N. Koreans growing familiar with digital devices

Yonhap 
6/3/2007

NKeconWatch: Joshua at One Free Korea is skeptical about the article below, read here.  As a side note, see how much lower health care prices can be if consumers are permitted to pay for it themselves. 

High-tech portal devices such as music players and cameras are almost ubiquitous in South Korea, but many may believe they are nowhere to be found in poverty-stricken North Korea.

Unlike the conventional wisdom, however, a growing number of North Koreans, though still confined to some privileged classes, listen to music with MP3 players and take pictures with digital cameras in their daily life, a North Korean souvenir shop clerk told Yonhap News Agency.

A group of South Korean reporters visited North Korea last week to cover a delegation from South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province which has been promoting agricultural exchanges with the communist government. The reporters were allowed to visit a department store and other attractions in the North’s capital, Pyongyang.

When asked what he was listening to with an earphone, the North Korean clerk answered plainly, “MP3 music files,” adding that he downloaded songs from the Internet.

When asked if he has a digital camera, the clerk replied, “I am using the same model Canon that you are carrying now.”

In terms of IT development, the reclusive North has been regarded as lagging far behind South Korea where almost all younger people take it for granted to use digital devices.

The clerk’s response does not provide any insight into the North’s IT sector, including how many of them use such digital devices, but experts say that they offer a glimpse into changes taking place in North Korea, though slowly.

Meanwhile, a North Korean restaurant worker said that many beauty-conscious North Korean women receive plastic surgeries to look prettier. “You can easily see a woman on the street who had a double eyelid operation,” he said.

Such eyelid plastic surgery costs around 0.7 euro in the North, slightly less than the average monthly salary in the country, he said.

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