Thirty years ago, not long after the First Oil Crisis, North Korea, like most other non-oil-producing Third World countries, was running out of money. In fact, it was stiffing creditors left and right, and the only people getting paid were vendors of essential industrial inputs… as well as luxury items like Rolex watches and V.S.O.P Cognacs.
The Leader changes, but the perks remain the same.
That was the first thing that came to mind as I watched the North Korean Ambassador in charge of normalizing relations with Japan bluster his way through a highly inconclusive interview. That he gave the interview itself came across as something of a surprise, as well as the willingness of the North Korean authorities to allow the Sunday Project camera crew to tape the Pyongyang cityscape as the background to Soichiro Tawara’s visit to the ambassador.
It could, of course, have been a fake. Speaking of which, what happened to the counterfeit bills and cigarettes and drug smuggling and such?