North Korea is widely considered the worst place to live in the world. In reality, it is not as worse, but living in North Korea is just… very different than rest of world, life can be good as long as you do all what the government wants and obey stupid laws. While the industry is lagging several decades behind rest of world, the population is one of most educated in the world, reaching a level of order and discipline that should be example for any citizen of the outer world.
Apparently is a developed country, with high literacy rate, beautiful architecture and well-planned cities, but in 1990s after collapse of Soviet Union, the economy felt down and made North Korea one of the poorest countries in the world, and the single well educated country suffering by famine. They currently survive only because of foreign food aid.
Cities and housing
Pyongyang is well planned city with wide boulevards, some leading to nowhere, massive apartment buildings with huge spaces between them, and even more massive monuments, good public transport and low pollution.
Ryugyong Hotel is the tallest hotel in the world, having 105 floors, began in 1987 and abandoned in 1992, now still under construction, Rungrado May Day Stadium is the largest stadium in the world. Perhaps in attempt to show to the world that they are not a poor nation, but for me are money-wasting unnecessary projects which caused population to be poor.
Apartments blocks are massive like the South Korean ones, some looks to have more than 40 floors, they may have been the tallest public housing in the world until completion of 50 floors Pinnacle @ Duxton in Singapore in 2009 (further verification required).
Unlike South Korea and Russia which are dominated by rows identical buildings, Pyongyang have a vibrant skylines, old 4-5 storey walk-up and 8-10-storey blocks are mixed up with newer, 20-40 storey high-rise apartment buildings. Towers are mixed up with traditional houses, for example Pipa-dong
Apartments are provided for free, this forum post says that average apartment size in North Korea is 150 square meters, but is unsourced and I do not believe. Measuring the blocks using Google Earth I can say that apartments are oversized but not as big, maybe around 100 sqm.
The apartments are quite spartan inside, compared with South Korean ones full of electronics. I would like to know what heating system they have!
If you are looking for North Korean apartment floor plans, you can check the Google Maps and try to discover under construction blocks (example location 38.96550 125.73750). No other forms of floorplans are available on internet… sadly.
See this video, inside of North Korean apartment, another video. also Kisu Faculty Housing
we do not know if the typical apartments are like that or that apartment was made more modern solo for propaganda.
Satellite photos shows that other cities are much worse than Pyongyang, some cities do not even have a single car driving around.
Traditional Korean houses vs Modern Pyongyang apartments
More photos with beautiful buildings in Pyongyang on Skyscrapercity
The dictatorship government controls everything in the country, severely violating human rights.
There are no homeless people or beggary in North Korea, the government give housing and job for everyone. Citizens have no choice where to live, the government decide your home, only the healthiest citizens are allowed in Pyongyang, to give a good image to foreign visitors. Handicapped, disabled and retired people are sent to countryside.
People love their government for giving everyone free home, as well as free education, free health, free public transport, free goods, and so on… they do not know about open real estate market or home ownership.
North Korea self praise for having over 6000 km of railways, 80% of it being electrified, compared with only 3250 km in South Korea (according Wikipedia), but the north infrastructure is in danger state that slow down the trains while southern trains are running at 350 kmph in full safety.
There is no street lighting, except for monuments. See how black is North Korea viewed from satellite at night!
Roads in North Korea are estimated to be about 30000 km of which only 5% paved.
Some sources say that any citizen is allowed to own cars (but why the roads are almost empty? too poor to buy cars?), other sources say that all cars are owned by political elite and eligible businesses. North Korea have own car manufacturers, Sungri and Pyeonghwa, producing several hundred cars per year.
Various YouTube videos shows that roads are dominated by trucks (goods vehicles), Romanian Dacia (most common taxicab), Soviet Lada, some unknown Chinese cars, but more recently there are also many imported luxury European cars (why they import cars instead of raising local production?).
North Koreans got one car per 100 people, while the South Koreans got one car per 3 people. This keep pollution low and people healthy as they walk and cycle.
