Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Consumer culture changing DPRK

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Arirang News has posted a video on the changes in consumer culture in the DPRK. It highlights just how much things have changed since the days of Kim Il-sung:

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DPRK economic publication calls for more advertising

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

According to Yonhap:

A North Korean economic quarterly has stressed the importance of commercials to help promote the country’s exports, which rely heavily on China.

“We should promote our economic prowess abroad and decisively increase exports of products by taking advantage of commercials in foreign trade,” North Korean quarterly magazine, Economic Research, reported in its October edition, a copy of which was obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

The publication, which mostly deals with the North’s economic policies, said exports should contribute to achieving the country’s stated goal of ushering in a prosperous nation by this year.

The year 2012 has political significance to North Korea as it marks the centennial of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

The quarterly also called for high quality commercials to penetrate capitalist markets and increase exports of its products.

The North’s move came more than two years after an earlier short-lived experiment with commercial advertising.

In July 2009, the North’s television aired commercials that showed young women in traditional clothes serving frothy mugs of Taedonggang beer, billed as the “Pride of Pyongyang.”

Other products, including ginseng and quail, soon appeared in television advertisements, fueling speculation the isolated country may start to embrace a capitalist mode of life.

However, the commercials disappeared a month later when then-leader Kim Jong-il sacked his television point man in anger over what he described as aping China’s early reforms.

China has repeatedly pressed the North to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy.

Additional Information:

1. Here is a link to the infamous Taedonggang Beer Commercial and a longer ten-minute infomercial. Here is the ginseng advert. Here is the quail advert. Yonhap reported that Kim Jong-il was unhappy with these ads.

2. The only commercial billboards that appear in Pyongyang are those for the Phyonghwa Motors vehicles produced domestically by a joint venture deal with the Unification Church.  See one of these billboards here.

3. There is apparently a Korea Advertising Company.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea calls for high quality commercials to boost exports
Yonhap
2012-2-3

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Jesus at Mangyongdae

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

A reader sent in this photo of a North Korean girl visiting Mangyongdae in Pyongyang:

dprk-jesus-2.jpg
Click image for larger version

This shirt obviously originated in China and was purchased in a local market. The “Chinglish” reads: “I Love Jesus” and “Tinkerbell, Trust and Pixie Dust”.

Follow-up: I allowed RFA to use this image, but it has shown up elsewhere along with quotes attributed to me that I never made.  The Korea Times story is the only one that I can read, but I never spoke to them about this picture.  Here are all the media stories that I am aware of:  Korea Times, Yonhap,  Choson Ilbo, RFA.

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No more beer commercials!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Apparently Kim Jong il is growing intolerant of North Korean television advertising anything other than how great he and his father are.  According to Yonhap:

“Recently, Kim saw the commercials while watching TV. He was enraged, asking where the commercials came from and describing them as the prototype of China’s early reforms,” one source said.

Starting July 2, North Korea’s television played commercials that showed young women in traditional clothes serving frothy mugs of Taedonggang beer billed as “Pride of Pyongyang.”

Other products, including ginseng and quail, soon followed in television advertisements, which had rarely been seen in the country, generating outside speculation that North Korea may be starting to embrace the capitalist mode of life.

But according to Yonhap News Agency’s own analysis, the commercials disappeared as of the end of August. The sources said Cha Sung-su, the North’s top broadcaster, has also been discharged.

One source said Cha may have been unduly victimized in the case because the commercials were a product of Kim’s earlier instruction to create “more interesting and diverse” television programs.

Cha, 69, is one of Kim’s closest aides, having accompanied him on public inspections at least six times since the leader reportedly had a stroke last year and then recovered.

He is the North’s top television man, having served on the communist country’s broadcasting committee for about four decades. He is also known in North Korea for his numerous poems.

I previously blogged about the beer commercials (as did most other K-bloggers) and included a link to a longer 10-minute “infomercial”.

Here is the actual commercial courtesy of the BBC. Here is the commercial on YouTube (without commercial interruption).

Here is the ginseng commercial (Koryo Insam).

