The “people’s safety departments” of some provincial branches of the Ministry of Social Security are refusing to register motorcycles under the names of their owners, Daily NK has learned. 

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Tuesday, a man in South Pyongan Province recently went to the Ministry of Social Security to register his newly purchased motorcycle, but was told that “private individuals are not permitted to register [motorcycles].”

The local told the officials that the authorities had permitted registrations under individual names in the past and asked the reason for the sudden change, but officials simply repeated that “they cannot register private[ly-owned] motorcycles that are being registered for the first time.”

When the individual lived near the Sino-North Korean border, he had purchased a used motorcycle that was registered with a workplace and had simply re-registered it under his own name.

After recently moving to South Pyongan Province, however, he ended up buying a new motorcycle because he knew he would have to re-register his old motorcycle in line with government regulations. Naturally, he tried to register the new motorcycle under his own name, but he came up against a bureaucratic wall.

Motorcycle North Korea 2
Motorcycles on display at the 10th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair in 2014 / Image: Uri Tours, Creative Commons, Flickr

The individual is now looking at just registering his new motorbike with his workplace, the source said. People who register their motorcycles with a workplace only have to worry about paying a fee to the authorities each month. 

One of the major reasons why the authorities may be refusing to allow individuals from registering their motorcycles under their own names is make things easier for themselves. From the perspective of officialdom, it is easier to tie motorcycles to workplaces than to allow individuals to register them helter-skelter.

It is also interesting to note that according to Article 95 of North Korea’s Road Traffic Law, “[The purchasers of] motorcycles (excluding those provided by the state) are not allowed to conduct their first registration [of the vehicle] in Pyongyang.” This regulation, which originally applied only to Pyongyang, seems to be gradually expanding in scope to other parts of the country. 

There is also speculation that the authorities, who are hard up for cash due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are simply trying to squeeze the pockets of ordinary people, according to the source.  

As North Korea continues to enact laws to deal with increasing vehicles on its roads, the authorities are stressing compliance with the new regulations. The increase of these new laws, however, has led to ever louder chorus of motorists complaining about the “discomfort” these new rules are causing, the source said. 

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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