Why North Koreans are driven to drive | NK News
July 24, 2024

Why North Koreans are driven to drive

How cars became a status symbol north of the DMZ, and why this carries over after defection

Hanawon is an education facility for North Korean refugees who have just arrived in the South. Its main role is to equip recent refugees with the practical knowledge necessary to live in South Korea, as well as to provide them with some vocational training (within relatively tight time and budget constraints, of course).

It is well-known that one of the most popular courses taught there is one on driving. North Korean refugees badly want to get drivers licences as soon as they can. Given that South Korea is a country of near-universal car ownership, this is not surprising. The actual reason, though, is quite different: North Koreans grew up in a country where being a driver is a privilege and a highly profitable job.

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