From a letter from North Korea, addressed to an ethnic Korean cousin living in Japan:
"The situation here began worsening last spring, and we are now in terrible shape. The government food rations stopped, and we have no other choice but buy black-market rice.
"My monthly salary is 100 won [note: this person is an elite living in the capital area], and one kilogram (about 2.2 lb.) of rice now costs 110 to 120 won. We cannot buy anything at government-run stores. Although starving to death never before even entered our minds, it is becoming quite believable these days. Because of malnutrition, minor health disorders easily turn into fatal diseases."
Here is another letter from a returnee to North Korea:
"My wage is 89 won, and my two younger brothers each earn about 80 to 90 won. However, we get only 20 to 50% of the wages because of the extreme shortage of cash. So, we get 25 to 30 won at the most. From this amount, the fees for insurance, union, and social sentry are withdrawn from the wages, so the actual amount of money that we get is 10 to 20 won.
"In the black market, 180 grams (about 0.4 lb.) of rice costs 65 won, one egg costs 5 to 5.5 won, 180 grams (about 0.4 lb.) of corn costs 35 won, one apple costs 7 to 10 won, and one persimmon costs 3 to 5 won.