North Korean authorities have recently taken issue with rampant real estate transactions, calling for crackdowns and stronger controls on the buying and selling of state-owned housing, Daily NK has learned. 

“On June 26, the government issued an order to the Ministry of Social Security and housing management departments of people’s committees in each city, province and county to eliminate the practice of people buying and selling state-owned houses without proper approval,” a source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on July 6. 

The North Korean real estate market has recently seen the emergence of brokers who have been able to get a hold of government-issued occupancy certificates and facilitate real estate transactions, and the practice is gradually becoming more conspicuous.

According to the source, the order labeled “buying or selling state-provided houses out of self-interest” as “a shameless act that destroys socialism.” 

The order emphasized that most house sellers are those suffering from financial difficulties while purchases tend to be wealthy individuals seeking to capitalize on the opportunity to buy up good-quality houses. It further stated that the Ministry of Social Security is in charge of rooting out this “inhumane and capitalist phenomenon” in partnership with local people’s committees. 

The order called for the enactment of rules that stipulate fines or punishment at forced labor camps for individuals who commit illegal acts such as modernizing or revamping their home without approval, including those who purchase a neighboring house to convert two houses into one. 

The order pointed out that local housing authorities tend to turn a blind eye or even abet these practices by misusing their power and authority to receive bribes. For example, the order stated that housing authorities issue occupancy certificates to real estate agents or even hand over entire stacks of blank certificates to brokers. 

The source said that the authorities are conducting investigations to stamp out this corruption, which they have labelled “anti-socialist practices that deserve strong legal punishment.”

“Recent economic troubles have led a growing number of people to sell their houses to survive, which has led to a frenzy of activity among real estate agents,” the source told Daily NK.

“The government order has made both real estate agents and people looking to buy or sell houses afraid they might get caught and made an example of,” he added. 

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to