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After years of non-stop media reports on how much North Korea was a no-good, hell-hole that was living in the Dark Ages with no hope in sight, the AP snapped us out of the reverie. Alas, it appears that Pyongyang "glitters". What the.....I thought they didn't even have power!!

We are informed that:

Glossy construction downtown has altered the Pyongyang skyline. Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwifruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants. They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos and cocktails while listening to classical music.
Wait, I thought that communist socialist Marxist Leninist Maoist dictatorship means bland bland living where everyone works in grey factory buildings and eats the same food, preferably thin gruel.
More than a million people are using cell phones. Computer shops can't keep up with demand for North Korea's locally distributed tablet computer, popularly known here as "iPads." A shiny new cancer institute features a $900,000 X-ray machine imported from Europe.
Cellphones? What the.....A cancer institute? You mean they have HEALTHCARE!!!

But we are then informed that outside the capital, life is the hell-hole we all know North Korea must be:

Beyond the main streets of the capital and in the towns and villages beyond, life is grindingly tough. Food is rationed, electricity is a precious commodity and people get around by walking, cycling or hopping into the backs of trucks. Most homes lack running water or plumbing. Health care is free, but aid workers say medicine is in short supply.
Yes, but I thought ALL of NORTH KOREA was a COMMUNIST HELL HOLE!
But in 2010 and throughout 2011, as then-leader Kim Jong Il was grooming son Kim Jong Un to succeed him, Pyongyang was a city under construction. Scaffolding covered the fronts of buildings across the city. Red banners painted with slogan "At a breath" — implying breakneck work at a breathless pace — fluttered from the skeletons of skyscrapers built by soldiers.
Oh, that makes sense. In 2 years, Kim Jong Un has transformed the capital, just like that. 2 years ago even Pyongyang was a hell hole but "at a breath" Pyongyang is now glittering. Got it.

Anyway read the rest of the article. Its about the closest to positive reporting you'll ever see on North Korea.

10:45 AM PT: Wow. Didn't expect this much response. Glad I stirred the waters! I was simply trying to mock coverage of North Korea, and all our official "enemies" and perhaps try to get the point across that life in these countries is more complex and nuanced than most of us realize or are led to believe. But I suppose by doing this, I am an evil North Korea communist sympathizer or something. Whatever people.

Originally posted to winnerforlife on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by LOL Wut.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You're too easy-to-fool to be doing diaries. n/t (6+ / 0-)

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:01:59 AM PDT

  •  Is this a pro-North Korean diary? (10+ / 0-)

    Not sure I've ever seen one of those.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:04:55 AM PDT

  •  Are you saying that the press is being unfair (5+ / 0-)

    to North Korea?

    I take it from your profile that you are a communist and supportive of the regime in North Korea.

    I don't think you're going to find many who agree with you.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:05:14 AM PDT

  •  Sounds like a Potemkin village! nt (7+ / 0-)

    In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

    by vcmvo2 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:05:34 AM PDT

  •  I prefer Google street view myself (0+ / 0-)

    to form opinions about far away places.

    Thus, places like Germany that are trying to put the kibosh on that American innovation are the real hellhole IMHO . . . .

  •  Can't tell if pro North Korea, or sneaky SEO (0+ / 0-)

    Look, I tried to be reasonable...

    by campionrules on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:07:07 AM PDT

  •  they have their 1% (12+ / 0-)

    Now, more than a quarter of North Korean children are stunted from chronic malnutrition, the World Food Program reported last month.
    North Korea blames its growing international economic isolation on the U.S., which has led efforts to punish it for developing its nuclear weapons program. But in the capital, the effects of that isolation are less apparent, thanks largely to goods from China, the North's most important ally, and other countries such as Singapore and Indonesia. Shelves are stocked with goods, computer labs filled with PCs, streets crowded with VWs.
    While millions can't afford meat or fish, and subsist on a few potatoes or a bowl of cornmeal noodles each day, the well-to-do in Pyongyang with extra sources of income can buy beef, pomegranates and vine-ripened tomatoes.

  •  Like building an atomic bomb, a totalitarian state (4+ / 0-)

    is able to concentrate resources into a few choice projects.  Continuing with your link:

    A year after leader Kim Jong Un promised in a speech to bring an end to the "era of belt-tightening" and economic hardship in North Korea, the gap between the haves and have-nots has only grown with Pyongyang's transformation.

    Beyond the main streets of the capital and in the towns and villages beyond, life is grindingly tough. Food is rationed, electricity is a precious commodity and people get around by walking, cycling or hopping into the backs of trucks. Most homes lack running water or plumbing. Health care is free, but aid workers say medicine is in short supply.

