North Koreans are to be given a taste of London life with a replica of Big Ben reportedly being erected in the country’s capital.
Pyongyang’s take on Augustus Pugin’s iconic clock tower will feature in a theme park that is planned to open this year, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
The “miniature world” park, which will also boast a replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, is reportedly part of a construction boom that began in the capital in 2010.
Last year, North Korea ‘s leader Kim Jong-un vowed to bring to an end decades of austerity and hardship with the slogan: “No More Belt-Tightening.”
The Associated Press, which is the only western news organisation allowed to operate permanently inside the secretive state, reported that Pyongyang’s “transformation” had seen its downtown areas spruced up with “glossy construction” including “department stores, restaurants and high-rise apartments.” At the centre of this construction frenzy is Changjon street, in downtown Pyongyang, where a brand-new supermarket trades in Hershey’s Kisses, Coca-Cola and Doritos.
“Inside supermarkets where shopgirls wear French designer labels, people with money can buy Italian wine, Swiss chocolates, kiwi fruit imported from New Zealand and fresh-baked croissants,” the Associated Press reported.
“They can get facials, lie in tanning booths, play a round of mini golf or sip cappuccinos and cocktails while listening to classical music.”
Last month the China Daily newspaper said North Korea was also a building a “mini-golf theme park” in order to boost tourism.
But despite attempts to give Pyongyang a makeover, conditions outside the capital remain dire with food rationing widespread and the supply of electricity sporadic.
Last month, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that around 2.8 million North Koreans were “in need of regular food assistance amid worrying levels of chronic malnutrition and food insecurity.” 20-five per cent of North Korean children suffered from “chronic malnutrition,” the report said.
“Supplies of medicine and equipment are inadequate; water and heating systems need repair, and the infrastructure of schools and colleges is deteriorating rapidly.”
Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old ethnic Korean with US citizenship, is currently facing a possible death sentence in North Korea on charges that he attempted “to topple the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” during a visit last November.
The details of Mr Bae’s alleged crimes are unclear but reports have suggested he may have angered authorities by taking photographs of impoverished children.
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