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Luxury Apartment Complex Opens in NK Free Trade Zone

Posted April. 24, 2009 03:25,   


A new luxury apartment complex has appeared in North Korea despite parts of the population subsisting on plants and many of the poor starving to death.

Despite the North’s hobbling economy, the elite still have privileges denied to the masses. Though North Korea’s supposed socialist system is designed to treat all people equally, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Last year, apartments costing 40,000 U.S. dollars per unit appeared in the Rajin-Sonbong region, which was designated the North’s first free trade zone in 1991. Profits from the sales were shared by a North Korean regional authority that provided the land and a Chinese builder that built the apartments.

The apartments were the first in the North whose price exceeded 20,000 dollars per unit, as Pyongyang has allowed its people to buy and sell all types of housing.

A unit in the five-story apartment building consisting of 10 households has an area of 300 square meters. Given that the area of a luxury apartment in Kwangbok Street in Pyongyang does not exceed 200 square meters, the new apartments are quite spacious.

Residents also have access to hot water and stable electrical power since a Chinese company produces electricity in the zone for exclusive use in the apartments. The apartments also have toilets, bathtubs and curtains, things unimaginable for the ordinary North Korean.

Surprised by the apartments, officers at regional chapters of the Workers’ Party say no more luxury apartments should be built since many are closely watching.

One person even paid 45,000 dollars to purchase the apartment from the initial buyer. In North Korea, high-income earners prefer to use dollars. Since one dollar is equivalent to 3,700 North Korean won, a big deal requires a large volume of North Korean currency.

The North Korean won has also gradually lost its value.

Luxury apartments have usually been bought by high-ranking party officers, but most of the new apartments were snapped up by corporate CEOs who must prove that they earned their money legally due to the apartments’ high cost.

One CEO said, “We’ve been put under observation for life. I want to live in this kind of luxury home even if I die tomorrow.”

“Many North Koreans have hundreds of thousands of dollars but only few dare to buy such luxury apartments since they need to see how the wind blows.”