Kim Il Sung University is located in a central part of the capital Pyongyang. Alek Sigley described the campus as “very green” and “orderly,” with plenty of trees, pristine lawns and tidy flower beds. Students don’t hang out on the lawns reading books or playing sports; rather, students are often seen mopping the hallway floors and weeding the flower beds. “It’s much more of like a serious atmosphere,” Sigley told ABC News.
All students must wear uniforms: The men a white button-up shirt with a red tie, slacks and a blazer, and the women have an option to wear either a traditional Korean style dress or a white button-up blouse with a pencil skirt.
Sigley and the other foreign students liked to explore Pyongyang’s culinary scene, trying to go to a different restaurant each week. He was pleasantly surprised by the cultural variety, from traditional North Korean dishes and authentic Chinese cuisine to Italian classics, such as pizza and spaghetti, and even some American fast-food favorites, like burgers and fried chicken. Most of these restaurants, however, are not accessible to tourists and are too expensive for the average North Korean. They are largely patronized by the elite and foreigners. There are cheaper restaurants frequented by locals that typically offer just Korean dishes, according to Sigley.
There’s also certain other places, like some shops and restaurants, that are off-limits to foreigners, and it’s taboo for a foreigner to visit the home of a local.
However, as a student, Sigley had more interaction with locals than most foreigners ever would. There are some North Korean students living among the foreign students in the foreign student dormitory at Kim Il Sung University, serving as their “guides,” and Sigley shared a room with one for several months. Sigley said his North Korean roommate loved soccer and was a big fan of professional players Lionel Messi of Argentina and Neymar da Silva Santos Junior of Brazil. He followed top professional men’s soccer clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid and watched the FIFA World Cup, which wasn’t broadcast live on North Korean television but rather recorded and played back on the local sports channel. “In some respects, he’s just like any other kid in his early 20s,” Sigley said.
Fashion was under strict limitations in North Korea, forbidding denim, piercings and hair dye, as well as certain makeup, he said. Men must keep their hair short, while women’s hair can’t be longer than mid-length. Garments must be modest in fit and color, with dresses and skirts no shorter than knee-length. The typical style for men is a dark Mao suit with a crew cut and tinted sunglasses. Sigley told ABC News that he had noticed the younger men sporting slightly longer hairstyles on the streets of Pyongyang. Read more