Why only the poorest North Koreans live in the country’s high-rise penthouses

  • A new 80-story residential skyscraper in North Korea is part of the country’s growing efforts to build thousands of apartments for residents; however, defectors are saying that a lack of working elevators and sufficient water supply has resulted in the top floors being undesirable to many.
  • The large-scale housing development is a goal and point of pride for Kim Jong Un, who has vowed to build thousands of high-quality apartments.
  • In North Korea, housing options are assigned, and the buying and selling of homes are illegal.
  • The editor of Daily NK, a Seoul-based news publication covering stories about North Korea, says many believe the apartments are not ready to be inhabited and that while some include furniture, many don’t have working water.

North Korea has finished construction of an 80-story residential skyscraper complete with penthouses in the capital of Pyongyang, but only some of the least fortunate in the country reportedly choose to live on the top floors of the country’s high-rise apartments. 

Defectors have said that many North Koreans take issue with the higher floors of these apartments due to a lack of working elevators, electrical issues, minimal water supply and poor overall safety and quality, according to Reuters

“In North Korea, the poor live in penthouses rather than the rich because lifts are often not working properly, and they cannot pump up water due to the low pressure,” Jung Si-woo, a 31-year-old North Korean defector, told Reuters.

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Jung gave an example, adding, “A friend who lived on the 28th floor of a 40-story block had never used the elevator because it was not working. Most elevators worked just twice a day, during peak commuting hours from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and the same timing in the evening.”

North Korean citizens are not given many options because housing is assigned, and the buying and selling of homes is illegal.

According to state media, housing development is an important goal for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and he has promised to build thousands of apartments. On Wednesday, the country completed construction on 10,000 new apartments, taking pride in their completion time and quality.

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In Jung’s opinion, however, the efforts are theatrics. “It’s to show how much their construction skills have improved, rather than considering residents’ preferences.”

The editor-in-chief of Daily NK, Lee Sang-yong, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, corroborates Jung’s claims, saying his sources reported that the “apartments for regular people were not ready to live in.” 

“Windows had only frames, and water taps, though installed, were not working; but the recently completed luxury homes come complete with furniture and utensils,” Lee explains.

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Kim Jong Un recently gifted a two-story luxury apartment to North Korean TV anchor Ri Chun-hee as thanks for her loyalty, saying, “There is nothing to spare for national treasures like Ri Chun-hee, who has led a virtuous life with the revolutionary microphone.”  

 

Feature Image via (stephan)/Wikimedia Commons

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