15 Striking Changes in North and South Korea After 70 Years of Separation

People who study Korean culture seem to believe that "everyone likes talking about North Korea because you can say anything about it." However, news like Kim Jong-un using a flamethrower to burn one of his ministers or the announcement about the successful landing on the Sun can’t be proved.

Bright Side wants to shed some light on the life of ordinary people from North Korea in comparison to South Korea. The division of Korea has had a huge impact on life in both countries.

Pyongyang vs. Seoul

From the clouds, both capitals appear to be large megalopolises. The high-rise buildings in Pyongyang are almost the same as the apartment blocks in Seoul or Busan.

The common panorama

2 cities share a common panorama on the Han River, and the views from the opposite riverbanks are pretty much the same. Although suicide rates are quite high in South Korea, and bridge jumping is not uncommon. The thing is that some people can’t cope with the high level of interpersonal competition in South Korea. The idea of a measured rhythm of life doesn’t exist here. Everyone’s main goal is success and self-realization.


This is what the business districts look like in both capitals.

Residential areas

And these are the residential areas. It is interesting to know that people in North Korea do not pay housing and communal services bills: apartments are given to them for free after their marriage registration. A small apartment in South Korea, on the other hand, can cost up to $180,000.


As for fashion, there are many false myths about it in North Korea: for example, a woman can’t wear pants, or there’s only a certain number of approved haircuts. Fairly fashionable clothes can be bought in the international supermarkets (for the rich people) or from sellers in China. Of course, there is no comparison with South Korea, considered to be one of the most stylishly dressed countries in the world. 50 years of fashion development separate these countries.


Education in North Korea is based on 1 year of preparatory school and 10 years of compulsory studying. After that, young geniuses and rich kids enter universities, and the rest of the students start looking for a job. Western literature and geography are among the school subjects, but to demonstrate the Western way of life, teachers mainly use African countries. As for South Korea, school studying lasts for 12 years, and local universities are considered to be among the most prestigious in the world. Many students from different countries dream about an internship here.


This is what a break from work looks like. As you can see, 70 years can’t erase old habits. What is the average salary that North Koreans make? You’ll be surprised, but it’s about $3 a day with tickets for food. The average salary in the south is about 1,000 times more.


The bright and energetic K-pop shocked defectors from the north. Actually, many defectors from North Korea take a 3-month course to adapt to modern life. If you want to know more about the process of merging into a new life, you can read the BBC’s investigation about it.


There is no famine in North Korea, but a shortage of fruits and vegetables is obvious, which is why apples and cabbages are very popular. The lack of protein-rich foods influences the average person’s height in comparison to South Koreans. To fill the protein gap, people started hunting frogs and turtles. Food carriages on the streets of big cities offer sausage sticks, ice cream, popcorn, and steamed meat buns. Seoul, on the other hand, can offer not only rich national cuisine but also many diverse European dishes.

Public transport

The story goes that Pyongyang has only 3 metro stations that are used only by foreigners. So not true! The metro system in North Korea was constructed several years before the one in Seoul, and all people are allowed to use it.

You can’t buy a car in North Korea. Only military and government officials are awarded cars. That’s why people usually use public transport or bicycles.


Don’t think that the North Koreans have no gadgets at all. North Korea has its own factory that produces TVs, laptops, and smartphones ("Arirang" runs on Android). They are manufactured in China and branded in North Korea. Although few people have enough money to buy these kinds of goods.


Your eyes don’t lie: North Korea has golf courses. Common citizens don’t play it, of course. They don’t even know what it actually is.

But the Munsu Water Park is known to everyone.


North Korea may be called the most closed and secretive country in the world, but you don’t have to believe every myth about it. We have all seen a photograph of the Korean Peninsula from space, where North Korea is a completely dark spot. But if you look closer, you might see that Vladivostok, the Eastern Russian city, and several cities in China seem to be deleted too.

In addition to everything you have read here, we bet that you’ll completely change your opinion about North Korea after watching the amazing trailer of Comrade Kim goes Flying.

Preview photo credit seoulstreetstyle
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