Pyongyang penthouses less popular in North Korea than low-level living

Elevator malfunctions and poor water pressure have residents there keeping it on the down-low

Skyscrapers in Pyongyang (Getty)
Skyscrapers in Pyongyang (Getty)

The penthouses of North Korea’s luxury towers are more like the cheap seats at a baseball game — you’d rather be in the front row.

Reuters is reporting that the upper floors of skyscrapers being heralded by Kim Jong Un are some of the least desirable places to live in the communist country thanks to malfunctioning elevators, lack of electricity and the inability to get water to kitchen faucets and toilets located so high in the sky.

Defectors and other North Koreans told the news service that new apartments in the capital city of Pyongyang such as those in the 80-story skyscraper are shunned by the elite there, who instead prefer the safety of low-rise buildings where you never have to worry about climbing 40 stories to reach your home.

“In North Korea, the poor live in penthouses rather than the rich, because lifts are often not working properly, and they cannot pump up water due to the low pressure,” Jung Si-woo, a 31-year-old who defected to South Korea in 2017, said.

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Si-woo added he was lucky enough to live on just the third floor of a 13-story building when he lived in the north — and that building didn’t even have an elevator. A friend who lived on the 28th floor of a 40-story building that did have an elevator rarely use it, as it was rarely working.

Si-Woo spoke out as state media in North Korea announced 10,000 of a proposed 50,000 new apartments had been completed in the capital that, combined with other new buildings for education, public health and welfare services, would make it the perfect people-first city.

The buying and selling of homes in North Korea is technically illegal, as the state assigns housing, but experts it has become more common under Kim who has allowed the spread of some private markets.

Still, Lee Sang-yong, the editor in chief of Daily NK in Seoul, South Korea, said his sources reported that the apartments in the towers were not ready to live in, as faucets didn’t work. He added that the north will have to improve electricity, water supplies and the overall quality of construction in order to vanquish residents’ fears.

[Reuters] — Vince DiMiceli