Recent covert video taken in North Korea’s third-largest city of Chongjin reveals that improved modes of transport are becoming increasingly common even outside the capital city of Pyongyang. Footage received by Daily NK show imported Harbin city taxis, electric bicycles, newer models of Chinese lorries, and even a young member of the Ministry of People’s Security (police) using his smartphone while walking with his electric bike. Previous reports have detailed the use of these modes of transport in the capital and occasionally along the Chinese border, but the footage suggests they are becoming increasingly common in other provinces.
At least two different electric bicycles were identified, in use by law enforcement officers and civilians alike.
In the above picture, the woman is riding a Phoenix brand model made in China, which can be purchased for around 2400-2700 RMB on Chinese websites (400-450,000 KRW or almost 3 million KPW at current rates). The particular model in the picture appears to include a 48v battery and 20 inch wheels. The image below shows a policeman riding a similar model.
A member of the paramilitary forces in the photo below is seen walking his electric bicycle while using a mobile phone. It is unclear whether the phone is one of the North’s domestic Android models. The black and silver control panel at the center of the handlebars suggests the bike is a Phoenix electric model.
Electric bicycles are relatively rare compared to their more ubiquitous classic counterparts. Motorized scooters are even rarer, and only one was spotted in the latest crop of videos, shown in the picture above.
New two-tone blue and orange taxis made by the Chinese auto manufacturer Changan can also be seen.
The model appears to be the Changan Eado, which was introduced in 2012. It seems that the cars were previously used in Harbin, China, as the image below shows the same color scheme commonly seen in the streets of Harbin. North Korea has historically bought used cars, trains, and buses from China and other countries.
*Photo by Matt Gasnier of BestSellingCarsBlog http://bestsellingcarsblog.com
As market activity continues to grow, newer Chinese lorries are also becoming a common sight on the streets of Chongjin. A few specific models that were identified include the Jinbei Autos Q-series (shown with large JBC letters on the front), the Foton Ollin, and the Foton DFAC. Other models were evident, but difficult to identify.
Blue Foton Ollin with robot decal blacked out (passenger side)
Blue Foton Ollin with robot decal blacked out (driver’s side)
White Foton Ollin with door decal
Jinbei Autos Q-series (JBC)
Jinbei Autos Q-series (JBC)
White Foton DFAC (left) and white extended cab 4-door Foton Ollin (right)
Chinese characters appear on the roof-mounted spoilers in the three images above
Unidentified lorry model
Another unidentified model
All of the models spotted throughout the footage appear quite new, with clean paint and no visible rust. The fact that they are in good condition indicates that traders are sourcing newer and reliable models rather than the older and more run-down vehicles purchased from China in the past. Private and pseudo-state enterprises are now largely funded through their own profitable operations.
Easier access to these modes of transport makes it easier for residents to move produce to and from their local markets, while the growing interpersonal networks arising from these business interactions continue to undermine state surveillance, just as private enterprise is chipping away at state ideology. With evidence of such changes in Chongjin, although still the country’s third-largest city, it is safe to say that these developments are spreading.