NOKO Jeans update

The guys at NOKO Jeans did an interview discussing the process of launching a business venture in the DPRK.  Read the interview here.

The group also posted some very nice pictures of their train ride to Pyongayng here.  The whole set is worth checking out, but here is one that I liked:


And who says entrepreneurship is dead in Europe?  One of the guys on the team put his images into a photo album which he is selling on line here.


4 Responses to “NOKO Jeans update”

  1. Matt says:

    Some brilliant photos – I’m suprised they were able to take some of those shots. Particularly those showing battered, unkept platforms and buildings. Also nice to see some ‘normal’ shots like the guy reading the book with his feet up on the chair. Too often the impression is of a highly rigid society straight out of 1984 where the people operate like robots. Good to see some realism and normality

  2. mvb says:

    Matt, of course they were able to get shots of “normal” people. That’s what DPRK wants. Those kinds of photos are probably encouraged and maybe even set up.

    I read Noko’s justification for using North Korean labor (they think any contacts or links between DPRK and the outside world is good). I think it’s awful. They give no guarantee that workers are treated fairly and simply say “trust us. It’s not a sweatshop.” Considering what we know about the country, I think it’s fair to assume before evidence is given that these workers are suffering from the “same old, same old” from their government.

  3. NKeconWatch says:

    mvb: In the discussions I have had with defectors and those who do business in the DPRK I have come under the impression that factories that earn hard currency do treat their workers better. The workers might not see a higher official wage, but they get better food at work, electricity, heating, etc—things other North Korean workers could only dream of. North Koreans pay bribes to get jobs in factories run by foreigners and/or which earn hard currency. This is also true of the Kaesong Industrial Zone. These jobs are the envy of workers across the country.

  4. mvb says:

    I am sure you’re right about businesses that use hard currency, Curtis. KIZ certainly seems like a better place. But from what I’ve read (not much), Noko Jeans doesn’t exactly have a factory. The three owners apparently made one tour of a factory where the jeans were contracted to be made and these three owners thought it was OK. That seems kind of like a Potemkin Village run to me. They only made 1,000 pairs of jeans I think, so my guess is that the jobs have gone, so maybe I’m making a moot point.

    Truthfully, I’m kind of resentful of this company. To me, it seems like a couple of young kids thought “hey, it’d be cool if we had some stuff made in this hellhole” or “heck, that would be a great conversation piece.” It’s kind of like slum voyeurism to me. It’s hard for me to just take a company’s word that they’re treating workers fairly. –Matt