There is a property boom in Pyongyang, the capital of the destitute Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The boom, in turn, has created an impetus for economic reform.
Apartment prices have skyrocketed 30-fold since the turn of century. The most expensive unit now goes for about a quarter of a million dollars, a large sum in a country where official wages are not even $2 a month.
That, at first glance, is amazing, especially because all property—including every single housing unit in the country—is owned by the state.
As Richard Lloyd Parry of the Australian explains, owners—if they can be called that—do not actually have title. They occupy their apartment after “swapping” residences with “sellers,” who receive compensation for taking less-desirable units in exchange. All transactions are approved by state bureaucrats, who attend to necessary paperwork for under-the-table payments.