◆ Apartment prices crash but there are no buyers

--I heard that Pyongyang apartment prices crashed in 2018. How are they these days?
“The prices of the best apartments downtown have all plunged to less than half of what they were worth before the sanctions. Nevertheless, there is no one in a position to buy them. The furnished, 55-square meter, luxury apartments in Junggu District now cost about 20,000-25,000 US dollars. The value of cheaper apartments fell to about 4,500-6,000 dollars but hardly any of them have been sold.

An acquaintance living just outside of Pyongyang lives in a 130-square meter apartment with 2 bathrooms. He was shocked when the value of the apartment fell to 12,000 dollars in 2018. It is valued at only 10,000 dollars now but he says there is no one who can buy it. It’s because there is no money circulating in this economy. Still, the top percent of Pyongyang’s wealthy elite live in homes far more luxurious than those in China.”

--I heard that there are more taxis in Pyongyang these days.
“Pyongyang’s lack of public transportation means that there is a demand for taxis. But I think the number of customers has decreased considerably. I also take taxis less frequently now to save money. The basic fare is 2 US dollars, which rises depending on the distance. On the other hand, the number of ‘income buses’ has gone up. People make money that way.”

※ ‘Income buses’ are buses operated by individuals who buy a used Chinese bus and register it as a member of a company. They charge fares which are far more expensive than state-run public buses, but their reliability attracts many passengers.

◆ Are there people without complaints?

-- The Kim Jong-un regime has conducted several missile tests since May, 2019, right?
“Why, if you don’t have any money, would you shoot missiles like that? I don’t understand it. It’s a waste.”

--Kim Jong-un seems determined to not back down to the US. What do residents think of the regime?
“Nobody speaks out but is there actually anyone who doesn't wish to complain? There are people who say, ‘Let the regime do as it likes.’ As for me, honestly, I don’t have any expectations. I don’t even want to hear the name [Kim Jong-un].”

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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