N. Korea shifts towards capitalism

Washington Post Foreign Service
Anthony Faiola
September 14, 2003

Notes on the DPRK’s new Fiat:

The first commercial billboards (ever) are going up in Pyongyang.  Fiat is in the Hermit Kingdom.  The billboards are part of what is dubbed the first corporate media blitz to hit North Korea.

Pyeonghwa Motor Corps., a South Korean firm with ties to the Unification Church, coaxed the DPRK government into allowing the campaign.  Pyeonghwa began assembling cars in North Korea 18 months ago using imported Fiat parts.

Creating the ad campaign was not easy, said John Kim.  The government rejected many billboard proposals.

The company began publishing asd in government sponsored trade magazines showcasing the “Whistle” (The name of the car in the DPRK.  Named after a famous song).  Also a SUV model was launched.  Commercials have also appeared on TV.

Cars cost $14,000 and it would take a north Korean 15 years of labor to save up enough money.

When Pyeonghwa opened its $20m factory about 40 miles west of Pyongyang last year, the company hoped to sell 1000 cars in 12 months, but it has unloaded only half that number in 18 months.  Most have gone to government officials and diplomats.

There are only two gas stations in Pyongyang, and the company does not offer financing 

Notes on Politics:

Pyongyang’s news agency recently described new markets as desigend to “dramatically improve the country’s standard of living.”

This month, the North Korean’s announced a cabinet reshuffle that raised Pak Pong Ju, a former chemical industries manager, to the loftier position of Premier.  He is seen as being interested in reforms.

Kim Jong Il has been working to give the authority to fire a worker to factory managers, as opposed to Party officials.


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