Forget Cuba, 'Pyonghattan' is Where It's Happening

Monday, May 16, 2016
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chanel and the Kardashians are wasting their time in Cuba.

Clearly, the real "reforms" are taking place in North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un is much more market-oriented than Raul Castro. His economic reforms are leaps-and-bounds beyond anything Raul has done.

'Pyonghattan' is leaving Havana in the dirt.

Sure, all of these modern businesses are owned and operated by regime cronies -- but the Chamber and Co. have no scruples.

So when are the Obama Administration and its allies going to start cutting deals with Kim's cronies to "empower the North Korean people"?

From The Washington Post:

North Korea’s one-percenters savor life in ‘Pyonghattan’

They like fast fashion from Zara and H&M. They work out to be seen as much as to exercise. They drink cappuccinos to show how cosmopolitan they are. Some have had their eyelids done to make them look more Western.

North Korea now has a 1 percent. And you’ll find them in“Pyonghattan,” the parallel ­universe inhabited by the rich kids of the Democratic People’s Republic.

“We’re supposed to dress conservatively in North Korea, so people like going to the gym so they can show off their bodies, show some skin,” said Lee Seo-hyeon, a 24-year-old who was, until 18 months ago, part of Pyongyang’s brat pack.

Women like to wear leggings and tight tops — Elle is the most popular brand among women, while men prefer Adidas and Nike — she said. When young people go to China, they travel armed with shopping lists from their friends for workout gear.

At a leisure complex next to the bowling alley in the middle of Pyongyang, they run on the treadmills, which show Disney cartoons on the monitors, or do yoga.

The complex also has a fancy restaurant that advertises for wedding functions — glitzy ­venues cost as much as $500 an hour — and a coffee shop, where most drinks are priced between $4 and $8, although an iced mocha costs $9.

“It’s a cool spot. When you’re in there it feels like you could be anywhere in the world,” said Andray Abrahamian, who is British and helps run an exchange program that provides financial training to North Koreans. He recently played squash on one of the three courts at the center. “It’s not cheap. It’s a few dollars for a class. It’s definitely for people who have disposable income.”

North Korea as a whole remains economically backward — industry has all but collapsed, and even in Pyongyang, the official salary remains less than $10 a month — but the rise in recent years of a merchant class has created a whole layer of nouveaux riches in the capital city.

“Donju,” or “masters of money,” have emerged with the tentative moves toward becoming a market economy that began about 15 years ago but has picked up momentum under Kim Jong Un, the third-generation leader who took over the reins of North Korea at the end of 2011.

The donju usually hold official government positions — in ministries or the military, running state businesses abroad or trying to attract investment into North Korea. On the side, they trade in everything they can get their hands on, including flat-screen TVs and apartments.

The money that they are making now flows through society, through the markets that are present in every population center to the high-end restaurants of Pyongyang.

“Kim Jong Un is very ­pro-market. His policy has essentially been benign neglect,” said Andrei Lankov, a Russian historian specializing in Korea who once studied in Pyongyang. “A number of North Korean capitalists I’ve talked to say that they’ve never had it so good.”

Kim, 33, has made it a high priority to improve the lives of his fellow millennials in particular. He has ordered the construction of amusement parks and water parks and skate parks, even a dolphinarium and a ski resort. Around the capital, volleyball and tennis courts are full of young people.

Check out these North Korean "cuentapropistas":