Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

North Korean laws and regulations for consumer needs

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

An interesting column in the Daily NK reflects on changes in the North Korean system both to protect consumers, and boost domestic consumer goods production. The author, Na Jung Won, sources some of these insights from North Korean academic journals, pointing out that one article going back as far as to 2012 studies the insights into marketing strategy from the “Boston Consulting Group Matrix”, which I found pretty interesting, and one might wonder whether Choson Exchange has played a role in bringing this particular insight into the country. Overall, North Korean journals tend to often include references to theoretical models that are sometimes unexpected, given the largely closed-off nature of academia and research there.

Here’s the column:

Research has found that the North Korean economy has been growing continuously since the start of the Kim Jong Un era, despite economic sanctions and pressure from the international community. One can thus conclude that the North is able to maintain effective domestic growth while to some extent avoiding the effects of such outside variables. But in order to understand this economic growth, it is important to take a closer look at the North’s particular style of business administration.
Changing business law in North Korea
There have been two revisions or additions to North Korea’s business law since Kim Jong Un came to power – one enacted on November 5, 2013, and the other on May 21, 2015 – changing official business justifications and definitions, organizational principles, and management principles that are beginning to be reflected on the ground in the country.
Chapter 1 Article 4 of the business law covering management principles states, “In precisely laying out the nation’s management strategy and business strategy, ‘the administration of socialist business responsibility’ shall be carried out, and management activities must be carried out with socialism as the most fundamental underlying principle.” Chapter 4 is titled ‘Business Management,’ while Chapter 29 covers the same topic. Chapter 30 covers business strategy and the foundation for related business rights over socialist ownership, spelling out the management activities that must be carried out in realizing business development.
The entire system of financial management is governed under these business strategies, including item prices, sales, and salary standards. There is also a system for business capital, which spells out rights to earnings for companies, the unemployment payment system, and how companies can acquire loans from a commerce bank. Sales and pricing rights and restrictions are placed on products, contract requirements for distribution, sales, and trade in other products are described, and rules are laid out for how buyers can return problematic or poor-quality products which were misrepresented under the purchasing contract.
Trends in North Korean business administration research
North Korea is positioning its businesses and factories to increase their capabilities and follow global technological trends under its latest ‘five-year strategy for national economic development,’ revealing a shift in concern toward enacting effective changes to the previous, more centrally-planned economic strategy.
Research by Kim Kyung Ok for Economic Study No. 174 (2017-1) states: “Expanding production and planning rights for businesses must include contracts, and ordering contracts which are made under consideration of state central planning and quota fulfillment. Businesses are not permitted to unilaterally cancel contracts without justification, and consultations must be made between the parties to the contract over any changes or cancellations. The results are reviewed by the relevant organs and the agreed-upon production plan must be carried out under strict rules.” In other words, a system has been established to ensure that production contracts are carried out properly.
It implies that order contract fulfillment is extremely important even for ordinary businesses. Research by Rim Yong Chan for Economic Study No. 154 (2012-1) states that companies must follow contracts for producing and delivering products to the letter. Cha Jong Kyung writes for Economic Study No. 162 (2014-1) that agreements between factories and businesses must be made under a registered contract stipulating set rules for prices and collateral to ensure each party’s claim to profits. Rules for contracts for production materials, delivery, and other aspects of the process all help establish emerging new responsibilities for all parties involved.
North Korea is also increasing research into financial concepts such as credit and non-cash money, hoping to reap the benefits of development through credit and move towards creating new capital in addition to simply saving money. The idea is that diversifying credit-based transaction types will improve consumers’ purchasing power and economic activity as a whole.
Marketing has also been the subject of research in North Korea. Economic Study No. 156 (2012-3) by Pak Chun Gwang points to differing payment abilities and demands from residents in different areas and in different seasons of the year, as well as how the growing demands in material culture are affecting available products and services. In other words, matching resident needs and demand for products will have to be carried out according to regional and seasonal ‘targeting’ and ‘positioning.’ In additional research utilizing the principles of product lifecycle (PLC) management and the ‘Boston Consulting Group Matrix’ (typically referred to as the BCG Matrix), concepts of ‘cost leadership’ and ‘differentiation’ in international business management are discussed.
Effects of changing business administration
Various approaches to business management are practiced in workplaces across North Korea. After repairing the Gold Cup Food Processing Plant (est. 2006) in 2015, the previously low-volume operation increased from producing 360 products in less than 10 categories to over 600 products in close to 30 categories in November 2017.
A ‘New Products Expo’ starting in August 2017 was used to showcase the country’s domestic products, promoting the customer’s needs as the most important aspect. President of the beverage industry group Rim Song Chol said in an interview, “We are looking to the global market as we produce new products, but we are communicating with and listening to our customers as our number-one concern in informing the products we make,” implying that customer demand for a product is the most important factor in their process.
Producers are saying they will halt production for items that do not sell very well in the markets. The use of information management systems in the manufacturing process is also being promoted as helping producers make decisions over materials or whether or not to continue production, where unsuccessful new products are discontinued.
The Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill has also apparently shifted production to fabric for business suits after an increase in customer demand, running a synthetic fabric factory in Pyongyang to create a variety of suit material options according to specific orders. Competition in this market is heating up due in part to the use of synthetic fabric recycling for the suits. ‘Tetoron’ synthetic fabric production at the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Textile Mill is thus steadily rising, and customers such as the North’s official female marching band were able to demand custom colors and styles for their uniforms.
Product distribution companies are also changing to meet the needs of customers, with a lively and competitive market of service providers working to gain a leg up on their competitors. The Kwangbok Area Shopping Center, formerly the Kwangbok Department Store (est. 1991 and renovated in 2011), became a place where domestic products were sold under customer-responsive profit principles. In order to increase the variety of available products, government-affiliated domestic producers such as clothing and foodstuff factories are in the midst of improving capabilities and product quality. To attract more customers and increase sales, lighting fixtures are being improved in the shops and displays appear brighter and more modern. The third floor of the shopping center includes a buffet-style restaurant with over 400 menu items. Shops also offer loyalty cards to encourage repeat visits and offer rewards.
The Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 (est. 1982, Jung-gu district) is a top competitor of the Kwangbok Area Shopping Center. There, shops order directly from production companies, and it has become known among consumers in the capital as a place selling all the latest and most popular items. Aiming to become a ‘Shopping Center for the People’s Desires,’ this department store is also focusing on customers’ needs. Shops have instituted a system to track customer reactions and the popularity of items through sales records. These are just some of the latest signs of increasing attention being paid to customer demand in North Korea.
Source:
North Korean business developments reflect focus on ‘customer needs’
Na Jung Won
Daily NK
2018-05-01
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Some Kwangmyong Intranet screen shots on KCTV

