Dressed-Up Pyongyang Hid Grim Reality

N. Korean capital masked poverty for NY Philharmonic's visit
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2008 3:05 PM CDT
The audience stands for the National Anthem of the United States at the start of a concert by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – North Korea's capital was prettied up last month to show off the country's nonexistent prosperity to the New York Philharmonic and the accompanying press corps, the LA Times reports. The visitors to Pyongyang ate luxurious meals in newly painted hotels, but after they finished, the lights went out. "As soon as you guys left, it was pitch dark again," said the local director of the UN's World Food Program.

Reporters wishing to see a store where ordinary North Koreans shop were taken to an establishment that sold $140 gloves and $290 champagne—in a country whose average daily wage is estimated at $1. The illusion is in keeping with a city purpose-built, says a Russian scholar of the country, as "an exemplary communist city for pure propaganda reasons."