Archive for the ‘Pyongyang Metro’ Category

The political economy of Pyongyang’s new subway cars

Monday, November 30th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

The upgrades of Pyongyang seem to continue with no signs of slowing down. Kim Jong-un has made Pyongyang’s massive facelift into one of the hallmarks of his tenure. Not just theme parks have been given attention. Since a few years back, people have spoken of a “building boom” in Pyongyang. Many believe there is a political calculation behind it all: happy capital city elites, happy regime.

In the rest of the country, however, not much is happening. If the regime is betting on being able to keep elites happy by building them nicer things, it is certainly placing a lot of eggs in the same geographical basket. Upgrading Pyongyang might make North Korea look wealthier to visitors and the occasional reporter, but that doesn’t mean that the economy is really on a new track.

The latest in a long line of stark reminders of the vast differences between Pyongyang and the rest of the country is the report that the capital city is getting new subway cars. The iconic ones from East Berlin may come to be retired. Earlier this month, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim had taken a test ride on a newly manufactured subway car, from Kaeson station (near Pyongyang’s Arch of Triumph) through four different stops.

Kim, of course, gave a few words of wisdom: he praised the performance of the car, approving both of the speed and the breaks. He went on to say that the new train car felt safe, and fulfilled all the demands of public transportation. With “our Juche capacity (주체적력량) and scientific technology, we can manufacture everything.”

These things may of course hold propaganda value. Pyongyang as the heart of the revolution has been a longstanding theme in the propaganda, and North Korea is hardly the only country in the world where the capital city holds a higher standard than other places. Still, one should not mistake new subway cars or other infrastructure upgrades for signs of profound economic improvement. While new subway cars are manufactured in Pyongyang, aid organizations have continued to warn of a food deficit.


Mangyongdae Metro Station concept

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Back in March I wrote a blog post about how the official Pyongyang Metro maps had been updated to reflect the reality of closed stations and stations that would never come to be. You can read all the specifics here.

Just a couple of months after changing the Pyongyang Metro maps, however, the Mangyongdae Metro Station appears to be back on the table.  It was featured at the 12th “May 21 Architectural Festival” (May 9-11):

It is difficult to say for certain where the station would be placed, but older maps show it near Kim Il-sung’s “native house”.

Given the cost and logistics of such a project, I still remain skeptical it will ever be completed…but the citizens of Pyongyang can dream can’t they?

I uploaded video of the metro stop concept pictures to Youtube. You can see them here. You can see the full KCNA video of the architecture exhibit here.


Pyongyang Metro Maps

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

On the Koryo Tours Facebook Page, a customer posted two pictures he had taken of maps of the Pyongyang Metro.  One of the pictures was taken in May 2007 and the other in August 2011:


Pictured above: (L) May 2007 map (R) August 2011 Map

The 2007 map looks like this photo I took when visiting in 2004.

Here is a map of the Pyongyang Metro on Google Earth which includes the respective areas of difference highlighted in the above images:

Kwangmyong Station (now closed) is connected to Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il are lying in state.

The removal of the four unnamed stations from the 2007 map  (the estimated approximate locations taken from this map) perhaps reflects nothing more than an acknowledgement of reality — that the Pyongyang Metro will not be expanded any further.

Neither the 2007 nor the 2011 map show the Namsan Station (남산역) behind (west of) the Grand People’s Study House:


PRC claims to have helped build Pyongyang Metro

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo:

China said that North Korea has been at the forefront of its international foreign aid efforts which it has been carrying out for the past 60 years.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, China’s Vice Commerce Minister Fu Ziying spoke in detail for the first time about the aid his country has given to the North.

He said that China helped to build Pyongyang’s public infrastructure such as its subway system, but he emphasized that no cash aid has been given.

Beijing issued a white paper last week that outlines its foreign aid policy to Africa and Asia.

Read the full story here:
China Releases Details on Aid to N.Korea
Choson Ilbo


Friday Grab Bag

Friday, March 11th, 2011

North Korean market footage
Kim Song Min  (김성민), founder of Free North Korea Radio, has posted some video footage of a North Korean market.

You might be able to see it here, but I make no promises. It definitely won’t work from China.