Here is the quail restaurant commercial.

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Tadonggang Beer commercial

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

taedonggangbeeradvert.JPG

Click on image to see advert

The BBC offers what is hailed as the first Taedonggang Beer commercial. According to the article:

In a rare nod to commercial motives in the resolutely communist nation, the TV advert features a thirsty worker holding a mug of frothy beer.

Young women in traditional Korean dress are shown serving trays of beer to men in Western suits.

Billed as the “Pride of Pyongyang”, the advert promises drinkers that the beer will help ease stress.

“It represents the new look of Pyongyang,” the two-and-a-half minute advert says. “It will be a familiar part of our lives.”

Taedonggang Beer Factory has been making the brew since buying a British brewery and shipping it lock, stock and barrel from the UK in 2002.

The beer has been occasionally available in South Korea and is said to be of high quality.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, said to have a fondness for fine wines and brandy, has taken a personal interest in the brewery.

“Watching good quality beer coming out in an uninterrupted flow for a long while, he noted with great pleasure that it has now become possible to supply more fresh beer to people in all seasons,” North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, said after he visited the brewery in 2002.

The DPRK did allow a ten minute “infomercial” to be made about Taedonggang Beer (probably by the Chongryun).  You can see it here:

taedonggangbeeradvert2.JPG

Click on image to see video

Here is a previous post on the beer.

Here is the location of the Taedongggang Brewery.

The full article can be found here:
North Korea launches beer advert
BBC
4/3/2009

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Idolization Ever Increasing

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Daily NK
Park Hyun Min
12/5/2008

The North Korean authorities have been expanding the construction of facilities that laud and idolize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il throughout North Korea, in order to unite the people in spite of the severe economic crisis.

Up until the end of the 1990s, North Korea had been focusing on creating “revolutionary memorial halls” or ‘historic sites,’ or erecting statues in order to idolize the Kim family.

The main structure of idolatry, above all, is the Kim Il Sung statue. Among all the statues, the one in front of the Museum of Korean Revolution on the top of Mansudae hill in Pyongyang, erected in April 1972 to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 60th birthday, is best-known. It is 23 meters (75.5 feet) high, including a 3 meter pedestal. The statue was once covered with gold, but it was removed.

Similar, less grandiose statues are located in all 70 major cities of North Korea. In total, there are 140,000 structures designed to idolize the Kim regime.

Especially after the death of Kim Il Sung, and the succession of Kim Jong Il three years later, in 1997, many mosaic murals were created throughout North Korea with the father and the son as the theme, and many of the revolutionary monuments were erected.

Mosaic murals mainly feature Kim Il Sung, the father with Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il’s mother, Kim Jung Sook, made with glass or tiles of natural rocks baked at 1,200.

According to reports from the North Korean state-run media since 2000, one mural was made in 2000, four in 2002, then the number increased to 19 in 2003, 49 in 2004, and a sharp increase to 70 in 2005. Then in 2006, 55 murals were made while 67 were made last year. 88 murals have been made this year alone.

Furthermore, the size of the mosaic murals is growing. On average, the length and height of a mural is 5–10 meters. However, bigger murals with dimensions of 30 meters by 20 meters have been under construction.

The most well-known murals are located on Tongil (Unification) Street in Raknang district and on Kwangbok Street in Mankyungdae district in Pyongyang. The one on Kwangbok Street was made to celebrate Kim Sung Il’s 95th birthday in April, 2008, and goes by the name of “My great country, my nation, live forever.” The height and length of the murals are respectively 42 meters and 25 meters.

The other mural that was completed on Tongil Street the day before that was 33.7 meters long and 22 meters high.

Chosun Sinbo reported with great fanfare, “These murals are the biggest mosaic murals in the nation.”

Revolutionary monuments or historic memorials at places where Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il are known to have been, are being made constantly.

