North Korea is building another amusement park in Pyongyang. The "miniature world" park, scheduled to open later this year, is reported to feature replicas of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, as a means of promoting tourism and providing education of the world outside North Korea.
Many elements about this initiative are highly ironic.
First, by building another amusement park in the capital, Kim Jong-un is spending unnecessary money amidst a deteriorating North Korean economy. While North Korea has not specified the exact costs of building the new amusement park, it is obvious that it's not going to be cheap. Last year, Kim vowed to bring an end to austerity and hardship in the country, declaring that there would be "no more belt-tightening."
In a way, he has lived up to this pledge by heavily developing Pyongyang as an international center of luxury. Changjon Street in downtown Pyongyang boasts a host of luxury imports, and there you can supermarket shop girls parade around in French designer labels and locals purchase Italian wine and New Zealand kiwifruits. The Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, Pyongyang's other amusement park that Kim and his wife personally opened last year, has a dolphinarium, swimming pool, and a mini golf course.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are still reports of mass starvation across the country.
According to a United Nations report in March 2013, 28% of North Korean children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition, and a whopping two-thirds of the country's population of 24 million people do not even know where their next meal will come from.
This indicates the worrying level of economic inequality within North Korea. According to a Special UN Report published November 2012, “The northern and eastern provinces of Ryanggang, Chagang, North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong, and Kangwon ... are food deficit and difficult to reach ... these provinces also have the highest prevalence rates for underweight and stunted children.” On the other hand, “strategic important urban areas” such as Pyongyang and Nampo municipalities “are among the most food secure areas in the country as they are major beneficiaries of food transfers from surplus counties,” with “low prevalence of malnutrition.”
This indicates Kim's blatant lack of concern for the people who live outside his immediate periphery that is Pyongyang — after all, the North Korean capital has not been dubbed a "socialist fairyland" by state media for nothing.
Another paradox that arises from an internationalized Pyongyang and the construction of the "miniature world" park is, of course, the question of why North Korea is even making these plans amidst its threats to nuke the rest of the world.
Kim previously addressed North Koreans' curiosity regarding the influx of imports after period of North Korean suspicion of foreign goods and customs by quoting his father, saying that North Korea is "looking out onto the world" — that it is imperative to understand foreign customs as well as its own.
This is highly ironic, considering North Korea's continuous threats to nuke the world, and refusal even to rebuild relations with South Korea, which is backed most prominently by the United States and the UN. Just last week, North Korea withdrew workers from the jointly-owned Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was taken as a refusal to cooperate even within the Korean peninsula.