Little sign of economic stress in North Korea's well-swept capital

Sun Jul 28, 2013 3:19pm EDT
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By Se Young Lee

PYONGYANG (Reuters) - North Korea's economy is believed to be virtually lifeless after decades of mismanagement, isolation and sanctions aimed at foiling its nuclear ambitions but its showcase capital, Pyongyang, shows no hint of calamity.

Secretive North Korea allowed in a large group of foreign journalists last week to cover Saturday's lavish celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, which North Korea says it won.

No expense seems to have been spared for monuments to the conflict upon which the state was founded.

A cemetery for war dead unveiled at a ceremony on Thursday, that leader Kim Jong-un presided over, looked immaculate, with grave stones bearing portraits of the dead and images of the medals they won.

A new war museum, opened to the public with much fanfare on Saturday, boasts top-of-the line television displays and elaborate recreations of battle sites.

A big statue of North Korea's founding father, Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current leader, looms over visitors to the museum dedicated to the war South Koreans blame the elder Kim for starting.

North Korean visitors took pictures with Japanese digital cameras.

Government minders closely chaperoned the foreign journalists throughout their stay and the visitors largely had to rely on glimpses of Pyongyang from the press bus to get an impression of life.   Continued...

North Korean singers perform during an artistic performance to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-1953 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Stadium, in Pyongyang July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Lee