The iconic women who direct Pyongyang's cars
Whether you are frequent visitor or first-time traveler to North Korea, we're sure that you've caught sight of the beautiful women dressed in blue who stand inside white circles on the middle of crossroads. There are the North Korean traffic ladies, known as the face of Pyongyang.
The traffic women are highly desired by the DPRK's male population because of their beauty and high social status; competition for their affection is said to be fierce. The officers are also very popular with tourists – they even have fan pages in the West.
There are many requirements for this highly coveted position. The women are mostly single, attractive and tall. They usually start their career after leaving school at 17.
However, their job is more than standing straight and being gawked at by tourists. Their perfectly choreographed traffic dances involve high levels of concentration and discipline, and vigorous training. They control the traffic, ensure the safety of the people, and brighten the city of Pyongyang. Because of all these factors, the traffic ladies are highly respected by the North Korean people.
In 2013, Ri Kyong Sim (pictured) was awarded the title of Hero of the Republic, the highest honour of a citizen of the DPRK, for being 'infinitely faithful to the Party and the leader, and carrying out her duty to the best of her ability and contributing to the traffic safety in the capital city'.
Traffic officers receive better pay and privileges than the average citizen in North Korea. It is reported that the government provides them 300 grams more food per day than the average citizen's 500 grams, and that the government provides them with free housing andhealth care.
All major crossroads in Pyongyang are staffed by the traffic police. There are around 50 posts in Pyongyang, although these are now on the decline due to the introduction of traffic lights, much to the dismay of many tourists.
How to read the traffic ladies' rules:
If a traffic officer is facing you or has her back to you: stop – traffic from the right or left has right-of-way.
When a traffic officer raises her baton, a right-of-way change is imminent.
A baton held out indicates that a turn through the intersection is permitted.
The uniforms of the traffic officers depends on the season and the weather. Here are some examples:
Want more traffic women? Enjoy this North Korean film, A Traffic Controller on the Crossroads.