Housing website for North Korea


Dec 21, 2012 – PYONGYANG, North Korea — My window on North Korea is sometimes, quite literally, a window – of a hotel room, the backseat of a car, a train.


Jan 23, 2013 – Pyongyang dramatically steps up its threats against a country it called its ‘sworn enemy’


This unprepossessing building houses the Taedongang brewery on the outskirts of the North Korean capital. It was once the Ushers Brewery in Trowbridge in …


Housing is another area of social inequality. According to a South Korean source, North Korea has five types of standardized housing allotted according to rank; …


Apr 13, 2012 – We were taken to the People’s Study House – the national library– a giant marble tomb of a place. (Nothing is small in North Korea apart from …

Reconstruction of houses after the Korean War was given high priority, and dwellings have improved considerably. Rural mud-walled, thatched-roofed huts have been replaced by brick buildings with tile or slate roofs. Urban housing is classified into five groups that range from one room with a half-sized kitchen to free-standing houses with gardens. Workers, or “wage earners,” are expected to live in apartments rather than houses, and housing projects are supported almost solely by the government. Heating systems in the apartments and urban water supplies are inadequate. Numerous high-rise buildings have been constructed in the larger cities, especially in P’yo(ngyang. City streets are notably empty of motor vehicles and pedestrians, as the North Koreans have few leisure hours.

The founder of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, has eliminated their patriarchal social systems through new reformative laws, such as the Law on Sex Equality, the Labor Law, and the Law on Nationalization of Essential Industries. The reforms implemented by Kim Il-Sung provided women’s rights at work, rights of inheriting and sharing of properties, and rights of free marriage and divorce. North Korea also outlawed polygamy. The state confiscated all privately owned land, eliminating property discrimination. Today, women in North Korea participate in a variety of labor forces, and there is a considerable number of women who are in high positions. Also, there are many facilities for women including Women’s sanatoria, rest homes, and maternity hospitals, although these are only available to the elite. The ratio of women to men in high wage jobs is still considerably lower than that of low wage jobs. In addition, most of women in the high positions in the society are either relatives or wives of top leaders. Irrespective of the reforms attempting to weaken patriarchal social structures, the political atmosphere is an example of the same patriarchal structure that the reforms intended to dissolve. This demonstrates the degree to which neo-Confucian ideals still permeate and affect social and political policies. While most other Asian states have attempted to distance their contemporary society from neo-confucian ideals, North Korea has, to a large degree, embraced them.[1] In accordance with such norms, the North Korean system has remained largely divided and unequal.

North Korea is one of the most secretive states in the world. Its citizens cannot travel abroad and have little, if any, contact with those who visit their country. The few tourists who do make it are carefully herded to a handful of destinations and rarely get off the beaten track.

Yet, thanks to satellite imagery and the internet, North Korea’s secretive world is gradually being unveiled. Here is a series of remarkable photographs showing aspects of North Korea’s hidden world that are rarely seen by outsiders, as well as some unusual views of more familiar sights.

This image shows an elite residential compound to the north of the capital Pyongyang. North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung, lived there and it is believed that his son, Kim Jong-il – the country’s current leader – has a residence there. As well as the large houses and well-tended gardens, there is a swimming pool in the upper left hand corner, complete with water slide.

Out of shot, it is also possible to see that the compound has its own dedicated train line that seems to run into a tunnel underneath the area. A long time North Korea watcher, Dr Hazel Smith, says it’s difficult to know where Kim Jong-il lives as, public appearances aside, his activities are shrouded in secrecy. “These look similar to some of the diplomatic compounds I’ve seen which also have swimming pools. The party people live in the city proper, whereas this is clearly outside the city as there are so many trees,” she said.

Water slide can be seen on the right hand side of the pool (Image: DigitalGlobe)

Water slide can be seen on the right hand side of the pool

Curtis Melvin, an American economist who has compiled a catalogue of detailed satellite images of North Korea, says sources within the country confirmed this location as being used by Kim Jong-il. “There are houses like this everywhere. At one point, there was a residence in every province. There are lots on the coast. Most of the nice roads in the country are built up to the gates of these compounds,” he says.

Life for most of North Korean’s 23 million people is harsh. North Korea’s economy went into steep decline during the 1990s after the collapse of communism elsewhere. Though the economy has recovered to an extent, thanks to greater co-operation with South Korea and some small scale market reforms, living standards and output remain far below the levels of the 1990s. Another factor that holds back the economy is the significant share of GDP that is spent on the military.

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