Censored Metal – Analysing North Korea’s Hidden Car Culture


north korea cars

So then, North Korea. Or to put it simply; the most secretive country in the world.  A place where Eastern Bloc- ideology is still active.  And it’s not as if they’re keeping their residents away from the rest of the world, they’re lying to them about it too.

I watched this documentary where we see these kids watching an American film (smuggled in from China) and one of them just said; “That house must be in Europe or the Soviet Union.”

Shocking, isn’t it?  They’re unaware even about the USSR collapsing!

The car industry is also kept a secret, as it seems. But more and more mental people who have visited the country have spotted some rather interesting stuff.  And I’m about to show you the most interesting cars I could find!

 

Free Volvos…. Sort Of

north korea cars
The majority of the Swedish tanks are 144 saloons.

Perhaps one of the most widely known facts about NK is that in 1974, the state bought 1000 Volvos as part of an ill-fated trade deal.  Most of these included 144 saloons, which are still being used as taxis in Pyongyang!

Some larger six cylinder 164s also ended up heading over there too, but it doesn’t seem anyone has captured one on camera…

But the most mental part: (according to Japolink) they still owe Sweden $393 million from the deal, and not a single penny has been given in over 44 years.

It’s especially mental, when you consider that private car ownership is only possible for a select few.

north korea cars
Kinda comforting to know that these old things are being used constructively.
north korea cars
Fairly empty streets.
north korea cars
Yet another 144
north korea cars
A nice looking 244.
Workhorse!
north korea cars
This is a rather touching photo- a family which takes care of their green 144. Not knowing that it’s stolen from Sweden!

 

They Love Old Mercs

north korea cars
Kim Jong Ill had a 600 Pullman, nice one.

You may think that due to the extremely old fashioned communist ideology, that the officials and leaders would ferry themselves around in large Russian tanks.  But no, they chose Mercs!  Particularly the big S-Classes such as the W116 and W126 models. Later ones can also be seen.

You have to be someone of high profile in order to get this privilege, but the steady increase of private firms in NK means that a minority of civilians now own other Mercedes models, most notably the W123 E-Class.

A fair few of the old things have been seen floating around Pyongyang, including several being used by the police.

north korea cars
Big 5.5 litre V8 means business.
north korea cars
Looks like they can’t afford to fix the suspension on these two…
north korea cars
280SE. Probably owned by a government official.
north korea cars
Great choice for a cop car 😉
north korea cars
Another W123.
north korea cars
Possibly the cleanest example in the whole state!
north korea cars
S-Class with an SEC grille, still fits.
north korea cars
W116.
north korea
Steering box must’ve gone…
north korea cars
As I said: Pyongyang have some decent taste in cop cars!

It’s fairly obvious if you asked me why these old tanks are popular over there. It’s the same reason they’re popular in a lot of places- they just refuse to die!

Nothing beats the over-engineered build quality of an old Merc, therefore it barely surprises me to see the officials being ferried around in them.

 

Soviet-Era Cars Are Also Common

north korea cars
Volgas appear to be driven by owners with their own businesses, Ladas are in the mix too!

Cars built in the Soviet Union are not a hard spot in North Korea, as it seems.  And it appears that a popular car that comes up in a documentary every now and then, are the old GAZ Volgas.

A chap who wrote a similar article to this on Japolink spotted a fairly mint condition example in light blue! (Amongst a few other Soviet vehicles)  And while the idea of being a petrolhead in NK seems bizarre, don’t think they don’t exist!

Lada Rivas appear to be floating around too.  And the military still appear to be using UAZ 4x4s which date back to the early 1970s.

north korea cars
Possibly the best example I’ve seen, and it’s in the DPRK!
north korea cars
Rear
north korea cars
You just can’t escape them…
north korea cars
Yep, they’re still going

Some American Steel Too (albeit very little)

north korea cars
Hates America = drives Lincoln Continental…. okay then

Yep, although there’s a select few, American cars are also apparent in a U.S-hating country.  Not only did Kim Jong Ill’s funeral consist of a stretched Lincoln, but a 1957 Ford Fairlane has also been spotted!

But it’s also spoken that that’s the only classic American car in the entire country, that’s not owned by the government.

north korea cars
Wow. Just wow!
north korea
Hummer H2. That’s an interesting spot.

 

So, There We Are

north korea cars
Practically Volvo heaven.

So, despite me not visiting the incredibly censored country. There’s many incredible things that others have spotted whilst there, so hats off to whoever took these amazing photos!

Hope you found this article/gallery somewhat interesting!

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