North Korea put up 31 revolutionary memorial slabs last year in places such as Pyongyang Music School or Pyongyang Shoe Factory, and 37 so far this year, in places like Suncheon First Middle School and Kangkye Pig Factory. Last year, revolutionary monuments were erected in five places, including the public building of the People’s Safety Agency in North Hamkyung Province and so far four monuments have been erected in places like Pyongyang 3.26 cable factory.

Jane Portal, the author of “Art under Control in North Korea” visited North Korea twice and assessed this idolatry as the world’s most intense, saying that Stalin and Mao Zedong’s idolatry cannot be compared with Kim Il Sung’s hunger for praise.

Additionally, North Korea is focusing on boosting people’s loyalty and revolutionary consciousness through collective visits to these historic sites, and by excavating or renovating them.

Chosun (North Korea) Central Broadcasting (the state-controlled radio station) last month hinted at the strengthened idolization process, saying that “Plans to revive historic sites in North Hamkyung province and the efforts of party members and laborers working on these projects are processing well.”

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Pyongyang changes official narrative on South

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In a recent Korea Times article, Andrei Lankov (citing Brian Myers) highlights how the DPRK has changed the narrative of its raison d’être in response to the growing realization among its people that South Korea is not the poor, exploited US colony the propaganda portrays it to be. 

Quoting from the article:

Until some time a decade ago, the North Korean populace was expected and required to believe in a very simple world picture.

The North, led by the glorious dynasty of omniscient and benevolent rulers, was the best society on the face of the Earth, much envied and glorified by the less fortunate peoples of other countries.

The rest of the world was inferior, though people in the socialist countries admittedly fared better than the helpless inhabitants of the capitalist hell.

But worst of all was South Korea, the colony of the U.S. imperialists who exploited it with unparalleled brutality.

However, around 2000 the North Korean watchers (well, actually a handful of them with the time and ability to read the official press systematically) began to notice a new image of the South emerge.

Brian Myers, the ever observant reader of North Korean press and fiction first noticed the signs of this quiet transformation when it was only beginning.

Soon it became clear that he was right. A new propaganda line was being born. Interestingly, this time the new line was introduced not through newspapers, but in a more subtle way, through works of fiction, which also have to be approved by the supreme ideological authorities.

The new South Korea which emerged in these writings wasn’t so poor. Actually, it was not poor at all. The characters in recent North Korean novels, which deal with the imaginary life of the South, enjoy a lifestyle far superior to that of the average North Korean. They drive cars, dine out easily and live in expensive houses.

As Myers pointed out, the North Korean authors have poor ideas of how expensive Seoul real estate has become, so they sometimes overestimate South Korean’s income levels. In one novel, a young South Korean journalist buys a house in a very expensive neighborhood after merely a few years of work.

Does this mean that the new image of the South is positive? Of course not! South Korean society might be rich, the propaganda operators say, but it is still inferior to the North.

The South Koreans had to pay a terrible price for their success: they were deprived of their precious national identity.

The cultural uniqueness and racial purity of the great Korean nation has become endangered. Mixed marriages are mentioned frequently and in a way that makes readers believe they are between the same lusty Americans and young Korean women.

However, the propaganda insists, the South Koreans themselves are not happy about this situation. They dream about liberation and purification, and their hopes are pinned on Pyongyang and, above all, the Dear Leader himself. In recent years, North Korean propaganda has insisted that Kim Jong -il is worshipped in the South. Similar statements were made earlier as well.

According to this new logic, the North is a torchbearer, a proud protector of nationhood and racial purity. South Korean prosperity is tainted and hence should not be envied.

The North must fight for the ultimate salvation of the South, and such salvation can be achieved only through unification under the North Korean auspices, so all South Koreans will be able to enjoy the loving care of the Dear Leader. Only American troops and a handful of national traitors prevent this dream from coming true.

Lankov (and Myers) speculate that the North Korean government changed the narrative in response to unauthorized information permeating the country.  In a related note, the overt propaganda in many North Korean films has also been reduced in recent decades.

Most importantly, Lankov reminds us that nationalism is not a viable long-term political strategy—even in North Korea.  North Korean Juche was supposed to liberate the Korean people and deliver on material progress, but it has not succeeded.  From top to bottom, many North Koreans already know this.

