By December 1943, poultry was unavailable anywhere in Seoul, eggs were supposed to be priority-rationed to hospitalized war veterans and people with doctors’ certificates (pregnant women and nursing mothers), but ordinary Koreans had to buy eggs on the black market at 30 sen (about $6 USD today) each

This article talks about the egg and poultry shortage that was rampant in Korea in December 1943, two years into an all-out war against the US. Eggs were all supposed to be sold by farmers to the colonial government at officially set prices, funneled into a centralized distribution point, and then distributed to stores and hospitals. Hospitals and war veteran patients had priority, followed by anyone who had doctors’ certificates, who presumably included pregnant women and nursing mothers.

However, this rationing system apparently had problems, as farmers as well as retailers were incentivized to bypass official channels and sell eggs on the black market at higher prices, similarly to what happened in the Soviet command economy. 

Black market retailers charged 30 sen per egg (about $6 USD in 2022), and consumers could only buy two or three eggs at a time. Each morning edition of the Keijo Nippo of 1942 was priced at 6 sen. Today, each morning edition of Asahi Shimbun is priced at 160 yen. Using this conversion, 30 sen would be worth 800 yen today, which would be worth US $5.93 today.


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) December 24, 1943

Tomorrow’s posture to win through to victory

A Focus on Eating Habits (6)

Meat and Eggs

Eggs are luxury items!

Regulation demanded to reserve eggs for the sick

The distribution of meat, which is a fatty food and a source of caloric supply for the fighting residents of Seoul, has been going well so far, providing 50 momme (187.5 grams) for a family of up to four, 100 momme (375 grams) for a family of up to nine, and 10 momme (37.5 grams) for each additional family member for a family of 10 or more, according to the rotational purchase coupons for meat for household use. However, unregulated poultry has disappeared from Seoul due to officially set prices as well as issues with feed. When supplies do not appear in the market, we may immediately imagine chicken being siphoned off or sold on the black market, but in fact, there is absolutely no poultry arriving at the Gyeonggi Provincial Livestock Products Sales Association at the moment.

In addition to poultry shortages, there is also a shortage of eggs, which have been kept away from the kitchens of the people of Seoul. Milk and eggs, the most essential source of nutrition for the sick, are not available in Seoul at all, but unlike the situation with poultry, the quantity of eggs received has been gradually improving in 1942 and 1943 since the lowest quantity of eggs was reached in 1941, and the egg supply is showing a steady increase.

Believing that egg supplies are at their lowest level ever, many consumers have already given up on eggs, thinking that they are the most difficult product to obtain. As for the actual situation with egg shipments, most of the eggs laid by poultry farmers in the province are delivered smoothly to Seoul because feed, which is the lifeblood of poultry farmers, is distributed through Gyeonggi Province, and the poultry farmers are forced to provide eggs in exchange for the feed.

The quantity of eggs laid has been significantly reduced due to the decline in the quality and quantity of feed, and the quantity of eggs received this year has dropped to about 30% of the peak level in 1940, when eggs were the most abundant in Seoul. Although 30% sounds like a good figure, the number of eggs that flowed into Seoul without passing through the Gyeonggi Provincial Egg Association at that time was almost double the number of eggs that passed through the Gyeonggi Provincial Egg Association and flowed into Seoul, so the actual figure is about 10% of the peak level in 1940.

At present, all eggs entering Seoul are centrally collected at the Gyeonggi Provincial Livestock Products Sales Processing Station, and from there they are distributed to hospitals and small retailers, with about 30% of the incoming eggs given priority for distribution to hospitals, and the remainder given to the 65 small egg cooperative retailers and 65 small food retailers in Seoul. As for the method of sale:

The eggs are ordered to be preferentially distributed as hospital food to those who have doctors’ certificates. The average quantity of eggs received per day is approximately 100 kan (375 kg) per day, of which the quantity for general consumers is estimated to be over 60 kan (225 kg). If 7 eggs weigh an average of 100 momme (375 grams), that means that an average of 3,600 eggs come into the hands of small retailers.

In reality, however, there are no eggs whatsoever in the market. Although eggs are not distributed daily to the 130 egg distributors in Seoul due to a decrease in the number of eggs received, they are distributed wholesale once or twice a week, so to sum it up, eggs are definitely being allocated to the small retailers.

When we asked one retailer in Hanazono-chō (now Yegwan-dong), Seoul, about the actual situation of eggs being sold as a rationed food, he replied,

“We usually receive egg deliveries of about 3 to 5 kan (11.25 to 18.75 kg) once a week in general. When the eggs arrive at the store, we post a notice at the storefront saying that we will start selling eggs on what day and from what time, and those who bring a doctor’s certificate are given priority. We sell a maximum of two or three eggs per customer,” he disclosed. The current black market price for eggs is around 30 sen per egg, and it is said that consumers will never receive eggs except on the black market. The current situation is that eggs are actually not being sold at general grocery stores. We asked Mr. Satō, manager of the Gyeonggi Provincial Livestock Products Sales Association, about the actual situation of eggs being sold on the black market.

He replied, “The eggs that are now being sold on the black market seem to be brought in by farmers who keep chickens in the surrounding areas and do not receive feed from the Gyeonggi Provincial Agricultural Association. We have no choice but to wait for the authorities to take control of this situation, but depending on how the problem is handled in earnest, we may see a slight turnaround in the egg collection situation. I have heard that some small egg retailers are actually siphoning eggs, but I do not know for sure. In view of the current situation as we fight decisive battles, if the general public would refrain from consuming eggs, and reserve them mainly for the sick, then there would be enough eggs to go to families with sick people who really need them, but it is up to the retailers to be aware of the situation and the consumers to be self-aware.

Since the use of eggs as a general foodstuff is truly a luxury under the current circumstances, some kind of appropriate regulation is desirable for families that desperately need eggs as a special food for the sick.

The current dietary situation of the people of Seoul is far more plentiful than those of the rest of the world on the home front, but in order to make use of eggs as a much more active supply source for the war effort, the righteousness of the small retailers and the self-awareness of the consumers are strongly desired, and together with the urgent measures taken by the authorities, an advancing marching song can be played to provide direction for dietary habits going into the third year of the war. (End of this section) 

[Photo: Meat retailers showing a plentiful supply]


A beautiful, beautiful story

Mr. Kiyohiro Ōhara, a chair manufacturer in the 54th patriotic group, 6th Ward, Jugyo-dong, Jung-gu, won 1,000 yen in the October lottery from a 2-yen bullet stamp that he bought at a regular meeting. Since he received extra money in November, he donated four red and white curtains to the town council and 15 cushions for the regular meeting to the patriotic group, and again won 100 yen in the November lottery. Now that he will receive extra money this month, he is asking the town councilor for his wisdom on what to donate this time, which is an enviable beautiful story.



京城日報 1943年12月24日