The wheels of change appear to be turning in North Korea

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

Women are reportedly allowed to ride bicycles in North Korea for the first time in 20 years. Credit: Reuters

Perhaps another sign that North Korean society is changing, Chinese media is reporting that women are being allowed to ride bicycles for the first time for almost 20 years.

Cycling for women was banned in 1996 because it wasn't regarded as feminine by the male dominated North Korean regime.

I'm sure I've seen women with bicycles in North Korea but have to say that I can't remember ever seeing a woman riding a bicycle during my two trips to the capital Pyongyang.

Difficult to see how such a ridiculous law could be enforced across an entire country though.

The announcement comes as Kim Jung Un's powerful uncle, Chang Song-Taek, is in Beijing signing new deals to open up special enterprise zones on the Chinese border with North Korea.

These zones already exist but haven't been developed to any great scale. The Chinese have long been trying to convince the North Koreans to reform their stagnant state controlled economy; in the same way that China did 20 years ago.

The uncle's visit may also be paving the way for Kim Jung Un's first official trip to the Chinese capital.

There's now a steady beat of changes from North Korea: Kim sacking his army chief, Kim's uncle signing the economic deals with China, more cars and advertising on Pyongyang's streets, the regime promising the people that their livelihoods will improve, a million or so people now have mobile phones, workers will be allowed to officially work in factories in China and send money home.

Now women being allowed to ride bicycles, perhaps the influence of Kim Jung Un's new wife? Why the ban was reversed, we'll probably never know, but it does appear as though the wheels of change in North Korea are turning