Check out the following excerpt from “Industrial Art of Korea”, an article in this month’s “Foreign Trade”. Much of the text contains standard phrases that are commonly seen in other texts, but the second paragraph contains an interesting nugget:

Industrial art comprises a genre of fine arts that draws a design for making industrial goods and living environment beautiful, convenient and useful. It is represented in close combination of practical aspect with aesthetic one.

Today when production constantly increases along with the rapid development of science and technology, the issue of designing style, shape, colour, brand and package of commodities arises as a more urgent and essential demand.

In the DPRK industrial art has developed on a Juche-oriented stand and in a creative way in line with the socialist mode of life to serve as a powerful means that provides a great stimulus to improvement of the people’s living standards and the building of the independent national economy.

The aforementioned nugget is the concept of branding, the importance of which appears to be dawning on retailers and other businesses in the DPRK.

Marketing is very tough in North Korea, with no platforms for advertising available. TV is not an option, nor is radio. Other than the rare Pyonghwa Motors billboard, there are no ad boards – space that might be given over to advertising in other countries is essentially given over to advertising the fatherland, leadership, policies etc. etc. (This might be the most visually striking thing about visiting Pyongyang. When was the last time you went a day without seeing some product advertised?)

Businesses can have pages on the domestic intranet, Gwangmyong, but options for promotion are limited. This leaves word of mouth, the oldest form of viral marketing.

But as single companies branch out into different product lines or, for example, open shops and restaurants in more than one location, there is need to ensure that customers connect what they do beyond one place. To that end, for the first time in Pyongyang one can see logos cropping up on businesses. Most shops you see still simply call themselves simple “Clothes Shop” or “Vegetable Shop”, but increasing there are visible brands. Or, as one taxi company demonstrates, a unique paint job can act as form of branding. 

We recently held a workshop that introduced the concepts of PR (there isn't even a word for it in North Korea) and brand storytelling, a new but graspable concept. 

In case you’re interested, the Foreign Trade article later states:

The DPRK Trademark, Industrial Design and Geographical Indication Office takes charge of all affairs related to industrial art in the DPRK.


The DPRK Trademark, Industrial Design and Geographical Indication Office is promoting exchange and cooperation with WIPO and different countries to render considerable services to economic development of the country and promotion of the well-being of the people.

So that's good.