10 things to know before visiting Pyongyang

But what else do you know about North Korea?

1. North Koreans brew great beer

North Koreans love a pint and have a thriving beer brewing culture.

Taedonggang Beer is one of the best-known local beers. In 2000 the state-run brewery bought up an entire British brewery, shipped it to North Korea and two years later opened for business just outside Pyongyang.
North Korea: The unseen view

Taedonggang Beer is a full-bodied lager and is named after the capital's Taedong River.



2. High heels are in

Women love their high heels and many wear four-inch heels day and night, to work, to do the shopping, in the military -- we even spotted a woman working on a construction site in a pair.

The wedge heel made its appearance in the isolated state four or five years ago -- a trend that made its way across the border from China. Today there are still plenty of wedge heels about, but it's the thin heel that is Pyongyang's must-have fashion accessory today.
Local cell phones allow all the functions of a regular mobile, with the exception of access to the Internet.
Local cell phones allow all the functions of a regular mobile, with the exception of access to the Internet.

3. You can bring your mobile

Visitors no longer need to leave their mobiles behind. As of January, you can bring your phone into the country and buy a local SIM card from a booth at the airport.

The SIM card allows you to make and receive international calls and call other foreigners in Pyongyang who have mobiles -- you can't call locals as they are on a different network.

A local SIM card for two weeks goes for €50 ($66), but be warned -- calls are expensive ($6.60 a minute to call the United States).

North Korea's Koryolink has more than 2 million subscribers. The local cell phones allow all the functions of a regular mobile -- make calls, listen to music, take photos -- with the exception of access to the Internet.

Given the regular power outages, the "light" function on mobiles gets plenty of use.

4. People love to sing

Most North Koreans can carry a tune and if you ask someone -- politely -- to sing a song they will probably oblige -- on the spot, with no accompaniment.

Pop music is big, especially songs with lyrics. The best-known Western group is still the Beatles -- "Hey Jude" and "Yellow Submarine" are high on the list -- and Celine Dion and the Carpenters also go down well.

No surprise then that most bars have karaoke.

The all-girl band Moranbong is the most popular local group. The girls -- who were apparently hand-picked by North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un -- wear skimpy dresses and belt out pop tunes, the North's answer to K-pop.

5. Car park volleyball

Volleyball is one of the most popular sports and North Koreans often strike up a game in their lunch hour.

The games can be fast and fun, men and women often playing together. The lack of a net is no obstacle and many games start up casually in a car park or any open space.

Korean wrestling is also very popular.

Behind the veil: Rare look at life in North Korea
Pyongyang's metro network is reportedly the world's deepest.
Pyongyang's metro network is reportedly the world's deepest.

6. The Metro is seriously deep

The Pyongyang Metro is 100 meters underground and it takes a couple of minutes to ride the escalator down to the station. The journey is long enough that some commuters sit on the steps -- despite the signs asking passengers not to.

There are no advertisements on the walls to distract you on the ride down to the station -- just bare white walls. (There are only five advertising billboards in Pyongyang, all owned by the same car dealership).

The underground network has two lines and 17 stations. Inspired by the grand Moscow Metro, many of the stations have ornate chandeliers and paintings and murals on the walls.


Related Tags: Pyongyang, North Koreans, Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine, Celine Dion, Korean wrestling, Taedonggang Beer

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