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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
Exclusive photos obtained by NK News show that Times Square-style big screen digital displays and advertising billboards have made their debut in North Korea. As can be seen above, a new large screen display was spotted by a recent visitor to the capital, located just a stones outside Pyongyang ‘s central train station.
Back in August when the picture was taken, the screen was reportedly being used to show a combination of Olympic coverage, news programming, and North Korean movies and dramas. The tourist who provided the photos told NK News that locals were fascinated by the display, with close to 100 people sitting in the square to watch TV shows in public on some evenings.
A photo taken near the display also shows a billboard sign advertising a range of new Pyeongwha Motors (PMC) vehicles. PMC is one of North Korea’s only motor building companies, partly owned by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. While this board has been there for some time, together are these nascent signs of what might one day be the location of Pyongyang’s very own Times Square?
But it is not just Pyongyang stepping into the 21st century. Another source claims the same kind of large screen video displays have also started cropping up in other locations, with one in a central location in the remote north eastern town of Rason. Here, the video board has also been regularly drawing crowds for the public showing of films since April of this year. Rumour has it that there are plans to bring a similar board to North Korea’s third largest city Chongjin as part of efforts to rejuvenate the once decrepit town.
With the photos taken by a tourist in late August, the telescreen may have also been used to help promote forthcoming titles at the recently held Pyongyang International Film Festival. Pyongyang station is one of the main arrival points for local and national visitors a like and therefore a sensible location to try and raise awareness of competition films ahead of the awards.
Held biennially in the nation’s capital city, the film festival started life in 1987 as the Pyongyang Film Festival of the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries. While originally designed as a cultural exchange between countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, it today features a wide range of international titles. This year a film about the tale of an English teacher’s struggle to introduce soccer at a school in late 19th century Germany won gold at the event.