This is People’s Daily Tonight. I’m Weidan, a former People's Daily correspondent based in Pyongyang. Tonight, I’m going to share some inside stories about North Korea.
Many people consider North Korea as a closed, less developed and mysterious country. Even to this day, seeing the outside world through the internet still remains impossible for ordinary people in that country. I lived in Pyongyang for 3 years from 2012 to 2015 and paid close attention to what happened in NK ever since. Changes have emerged from this country despite its closed doors.
Recently, the first beauty mobile phone app ever in North Korea has caught people’s attention. If you know the country well enough, you will understand that this app’s success is predictable. Women never come out home without a complete makeup, and they are interested in fashion as much as other country’s females do.
North Korea’s government puts many restrictions on its people. However, this country has become more open in recent years than expected.
Bronze statues of the former leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. (Photo: Cheng Weidan/People's Daily)
24-hour coffee shops, upscale restaurants…Things you can find in Pyongyang are no different from any other big city in the world. At night, glittering neon lights illuminate the Changjon Street residential buildings. Foreigners living in Pyongyang always joke that you could mistake it for Las Vegas, if it wasn’t for the big bronze statues of the former leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, standing not far away across the street.
Power shortage remains a problem. Yet North Koreans seem to find a new way to reduce the impact. A growing number of solar panels have been installed in residential windows and roofs. Many of them are used to for indoor lighting and charging cell phones.
Foreigners are no longer rare in Pyongyang. Citizens have begun to get used to running into foreigners, some even having the courage to start a conversation despite restrictions from authorities.
Korean farmers transfer their produce to the farm. (Photo: Cheng Weidan/People's Daily)
While insisting on developing nuclear weapons, North Korea’s economic situation remains a major concern for the world. Pyongyang seeks to develop its Two Fronts at the same time: the building of a nuclear force and economy. Pyongyang has been trying to arouse the people’s initiative to develop the economy.
Besides national planning indicators, the market mechanism has been strengthened. Incentive systems of state factories and farms are now in conformity with the principle of more pay for more work. Workers and farmers are stimulated to produce, with a feeling of “wearing the pants.”
“Will North Korea’s economy be able to survive?” With UN’s sanctions after sanctions, some keep arguing that the collapse may happen soon. Yet North Korea has managed to survive all these years. The changes in North Korea are beyond doubt. However, economic changes, at least in the foreseeable future, cannot solve all problems. North Korea's prospects still need to be observed.
A woman uses a computer at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang. (Photo: Cheng Weidan/People's Daily)
And that’s People’s Daily Tonight. Thank you for joining us.
(Produced by Wang Yi, Cheng Weidan)