North Korea is a famously secretive reclusive nation and as such information about the price of goods and services is hard to come by. Nevertheless there have been some estimations made about the cost of a car in North Korea.
In 2019 the estimated market price for a new Toyota Camry in the United States was around 25,000USD. However in North Korea the same vehicle was priced around 4,000USD. This is a huge variance and indicative of how much lower the cost of living is in North Korea in comparison to other nations.
However the estimated cost of 4,000USD doesn’t reflect the actual price most North Koreans pay for cars. This is because many people in North Korea cannot afford to purchase vehicles, regardless of their price. As such people in North Korea often enter into an agreement with an inside friend or a broker to buy a car at a considerably reduced cost. One of these agreements would likely involve a form of payment plan, in which the buyer would put down a small deposit and then pay the balance in installments over a year or so.
These reduced prices and payment plans are indicative of the dire financial situation of the majority of North Korean citizens. It has been estimated that the average wage for a skilled tradesperson in North Korea is currently around 20USD per month. This means that even a ‘discounted’ 4,000USD price tag is essentially unthinkable for the vast majority of North Koreans.
The number of cars on North Korean roads is thus very small in comparison to other developed nations. According to an estimate by the United Nations, there are only around 2,500 cars in North Korea. In comparison the United Kingdom has around 30 million cars on their roads. This is a stark reminder of the huge disparity between the lifestyles of North Koreans in comparison to their Western counterparts.
Despite this, North Korea still manages to make some vehicles of their own. A state run factory in the city of Nampo produces a range of cars known as the ‘Pyeonghwa’, which typically cost around 10,000USD. There are also a handful of importers who are allowed to bring in foreign cars into the country. These foreign cars tend to be more expensive than locally made cars and are typically out of reach for all but the wealthiest of North Koreans.
In conclusion, the cost of a car in North Korea is extremely low in comparison to other developed nations. This is indicative of the dire financial situation of the North Korean citizenry, and the typical North Korean simply cannot afford to purchase a car. Nevertheless there are a few vehicles produced locally and it is estimated that there are 2,500 cars on North Korean roads, although this is far less than the number of vehicles in most other developed countries.
How Accessible Are The Parts
When the opportunity to purchase a car in North Korea presents itself, finding parts and servicing can be incredibly difficult. It is estimated that there are only around 2,500 cars registered in the country meaning that car parts are very hard to come by. Most of these parts are sourced from importers from outside of North Korea and as such they can be very expensive. The cost of these parts and servicing serve as an additional cost to the already expensive initial cost of the car.
It is also the case that there are very few mechanics in the country qualified to work on modern cars. Much of the general auto workforce are limited to the maintenance and servicing of older vehicles and as such are not particularly helpful when it comes to modern cars that have been imported from other countries. This means that finding a reliable mechanic with the skills and knowledge to properly service and maintain a car can be as much of a challenge as finding the parts!
Of course with the increased cost of servicing and parts, many North Koreans simply choose to go without a car and rely on other methods of transport such as public buses. This would certainly prove to be a much more cost effective solution and would allow North Koreans to save their limited funds.
Are North Koreans Eager To Own Cars?
Despite the huge cost of owning a car in North Korea, there is still a notable number of citizens who look to purchase vehicles. Although it is very difficult for the average citizen to purchase a car, many North Koreans are fortunate enough to be able to access enough money to buy a car. For these individuals, owning a car is seen as a great status symbol and a way to show off one’s wealth, despite their limited funds.
These individuals have access to cars from abroad, as well as the locally produced vehicles. These foreign cars are much more expensive and are thus only available to the wealthiest of North Koreans. Nevertheless the appeal of the car for these individuals is undeniable. They view the car as an opportunity to flaunt their wealth, and it allows them to display their affluence with confidence.
These North Koreans are also eager to show off the unique features of the cars they own. They are often eager to show off their cars to neighbours and friends, who may not have access to the same form of luxury. However this is a double edged sword, as it can often backfire and leave the owner looking more extravagant than they would have liked.
How Do North Koreans Use Cars?
In North Korea cars are not only used as a symbol of wealth, but they also serve a practical purpose. Unlike in other countries, cars are not often used as a primary mode of transport in North Korea. This is due to the limited availability of road infrastructure, the fact that many of the roads are in disrepair, and the fact that petrol is very expensive.
Instead cars are used as a premium form of transport for those who are able to access them. For instance, cars are often used to travel between cities as they can provide a faster, more comfortable journey than buses. Cars are also typically used for transportation to and from parties and special events. In this way cars are seen more as a form of luxury than a necessary tool.
What Does The Future Hold
It can be difficult to predict what will happen in the future of North Korea, but it does appear that more and more people are beginning to access cars. As more North Koreans begin to travel to other countries and gain access to more resources, the cost of purchasing a car is likely to decrease, as is the cost of parts and servicing.
However North Korea will remain a reclusive nation and the country’s leaders will likely not be eager to embrace new technologies it that open up their country. Nevertheless it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future and there may be greater access to cars in North Korea in the near future.
What Are The Alternatives
For those North Koreans who cannot access cars or don’t have the funds to do so, there are still a few alternatives. Public transportation is the most obvious alternative and travelling by bus is still a relatively affordable option for most North Koreans. Additionally bicycle rental is becoming more popular and is becoming the preferred option for shorter journeys.
There is also the option of hitchhiking which is still widely used in North Korea. This is seen as a safer option for travelling between cities and towns as it is much less likely to draw the attention of the government. However hitchhiking is not recommended for foreign travellers who are unfamiliar with the country.
Finally some parts of the country, in particular the bigger cities, are serviced by taxi companies. Although these can be very expensive, they do provide a reliable, safe service for those with the funds to pay for it.