Friday grab bag: softball, kremlinology, reminiscences, and reparations

DPRK Women’s Softball
North Korean state television broadcast a women’s softball game last May.  I found it fascinating viewing.  The full seven-inning game was just over 40 minutes long.  I posted 10 minutes of it on YouTube, which you can watch here.

 softball1.JPG   softball2.JPG

There is much in this game with which Americans can identify.  The mannerisms, look, and feel of the game are just like any game here in the US.  The North Korean women wear similar styled uniforms and equipment.  The two teams walk across the field and slap hands together after the game.  The umpire shouts “strike”, and the television announcers even maintain a familiar banter about the game.  The match also offers a unique glimpse into North Korean civil society.  There is nothing nationalistic, political, or staged about the game–just people out enjoying themselves.

I do not believe that softball is widely played in the DPRK.  In fact, the field used in this match is the only functional field I have located in the entire country.  It is in Moranbong (Pyongyang), just north of the Moranbong Middle School.  Here is a GeoEye satellite image from Google Earth (Coordinates on the image):


Pyongyang began construction of a softball field in the Sosan Sports District in Manyongdae sometime before 2000.  It is still uncompleted today:


A softball field used to be located on May Day Island but it was converted into a soccer field in 2006.  The coordinates are 39° 3’10.61″N, 125°46’54.73″E.

Perhaps Kim Jong-il is sending us a signal that something has changed?

kim-jong-il-corn.jpg    kim-jong-il-radish.jpg

Nikita Khrushchev did not mix signals:


Kim Il-sung Reminiscences
Kim Il-sung Reminiscences is an eight-volume text—and probably unread by most modern-day DPRK watchers.  You can read all eight volumes on the Chongryun site (click here). The eight volume set, however, does not contain an index.  Long-time DPRK watcher Paul White (author of a new monthly DPRK business newsletter) has made one.  You can download the indexes for all eight volumes below:

Volumes 1 & 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8

Pyongyang gets more bars!
(h/t Zen Kimchi and Yonhap)

There are more than 150 beer houses in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, which provide customers with a variety of draft and bottled beer, the official state media reported on May 27.

“More than 150 beer parlors in different parts of Pyongyang are alive with customers every day,” said the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

On the back of increasing demand for alcohol in the North, Taedong River Beer Factory has recently modernized its production and management system, which are all computer-controlled, and has also set up new facilities.

The KCNA said the production capacity of the factory, which was established in 2002, has doubled through the modernizing process since its establishment.

The country’s No. 1 beer maker, Taedong River Beer, is a globally certified brand, acquiring the international standard quality certificate ISO 9001 in 2008, the state media added. The certificate acknowledges it has reached the global standard in 10 categories such as hygienic security, alcohol quality and purity.

The beer brand has also succeeded in developing rice beer and black beer, the KCNA reported, enabling it to satisfy various customers’ needs and preferences.

The beer, which allegedly has a mild and pure taste due to its high degree of fermentation, is popular among North Koreans, it said.

I am aware of a couple of bars in Pyongyang, so if you happen to see one, please let me know where it is.

The Taedonggang Beer Factory is located at  38°59’41.07″N, 125°48’28.14″E and was shipped to the DPRK from the UK, where it was known as the Ushers Brewery.

DPRK demands USD$65 TRIllion!
According to the Associated Press:

North Korea blames the 1950-53 war on the United States and on Thursday said the moneterary [sic] cost for North Korean suffering from the conflict amounted to $65 trillion — five times the U.S. national debt.


4 Responses to “Friday grab bag: softball, kremlinology, reminiscences, and reparations”

  1. Neil (Cogsinister) says:

    ” On the back of increasing demand for alcohol in the North, Taedong River Beer Factory has recently modernized its production and management system, which are all computer-controlled, and has also set up new facilities. ”

    CNC no doubt………

  2. Michael Rank says:

    Speaking of beer and breweries, you may be amused by this is short item I wrote for the late, great Far Eastern Economic Review back in 2002.

    Pyongyang and traditional English ales aren’t concepts that naturally go together, so aid worker Will Duckworth got the shock of his life when, walking home through the North Korean capital recently, his eyes alighted on a beer truck laden with metal barrels that had the words Trowbridge and Ushers emblazoned on them. He was just recovering from the shock when a second truck drove by, this time with barrels from Taunton. So reports that the famous Ushers brewery in Trowbridge, Wiltshire had been sold to the North Koreans were not the figment of a beer-soaked journalist’s imagination! “Odd to think of them passing within feet of me here, and that at least some of them probably did so in previous years in a completely different part of the world!” says the beer-loving Will, who has been working on an environmental project in North Korea for the last year. He had been out birdwatching that morning, but “I didn’t see anything special, this was certainly the sighting of the day!” Will was especially amazed as he comes from a village near Trowbridge in western England. Ushers struck a bizarre £1.5 million deal in 2000 to dismantle the 175-year-old brewery and reassemble it in North Korea, but reports that it was linked to plans to open 300 pubs in the mysterious Hermit Kingdom are yet to be confirmed.

  3. Dmitry says:

    Thanks for the posts! One question – how do you watch N Korean TV? I don’t imagine it being broadcast online, only know one site which posts pre-recorded videos… Thanks for the help 🙂

  4. Max says:

    As far as I have seen, there are series of this bar, which are formally restaurants or departments, on almost on every street in Pyongyang. It serves Draught Teadonggang beer & grilled pork. You can easily recognizes it as there’s the same banner outside says “Teadonggang Mekju”. These bars are always full of ppl & normally, they all stand when drinking as there are not enough room.
    Some bars that I can locates:
    – University Restaurant: 39° 1’30.90″N, 125°47’27.83″E
    – Munsu Bong Rest: 39° 1’6.54″N, 125°47’21.54″E
    – one at: 39° 0’30.68″N, 125°46’53.72″E
    – another: 39° 0’39.12″N, 125°45’56.43″E (on this street, there at least 3 more)
    The beer is excellent! I like it better than Carsberg