January 18, 2022

Lifestyles of the loyalists: How North Korea’s upper classes live

Viewed in context, Pyongyang's elites live relatively humble existences

When the international media writes about North Korea, it habitually claims that the country is “run by a hereditary elite, who enjoy a life of privileges and luxury”. Well, to an extent, this statement is correct: few people would doubt that the North Korean elite is hereditary, and social mobility in the country is close to zero.

Nonetheless, these oft-repeated claims still need qualifications and caveats – especially when we are talking not about present day North Korea and its increasingly corrupt and market-oriented elite, but about their parents and grandparents who ran the country for nearly half a century during the Kim Il Sung era.