Excerpt from an article that is discussing the Korean Central News Agencys oddly cheery news reports ............
August 18, 2009, 10:39 am The Umbrellas of Pyongyang
An undated photograph released by North Korea’s official news agency shows a
woman directing traffic in Pyongyang on one of the new covered podiums found
in intersections across the city, which has no traffic lights.
Last week, KCNA took a ... rose-colored look at the fact that the country’s capital city still has no traffic lights and relies instead on a corps of women who direct traffic the old-fashioned way, by hand, in an article headlined: “Traffic Control Platform beneath Umbrella Installed at Intersections of Pyongyang.”
In a post on its Global News blog last week, Reuters took a more glass-half-empty view of the same situation, noting:
Visitors to the North Korean capital have a hard time forgetting the young women who stand at major intersections in uniforms and direct the few cars on the road with gestures that seem inspired by military drill sergeants and professional boxers. Pyongyang does not have traffic lights. One of the few state secrets that residents of the North Korean capital will share with foreign visitors is that these women are often selected for their looks.
To KCNA however, the news here is not what the country lacks — traffic lights — but what it now has — a number of large podiums (like the one pictured above) designed to offer the traffic conductors some protection against the elements. In its article, KCNA reports that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il, has taken a personal interest in the well-being of these traffic wardens, ensuring that they are equipped with not only “raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, gloves and cosmetics as well as seasonal uniforms,” but also “unique platforms under umbrellas” to shield them from the elements. As a result, KCNA reports, “the female traffic controllers are commanding the traffic with a bright face on the platform under the umbrella even in the hottest period of summer.”
According to KCNA, the women who direct traffic were “moved by the warm affection shown for them by General Secretary Kim Jong-il, who saw to it that the platforms with umbrellas are being set up.”
KCNA adds that the new giant umbrellas of Pyongyang have been attracting a lot of attention and comment from North Koreans who, according to the news agency, “say it can be seen only in the country led by Kim Jong-il.”
I assume that if North Korea ever gets the 2.5 cars per household as in the U.S. these traffic beauties will need to start wearing breathing apparatuses and be surrounded by cement blocks, to protect them from high speed police chases and 16 yo texters. http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/the-umbrellas-of-pyongyang/
i see a traffic girls of pyongyang calendar…….
— chris hauser
I like the girls under the umbrellas. As well, they provide jobs for women in a country that could probably use a few more jobs.
North Korea does have traffic lights, they just prefer to use the girls since they feel drivers will pay more attention. Since the traffic is light, it works fine. But they 100% definitely do have traffic lights, I verified this in Pyongyang about 2 months ago.
— Adrian Bye
Me thinks the “Great Leader” and KCNA missed a golden opportunity.
A better brainwash release would have been one that suggested Kim Jong-il manipulates the weather on a daily basis to ensure strategic cloud cover for each and every traffic gal. And throws in a rainbow here and there for the most efficient traffic guiders.
It’s interesting that many people assume that if there are no traffic lights, it must be because DPRK cannot “afford” them. This cultural-centric worldview assumes that our way of doing things is the only proper way, and that all of humanity would automatically do things like we do absent some intervening force.
— Brad Howard
And here's a video news report about the new umbrella technology, from a Chinese website http://www.tudou.com/v/mZDXBPBPEDw
(it loads slow, have patience)