machines gain newfound mobility, but with this, theft of these two-wheelers has become a significant problem.

The South Korean online newspaper, Daily NK reports on the burgeoning demand for electric bicycles in North Korea. Despite the steep prices, sales continue to trend upward. "At present, many electric bicycles can be found in the markets," relayed an anonymous informant from North Hamgyong province to Daily NK. "Although I've heard that the bikes can't be smuggled, sellers manage to bring them in by boat due to high demand," he added.

According to Daily NK, electric bicycles are currently being sold in North Korean markets for approximately $494. A kilogram of rice, in contrast, costs 5 thousand KPW equivalent to $5.5. This implies that for the price of an electric bicycle, one could buy 198 pounds of rice in North Korea, per black market rates.

"These prices make electric bicycles inaccessible to those living hand to mouth. However, affluent families find these bicycles indispensable," shared an anonymous source. Despite their cost, North Koreans are buying electric bicycles, mostly because they offer greater speed and ease, especially on hills, than their traditional counterparts. For those involved in commerce, mobility equates to competitiveness, which keeps the demand for electric bikes and scooters high.

Electricity is still a scarce resource in North Korea. When questioned about how these vehicles were charged, the informant for Daily NK reported that people often source power from nearby military bases and factories. Consequently, the surge in electric bicycles has drawn the attention of thieves. The informant said thefts have worsened, with criminals regarding electric bicycles as a windfall.

The theft of these vehicles offers a lucrative opportunity. The most common practice is assembling the bikes and selling the parts separately. "Given that jobs seldom pay wages or provide food rations, many maintain their employment nominally while earning a living through selling items or thievery," the informant explained. "Whether electric bicycles or ordinary ones, they steal them all. Once stolen, the bikes are repainted and sold as parts. If you fall victim to this, there's no real way to reclaim your property," a North Hamgyong resident lamented.

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