Another nuclear test. What does it mean for Choson Exchange? The short answer is: "nothing good". Each test and subsequent round of sanctions makes the environment a little bit tougher for us. The main impact on CE is one of broad nervousness and fatigue.
Much is unknown about Manbang - we looked on the Chinese web to see if the characters for "Manbang" mean "10,000 directions" or "10,000 broadcasts", but Chinese news sites didn't know and were just using Roman letters. We also don't know if new apartment, leisure or entertainment buildings will be wired for the kind of data that is needed for streaming television.
Choson Exchange organise trips for foreigners to run workshops to share our business expertise with Korean entrepreneurs, but when we are not teaching there is plenty of time to go out and explore for an evening. To be fair, Pyongyang could hardly be called a swinging city by night, and by 10pm the tower blocks are mostly dark with only a few back street snack and beer tents remaining open; but things are changing and year on year the range of entertainment options is growing fast.
The coffee is good, but the cafe also features a range of alcoholic beverages so if you're nervous for, um, whatever reason and need the calming influence of alcohol before a flight, they can help out also. Prices for coffee drinks aren't cheap, though. They're slightly more expensive than most airport coffeeshops around Asia.
Northern Korean Kimchi is amazing. It is healthy and flavoursome, both as a side dish and as an ingredient in savory pancakes, stews and fried rice.
Kimchi made the news last month in the DPRK, when Korean Worker's Party Chairman Kim Jong Un visited a new factory that produces the fiery pickle dish. (It is obligatory that all English-language articles about Kimchi describe it as 'fiery'.)
"Kimchi is one of the Korean nation's most favorite traditional dishes and it is well-known as one of the world's five health foods", he was quoted as saying.
The spaces for branding are still small in the DPRK, compared to many places, but seem to be expanding. Tina Kanagaratnam is the CEO of the Shanghai-based PR firm, Asia Media. At a Choson Exchange workshop in 2013 she was trying to explain to her students the relationship between PR and advertising and was struggling.
However, several reports suggest that trade continues, mostly as it did before the new UN sanctions. One Pyongyang businessperson said he felt little impact, other than for those in the minerals trade. Certainly, there was no shortage of consumer goods from China evident on recent CE trips to Pyongyang.
Essentially, it's a mass mobilization of adults across the country, in nearly all sectors, to work on a variety of projects. Think of it as nationally mandated overtime. The “battle” component is a DPRK cultural manifestation: exhortations often use the term, harking back to the effort needed to win in actual war. In 2013, they had a “harvest battle”, for example. Also, factories or other workplaces are often called “battle zones” or “battlefields”.