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What’s behind the exodus of Pyongyangites from the city center to the outskirts?

Since the New Year, an increasing number of Pyongyang residents have been trying to move from the center of the capital to the outskirts, Daily NK has learned.

“The Pyongyang police’s resident registration data show a noticeable increase in the number of families moving from central districts to suburban districts, from big houses to small ones, and from apartment buildings to one-story houses or basements in the first two weeks of January,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Jan. 23, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The busiest moving seasons are usually spring and fall, especially April and October. But so many families have tried to move this January that real estate agents and police in Pyongyang have said that “every season is a moving season.

The reason so many people are moving at the beginning of the year is the economic hardship that residents of Pyongyang’s central districts are currently facing, the source said.


“The current parade of relocations is voluntary – it’s not the result of collective work assignments or other state measures. It should be seen as a survival measure by Pyongyang citizens who have been struggling to make ends meet since the start of the pandemic,” the source said.

The source said more and more families are thinking that instead of scraping by in the city, they should move to the outskirts, where they would have enough space to plant a garden and grow vegetables or corn.

“People think that if they sell an apartment in the central districts, the money they get will allow them to buy a house on the outskirts and still have enough capital left over to do business. They hope this will allow them to maintain their livelihood,” the source added.

North Koreans are not free to change residences at will. Before they can register their new place of residence, they must obtain permission to move from the resident registration department of their local police station.


Real estate transactions are technically illegal in North Korea, but many take place on the black market. Assuming there are no disputes or other problems with the sale of the house, a little money can grease the wheels for the move-out process, housing permits, and registration in the new neighborhood.

According to the source, the majority of families who moved from the central districts to the outskirts in the first two weeks of January are elderly residents who were born in the central districts and have lived there all their lives.

“People who are struggling to make ends meet are moving to the outskirts of Pyongyang, even though they were born in the central districts, in search of a way to survive. Elderly residents with no income who depend on government rations choose to pocket the money they get on their move. After all, there’s no point in living in a palatial apartment if you can’t eat,” the source said.

What about the families who pay the premium to move from the outskirts to the central districts? The largest category is said to be young parents who want a better educational environment for their school-age children, followed by newlywed couples between a man born in Pyongyang and a woman from a wealthy family in the provinces.


“There are still people who come to the central districts of Pyongyang with the faint hope of getting better government rations,” the source said.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.


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January 26, 2024 at 01:30PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)


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