With all the anti-American rhetoric one hears from the DPRK, it surprises many tourists when they find that they can make purchases in some locations with US dollars. Indeed, one is compelled to use foreign currency, usually Chinese RMB or Euros.
Daily NK reports today that the Korean People's Won (KPW) is nearly “obsolete" even among the Korean population:
With the greater relaxation of regulations on the market front this year, the private economy in North Korea expanded, but most people are said to believe the looser grip on trade at the marketplace is not to help improve people’s livelihoods but to secure more funds for the Kim Jong Un leadership, Daily NK sources have reported.
In terms of people's well being, this is a good thing as it allows people to actually maintain a decent standard of living. But, for the wider economy, it spells trouble:
Many donju and residents, unsure of when the North Korean state will flip its stance on foreign currency use, are said to be seizing this opportunity to save up while they can. “The belief is that regardless of your place in North Korean society, safety comes in one form and one form only: foreign currency savings.'
Fans the world over were disappointed by the cancellation of a performance by Kim Jong Un's Moranbong Band in Beijing last week. Reuters is now reporting that a source "with ties to North Korea and China" says that "Chinese authorities objected to 'anti-American' lyrics in the show." The report continues:
The Moranbong Band was visiting China along with North Korea's State Merited Chorus and was due to perform at Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts on Dec. 12.
I won't get into the other theories going around as to why the show was cancelled - see this - but in light of the Reuters source's comments about the lyrics, which at first appearance sounds less likely than the other theories, I just want to remark that this is interesting in the face of two recent events: a July 2012 gala show in Pyongyang that featured appearances by Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Winnie the Pooh along with performances of "It's A Small World", the "Rocky" theme and Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
Second is this October performance by the Chongbong Band - another Kim Jong Un creation that came about this summer - playing the American classics "Oh! Susanna" and "Camptown Races." If these two performances are meant to be a signal from Kim III that a cultural loosening up is on the horizon, someone must have had a nice facepalm when the Chinese censor stopped the rehearsal and said the anti-American lyrics were a no go.
An excerpt from an interesting story in this month's Pictorial Korea:
Online education is now arousing everybody's interest because it affords many people an unlimited opportunity of studying. To keep up with worldwide trends and accord with specific conditions of the country, the online education college of Kim Chaek University of Technology, a comprehensive center of study, has established an online education system using a mobile communications network.
Its officials, lecturers and researchers developed new programs that suit the reality, without relying on old experiences and theories. The new online education system is the system in which students can study in any place and at any time with the help of smart phones. Using cell phones, they can attend all lectures of the college at their convenience and copy necessary study materials into their cell phones and read them at any time.
The system makes it possible to control the studying process of the students and evaluate their attainment by scientific methods. In other words, although students study independently in any place and at any time, it can analyse and appraise the understanding of students in detail while monitoring their attendance in lectures and self-study process based on the new education control program.
Encouraged by their improving abilities through the new education system based on mobile communications networks, the students enrolled at the online college are getting more enthusiastic about study.
In the game, players are prompted to go on missions to defeat the enemies of the young general Swoeme, which means "Iron Hammer," a brave warrior-commander of the Koguryo kingdom that lasted for about 700 years and ruled most of the Korean Peninsula and the heart of Manchuria until its downfall in AD 668.
From the Codechef website: "CodeChef is a global programming community. We host contests, trainings and events for programmers around the world. Our goal is to provide a platform for programmers everywhere to meet, compete, and have fun. CodeChef is a noncommercial organization operated by Directi, an Indian software company based in Mumbai, India."
Here's a profile from Korea Today magazine about two contestants from North Korea who joined the contest and did pretty well:
As a contest where the winner is decided by the accuracy of the answers given to the presented ten questions within 240 hours, the Codechef program contest is one of the world's top three internet program contests. In this contest the students of the Kim Chaek University of Technology won three consecutive victories in March, April and May this year. They were Ryu Song Chol, 21, and Mun So Min, 22, who are the program science circle members of the university which is leading the vanguard of the country's science and technology.
With the intention of bringing glory to their university on the world arena, they waged an intensive brain war from the beginning of the March contest. After solving all questions in an instant, they were confronted with the last challenge question. It was to find N points on the secondary degree plane to satisfy any condition. Most participants in the contest tried to tackle the question only from the mathematical angle, but Ryu Song Chol correctly grasped its character and drew up his algorithm by applying the law of elasticity tactfully. So, even by the end of the contest, other programs presented online did not reach the level of his frist program submitted when he set about the question.
The contest allowed renewing the solution 500 times, but Ryu only renewed it 200 times to come closest to the target value and gained the highest marks. Mun So Min came out second in the contest with 250 renewals. Then, Mun made another exertion and won the April contest. The most impressive contest for the participants and spectators was the May contest. Ryu Song Chol, who had stayed at the top for all the time in the contests dropped to third place just a day before the end of the contest. This proved that his rivals were never to be slighted. In fact, Ryu solved nine problems in a short time after the contest began, opening up the way to the first place.
Ryu said, "during the contest, I only thought of winning first place. It was not necessary to have much time to get through the contest successfully. The awareness that we represent the country's level of sci-tech development inspired me with original ideas."
Somewhere in a KBC dungeon there are stacks and stacks of papers and spiral booklets detailing and outlining plans and projects in the Tumen Triangle. Alas, as you'll see in the video below, it remains East Asia's Region of the Future as it has been for decades. Andray Abrahamian has released a new report through the US Korea Institute at SAIS looking at the latest on the region.
From the Institute: "There are long-term forces at work here, such as Moscow’s concerns over Chinese dominance in the sparsely populated Russian Far East. This legacy of mistrust frames cross-border interactions and despite recent warm relations, major cross-border cooperation remains limited. There are also relatively recent roadblocks to cooperation, such as Beijing’s opprobrium over North Korea’s nuclear program. This has prevented the implementation of pre-2013 plans to link Rason – North Korea’s northeastern special economic zone – to the electricity grid in Jilin Province, in Northeastern China."
Read it here or watch Andray present his findings below: