Inside A North Korean Shop

Inside A North Korean Shop

I'm not big on souvenirs, but it's also interesting to visit the local market and shops to see how they differ from those in the US. North Korea is always full of fun and delight in this way. On display are some mannequins wearing Joseon Ot, the traditional Korean dress. These are the same as Hanbok in South Korea. 

After the conclusion of World War II, when the Korean peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, the northern side became Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk, or literally the Choson Democratic People's Republic, better known in English as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK. Chosun being a different romanization of Joseon. Meanwhile, the southern side became Daehan Minguk, adopting the name of the provisional government that fought against Japanese colonial rule in Korea. In this way, the North adopted Joseon when referring to Korea, whereas the South adopted Han when referring to Korea.

This political divide carried forward through various, yet seemingly minor, linguistic differences. The Korean language is referred to as Hangukmal (한국말) in the South, and as Chosunmal (조선말) in the North. Similarly, the traditional dress as mentioned above uses Chosun vs. Han in the naming depending on which side of the peninsula you're on. On a related note, North Koreans view their language as pure Korean. They've eliminated the use of any English loan words, and adopted native Korean words in place of Chinese ones, or created new words as needed to replace the Chinese ones. 

One clear example of this is in the numbering system. In South Korea, depending on the context and usage, you may use either Korean numbers, Chinese numbers, or more confusingly, both! Want to tell the time? Hours in Korean numbers, minutes in Chinese numbers. There's a reason why the Korean language is not easy to master for non-native speakers.

Back to the store, on the right hand side are a number of different Korean liquors on the top two shelves, and below that Korean ginseng. Ginseng is a premium product in both Koreas. The liquors however, are far more interesting. If you ever pick up a bottle of North Korea liquor, its label will likely espouse the great many medicinal benefits, citing the various diseases and conditions it can treat and cure, be it diabetes or erectile dysfunction!