Nothing remarkable, but interesting.  Of course the market is dominated by female vendors.  Bread and dried squid were for sale.  Also, shoe shines seemed to be popular.

I wish I knew what people were saying in the background.

North Korean Legos
The Russian  blogger that brought us the DPRK’s Linux OS, the DPRK’s PDA device, and the DPRK’s film camera, now brings us the DPRK version of Legos:

Interestingly, the toys come with instructions in both English and Korean.  Maybe the producers are hoping for an opportunity to export in the future?  Finally some actual socialist building blocks behind which the children of the world can unite!  You can read more in Russian here.  You can read more in English here (via Google Translate)

Pyongyang Metro Photos
Most visitors to the DPRK visit the Puhung and Yongwang Metro Stations.  Satellite images here and here. Google has also cataloged lots of pictures pictures of these stations: Puhung, Yongwang.

The Ponghwa Metro Station is located at  39.012100°, 125.744452°–next to the Party Founding Museum.  This station is not visited by foreigners as often, but here are some photos: One, two, three, four.

The Kaeson Metro Station is next door to the Arch of Triumh (39.043059°, 125.754027°).  A friend sent some North Korean postcards that seem to come from this station, though the pictures look like they were taken in the 1970s: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven.

Pyongyang goes pop: sex scandal on the socialist music scene
According to a story in The Guardian:

There was mild controversy last year when a secret video featuring Wangjaesan’s female dance troupe entered the public domain. The video was being privately circulated among the elite, but reached the North Korean public before making it over the border to China – and therefore the world. Normally seen in traditional, body-cloaking hangbok dresses as they perform polite folk numbers, this little clip revealed unprecedented levels of sexiness in Pyongyang, as the girls popped up in sparkly hot pants and did the splits. Western displays of decadence like this are illegal but, given Kim Jong-il’s alleged love of pornography, perhaps he turned a blind eye to this one.

The video of the dancers can be found here (though it is a VERY slow download) or you can watch it on YouTube here and here.  I could not find a better version this time around.  Here is the original story in Yonhap (2009-11) when the story broke (with picture).

UPDATED: This video is allegedly of the same group.

The 4 of 31 fishermen
I have not spent much time blogging about the 4 of 31 North Korean fishermen who drifted to the South and do not wish to return to the DPRK.  I did track down the six videos the North Koreans filmed with the family members.  They were posted to YouTube by Uriminzokkiri.  See them here: One, two, three, four, five, six. If anyone can translate these, or give us a rough idea, I would apprecaite it.

KFA sets up branch in Israel!
Alejandro Cao de Benos seeks to build sympathy for the DPRK among the Israelis.


DPRK seeks to repay debt in ginseng

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

UPDATE: This story was picked up by the Financial Times (8/11/2010):

North Korea has offered the Czech Republic 20 tonnes of ginseng in lieu of payment for some of its debts.

However, Prague has turned down the deal, instead suggesting that Pyongyang pays in the valuable mineral zinc, which can be resold on international markets.

North Korea owes the Czech Republic $10m from the days when the Czech Republic was under communist rule and the two countries traded with each other regularly. Communist Czechoslovakia was a leading supplier of trucks, trams and machinery to North Korea, creating a large pile of debt.

Pyongyang reportedly offered $500,000 worth of ginseng, a root which is reputed to boost memory, stamina and libido, as a down payment.

However, consumption of ginseng in the European country is low, with just 1.4 tonnes used each year.

North Korea’s economy is struggling as international sanctions tighten and it hopes to be able to barter its way out of handing over valuable cash.

Non-cash transactions between socialist countries is common, with Cuba sending Venezuela doctors in exchange for discounted oil.

A Czech government spokesman has said that the countries were in negotiation over how the debt would be paid.

“We have been trying to convince them to send, for instance, a shipment of zinc,” the deputy finance minister told the MF Dnes newspaper.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Korea Times:

North Korea has offered to pay its debt to the Czech government with ginseng, according to a local Czech daily newspaper.

MF DNES, a daily newspaper based in Prague, reported last Saturday that North Korea has recently suggested to the Czech Finance Ministry that it would pay 5 percent of its debt — approximately $500,000 — with ginseng.

“We are trying to persuade them (North Korea) to give us, for example a bulk of Zinc instead, so that we could sell it to someone else,” Tomas Zidek, deputy finance minister, told the newspaper in Czech.