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Little sunshine on this cloudy day

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Last week, North Korean Economy Watch reported Pyongyang’s irrational economic policy threats which could end the flow of millions of South Korean dollars into North Korean coffers.  I use the word “irrational” because government policies are typically designed to increase revenues to the treasury (or to coalition / constituent members), not scare them away.  Today, however, North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to closing the border with South Korea on December 1, though with some qualifications:

1. The North Koreans will end “the train to nowhere(c) NKeconWatch. This is puzzling because of all the inter-Korean projects, this one is the least “contaminating.” The South Korean government pays the North Korean government to send an empty train across the border each day.  Why jeopardize this easy money?

2. The North Koreans will end the Kaesong day tours.  This will not be good for Hyundai Asan (HA), which is already suffering losses from the idle Kumgangsan resort.  On the plus side for HA, since this project merely bussed people around Kaesong, they will not be leaving much fixed capital on the northern side of the DMZ.  Still, it is strange that the North Koreans would seek to end this program.  Although it is slightly “contaminating” in that hundreds of South Koreans are shuffled through Kaesong every day, the North’s citizens are generally isolated from their wealthy neighbors. Additionally, I estimate that this program has grossed the North Koreans nearly USD$10 million since it was launched nearly a year ago. This is not an insignificant amount of money to the DPRK.

3. The ultimate fate of the Kaesong Industrial Zone remains uncertain.  Although the North Koreans have threatened to “selectively expel” up to half of the South Koreans in the facility, some managers remain optimistic:

“(The North) never said it would halt production or expel staff related to the production process. So even in the worst case of operating with only half of the staff, we think there won’t be any problem in production,” said Lee Eun-suk, an official at Shinwon Corp, which has clothing factories at Kaesong. (Reuters, via the Washington Post)

Unless North Korea’s policy makers are terminating the flow of economic rents into the country to curb the power of some particular official or interest group, there are not many instances where these actions could be considered shrewd.  Adding to the confusion, most analysts presume that the majority of the South’s construction and wage fees are distributed to the small cohort of high-ranking North Korean policy makers who ostensibly signed off on the projects in the first place.  So why would they now decide to end their own direct funding?

These policy decisions, moreover, will likely affect the North Koreans in ways they do not yet seem to anticipate, particularly when it comes to attracting private foreign direct investment (which is desperately needed).  Private investors will not be attracted to a business environment where the rules of the game are prone to changing every few months.  Investment entrepreneurs will not risk the appropriation of large scale fixed assets.  International aid and official foreign direct investment will probably go on as usual as these tasks have more to do with political decisions than economic.

So what is going on?  That is the million dollar question, and speculation in this case is not worth all that much.  The Daily NK, however, claims to have interviewed an “official” from Pyongyang who discussed recent developments in the Kaesong Industrial Zone.  His claim is that the North Koreans made the decision to close the Kaesong Zone for internal political reasons:

Q. What is the reason that North Korea is trying to suspend the business in the Kaesong Industrial Complex?

A. In fact, the story about the suspension of the Kaesong Complex has emanated from Pyongyang since this fall, but it had been decided as an instruction of the Party in Pyongyang late last year.

It is hard to say conclusively what is happening in Kaesong, because there are so many complicated things at work. People from the Party in Pyongyang say that the Kaesong Complex and tourism should fall into disuse and the Mt. Geumgang tourism site should be left alone. Whether or not the Kaesong Complex is thrown away is only up to our economy condition and also the General (Kim Jong Il)’s decision.

Q. Do you mean that instructions on the Kaesong Complex have already been decided internally by the Party?

A.Yes, you can say that. This was because at the beginning, they started it on in the precondition of switching workers once a year, but now they know that switching workers every year is impossible.

Additionally, rumors on South Chosun have been constantly circulating among workers and their families, so illusion of the South have now become uncontrollable among the people. The authorities cannot overlook this situation.

From the Party’s view, each worker in Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong is like a poster advertising capitalism. Due to them, our socialist system could be cracked.

