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Just in from Pyongyang

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User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 52
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Oct 2009, 18:26
Ideology: None
Pioneer
Post 18 Sep 2014, 14:10
I arrived back in Beijing this morning from my sixth trip to the DPRK. This time we visited factories, schools, farms and museums in the Pyongyang, Pyongsan, and Haeju areas. I had not been in Pyongyang since 2011 because my last trip was in the northeast. It was good to see the capitol again and get on the streets to see what the mood and the changes.

One is struck by the continuation of the construction of the 2011 - 12 100,000 apartments period. In Haeju they are tearing down much of the town center. Apartment construction in Pyongyang is a 24/7 affair with work camps along the Taedong.

The atmosphere is good and the optimism of last year continues. On the consumer goods front I think things are better. More private selling is going on and the private sellers are congregating more. It is not uncommon to see up to 50 sellers at a crossroads in the rural areas. We are seeing more fruits and even eggs for sale by private (primarily older females) sellers. In the cities and towns sellers are seen all over. I am now seeing more sophisticated selling with people selling finished food products or cooking on the street. Inflation is still a problem with the won moving down in value but there is a fluid economy. People on the street still take RMB and USD and have change.

I had a chance to shop in the Kwangbok shopping center with local currency. This is a Chinese shopping center but anyone is welcome and the Won is used and Yen, RMB, USD and Euros are exchanged. This was just opened to westerners. Many Chinese products are here but also DPRK foodstuffs and manufactured goods are for sale. On a weekday the place was crazy with local people - yet the store shelves are plentiful. It is normal. I have a complete set of photos that I will link below later. I am suffering from low bandwidth and the Great Firewall right now. The shoppers ranged from well dressed apartment dwellers of Kwangbok street to rural dwellers with backpacks. I have been in other state shops but this is really a Chinese style market. The money flowed and the goods were there. It was funny that the consumption was not basic - in other words the women were purchasing more than the basics such as snack foods as well as rice and meat.

Food distribution points looked well stocked.

The shock was the length of the skirts. I think somewhat influenced by the Moranbong band the length of the skirts is getting shorter. Fashion is in - and that is not just in Pyongyang. In years passed we saw how well they dressed in Pyongyang but this year is was everywhere. Women laborers in high heels?? The skirts were always at the knee level but this year they were way up. It was breathtaking at times. (A breakdown in morals!) Well it was refreshing.

There is less propaganda in Pyongyang, somewhat a disappointment to me. I snap photos of every propaganda piece I see and it was hard to find them this year. They are at the worksite but many of the propaganda pieces are old and faded.

Access is more relaxed similar to last year. Photography is still a bit restricted but not to the extent as seen in years past. These days people are a bit more likely to approach you. One girl accosted me in a restaurant and I swear she was ready to head off with me. She was someone so proud of her English and showing off her dress. The people were less standoffish. Middle school boys and girls would approach you without hesitation. Yes in the rural areas they still cannot believe what they see when you arrive but that is because of their isolation.

Kim Jong-un's face is not posted in the same way as his father and grandfather. There is somewhat less emphasis now on KJU because the transition is complete. The photos are in the usual press places and his writings are now being published.

I will be posting and answering questions. I have 4300 photos to process and will try to get them up in the next two weeks to illustrate what I am seeing in the DPRK. Not much talk about Miller, Bae and Fowle. We had to tell the guides about Miller's sentence. We could not find anything in the press during the week. All are regarded among us regulars as crazies.

Below is one photo I took in front of the opera house. I was never able to photograph there before. These are the posters of the revolutionary operas. Tell o'forest, the one at the left, is the only one I have seen performed.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zaruka/15088642909/

Zaruka in Beijing China.
Loz
[+-]
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 11879
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 06 Dec 2009, 23:17
Philosophized
Post 18 Sep 2014, 14:29
Cool trip-report, thanks.

Quote:
I had a chance to shop in the Kwangbok shopping center with local currency. This is a Chinese shopping center but anyone is welcome and the Won is used and Yen, RMB, USD and Euros are exchanged. This was just opened to westerners.

How expensive are those goods compared to China and your home-country?

Quote:
I am suffering from low bandwidth and the Great Firewall right now.

Are S-E and those image-upload sites blocked in China as well?

Quote:
Access is more relaxed similar to last year. Photography is still a bit restricted but not to the extent as seen in years past. These days people are a bit more likely to approach you. One girl accosted me in a restaurant and I swear she was ready to head off with me.

I wonder what would happen to her if she got caught by the police or someone.
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User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 9187
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Mar 2005, 20:08
Embalmed
Post 18 Sep 2014, 15:29
Do you know anything about the production and distribution of these goods? As in, is the food produced by single family households, groups of people, or bought/stolen/taken from collective farms? Same thing with manufactured goods. Did you observe any sort of mafia rackets or shady people who looked uncharacteristically well-off for their socio-economic status?
Image

"Bleh, i don't even know what i'm arguing for. What a stupid rant. Disregard what i wrote." - Loz
"Every time is gyros time" - Stalinista
[+-]
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 3618
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 22 Oct 2004, 15:15
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Politburo
Post 18 Sep 2014, 16:42
Awesome, thanks for posting this. Do you publish this stuff anywhere? It's well-written, I think. A business-like eyewitness report, an original angle on a common topic, and so on. Good stuff.
Soviet cogitations: 673
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 01 Mar 2011, 14:10
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Komsomol
Post 20 Sep 2014, 06:28
Were you able to inquire about the activities of the Korean Social-Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party? (You mentioned you'd try in a PM, 'cause there's little about them online)
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