December 06, 2023

“Only Beautiful, Please” – Daily Life in Pyongyang

The Korea Society hosted former UK Ambassador to North Korea, John Everard, to discuss his time in Pyongyang and the release of his book “Only Beautiful, Please”.  Ambassador John Everard lived in the capital city from 2006 to 2008, and outside of his official duty, spent his time interacting with North Koreans.  His book takes a different approach in depicting North Korea, by showing the human dimension of ordinary citizens living in Pyongyang.  Granted, this dimension only showcases the lives of roughly 3 million, out of the 23 million people who live in North Korea.  Foreigners are allowed within a 35km radius of Pyongyang, and Everard took every opportunity to visit and document within this area.

The average urban North Korean begins their work day by using mass transportation.  They add extra time to their journey to compensate for the frequent power outages.  Trolleys and trams would stop dead and leave the passengers to find alternate means, usually walking, to get to work.  Most fear taking the metro as they do not want to be stuck underground.  The buses and trams are relics of East Germany and all racked up thousands of miles before they were sold to North Korea.  Engines held together with chewing gum are not uncommon, and they too experienced frequent breakdowns.