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North Korea's capital lively with activity despite sanctions, report says

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's capital lively with activity despite sanctions, report says
People wait outside the border crossing between North Korea and Dandong, China. The pace of daily life has not changed since international sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang in March, according to eyewitnesses. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Everyday life appears to be stable in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, according to recent visitors to the country.

A diverse group of travelers say life for city residents is moving along at an uninterrupted pace, Voice of America reported Wednesday.

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A Western diplomat in Pyongyang who requested anonymity and Keisuke Fukuda, the Japanese editor of weekly magazine Toyo Keizai, said the price of goods remains unchanged after sanctions in March.

Fukuda said the exchange rate had stayed at about 8,000 North Korean won to the dollar, and the price of consumer goods seemed to have stabilized, according to the report.

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Kyung-Ae Park, a professor at the University of British Columbia who recently attended an international conference in Pyongyang, said she saw new high-rise buildings and many tourists in October.

Park said she stayed at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, but because of the significant number of people in the area the rooms were all booked.

Leonid Petrov, an academic with Australian National University, said that there are a total of 12 taxi companies, and the number of North Koreans who work as cabdrivers has risen.

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North Korean authorities allow taxis with a license plate ending in an odd number to operate on dates ending in an odd number – and vice versa, according to Yonhap.

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Others who interviewed with VOA said the power supply in the city has improved dramatically and blackouts they experienced lasted a maximum of 5-6 minutes.

More North Koreans are also using mobile phones and credit cards, the eyewitnesses said.

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Nagi Shafik, a former World Health Organization Pyongyang office project manager, said there are signs the international sanctions are having little effect on the country, according to Yonhap.

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