This is How Elite North Koreans Live in Luxury

In a country where many live in poverty, a small group of North Koreans have begun to access luxury goods and services.

Within the last few years a minority of North Koreans living in Pyongyang have managed to create an elite class. This group has access to technology, fashion and services that many in the country cannot imagine. The wealthiest part of Pyongyang has been called “Pyonghattan” because of its many department stores and expensive restaurants.

An italian restaurant in “Pyonghattan.” / Source: Linda Davidson / The Washington Post


People use the gym facilities in Pyongyang to be seen. The Pyonghattanites, especially the youth, fill tennis and squash courts all over the city. A lesson at these courts costs only a few dollars, but only a select few can afford it.

A 24-year-old woman who used to part of the Pyonghattan clique shared how they test the limits of their conservative society.

We’re supposed to dress conservatively in North Korea, so people like to go to the gym to show off their bodies, show some skin.

Lee Seo Hyeon

At the center of Pyongyang is the Sunrise complex, which is home to a gym, expensive restaurants and a 24-hour coffee shop. In the restaurants, a bowl of bibimbap can be had for $7, but there are more expensive options including $50 cuts of beef. The coffee shops are also pricey, with ice mochas being $9. For most of the country’s residents, these luxuries are out of reach.

A woman wearing luxury goods / Source: Christian Petersen-Clausen / NK News

Lee spilled that when she was growing up in Pyongyang, she was exposed to brands such as Zara, Uniqlo and H&M. She emphasized that looking good is important. Many of the privileged people Lee knows have had plastic surgery procedures. Double-eyelid operations and nose jobs are the most popular.

This North Korean is dressed extravagantly / Source: Linda Davidson / The Washington Post

There are plans to build ski resorts, aquariums and amusement parks around the capital.  In the very near future there will be no shortage of things for these wealthy few people to do.

Source: The Washington Post