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Fate of a fishmonger

Fate of a fishmonger

Let’s introduce Ms. Yi (not her real name), one of many North Korean entrepreneurs and one of the pioneers of the country’s private economy. Ms. Yi and her husband began their operations in the late 1980s, soon after their marriage. Private enterprises began to pop up at the time despite the anti-capitalist founding father of […]

Taste of strawberries

Taste of strawberries

A new item in North Korean markets has recently become all the rage ― strawberries. The last two or three years have been marked by a proliferation of greenhouses, where North Korean farmers produce fruits once unheard of. The green house industry in North Korea is private, and its emergence was largely enabled by the […]

What if Kim Jong-un dies?

What if Kim Jong-un dies?

Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, was last seen in public with his wife on September 3 at a concert of his favorite girl group, the “Moranbong Ensemble.” Since then he has disappeared from public view and the North Korean media have not reported on his whereabouts. Kim Jong-un was also absent from […]

Lords of money, lords in offices

Lords of money, lords in offices

Most first-time Western visitors to Pyongyang tend to come back somewhat surprised. They had expected to see the very embodiment of a Stalinist hell. Well, you know the picture: soldiers on every street corner sporting machineguns, ready to mow down the masses, pedestrians in colorless clothing slowly moving amidst mammoth, concrete shells of buildings. Instead, […]

A bit of (realistic) pessimism

A bit of (realistic) pessimism

The election of Donald Trump who, in spite of his hard-living tendencies, has been talking about meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for hamburgers, led to an increase in talks about a deal between Pyongyang and Washington. Nonetheless, as somebody who has dealt with North Korea for some 30 years, I have a rather pessimistic, […]

Kim Jong-un: his first five years

Kim Jong-un: his first five years

Next month it will be five years since the sudden death of Kim Jong-il led to the second dynastic transition in North Korean history. Kim Jong-un’s reign is approaching the five-year mark, the length of a presidential term in many modern democracies, so it is probably a good time to say what we think of […]

Troubles ahead?

Troubles ahead?

A new U.S. President has been elected, and this time the world’s most powerful job went to, should we say, a rather unconventional person. Indeed, a former real estate tycoon and TV celebrity is not the type of individual we expect to see in the Oval Office. But such was the will of the people, […]

Bridge to nowhere?

Bridge to nowhere?

The New Yalu Bridge separates the twin cities of Sinuiju and Dandong, lying opposite each other on the Chinese and North Korean sides of the Yalu River respectively. The very existence of the bridge, however, is nowhere to be found in local Chinese media. State censors do not want a reminder of what is gradually […]

Phone revolution

Phone revolution

Foreign journalists love to take pictures of people on the streets of Pyongyang (preferably nice looking and smartly dressed women, of course) busily chatting over their mobile phones. Indeed, the penetration of North Korea by mobile technology as attracted much attention worldwide (not the least of which because mobile phones are seen as an embodiment […]

Diplomatic roller coaster

Diplomatic roller coaster

Andrei Lankov – The Korea Times China is routinely described in the world’s media as “North Korea’s sole ally,” but this statement is rather misleading: the relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have never been easy, and the friendly official rhetoric all too often has served as a thin veneer, masking a great level of mistrust […]

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