- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is FP's Asia editor. A Mandarin speaker, he lived in China for seven years before moving to Washington, D.C. 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, the 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.