Op-Ed: Commercial Life in North Korea

An op-ed on commercial life in North Korea by Geoffrey at 38North, a publication at John Hopkins SAIS. On one training trip to North Korea this year with Choson Exchange, I enjoyed less-than-tasty fried chicken washed down with copious amounts of beer with North Koreans at a joint venture fast food restaurant. On the rooftop, chickens ran around in what might be the only locally-sourced fast food restaurant in the world. Outside, traffic was definitely up from what I remembered from a visit four years ago—just as the many visitor reports to Pyongyang have been claiming throughout the past year. Inside, the North Koreans I was with would eventually try to convince me to help them set up a spa and restaurant.

Two parallel and somewhat conflicting narratives of North Korea have emerged over the past year. Visitors to Pyongyang point to the progression of major construction projects, increasing traffic on the city’s previously empty streets and more well-stocked shops as signs of prosperity. Elsewhere, humanitarian agencies and North Korean government officials warn of a deteriorating food situation. While officials solicit aid overseas, enterprising North Koreans are seeking capital to fund new businesses particularly in the service and resource sector...

Read more at http://38north.org/2012/01/gsee013112/