Monday, February 19th, 2018

According to KCTV evening news (2018-1-31) [via KCNA Watch], the North Korean intranet service, Kwangmyong,  is being managed by the Kwangmyong Information Technology Research Institute (광명정보기술연구원) under the Central Science and Technology Information Agency (중앙과학기술통보사). According to the broadcast, the network is being improved (faster and easier to use search engine and databases) to fulfill a growing need by North Korean youth and workers to have access to the latest technology.

The broadcast featured screenshots of some of the Intranet content. I am unsure if this content has been rolled out for use by the public, or if it remains under development.

Picture 1:

This screen shot is for a service called “Learning ‘Paduk'” (AKA “Go”).

Picture 2:

This screen shows various topical journals or books the institute publishes ranging from light industry to animal husbandry.

Picture 3:

This screen shows various sports that one can learn about through the search engine: Volleyball, table tennis, swimming, tennis, and badminton.

Picture 4:

The fourth screen is a ‘Women’s Health Handbook’.

Picture 5:

This fifth screen shows programs available such as Chinese-North Korean and English-North Korean translators.

Picture 6:

The sixth screen is an ad for North Korea’s Kindle

Picture 7:

This last screen shot is an extension of the sixth picture, showing the Kwangmyong Technical Encyclopedia, Biyak(multi-lingual dictionary), multi-lingual picture dictionary, and Kwangmyong Sports Encyclopedia

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McDonalds advertising on Uriminzokkiri Youku Channel

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Last year Google and Youtube took the draconian measure of deleting approximately seven years of video footage posted to Youtube by North Korea and its agents (learn more here). The video footage was invaluable to North Korea researchers and it generated no revenue for the North Korean government.

Shame on them.

However, the story does not stop there. North Korea continues to post video content to the Chinese version of YouTube, called YouKu. Videos posted to Youku DO earn ad revenue for the North Koreans through advertising. So by banning video on YouTube and pushing viewers to YouKu, the company is creating a perverse outcome that makes North Korea better off in two ways: 1. North Korea gets more money and 2. We are ableo to learn less about North Korea from its official media (and yes, you can learn a lot about the country from its official media)

Today I was sitting through an advertisement on Youku’s Uriminzokkiri channel waiting for the North Korean evening news to start, and low and behold, I found myself watching an advertisement for McDonalds produced by their Chinese division. I have no idea how advertising decisions are made at McDonalds China, or at Youku for that matter, but I am sure their American parent company does not want this to happen.

