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Young love, bicycle baskets.

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The basic necessity for survival.
The basic necessity to be able to declare your love.
In North Korea, this is the bicycle.

While to South Koreans the car may be considered a basic necessity, to North Koreas, it is the bike. Of course, North Korea’s lack of energy (electric, fuel, gas) as well as a host of other factors, mean that cars are far less common than bicycles.

North Koreans ride their bike to and from work; to distant markets to sell their produce; and to bring back home goods they have purchased. The bicycle is not simply for leisure or exercise; it can be said that it is a fundamental necessity for survival in North Korea.

However, according to North Korean student defector Lee Gaeyon, the bicycle goes beyond even being a necessity for survival, it is a fundamental necessity for a North Korean to be able to declare their love.

Gayeon recalls an old boyfriend whom she dated in her hometown. In North Korea, it was not really common to frequently or easily say “I love you”. However, her boyfriend would often visit her on his bike, with the basket overflowing with flowers to surprise her. Occasionally, he would ride out to a field on his bike to pick wildflowers for Gayeon.

This is what Gayeon recalls fondly when she thinks of a bicycle. In this way, while the bicycle is of course an important mode of transport in North Korea, to Lee Gayeon, it’s also an important medium to be able to confess your love.