According to regulations stipulated by housing use permits, North Koreans are required to complete the residential registration process within 15 days and move into their new homes within two months, Daily NK has learned. 

Daily NK sources say that those who fail to meet these requirements may lose their housing allocation. 

North Korea distinguishes between housing in urban and rural areas, and there are permits specific to rural and urban housing that involve different rules. 

Permits for urban housing are printed on blue paper, but rural housing permits are printed on pulp paper similar to those used by newspapers. 

The permits are issued by the local people’s committees, which means that the quality of paper, color and format of the permits can be different depending on where they are from. 

Rural permits include a rule stipulating that “pumpkins and grape vines should not be placed on roofs.” Pumpkin vines are commonly grown on roofs as they provide extra space, but the crops can become quite heavy and compromise the structural integrity of the building. 

The first page of the permits feature the words “Housing Use Permit” along with “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” written in large letters. North Korean houses are considered property of the state by law, with citizens only being granted “use” of the houses. 

The permits also include the housing address, whether the housing is single story or multi-story, and the type of heating available (Korean-style floor heating or otherwise). All of this information must be included in accordance with Article 20 of North Korea’s Housing Act. 

“The permits are required to have all the former and current addresses of the permit holders written down, and there’s even a registration number in the permits to prevent them from being copied,” the source who provided the permit to Daily NK said. In the 2000s, as buying and selling of houses became the norm in North Korea, fake permits became a problem. 

Rural housing permit example
An example of a North Korean rural housing permit. / Image: Daily NK

The permits also include the name of the permit holder, their professional title, and the names and titles of previous occupants of the house. Daily NK sources say that such information was not previously included, but it may have been added recently to help settle claims regarding damage or changes to housing. 

North Koreans are not permitted to modify the structure or the use of buildings they occupy. Even temporary revamps to apartments in urban areas have led to accidents, so authorities strictly prohibit any changes. 

Apartments constructed before 2010 were often shoddily built and did not include living rooms. Recent apartments now include verandas, family rooms and other features, and are larger than before. 

There are eight rules that users of housing in North Korea must follow after receiving a permit. These rules include prohibitions against damaging any of the items inside the houses and handing over the house to another party without permission. People who violate the rules face punishment. 

The state assigns housing only to those in Pyongyang and specific classes of people, such as soldiers who have received honorable discharges. Most housing is bought and sold through private transactions, so the permit system supports the management of housing in the country. 

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to