As a veteran of travel to North Korea, it is fair to say that I have seen a hell of a lot of changes in the country. OK, so China might be modernizing at breakneck speed and changes in the DPRK might be a little more subtle, but the country has seen a lot of developments in the last 10 years at least that I have been visiting.
7) Kim Jong Il statues
Before the death of General Kim Jong Il, places like the Mansundae Grand Monument featured just President Kim Il Sung. Following his death, not only was Kim Jong Il added, but the bronze statue of President Kim Il Sung was also changed to an “older version”. This is now a theme even in the countryside of North Korea.
6) Pyongyang has taxis
You can read more about transportation in North Korea here, but when I first started to visit Pyongyang there were almost no taxis, now we see the green Beijing style cabs almost everywhere.
5) They have traffic jams
Back in the day Pyongyang and North Korea were famous for a dearth of cars, but not only are there much more cars, but also the negative element that they also have traffic jams now, although Pyongyang is not exactly Manila yet!
4) Lights everywhere
From the Scientist Street and beyond the famously sparsely lit capital of Pyongyang, whilst not exactly Tokyo or Shanghai looks pretty at night. And it is not just Pyongyang that has benefited, even cities like Chongjin and the border town of Sinuiju are much more lit than they used to be.
3) The Ryugyong Hotel
The Ryugyong Hotel was not only famously unfinished but also without windows and a rusty crane on top. OK, so it still isn’t open, but it has windows, looks nice, and thankfully the crane has now gone!
Cellphones were not only banned for Koreans in the past, but foreigners had to have them packaged up to be allowed in the country. Koryolink changed all that and you will regularly see pretty North Korean girls taking selfies and chatting away on their phones.
1) The economy is better
By far the biggest change in North Korea over the last ten years has been in its economy, the lights are on, restaurants are open, there are more cars, even dare I say more private enterprise. Life in 2019, from the outside at least looks much better than 2009 North Korea. One can only guess how much North Korea might change in the next 10 years!