Here is the screenshot taken just a few minutes ago:

And for what it is worth, the McDonalds advert is followed by one from Toyota.

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Friday fun: More North Korean “viagra”

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Here is the scan of a box of North Korean “viagra” tablets:

I am not a pharmacist, so I cannot speak to the efficacy of the product. However, the Washington Post reviewed a similar product back in 2016 and concluded it may actually work because it contained sildenafil. This product also claims to contain sildenafil, though we do not know how it is formulated.

Perhaps most humorously, the dosage instructions caution the consumer to “take one or two capsule [sic], 30 min to an hour before married life”. Presumably “married life” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. There is a great joke here but you have to actually know me to hear it.

The pills are manufactured by the Tongyang Koryo Medicine Factory (pictured below):

 

The name Tongyang shows up in several industries, so if they are all linked, the company may also be involved in mineral water, alcohol, building materials, and retail.

Have a good weekend.

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North Korea announces “Naenara” brand vehicles

Monday, January 15th, 2018

UPDATE 1 (2018-1-15): Martin Weiser notified me that the Korean version of the article includes the company information (Note to readers: When doing research using the North Korean media, look for the original Korean article!).

The company that produces the Naenara vehicles is the Chongpung JVC (AKA 청풍합영회사/Chongphung)–and it looks like they have been around for a while. You can download a video of the 13th Pyongyang Spring Trade Fair (held in 2012) here, and in the video you can see Chongphung JVC participating.

You can download a video on Chongpung as well that shows a variety of vehicles and foodstuffs they produce. Martin Weiser also posted a picture of their vehicles on Twitter:

ORIGINAL POST: The North Korean news portal “Naenara” announced “Naenara” brand vehicles over the weekend.


The news portal does not reveal much information on the vehicles:

Naenara-brand Rolling Stock

Types: Cars, small- and medium-size buses and small trucks

Technical specifications:

− Fuel consumption: 42 – 50g/km (for cars and buses), 58g/km (for trucks)

− Maximum speed: 120 – 180km/h

− Maximum output: 55 – 80kW

The Naenara-brand rolling stock consumes low fuel, and has air-conditioner, servosteering function and motor-windows.

They are equipped with such control systems as motor-driven exterior rear view mirroring, start-stop, and backward alarm systems.

I did a quick check to see if these vehicles may simply be re-branded Pyeonghwa Motors vehicles,  but I could not find any matches.

I have not seen any new vehicle factories appear in the North Korean media, so I assume an existing vehicle factory has launched a new product line. It is possible that a military vehicle factory has launched a new product for the civilian economy.

Very little data as of now, however, so we will have to wait and see. If any tourists or visitors spot these cars, please take a picture of them (the marketing pics are all computer generated).

Fuel availability, especially for the civilian economy, has been a topic of interest by outside observers in the last year as UNSC resolutions have sought to restrict imports from abroad.

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Kuwait Times publishes DPRK statement on Kim Jong-il

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

As the five year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il arrives, the DPRK has taken to placing lauding articles of the former leader in affordable and cooperative news outlets across the world.

A reader in Kuwait sent along the story from the December 15, 2016 issue:

This is nothing new historically. The DPRK has been doing this for decades. This is, however, the most recent example of which I am aware.

Other stories about Kuwait here.

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On recent economic developments in the DPRK

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

James Pearson writes in Reuters:

When North Korea’s late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il opened the Pothonggang Department Store in December 2010, he called on it to play “a big role” in improving living standards in the capital Pyongyang, official media said.

Five years later, judging by the long lines inside the three-storey store that sells everything from electronic gadgets and cosmetics, to food and household goods, the Pothonggang is meeting Kim’s expectations – at least for privileged Pyongyang residents.

But the department store also starkly illustrates the extent to which the underground market has become the new normal in isolated North Korea. And that poses a dilemma to the Kim family’s hereditary dictatorship, which up until now has kept tight control of a Soviet-style command economy, largely synonymous with rationing and material deprivation. Now that the black market has become the new normal, Kim Jong Un’s government has little choice but to continue its fledgling efforts at economic reforms that reflect market realities on the ground or risk losing its grip on power, experts say.

