South Korean researcher Moon Young-soon of the North Korea Development Institute in Seoul said about 450 markets are operating legally in North Korea, Yonhap reported.
That figure, however, does not account for all gray markets operating in the country, which is estimated to be more than 750, according to a South Korean estimate from 2015.
Using a combination of satellite imagery analysis and interviews with recent North Korean defectors, Moon said South Pyongan Province has the greatest number of markets at 67, followed by North Hamgyong Province at 63 and North Pyongan Province at 59.
The largest market in terms of area is located in Sariwon city, the capital of North Hwanghae Province, followed by markets in Chongjin, Nampo and Sunchon, according to Moon.
Sariwon also has the largest number of merchants relative to the populations, while Sinuiju, which faces the Chinese city of Dandong, has the smallest number.
Estimates of the total number of unofficial or gray markets have varied depending on the definition.
Lim Eul-chul of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University had said on average a North Korean city, county or other region has an average of two marketplaces, bringing the national total to 500. If alley vendors are included in the tally, the total is 750.