Automotive industry

The history of North Korea’s auto industry is full of secrets and imitators


North Korea is a country of around 25 million people, but estimates suggest there are only 30,000 vehicles on its roads. This makes it perhaps the country with the lowest car ownership rate in the world. So what do North Koreans who drive own?

It won’t surprise you to learn that he’s hard to pin down. The country, known to many as the Hermit Kingdom, tends not to provide information. A recent video from Donut Media, however, tries to find the answer.

In addition to the many vehicles that transport military personnel, who represent almost 5% of the population at any one time, there are also many imported vehicles. According to the defectors, Mercedes-Benzes are the de facto government vehicles in North Korea, and the higher your position, the fancier the model. No surprise then.

Also Read: Investigation Reveals How Kim Jong-un Got His Armored Mercedes-Benzes

Luxury Toyotas can also be found on the country’s roads despite trade restrictions preventing the two manufacturers from selling their cars there. And there are also plenty of 70s Volvos on its roads following a single shipment of 1,000 144s on which the country allegedly skipped the bill.

However, there are also domestically produced vehicles in North Korea. The first vehicle likely to have been assembled there is the Pobeda, a sleek sedan designed by Gaz of the USSR. The automaker built a factory in Pyongyang to make the car, along with a handful of military vehicles.

Given its insular nature, it should perhaps come as no surprise that North Korea also has its own manufacturers. Sungri Engine Plant was founded in 1950 to build military vehicles for the Korean War. It has long created copycat passenger vehicles for home use, starting with Gaz models and now making oddly familiar vehicles that look like Volkswagens, Mercedes and the like.

Pyeongwha, meanwhile, made Fiat-licensed versions based on the Siena and Doblo. After that agreement expired, he also created copycat versions of cars from elsewhere. Today, it has the exclusive right to build new cars and sell used vehicles in the country. A deal that sounds better than it is because, officially, individuals cannot own vehicles.

Finally, if you are the leader of North Korea, your options open up, as Kim Jong-un has shown. He reportedly owns an Audi R8, a Range Rover, a Rolls-Royce, etc.