A Reuters reporter, allowed to roam the store with a government minder for a look at the North Korean consumer in action, noted almost all the price tags were in dollars as well as won. A Sharp TV was priced at 11.26 million won or $1,340; a water pump at 2.52 million won ($300). Beef was 76,000 won ($8.60) a kilogramme. North Korean-made LED light bulbs sold for 42,000 won ($5). The exchange rate used in these prices – 8,400 won to the dollar – is 80 times higher than the official rate of 105 won to the dollar. At the official rate, the TV would cost over $100,000; the light bulb, $400.

Shoppers openly slapped down large stacks of U.S. dollars at the cashier’s counter. They received change in dollars, Chinese yuan or North Korean won – at the black market rate. The same was true elsewhere in the capital: taxi drivers offered change for fares at black market rates, as did other shops and street stalls that Reuters visited.

For the last twenty years, North Korea has been undergoing economic changes, the fruits of which are now more visible than ever in the capital, Pyongyang, where large North Korean companies now produce a diverse range of domestically made goods to cater to this growing market of consumers. People are spending money they once hid in their homes on mobile phones, electric bicycles and baby carriers.

The latest sign that the workers’ paradise is going capitalist: cash cards from commercial banks.

GREW OUT OF FAMINE

Four months before Kim opened the Pothonggang Department Store, the United States imposed sanctions on North Korea, including its imports of luxury goods, for torpedoing a South Korean ship – a conclusion Pyongyang rejected. Since then, the U.N. has imposed more sanctions on North Korea for violating restrictions on its nuclear and missile programmes.

None of that has had much effect on the vast majority of North Koreans living in the countryside, where a rudimentary market has evolved considerably over the past two decades. Agricultural mismanagement, floods and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to famine in the mid-1990s. The state rationing system crumbled, forcing millions of North Koreans to make whatever they could to sell or barter informally for survival.

The regime penalised this new class of entrepreneurs in 2009 when it redenominated the won by lopping off two zeros and setting limits on the quantity of old won that could be exchanged for the new currency. That move ended up destroying much of the private wealth earned on the market.

Demand for hard currency surged after the bungled currency reform as more and more merchants in the underground markets required transactions to be conducted in foreign currency. It triggered two years of hyperinflation.

But the government of Kim Jong Un, who became North Korea’s leader after his father’s death in December 2011, has essentially accepted the ubiquity of the black market rate and a widespread illicit economy, North Korea experts say.

“Under Kim Jong Un, not a single policy has been implemented which would somehow damage the interests and efficiency of private businesses,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“It’s a good time to be rich in North Korea”.

THE NEW CONSUMER

Many of the goods inside the Pothonggang Department Store, a grey building nestled between willow trees and a river of the same name, are still beyond the reach of many North Koreans.

An air conditioning unit sells for 3.78 million won ($450 dollars) – which if paid in won would require a bag of 756 five thousand won notes, the highest denomination note in won.

A growing middle class called “donju”, meaning “masters of money”, who made cash in the unofficial economy are starting to spend it on these new products, along with the long established elite of Humvee-owning individuals with powerful political connections.

Only recently an elite item, mobile phones are now common in the capital, with nationwide subscriber numbers topping three million, an employee with Koryolink, the cellular carrier controlled by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom told Reuters.

The number has tripled since 2012 and indicates one in eight of North Korea’s 24 million people now have a mobile phone.

Energy-saving products are a fast-growing sector of North Korea’s new consumer market and were one of the hottest items in the department store.

Domestically produced LED bulbs are ubiquitous in North Korea, where satellite images have shown a country almost completely black at night. The 9-watt bulb costs $5 and is a best-seller at the Pothonggang store, said a staff member. The energy-saving bulbs are used inside homes and on street lamps that now bask the formerly darkened streets of the Pyongyang night in a dull, faint glow.

Solar panels with USB-enabled inverters and batteries are available in the store alongside water pumps and small generators – exactly the kind of systems North Koreans now use to take power into their own hands.

CASH CARDS

Baby products are another booming consumer item. A large section of the department store is devoted to strollers and baby carriers produced in China and South Korea.

Many residents of Pyongyang can be seen riding Chinese-made battery powered bicycles, which only began to appear in the capital over the last year, locals said.

Some of these transactions are done with the Narae Card, a cash card run by North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank – a designated entity under U.S. sanctions since 2013 for the part it reportedly played in nuclear weapons procurement.

