- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is Asia editor at Foreign Policy, where he edits, reports, and writes stories from across the region. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, Isaac wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea, a country he has visited twice. A fluent Mandarin speaker, Isaac spent seven years living in China prior to joining FP; he has traveled widely in the region and in China. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, Al-Jazeera, and PRI, among others.
The English-language website of People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, presents the world today with 29 supremely boring photos of a newly opened gym in Pyongyang. Neon lighting on the ceiling aside, it looks like a fairly standard fitness center, with treadmills, stationary bicycles, and weights. Chinese state media sometimes feel the need to publish articles reminding the world that North Korea, despite its isolation and repression, still offers the trappings of middle-class life. The most ridiculous example is probably a 2010 article on the English-language website of China’s official news agency Xinhua, entitled "Nightlife in Pyongyang offers more than imagination:"
"Roller coaster screams, karaoke happy hours, and beer glass clinks at night, quite a deja vu somewhere in metropolitan areas like New York, Tokyo or Beijing.
Well, make no mistake. That’s just a snapshot of what night life in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) can provide.
There are good reasons to tour Pyongyang; its nightlife or its gym is not one of them.