Interesting weekend fare: Cars, cola, Disney, history, and lift troubles


Uriminzokkiri posted this short video of rush-hour traffic in Pyongyang (YouTube):

I will leave it up to the reader to determine if the video was staged. What is more interesting to me is to see the variety of vehicles used in the shots.  I saw at least one American Dodge Van in the footage (similar to the one I saw parked next to the Pueblo in 2005).  If you know a lot about cars, feel free to try identifying other vehicles in the footage.

And continuing on the automotive front–a tourist to the DPRK took this picture in September 2010:

The picture above is of an American-made, petrol-guzzling “Hummer H2” (MSRP in 2008 – USD$53,286; 10 mpg-US; 24 L/100 km; 12 mpg-imp). The license plate on the vehicle is 평양 22-2722.

In September 2011, Eric Lafforgue took the picture below of what appears to be a second Hummer on the streets of the DPRK.

The license plate on this vehicle is “23-199”. I cannot read the city name on the plate.  According to the photographer:

During my stay in North Korea, i [sp] saw 2 Hummer cars. This is the fist time i [sp] hear north korean people making cristisms about something in their country! They all told me it was a shame to see such a car in North Korea, as it needs lot of fuel. Some people told me that the car number tells that it belongs to a local media (press or tv).


Mr. Lafforgue has also brought up another interesting topic through his pictures: North Korea’s cola wars!


On the left is a Picture of Cocoa “crabonated drink” [sp] taken by Eric Lafforgue in 2008.  On the right is a picture of  “코코아 탄산단물” (Translation: “Cocoa Carbonated Drink”) taken by Eric Lafforgue in September 2011.

I might have been inclined to believe they were the same product with different labels (and maybe they are?), however, they appear to be manufactured by different companies.  The cola on the left is manufactured by a company called “룡진” (Ryongjin), a company about which I cannot find any additional information, and the beverage on the right is manufactured by “모란봉” (Moranbong).  I presume that “Moranbong” is actually the Moranbong Carbonated Fruit Juice J.V. Company. According to Naenara:

Moranbong Carbonated Fruit Juice J.V. Company
Add: Taedonggang District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
Fax: 850-2-381-4410

The company formed in 2004 produces a wide assortment of carbonated fruit juice and health drink.

It has an affiliated factory equipped with hi-tech facilities that conform to hygienic requirements of GMP, ranging from production of bottles and drinks to packing.

Its products include apple, grape, peach, orange, cocoa, lemon and strawberry carbonated juices.

A multifunctional super-antioxidant health drink “Pirobong” is a drawing card in the world market.

The company will steadily increase investment in the development of new brand of drinks and further promote exchange and collaboration with partners across the world.

So why does the DPRK produce competing colas? Wouln’t that be wasteful duplication of processes? No.  Monopolys are generally more wasteful than competitive firms. Though in the past there were few producers of carbonated drinks in the DPRK (Ryongsong Food Factory, Kyongryon Patriotic Soda Factory), the DPRK seems to have moved away from near-monopoly production to a more competitive industrial organization in the production of soda.

Kim Jong-il’s sister, Kim Kyong-hui (KKH), is director of the Light Industry Department in the Worker’s Party and as a result holds all colas in her job portfolio. Without having any special data on the DPRK’s cola market, I would speculate that KKH promotes competition between the different soda producers to increase efficiency and profits for the ultimate goal of improving the positions of her discretionary official and unofficial budgets.

As an aside, earlier this year Forbes ran a story about meetings held between the DPRK’s Taepung International Investment Group and Coca Cola. Taephing is directed by Jang Song-thaek, Kim Kyong-hui’s husband.


In the past I have pointed out the appearance of Disney characters on North Korean apparel (see here for example). Now they are showing up on mobile phones:

History 1

Here is a video of Lim Su-kyung in Pyongyang (1989). Here is a story about her in the Daily NK. I think I just found her Facebook profile!


History 2

Here is a map of Pyongyang produced int he 1800s.  Other maps of the region here. Hat tip to Kwang On Yoo.


Lift troubles

Here is a 30+ minute video shot in Pyongyang–nearly entirley in the dark. Hat tip to Leonid Petrov.

The video caption reads: “We were touring the 3 Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang in 2009, when our elevator lost all power and 11 of us were stuck in blackness, hanging by a North Korean thread.”


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