Cash cards have been in the hands of the few for the last several years but have recently become a new growth industry. Narae cards are topped up with U.S. dollars and are mainly used for foreign currency purchases. They can also be used to top up mobile phone accounts.

Foreign investors can also set up banks in North Korea and are allowed to lend money and provide credit-based financing schemes to North Korean companies, according to a bilingual book of North Korean law available to foreign investors.

Ryugyong Commercial Bank, for instance, offers shopping discounts as well as gold or silver card options for its customers. As with the Narae card, customers are encouraged to top up their accounts with dollars.

LOSING FACE?

After a $4 dollar taxi ride, the driver reluctantly handed the change from a twenty dollar note to a Reuters correspondent who insisted on getting change in North Korean won.

Foreigners are not officially permitted to use the currency, so the openness of the transaction – in the presence of a government guide – was another sign of the black market turning white in north Korea. The driver’s reluctance to hand over won was because of its inconvenience, not because he was afraid of being caught.

“It’s a lot of notes in our money,” he grumbled, counting out 130,000 won from a large crumpled bundle of discoloured 5000 won notes.

That note, still the highest denomination, once carried a smiling portrait of founding president Kim Il Sung but is being gradually phased out by a version with no portrait – an indication a larger denomination note may one day replace it to accommodate the widespread use of black market pricing.

That would also get around the embarrassing problem that the faces of American and Chinese leaders, not the Kims, adorn much of the cash used in the country now. For a regime that has cultivated a personality cult around the Kim dynasty, it is quite literally losing face on its own money.

MATTER OF TIME

Where there’s commercial enterprise, advertising is sure to follow. Sprinkled in among the roadside signs and billboards, once the exclusive domain for propaganda, are small notices that tout car repair services, electronics and trading companies

One prominent company, Naegohyang [Naekohyang/내고향] (my homeland) advertises at football games and has a women’s football team by the same name. It produces everything from clothes and sanitary pads to 7.27 brand cigarettes, a favourite of Kim Jong Un’s who can be seen smoking them on state TV. They also make ‘Achim’ cigarettes for export to Iran with printed health warnings written in Farsi.

At a speech following a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers Party, Kim Jong Un promised to introduce “people-first” politics. It remains unclear, however, how committed he and his Workers Party – not to mention the powerful military – are to market-based reforms.

But it’s only a matter of time before the Kim regime formally adopts a market-based economy – as China did 35 years ago under Deng Xiaoping, said Kookmin University’s Lankov, who lived in Pyonyang in the 1980s.

“That’ll be a great day, but it’ll be relatively meaningless in one regard,” he said. “It’ll be a formal recognition of something which has happened anyway”.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s black market becoming the new normal
James Pearson
Reuters
2015-10-29

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Friday fun: New stamps and wild speculation…

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Kim Jong-un has committed significant construction resources to improving the lives of children (particularly orphans) in the DPRK. Now you can share Kim Jong-un’s love of the children (sarcasm) with the people you know by collecting and sending stamps of the Songdowon International Children’s Camp and the new Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage:

STAMP-2015- Sondgowon-International-Children-Camp

STAMP-Pyongyang-Baby-Home Orphanage

Although the stamps are meant for foreign collectors, they are denominated as KPW 30. If the cost of a first class letter in the DPRK is 30 won, that translates into appx $.30 at the official rate and $.00375 at the black market rate (nearly 1/3 of a US penny).

But the Pyongyang Baby Home stamp booklet shows four stamps on a post card, so maybe the official price of sending a postcard is KPW120, or $1.20 at the official rate and $.015 at the black market rate. That seems a bit more reasonable, but it is still probably likely that, as in the USA, mail delivery is a drain on the government’s budget (subsidized activity). I wonder how hard it is to raise postal rates in the DPRK?

Luckily the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (체신성) does not have to rely on the cabinet for its complete budget. There is always the international stamp-collecting market…and a small venture known as KoryoLink.

I also doubt that any of the money generated from the sale of these stamps actually goes to supporting the budgets of the Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage and Songdowon International Children’s Camp, but you never know.

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North Korean company advertisements appear in World Cup preliminary match

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-7-3

North Korea has attracted attention after it recently featured a number of corporate advertisements in a preliminary match of the 2018 Russian World Cup.

In the past, North Korea rejected everything related to capitalism. But since Kim Jong Un’s rise to power it appears to be actively using sports and commercial capital in order to attract foreign capital as its market economy rapidly expands.