    And while the differences between the showcase capital and the hardscrabble countryside grow starker, North Koreans feel the effects of authoritarian rule no matter where they live.

    It's illegal for them to interact with foreigners without permission. Very few have access to the Internet. They calibrate their words. Most parrot phrases they've heard in state media, still the safest way to answer questions in a country where state security remains tight and terrifying.

    _

    That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

    by Inland on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:12:20 AM PDT

  •  Sure (8+ / 0-)

    10% of the population has starved to death in the past decade, but you think the average North Korean has cellphones and goes to tanning salons.

    I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale if you're interested.

  •  I strongly recommend that you watch... (6+ / 0-)

    'Don't tell my mom I'm in North Korea'

    That should set you straight, unless you are a DPRK sympathiser.

    'If you want to be a hero, well just follow me.' - J. Lennon

    by Clive all hat no horse Rodeo on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:23:49 AM PDT

  •  Sounds like "The Hunger Games" to me n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, MRobDC, GoGoGoEverton, vcmvo2

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:31:48 AM PDT

  •  There's a 1% in every country, and they all do (5+ / 0-)

    very well for themselves, thank you very much.

    I wouldn't consider the Korean 1% representative of the populace, all their propaganda resources to the contrary.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:33:57 AM PDT

  •  Hmmm... (7+ / 0-)

    Well, seen the Current TV footage of North Korea (before their journalists were kidnapped). Read the book about the kidnapping of the Current TV journalists. And read the biography of an escaped dissident. From those sources it sounds fucked up. And a hell hole if you aren't one of the elite (Wait! I thought it was supposed to be COMMUNIST, but they have an ELITE???? Imagine that!).

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. NYC's Progressive/Reform Blog

    by mole333 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 07:38:10 AM PDT

    •  See Milovan Djilas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kevskos

      The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System, 1957, and The Unperfect Society: Beyond the New Class, 1969.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:18:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's what actual communists don't understand. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG

      There will always be an 'elite'. Even if somehow there was a magical, perpetual guarantee that no one would have more acquired than anyone else, some people would save it and have more money eventually, some people will be better looking, some people will be able to kick ass or outthink others. It just is...humanity.

      I see what you did there.

      by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:26:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mr Rodman, that you ? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cryonaut
  •  Not snark nor humor, apparently. See (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cryonaut, Catte Nappe, lazybum, Rich in PA

    I see what you did there.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:44:26 AM PDT

  •  Here's your trouble: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, coquiero, millwood, trumpeter
    Glossy construction downtown has altered the Pyongyang skyline. Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwifruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants.

    Quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.

    by Sura 109 on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 08:52:04 AM PDT

  •  actually yes (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, fearghoul, lazybum, coquiero, Eyesbright

    North Korea is a totalitarian Communist hellhole. Don't put lipstick on that horrendous Stalinist pig.

  •  It's a really stupid diary. In any country, even a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fearghoul, coquiero, Eyesbright

    supposedly communist one, there are rich people. It means nothing.

  •  wow (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, Nattiq

    this is by far the worst article i have read on dailykos. diarist, please don't confuse democrats with crazy douchebags who love totalitarian states. i assure you, we have absolutely nothing in common with your ilk.

  •  This news is not new (6+ / 0-)

    The AP article is neither propaganda nor a surprise to anyone following in-depth news of the DPRK; it's just the latest in an abundance of sources demonstrating that life in North Korea is far more complex than the cartoon images we draw based on newspaper headlines, and full of contradictions.

    For the past 5 years, I've been researching a novel set in contemporary North Korea (I was also raised in South Korea), and I've found that, even though it's the most closed country on earth, there are more sources for information than one can keep up with, and they are multiplying by the day as more and more outsiders get access.

    Though Pyongyang might be glitzier since the latest facelift, foreign tourists coming to see the Arirang Mass Games (the largest gymnastics demonstration in the world, utilizing some 100,000 performers - you can watch it all on youtube) have been staying in western-style hotels over the past decade, and blogging about their trips online. Photographers have been creating visual portraits of areas that are state-sanctioned for viewing, such as this 2008 Boston Globe series, and this blogpost from 2011. Pyongyang has skyscrapers and streetcars, amusement parks and shopping malls, and the deepest metro system in the world, dug 360 feet underground and capable of doubling as a bomb shelter for thousands.

    Quite a number of foreigners, from Swedish diplomats to international businessmen, live full time in Pyongyang, and two Americans (both Korean) have even been given honorary citizenship for their contributions, one for founding a science and technology university, the other for investing in an automobile manufacturing plant.

