Tongil Market

The Tongil Market (Korean통일시장; MRT'ongil sijang), or Unification Market, is a marketplace in Pyongyang, North Korea. It is the largest and best-known marketplace in the city. The two-story indoor market houses some 2,200 vendors selling agriculture produce, fish, food, clothes, and appliances – including luxury and counterfeit products. There are services such as foreign exchange and food courts in each three sections that comprise the marketplace. The market was opened in 2003 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordered farmers' markets should be consolidated into larger units.

Tongil Market
LocationPyongyang, North Korea
Coordinates38°58′52.42″N 125°43′58.83″E / 38.9812278°N 125.7330083°E / 38.9812278; 125.7330083Coordinates: 38°58′52.42″N 125°43′58.83″E / 38.9812278°N 125.7330083°E / 38.9812278; 125.7330083[1]
AddressTongil Street
Opening date1 September 2003 (2003-09-01)
EnvironmentIndoor market
Goods soldAgriculture produce, fish, food, clothes, appliances
Number of tenants2,200
Total retail floor area6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft)
ParkingFor cars and bikes
Unification Market
Revised RomanizationTongil sijang
McCune–ReischauerT'ongil sijang

Unlike most other markets in the country, the Tongil Market is clearly visible from the street, and is also accessible by tourists. In addition to tourists, the market caters to the elites of Pyongyang, as prices of certain items are high. An unofficial market has existed just next to it.


In March 2003, Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, instructed that farmers' markets should be consolidated into larger units.[2] On 3 May, the Cabinet of North Korea promulgated Directive 24, which stated (Article 2) that the Tongil Market shall be established "as an example for the whole country."[3] Tongil Market was opened on 1 September.[2] Since 2006, North Korea has restricted foreigners' access to markets, but the Tongil Market has remained open to them.[4] The Tongil Market, along with other large official markets in Pyongyang, was temporarily closed down for a few weeks in 2009, leaving residents dependent on the informal economy.[5]

Products and servicesEdit

Tongil Market is located in Pyongyang, near Rangrang Station,[2] just off Tongil Street in a suburb of southern Pyongyang.[6][7][4]

Tongil Market is the largest and best-known marketplace in Pyongyang.[2][8] It has 1,500 booths in an area of more than 6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft).[2] It is a covered market,[6] and, unlike most other markets in the country, in two stories.[9] The market has about 2,200 vendors,[10] who pay an initial registration fee equivalent of $30 and a fixed fee every time they use their stall.[11] The market consists of three areas: agriculture produce and fish, food and clothes, and metal utensils and appliances.[2] TV sets,[12] exotic foods like, quail and turkey,[6] and imported fruit like bananas and pineapples are also on sale.[12] Counterfeit products, including of Western perfumes, are sold.[13] Many women work as peddlers.[2] Each area has an office and currency exchange booth – both on the upper floor – as well as a food court attached to it.[2][9] The foreign exchange booths, run by the state-owned Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, offer exchange at the normal rate and are open intermittently.[14] There is parking for both cars and bikes.[13]

The market is busy with customers.[2] Prices are in North Korean won and haggling is commonplace.[13] Some prices on par with those in Chinese markets, with vegetables being somewhat more expensive but seafood and clothes generally cheaper. The prices are, however, not particularly cheap in relation to average incomes of North Koreans.[2] For instance, spinach costs 1,000 won at the Tongil Market, fifty times as much as its 20-won price tag at rural markets in North Korea.[15] Because the market is well-stocked, it has been suspected of being a "showpiece", but in fact its wares are comparable to other markets in the country.[9] Its customer base is, however, mainly foreign visitors and domestic elites.[15] The market is open to foreign visitors, and many embassies in Pyongyang use it for shopping.[4] Photography is not allowed.[13] One foreigner, Pamela Bryant, a visiting professor at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology relates how one of her faculty members broke the rule resulting in the entire faculty being banned from the market for three months.[16]

Unlike most other markets, the Tongil Market is clearly visible from the street with its distinct white walls and blue roof.[9] The Tongil Market is an official one, in contrast to North Korea's informal markets (Jangmadang).[5] There has however been an unofficial "frog market" near it, so named because vendors would "jump" like frogs if authorities showed up.[14] According to a vendor interviewed by Daily NK, "The size of a street-stand is approximately 50cm by 50cm [20 in x 20 in] large. There are also about 2,000 people selling outside of the market... The Tongil Market usually consists of people from the Tongil Street, so merchants from the other regions cannot do business there. In the Tongil Market alone, there are around 8,000 people [doing business]. Because the Market is so large, the cadres from the other regions frequently come to buy goods."[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ North Korea Uncovered (KMZ) (Google Earth). Version 18. North Korean Economy Watch. 25 June 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Pyongyang's 'Unification' Market of Today". NAPSNet Special Reports. Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  3. ^ Everard 2011, p. 3n21.
  4. ^ a b c Everard 2011, p. 3.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Hazel (2015). North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-521-89778-5.
  6. ^ a b c Willoughby, Robert (2014). North Korea: The Bradt Travel Guide (Third ed.). Chalfront: Bradt Travel Guides. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-84162-476-1.
  7. ^ Far Eastern Economic Review. Review Publishing Company Limited. 2004. p. 16.
  8. ^ Roehrig, Terence; Jung Min-seo; Uk Heo, eds. (2007). Korean Security in a Changing East Asia. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-275-99835-6.
  9. ^ a b c d Everard 2011, p. 2.
  10. ^ Jeffries, Ian (2013). North Korea: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments. London: Routledge. p. 1928. ISBN 978-1-134-29032-1.
  11. ^ Hoare, James; Pares, Susan (2005). North Korea in the Twenty-first Century. Folkestone: Global Oriental. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-901903-96-6.
  12. ^ a b "Through a glass, darkly". The Economist. 11 March 2004. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d "Some info on the Tongil Market". North Korean Economy Watch. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  14. ^ a b Everard 2011, p. 4.
  15. ^ a b "Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (PDF). North Korean Economy Watch. WFP, FAO, UNICEF. 24 March 2011. p. 21. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
  16. ^ Bryant, Pamela (13 November 2012). "Teaching Biochemistry in Pyongyang, North Korea" (PDF). University of California Berkeley: The Fourth International Conference on Science in Society. p. 9. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  17. ^ Jung Kwon Ho (18 June 2008). "Doing Business Is a Battle". Daily NK. Retrieved 10 August 2018.

Works citedEdit

  • Everard, John (January 2011). "The Markets of Pyongyang" (PDF). Korea Economic Institute Academic Paper Series. 6 (1): 1–7. Retrieved 10 August 2018.