North Korea's New Image Shaped by Platform Shoes, Earrings and Cell Phones


"Lots of choices now exist if you are rich enough in North Korea," she said. Witnesses say people are now learning to enjoy coffee, a rare drink in a country where self-reliance and therefore "strictly Korean home-grown products" remain at the center of its socialist values.

The most popularly available brand is Maxim's instant coffee mix, made in South Korea. The coffee is smuggled into the North via China.

Another widely consumed South Korean product is the Choco-pie, a chocolate covered mini-cake filled with marshmallows. Most of them slip out from Gaesong Industrial Park just above the North-South border, where South Korean factories employ 50,000 North Korean laborers. Each worker is given two to three Choco-pies as daily snacks, but most workers save the sweets to sell on the black market.

"That means 100,000 to 150,000 Choco-pies slither into the black market every day. Choco-pies are like money to these people," Park said.

These changes in food and fashion that Kim Jong Un seems to be embracing are the result of the impact of foreign culture and information. The sweet taste of capitalism has been spreading at a cost to a traditionally paranoid regime that has attempted to barricade its population from foreign influence.

But a substantial portion of the North Korean people now have access to information from the outside world through foreign TV, radio and DVD players, easily smuggled in. The spread of USBs and MP4s containing popular South Korean shows or dramas have been viral, and awareness of the outside world has grown exponentially, according to a recent study released by InterMedia Survey.

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