PYONGYANG, North Korea — This is not a city on the ropes.
Cars, for instance. A recent visitor, in the capital for the first time since 2008, found many more of them on the streets — and not just the locally produced “Pyonghwa” brand or Chinese BYDs, but Lexus sport-utility vehicles and late-model BMWs and Audis.
And shoes. Many women are dressing more fashionably, and brightly colored, shiny high heels, often with jewels, appear to be the trend du jour.
Changjon Street, in the heart of the city, near Kim Il Sung Square, is unrecognizable from a few years ago. Rows of round apartment towers line the street. Lit up at night, they are festooned with neon bands, giving them the appearance of giant fireworks. By day, the towers are reflected in the glittering river, making the city look “just like Dubai,” in the words of one government-appointed minder.
Pyongyang, always a showcase city, has become even more of a Potemkin village.