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North Korea Today (3)
in the Lens of Chinese Journalists:
North Korean People

6 June 2010

A couple seemingly just wed


A North Korean shop assistant at a humble grocery store within a residential area


A North Korean customer service representative at a grand hotel


A North Korean police woman directs the traffic.

Police officer and shop assistant are reportedly two of the most respected professions for women in North Korea.


North Koreans just finished their work and head for home. A lady holds a teddy bear puppy-like toy in her arm - it might be her newly purchased present for her young kid.


Two female office workers cross the road (not on pedestrian crossing though), one in conventional Western-style suit and the other in a fashionable neo-traditional Korean dress.


A group of school kids congregate in a playground

The following is the English translation of an interview with Chen Mo (陈默), a Chinese college student at Beijing Second Foreign Language University with major in Korean language who participated in a student exchange program and studied in North Korea for a school year. The interview was conducted by The China Youth Daily :

China Youth: Tell us something about your life in North Korea, please.

Chen Mo: It was not bad, not at all. Previously I heard news from the Western media saying the North Korea is in constant famine, so many of my friends were worried that I might experience starvation. But the reality is quite different. The food in college is sufficient and well prepared, and for free. From time to time we exchange students would hold parties at nearby restaurants.

During my time studying there, I lived in a foreign student accommodation outside the college; about one or two people shared a room and seven or eight shared a flat. Each flat had a local student to help us with language practice, and the Korean student in our flat is Mr Bai.

China Youth: Then tell us something about Mr Bai.

Chen Mo: Bai was 31-year old, came from a city in the north and studied philosophy in the college. Since all North Korean males need to spend 10 years in military service, when they go to college they are often in their late twenties. He’s not yet married; and when once probed by me about his ideal bride, he replied: A woman who treats her parents well and treats my parents well, and is loyal to our country.

I remembered when he first met me, he remarked, “You look like a shop assistant.” His words made me rather baffled at the time. Later I learned that in North Korea shop assistant is a highly regarded occupation for women, eighty percent of them received tertiary education and all of them are rather pretty. And being a shop assistant is many college girls aspiration.

But the most respected job for women is traffic police. The traffic police offers in Pyongyang are all females, who are tall and beautiful and gracious, more like airline hostesses than cops.

China Youth: Then what is Mr Bai’s aspiration for his job?

Chen Mo: He once said he would like to work at a library or a memorial hall. I think these might be the most respected jobs for North Korea males.

North Korea doesn't have many libraries and the libraries don’t have many books, so the students need to copy the lectures by hand. I noticed that almost everyone on the road or in the underground train would hold a pocket memo pads reading the notes whenever they got the time.

China Youth: How about your Korean teachers?

Chen Mo: Oh, I would have to say they are the true professional educators. I remember one professor who taught us Korean language history. He was so devoted and patient, and every time after his lecture the blackboard would be fully covered by his notes. You may not know, the university professors in North Korea receive as much pay as the gate keepers guarding the colleges, but which doesn’t seem to affect the quality of and their passion for the teaching and research work. We Chinese students often said to each other, “If only these excellent teachers can keep teaching us in China!”

China Youth: How the young people in North Korea view China?

Chen Mo: Very friendly, very. You can tell from their enthusiasm in learning Chinese language. I once sat in audience viewing a Chinese language contest, and a fellow Chinese student next to me could not help but kept rumbling: "How on earth they speak Madeline better than me!” He was not exaggerating. Their pronunciation is so perfect just like from Chinese radio broadcasters.

But on the whole, the young North Koreans don’t know Chinese well. However, they all think China is their best friend and will always be.

China Youth: Due to the nature of your chosen profession, you will work with North Koreans quite often in future. How will you deal with them?

Chen Mo: The Chinese tradition speaks of dealing with somebody as he deals with you. Since North Korean people treat us with respect and kindness, naturally, we should repay them with the same degree of respect and appreciation. Besides, they are a people with dignity who are straightforward, honest, love their own country and refuse to bow to external pressure, I feel privileged to have an opportunity to work with them.


A group of North Korea high school girls with their teacher

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Prev: North Korea Today (2) - Rural
Next: Raid on White Tiger Regiment


A question for President Obama: What happened to the American ship that was sunken on the same day along side with the South Korean ship Cheonan and over one hundred American marines perished? If you can't recall the incident, here is the map originally provided by a South Korean investigator:

The location of the American sunken ship which is only 1.8 km from the front portion of the South Korean boat and 6km from its rear part

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