On June 16, 2015 Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcast the second match of the Russian World Cup Asian qualifying rounds. The match, in which North Korea and Uzbekistan played, was held at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Stadium, where advertisements by North Korean companies such as Kaesong Koryo Ginseng and the Pyongyang Building Materials Factory appeared in force. Kaesong Koryo Ginseng and Choson Kumgang Group in particular appeared to have spent a lot of money sponsoring the event, as every most ads belonged to one of these companies. Conspicuous among the advertisements were those from companies that have not been well-known in the outside world, such as Malgun Achim (literally ‘clear morning’), a manufacturing company known in North Korea for producing IT products such as computers. Exhibiting numerous ads for North Korean companies at an international sports event and broadcasting the event on TV to the world is rather unprecedented behavior for North Korea.

When the 27th Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon was held in Pyongyang in 2014, not only were there no ads for North Korean companies, but there were no ads for foreign companies either. As a result British contestant Will Phillips, who qualified to participate in the marathon as a foreign amateur athlete, remarked at the time, “It feels like time just stopped in the ‘60s.” However, an article appeared in the January 2015 edition of the Kim Il Sung University Bulletin that emphasized the importance of advertisements in attracting investment and gave specific instructions to heed the publication times of major foreign newspapers and even pay attention to broadcast ratings. Since then North Korea has paid attention to foreign advertisements and has really upped its efforts to attract foreign currency.

As the market economy spreads rapidly in the Kim Jong Un era, this event is viewed as a sign of change in North Korea’s foreign economic policy. The promotion of North Korean companies in a preliminary round of the World Cup, which relatively many foreigners can view, is interpreted as an attempt to ultimately attract foreign capital. At the same time, it appears there is a dimension of inducing competition between North Korean companies to boost domestic demand. This event can also be connected to one of the characteristics of the Kim Jong Un regime, which emphasizes and encourages physical education throughout the state. Such a scene, which seamlessly joins sports with commercial capitalism, is unprecedented for North Korea.

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New shopping chain opens in Pyongyang

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The Choson Sinbo announced the opening of the Hwanggumbol Shop (황금벌상점) in Pyongyang last December. According to the pro-DPRK outlet, it is open from 6am to midnight.

Choson Exchange chimed in with additional information:

[Hwanggumbol Trading Corporation] managers have taken part in multiple CE workshops and have taken part in mind-mapping and team-building exercises, as well as lean startup methodology and customer needs strategies. It is fitting that the article speaks of “responding to people’s demands”, though it is then said that “the idea of loving people”, rather than “responding to their demands” is the concept they use. Its gratifying to see that some of the concepts we’ve covered in workshops are packed up in PR-conscious statements like these.

On a Women in Business workshop in Singapore last year, the businesswomen were obsessed with how retail worked elsewhere – Geoffrey recounts here how it took ages to drag them through a mall, not because they were shopping, but because they were taking notes on everything. They were extremely curious about how customers could be attracted, engaged and kept.

Back in Pyongyang, the manager of Hwanggumbol, Mr. Ryang Sung Jin, mentions that they are “prioritizing benefits for the people and their business’ goal is people’s convenience”. Clearly, these guys have found their angle, differentiating themselves quite dramatically from the competition.

NK News did a follow-up as well that was re-posted to The Guardian. The article translated much of the Choson Sinbo material that is behind a registration-wall:

The stores are located in residential streets to let the people buy groceries at their convenience. To guarantee low prices, Hwanggumbol Trading Corporation practices bulk purchasing from various producers around the country and consistently accelerates circulation of purchases and sales, it said. According to the article, some of its imported goods also enjoy tariff benefits.

However, the store’s management has kept its distance from capitalist principles, describing its operation as the “realisation of the Party’s love for the people,” drawing a line between its own interests and those of capitalist corporations.

“To put people’s interest above anything and to serve the people’s convenience are the aims of our service,” Ryang Sung-jin, the president of Hwanggumbol Trading Corporation, was quoted as saying.

Hwanggumbol Store currently runs three stores in Pyongyang and plans to expand its number of stores to 20 by spring 2015. The stores are also expanding their range of services and will be providing door-to-door delivery and sales, as well as ticketing reservations for trains and planes, the report said.

“We also know of people trying to start a chain of stores as well as dry-cleaning and delivery services in Pyongyang,” Abrahamian said. “There is definitely a generation of business people thinking creatively, asking ‘why not?’ when it comes to new ways of doing things.”

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