Pyongyang Department Store No. 1, located in Pyongyang's Central District, is North Korea's premier state-owned department store and a symbol of North Korean socialist commerce.
Kim Jong-il praised the “Commodity Exhibition”, held at Pyongyang Department Store No.1 in July 2011, as an advancement in socialist commerce. Shortly thereafter, in August, reporter Gu Gwang-ho visited the department store.
The images, caught on camera by Gu Gwang-ho, show a department store that, in essence, has become a huge exhibition hall where next to nothing is actually sold.
Even though various goods such as food, clothing, and industrial products are on display, those working at the department store all say that the products are not for sale.
At some stores, long lines of people form to buy domestic cigarettes and shoes at government-fixed prices, which are much lower than market prices. However, official ration tickets provided by the authorities are required in order to buy them. Purchasing goods here is a privilege that is not extended to everyone.
There are many products in the electronics stores, such as TVs and washing machines, but no one buys them due to their high prices. Instead, people buy such products at markets, where they can bargain for a cheaper price.
Gu explains that the reason for the existence of the department store is to 'show everyone that North Korean socialism is alive and well’.