    None of this takes away from the facts that some one million North Koreans died from starvation and related diseases (as I heard it, the only time this has happened in an industrialized nation), and that famine, malnutrition and starvation are still realities for some in northeast provinces. Or that some 200,000 citizens of the DPRK are held in reeducation and forced labor camps, the worst of which are full of horrors like those documented in the book, Escape from Camp 14, and the film, "Camp 14: Total Control Zone," which you can watch on Netflix.

    If we care that there are fellow human beings suffering these things, then we owe it to them to learn about what the actual lives of North Koreans are like, contradictions and all. Two highly readable books I recommend are Barbara Demick's National Book Award finalist, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, which she constructed from seven years of interviews with defectors living in South Korea; and the 2013 Pulitzer for fiction, Adam Johnson's Orphan Master's Son, which uses magical realism to convey the surreal experience of the contrasts in contemporary North Korean life.

    "Diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do." William Chase

    by Maine Islander on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 09:16:56 AM PDT

  •  Going out on a limb with you-I'm very optimistic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Kevskos

    Maybe that's because I spent some time as an East Asian studies minor picking apart Chinese political rhetoric of the Maoist and reform era.

    I disagree with you that NK isn't a hellhole. It is a hellhole for millions of people -- the prisoners, the rural poor, the disfavored classes.

    But it's also obvious that NK is changing radically and quickly.

    I think we're missing a big opportunity not engaging with the new leader, Kim Jong On.

    Our analysis of NK suffers from the fallacy of composition - the idea that all of NK's state and political apparatus is the same.

    But contrast, it's pretty clear that Kim was engaged in a power struggle with hardliners. He fired a hardliner general.

    Also, he was educated in Europe. He introduced his beautiful young Chinese educated wife to the world and she dresses in western clothing. She is alleged to have told an Asian audience that she looked forward to SK teachers coming to NK.

    Then there was this video clip from NK in which he toured a water theme amusement park for the fortunate urban elite and talked to a life guard and went on about how important their work is because each life is important.

    Obviously the regime doesn't think each life is important, but that statement goes entirely against NK ideology.

    Lastly there's the Dennis Rodman event. That was obviously a signal. Rodman played for the Chicago Bulls the team of President Obama's home town, and the only message Rodman said Kim had for Obama was "call me."

    Sometimes we have to support slight signals of reform.

    After all, China in the early years of Deng was more closed and paranoid than NK is today. Just read Fox Butterfields, "China: Alive in the Bitter Sea" what it was like to open the first NY Times bureau in Beijing in the post Maoist era.

  •  one aspect of the north korean economy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HamdenRice

    that i'm curious about is how much smuggling and remissions by emigrant north koreans in china has brought money into the country, and which parts of the economy/country that money has had an effect on, if any. i remember reading about policy shifts to allow local markets for produce and goods a few years back, modeled i assume on china's early reforms in the 80s, but i don't know if that policy has expanded or cancelled, given the exceptionally poor reporting on north korea (for obvious reasons, given what happens to foreign journos who try to do serious reporting in north korea).

    pyongyang has always been a potemkin capitol, but even then there does appear to be a shift in what sorts of things are sold and built there. even if it's just the nomenklatura, and even if it's essentially a facade, those shifts might be reflecting deeper economic shifts in the country as a whole. and that, if we could get at that (which is dubious) we might be able to get a handle on what might be driving the factional battles beneath the surface in the jong-un regime.

    it kills me that we have such poor information on this country.

  •  "Nuance" and "complexity" in one word. (0+ / 0-)

    "Versailles".

    Imagine the picture of France the rest of the world would have had if the border had been sealed and visitors had been forbidden to go outside Versailles.

    Even so, facts leak out. One visitor had a government minder who bragged that his apartment gets running water two hours a day. Also check out Sophie Schmidt's blog, about her visit to Pyongyang.

    If AP wanted news from North Korea instead of pretty pictures they'd cultivate the bravest people I know of, the North Koreans who smuggle out video for Asia Press.

    Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 11:45:06 AM PDT

  •  Pyongyang has always been (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lazybum, coquiero

    A showcase city. Most people pay attention to North Korea have understood that for years. The ruling family, military officials, and certain other high-level bureaucrats have always had access to goods that are out of reach for most of the population.

    The media has always accurately portrayed this. I guess some people were paying much attention.

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 12:25:32 PM PDT

  •  This diary reminds me of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero

    all of the RW loons who go on about "They can't be poor - they have cell phones and flat screen TV's and refrigerators!"

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Mon Apr 29, 2013 at 01:32:50 PM PDT

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