Author Paul French publishes this month his next book on North Korea, North Korea: State of Paranoia: A Modern History. In the Guardian an extract where he describes a normal day in the life at its capital Pyongyang.
6am The day starts early in Pyongyang, the city described by the North Korean government as the “capital of revolution”. Breakfast is usually corn or maize porridge, possibly a boiled egg and sour yoghurt, with perhaps powdered milk for children.
Then it is time to get ready for work. North Korea has a large working population: approximately 59% of the total in 2010. A growing number of women work in white-collar office jobs; they make up around 90% of workers in light industry and 80% of the rural workforce. Many women are now the major wage-earner in the family – though still housewife, mother and cook as well as a worker, or perhaps a soldier.
Makeup is increasingly common in Pyongyang, though it is rarely worn until after college graduation. Chinese-made skin lotions, foundation, eyeliner and lipstick are available and permissible in the office. Many women suffer from blotchy skin caused by the deteriorating national diet, so are wearing more makeup. Long hair is common, but untied hair is frowned upon.
Men’s hairstyles could not be described as radical. In the 1980s, when Kim Jong-ilfirst came to public prominence, his trademark crewcut, known as a “speed battle cut”, became popular, while the more bouffant style favoured by Kim Il-sung, and then Kim Jong-il, in their later years, is also popular. Kim Jong-un‘s trademark short-back-and-sides does not appear to have inspired much imitation so far. Hairdressers and barbers are run by the local Convenience Services Management Committee; at many, customers can wash their hair themselves.
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