North Koreans are more and more using electric bicycles, many imported from China, to get around, photos obtained by NK News have revealed.
The variety of the electric bicycles in pictures taken in Pyongyang suggest that cycling is becoming increasingly popular, with a range of brands on display.
A South Korean bicycle expert said that North Koreans are using an entry-level model of electric bicycles, which costs between $300 and $400.
“North Koreans are riding electric bikes for their practical uses,” Jung Jong-su, editor of South Korean specialized media outlet Bicycle News, told NK News.
“In the electric bicycles, there is a rear pannier rack and a front basket to conveniently load cargo. And bicycle mudguards enable people to ride a bicycle on a rainy day even when wearing a suit,” Jung said.
The bikes also feature a kickstand and head lights.
Most are believed to be imported from neighboring China, a major manufacturer of electric bicycles.
“A lot of people use the electric bikes in China, so I guess North Koreans are affected by China’s trends and have begun riding electric bikes,” Jung added.
Two of South Korea’s leading bicycle companies, Samchuly and Alton Sports, provided detailed information on one of the electric bikes pictured at the request of NK News.
One North Korean student is seen riding a bike produced by China’s Shanghai Forever Co., Ltd (上海永久股份有限公司).
The original price of the model, which is presumed to be the same one in the picture, is ¥5,360 ($772), but it’s currently sold at ¥ 2,580 ($ 371) at China’s Taobao online shopping mall.
Another Chinese Jingdong (JD) Mall sells the same electric bicycle for ￥2,680 ($386).
Charging the battery takes 6-8 hours, and the rider can travel 40 – 50 km once full, Taobao explains on the website. The top speed is 20km per hour.
“The bicycle is for everyday use. People can easily and conveniently use the bike by operating a motor powered by electricity,” Lee Young-hwan, Manager of the Communications Team at Alton Sports.
According to the description released by Shanghai Forever’s official website, the electric bike is powered by an “environmentally friendly” lithium-ion battery.
Lee Seok-gi, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET), said the increased number of electric bicycles suggested the possibility that Pyongyang’s notorious power supply situation was improving.
Lee also argued that the use of the electric bike also stems from increases in the average North Korean’s income.
“As income levels rise [in North Korea], people find it uncomfortable to use public transportation. So, they want to use motorcycle or bicycle, but the motorcycle is expensive and needs fuel,” Lee told NK News. “So they buy an electric bicycle.”
Featured Image: NK News, Electric bicycle by China’s Shanghai Forever
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