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First published at NK News on the 20th of June, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. As consumer choice for the upper classes has grown, so too have options for eating out Pyongyang may be better known for its monuments than its restaurants. But living in the “Capital of the Revolution” over the course of two semesters as a foreign student at Kim Il Sung University, I’ve discovered a number of excellent places to dine in the city. My dormitory friends (some of the other foreign students) and I have a custom of trying several new restaurants each week. They are sometimes not far from our home in Taesong District, and at other times further afield. A few are the recommendations of local or foreign friends, while others are places we simply stumble into. By now I estimate that I... [Read More]

The post Dining out in the DPRK capital: Pyongyang’s (surprisingly) good restaurants appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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First published at NK News on the 15th of February, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. From getting directions around town to playing music, here’s what to buy at a Pyongyang app store After introducing the North Korean app store in my last post, I’d like to now examine some of the apps I’ve purchased from it for my local tablet computer. The tablet came pre-installed with a range of apps, and I purchased about ten additional ones from one of the app stores near the Kim Il Sung University Foreign Student Dormitory. Here I take a look at four of the more interesting, locally developed ones that I purchased from the app store. “Kiltongmu”—North Korea’s Google Maps Kiltongmu (길동무; traveling companion) allows users to browse a map of Pyongyang. The map is extremely detailed, and when zoomed in to the maximum setting, one can... [Read More]

The post Guitar Hero and Google Maps, DPRK style: a closer look at some North Korean apps appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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First published at NK News on the 1st of February, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. From video games to language learning, Pyongyangites increasingly have plenty of choices Life as a foreign student in Pyongyang brings with it many unique perks and privileges. Like resident diplomatic staff and NGO workers, we can walk and cycle freely (with no need for a translator or guide to accompany us) around Pyongyang. We can spend our money in a wide selection of stores and restaurants that tourists and short-term guests are barred from even stepping foot inside. We are the only foreign residents who can ride the subway and use taxis to get about town by ourselves (diplomatic staff and NGO workers would require their Korean staff to be with them). Another area in which foreign long-term residents (both foreign students and other types of foreign... [Read More]

The post What to buy inside a North Korean app store appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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First published at NK News on the 25th of January, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. Styles are getting more modern — though the streetwear of the South remains a long way off Last week I examined a North Korean women’s fashion magazine. This week I want to introduce NK News readers to a men’s fashion magazine which I recently obtained. The magazine is produced by the same “Clothing Research Center” (피복연구소) as the women’s fashion magazine from last week, and found for sale in the same generally “locals only” roadside book stalls. The women’s fashion magazine, which was printed in 2017, indicated that the “Clothing Research Center” was under the auspices of the “Ministry of Foodstuffs and Daily Necessities Manufacture” (식료일용공업성). But this men’s magazine, and a second women’s fashion magazine in my possession (the newest edition of the one in the last post),... [Read More]

The post Fix up, look sharp: the changing face of North Korean men’s fashion appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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First published at NK News on the 16th of January, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. A recently-produced glossy points to changing trends in the DPRK I’ve recently had a few North Korean fashion magazines come into my possession. These magazines cannot be found in any of the bookstores in Pyongyang that are intended for foreigners, such as the bookstores inside the international hotels or the specialist foreign languages bookstores such as the one on Kim Il Sung Square. They can be purchased from roadside book stalls, or ones attached to subway stations, and other such places that foreigners generally do not frequent. This, to some extent, supports their authenticity as documents which provide a measure of insight into everyday life and fashion culture in the DPRK. They speak of the continued development of the country’s consumer economy, and the emergence... [Read More]

The post “Make women more beautiful”: inside a North Korean fashion magazine appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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First published at NK News on the 10th of January, 2019. By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. “I’ve had many unique experiences, experiences of a kind nobody has really written about before” Greetings NK News readers! My name is Alek. I’m an Australian postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University, North Korea’s top university. Some of you may have already seen my blog about my life as a foreign student in North Korea, From Perth to Pyongyang, which I started in April last year on the website of my tour company, Tongil Tours. Or perhaps you’ve seen me on Twitter, where since November I’ve been tweeting about my experiences under @AlekSigley. I’m very excited to announce that from now on my posts will debut on NK News, bringing them to a whole new audience on the internet’s best place for North... [Read More]

The post From Perth to Pyongyang: my life as an Aussie student at Kim Il Sung University appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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Tongil Tours by Tongil Tours - 7M ago

By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. This is a diary entry from the 24th of September, 2018 It was the traditional Korean autumn harvest festival of Chusok (also commonly referred to as Han’gawi/한가위 in the North) today and all we Kim Il Sung University foreign students had a day off from class, so we decided to go out, have lunch and explore the city a bit. This time Erik (a newly arrived foreign student at Kim Il Sung University from Sweden) and I are joined by two of the Chinese students on a one-year long exchange program funded by their government. We end up spending a pleasant afternoon eating an excellent lunch in one of Pyongyang’s best restaurants and exploring a part of downtown Pyongyang with colourful and unique architecture that is seldom visited by foreigners. Around noon, we ride the... [Read More]

The post My First Chusok in North Korea appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University.  Earlier this semester Howard (my South Korean-Canadian friend who studies his undergraduate degree at Kim Il Sung University) and I were excited to discover three locally produced breakfast cereals in the supermarket we frequent near the Foreign Student Dormitory. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first breakfast cereals ever produced in the DPRK. They were cheap and would provide us with a good alternative to the tasteless gruel offered for breakfast in the dormitory. We’ll review each of these and three more in turn. But first a little background. The cereals are made by the Kyŏnghŭng company, which produces a range of snacks including biscuits, chocolates, cakes, instant noodles and crisps, as well as beer. Kyŏnghŭng also runs several snack stalls across the centre of Pyongyang and a carwash near Kwangbok Street.... [Read More]

The post A Detailed Look at the First North Korean Breakfast Cereals appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. On Saturday the 15th of September I got together with some of the Chinese exchange students at Kim Il Sung University to go and try the Corn Specialty Restaurant (강냉이 제품전시장) in East Pyongyang. The result is what will be the corniest of my blog posts yet. Located not far from the diplomatic compound, the restaurant features a shop on the first floor that sells a large variety of corn-based snacks, and a 2nd floor restaurant that specialises in dishes that feature corn as an ingredient. While culturally Koreans prefer rice, the DPRK state has put great effort into promoting corn and potato-based foods, since these grow easier in the North’s cold climate and mountainous terrain. Every district of Pyongyang has its own corn specialty restaurant, but these are generally not open to foreigners. This... [Read More]

The post A Trip to the Corn Specialty Restaurant appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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Tongil Tours by Tongil Tours - 8M ago

By Alek Sigley, founder of Tongil Tours and postgraduate student at Kim Il Sung University. As mentioned previously, Kim Il Sung University is located in a prime location. It, and the Foreign Student Dormitory we live in are on one end of Ryomyong (“dawn”) Street, the DPRK’s most recent large-scale residential construction project. This project renovated the street with a host of new apartments, including the tallest apartment block in the country, the 70 Storey Apartment (70층짜리 아빠트), and space for scores of shops and restaurants. In this post I’m going to introduce some of the more interesting shops and restaurants I discovered during my first semester at Kim Il Sung University (April-July 2018). Most of these are down the other end of the street from the dormitory, by the 70 Storey Apartment. I’ll omit the ones I’ve already talked about, but you can read about them in the separate... [Read More]

The post Exploring Ryomyong Street appeared first on Tongil Tours.

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