As I know, at least 20 affiliates with Kaesong Complex came into questioning for advertising South Chosun and capitalism.

There was a thorough reshuffling in the Party last year. There is nobody who talks about Kaesong or Mt. Geumgang.

Q. Can North Korea ignore the abundant dollars from Kaesong in practice?

A. Frankly speaking, we have relied on it due to money. Even right now, if South Korea treats things like the Mt. Geumgang shooting accident flexibly and starts the tours again, everything is okay. The money we want does not need to come only from South Korea. There are Yuan, Rubles and dollars as well. They are all the same.

Although our economy is so terrible, we will not establish the national vision only targeted on making money. You should bear this point in mind.

Thoughts and opinions apprecaited. 

Read more here:
There Is an Internal Reason for the Bluff on Kaesong
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho
11/16/2008

Kaesong Staff to Be Expelled
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol
11/24/2008

Kaesong Tour and Trains are Suspended
Daily NK
Jeong Jae Sung
11/24/2008

North Korea to Halt Cross-Border Rail Service, Tours
Bloomberg
Heejin Koo
11/24/2008

North Korea prepares to shut border with South
Reuters (via Washington Post)
Jonathan Thatcher
11/24/2008

N. Korea Stiffens Diplomatic Stance
New York Times
Choe Sang-hun
11/24/2008

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The DPRK’s “tallest flagpole in the world”

Monday, August 18th, 2008

dprk-flagpole.jpgVisitors to either side of Korea’s DMZ will be familiar with the DPRK’s 160 meter (525 ft) flagpole in Kijong-dong. Wikipedia, citing a CNN report, claims the flag pole is the tallest in the world.  I was pretty sure of this fact as well, but according to Guinness, I was wrong.

The top 4 “unsupported” flag poles are: 1. Turkmenistan: 436 feet 2. Aqaba, Jordan: 431 feet 3. Amman, Jordan: 416 feet (126 meters) 4. United Arab Emirates: 404 feet (123.1 meters). The DPRK’s omission from this list is due to the fact that its flag pole technically sits on top of a tower, making it a “supported” structure—the equivalent of building a small flagpole on a tall building.

The DPRK might scoff at this subtlety, but even if one was to give them the benefit of the doubt, the victory would be short-lived.  According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, David Chambers of Trident Support Corporation is erecting a 532 foot flag pole, a full 7 feet taller than the DPRK’s, in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

(Hat tip to Daniel Rothschild)

To learn more, read the very interesting and humorous article below:
Flagpole Builder Hits New Heights In Central Asia
Wall Street Journal, Page A1
Chip Cummins
8/16/2008

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Download glitch fixed: North Korea Google Earth (version 11)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
Download it here

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the eleventh version.

Additions include: Mt. Paegun’s Ryonghung Temple and resort homes, Pyongyang’s Chongryu Restaurant, Swiss Development Agency (former UNDP office), Iranian Embassy, White Tiger Art Studio, KITC Store, Kumgangsan Store, Pyongyang Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kilju’s Pulp Factory (Paper), Kim Chaek Steel Mill, Chongjin Munitions Factory, Poogin Coal Mine, Ryongwun-ri cooperative farm, Thonggun Pavilion (Uiju), Chinju Temple (Yongbyon), Kim il Sung Revolutionary Museum (Pyongsong), Hamhung Zoo, Rajin electrified perimeter fence, Pyongsong market (North Korea’s largest), Sakju Recreation Center, Hoeryong Maternity Hospital, Sariwon Suwon reservoir (alleged site of US massacre), Sinpyong Resting Place, 700 Ridges Pavilion, Academy of Science, Hamhung Museum of the Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung, South Hamgyong House of Culture, Hamhung Royal Villa, Pork Chop Hill, and Pyongyang’s Olympic torch route. Additional thanks go to Martyn Williams for expanding the electricity grid, particularly in Samjiyon, and various others who have contributed time improving this project since its launch.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.  Additionally, this file is getting large and may take some time to load.

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