North Korea is believed to have a significant amount of zinc in deposits.

The paper went on to say the consumption of ginseng in the Czech Republic is very small, and it only imported 1.4 tons last year. The amount of ginseng worth $500,000 will be roughly 400 tons, securing the supply for more than 200 years.

But, to Czech’s disappointment, North Korea seemed to have made up its mind, as it sent a delegation with samples of ginseng.

North Korea is known to be Czech’s 10th biggest debtor, which goes back to the communist governments. The North bought many trams and vehicles from former Czechoslovakia.

Read the full story here:
North Korea wants to pay back debt in ginseng
Korea Times
Kim Se-jeong


North Korea on Google Earth v.18

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered version 18 is available.  This Google Earth overlay maps 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.

This project has now been downloaded over 140,000 times since launching in April 2007 and received much media attention last month following a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the work.

Note: Kimchaek City is now in high resolution for the first time.  Information on this city is pretty scarce.  Contributions welcome.

Additions to this version include: New image overlays in Nampo (infrastructure update), Haeju (infrastructure update, apricot trees), Kanggye (infrastructure update, wood processing factory), Kimchaek (infrastructure update). Also, river dredges (h/t Christopher Del Riesgo), the Handure Plain, Musudan update, Nuclear Test Site revamp (h/t Ogle Earth), The International School of Berne (Kim Jong un school), Ongjin Shallow Sea Farms, Monument to  “Horizon of the Handure Plain”, Unhung Youth Power Station, Hwangnyong Fortress Wall, Kim Ung so House, Tomb of Kim Ung so, Chungnyol Shrine, Onchon Public Library, Onchon Public bathhouse, Anbyon Youth Power Stations.


North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here


The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).

North Korea Releases New Paintings Of Healthy Kim Jong Il

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

The Onion made me laugh with this one…


 Quoting from the article: 

“As anyone can see from these new murals, our Dear Leader is the very picture of health,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lee Myong Choi said of the 30-foot-high paintings, the artful brushstrokes of which showed the North Korean ruler confidently reading the current day’s newspaper. “Note his radiant, youthful complexion, the sheen of his jet-black hair, the glorious starburst which appears to radiate from the very center of his being. Our supreme commander will undoubtedly be with us for many centuries to come.” Lee later added that Kim was in such robust health that he was able to complete all of the new self-portraits in under an hour.

The “picture” above was taken at the Yonggwang Metro Stop near Pyongyang’s Central Train Station.  Original paintings at this location can be seen here and here. (h/t Omar)


North Korea on Google Earth

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

North Korea Uncovered: Version 12
Download it here

mayday.JPGAbout this Project: This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, energy infrastructure, political facilities, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, national parks, shipping, mining, and railway infrastructure. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the 12th version.

Additions include: Tongch’ang-dong launch facility overlay (thanks to Mr. Bermudez), Yongbyon overlay with destroyed cooling tower (thanks to Jung Min Noh), “The Barn” (where the Pueblo crew were kept), Kim Chaek Taehung Fishing Enterprise, Hamhung University of education, Haeju Zoo, Pyongyang: Kim il Sung Institute of Politics, Polish Embassy, Munsu Diplomatic Store, Munsu Gas Station, Munsu Friendship Restaurant, Mongolian Embassy, Nigerian Embassy, UN World Food Program Building, CONCERN House, Czech Republic Embassy, Rungnang Cinema, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Pyongyang Number 3 Hospital, Electric Machines Facotry, Bonghuajinlyoso, Second National Academy of Sciences, Central Committee Building, Party Administration Building, Central Statistics Bureau, Willow Capital Food House, Thongounjong Pleasure Ground, Onpho spa, Phipa Resort Hotel, Sunoni Chemical Complex (east coast refinery), Ponghwa Chemical complex (west coast refinery), Songbon Port Revolutionary Monument, Hoeryong People’s Library, Pyongyang Monument to the anti Japanese martyrs, tideland reclamation project on Taegye Island. Additionally the electricity grid was expanded and the thermal power plants have been better organized. Additional thanks to Ryan for his pointers.

I hope this map will increase interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to receiving your contributions to this project.

Version 12 available: Download it here