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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

All that Glitters is Collectable

by | February 2nd, 2014 | 07:08 am

I’ve written a bit on the weird world of North Korean collectibles before, but if postage stamps don’t do it for you, how about a shinier option?

Any DPRK watcher knows that the regime loves their award ceremonies and garish medals; we reported recently on the strange case of a Pyongyang traffic cop accepting the “Hero of the Republic” award, and Jang Sung Taek was a regular recipient of the latest and greatest accolades.

Not surprisingly, medals and other such awards have also made their way out of the country and into the hands of foreign collectors. Marc Noland reports that Chinese merchants sell these trinkets – real or otherwise– to tourists along the North Korean border. eBay is also another obvious option for a collector, with most sellers concentrated in China and post-Soviet states. Warren Sessler, a veteran of the Korean War, has even put together a comprehensive (and expensive) guide for the discerning collector that promises to be “the standard reference work for collectors of North Korean orders and medals”.

So, if you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket and you just have to be that guy or gal with the kitschiest North Korea collectibles in town, go ahead and add some of these to the stamp collection.