Only government is allowed to operate radio and television. To prevent people access to information about outside world, radio and television sets should be registered at state department, where are sealed to receive only government stations, any manipulation to receive foreign broadcast leads to prison. Mobile phones were introduced in 2002, banned in 2004, reintroduced in 2008, and cannot dial out of country. Foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phone in North Korea, so they need to leave them at airports.
Connection to the Internet supposedly not exist in North Korea, except for the high ranked officials and some hotels. However, their computers are connected via Kwangmyong, North Korea’s own internet-like network, accessible only via dial-up, for free, filtered content from the Internet are placed on Kwangmyong, primarily from science fields. However, some people smuggled satellite internet terminals, which are confiscated and often resold to population by corrupt officers. Do note that according StatCounter, the websites are getting significant internet traffic from North Korea starting from 2010. Probably they just granted internet access privilege to more people.
North Korea government occasionally broadcast foreign news selected to give impression that North Korea is “people paradise on the earth” while that rest of world is about poverty and violence.
However, too much info came from south so during 1990s the government had to admit that South Korea enjoy higher standards of living.
For example South Koreans launching video cassettes via hot air balloons over the DMZ, containing foreign news about 2011-2012 Arab world uprising or anti-regime news. Most population do not know the truth about outer world, they do not realize how bad is their government, to start a uprising.
North Korea government shows to the World media good images of their country, while tourists visiting North Korea posted the good areas of Pyongyang, on YouTube and various blogs.
Any person is allowed to visit North Korea as tourist, but few people are willing to do, however most of them returned with great memories. You are permanently attended by local guiders watching where you go and what photos do you take, supposedly photography is allowed only in designated places, however guiders are slightly corrupt and many photos and videos showing bad side of North Korea popped the internet. You are not allowed to roam through city, or interact with local people (but these guiders aren’t locals? Yes they are but are not allowed to tell you about their personal life).
But little info is know about how the life of normal North Koreans, where they live, what they eat, education and medical system, what forms of income they have and where can spend the money.
Look carefully at Kim Jong-il funeral, there are rumors that people who do not cry enough were jailed, but you can see that while the camera is aimed to people who cry, in background just few are crying. Apparently this has been directed for purpose of showing to local and foreign media that people loved their leader.
And yes, people actually LOVE their government, see video diary made by a north korean girl, criticizing capitalist system where the money rule everything.
Moranbong Band is the first music band from North Korea reaching international popularity. Is rumored that the girls forming the band are selected by, and the lyrics of their songs are written by Kim Jong-un.
A lot of offences lead to prison, where you will be a slave forced to work and eventually die by starvation, hard work or torture. North Korea have the biggest ratio of imprisoned citizens in the world, by the far more than United States which is officially the country with most prisoners, because the North Korean government deny the existence of prisons so nobody knows exactly how many were imprisoned and how many died in prisons.
Mysteries, things that need to be clarified
I am curious how does look a DPRK geographic atlas. What they know about our world? I guess that they know that human live all around the earth, and natural features, as these info exists before communism installment, but they may be lied about technology level of rest of world. The government promote North Korea as the “Heaven on the Earth”, most citizens do not believe that there is a better life outside their country, that on the earth exist more advanced countries, that humans reached the moon, etc.
Do they know how many countries are in the world, or what is the world population, or which are largest cities? Probably they know about USSR as they was main economic partner, but how the Korean government explained to their citizens the break-up of USSR and the fall of communism?
The government promote an ideology that United States can’t resist attacking other countries for no reason, that US soldiers are still present in South Korea, ravaging the country, and they can save the South… North Korea spend a lot of money on military and threat other countries to prevent a so-called imminent attack from United States. on Pyongyang streets most billboards do not advertise products but propaganda drawings with Koreans beating US soldiers, ripping American flag, etc.
The claim that North Korea is totally isolated country is FALSE. The government do everything to prevent people access to foreign info, but in the same time they allow everyone to enter, tourists are main source of foreign info. Any foreign publication regarding North Korea is confiscated at customs, tourists are guided and not allowed to talk with locals, but the guiders themselves are locals, tourists can tell them foreign news and they can spread the news?
In Kaesong Industrial Region, South Korean companies employ North Korean workers. The south staff can talk with north workers, giving info about life in South Korea, especially as the language is not a barrier.