DPRK real estate advice: Know your chairman

According to the Daily NK, the chairpersons of the DPRK’s “People’s Units” (the smallest administrative population unit) are elected by the local membership through a show of hands.  Since the chairperson is in a position of some power, the political and economic dynamics that take place are pretty interesting.  The Daily NK notes how a chairperson’s skill at protecting his constituents from inspections by other departments is now factored into local (unofficial) real estate prices:

Quoting from the article:

“When the inspection group comes, the chairpersons of the People’s Units contact each other in advance, so inspections can be avoided. Nowadays, how a People’s Unit chairperson acts affects the price of housing.”

“People who buy homes now cannot distinguish between good and bad homes, but pay great attention to the People’s Unit in the neighborhood. If the People’s Unit chairperson is not so sophisticated, then the neighborhood cannot come together, so people tend to avoid such neighborhoods and the price of housing tends to fall as well.”

“If an inspection unit comes suddenly, the People’s Unit chairperson tends to alert every household through the children in the village, which has been described as ‘the pastime of the People’s Unit.’ The more a People’s Unit chairperson excels at this, the less damage to the people of the unit.”

“Officials or big-time merchants pay careful attention to their relationship with the chairpersons. No matter what the type of inspection is, the citizens’ attitude can be assumed via the words of the chairperson of the People’s Unit, so the fate of a household depends on the words of the chairperson.”

And if the chairperson is not good at his job?

“Depending on the extent of the damage to the People’s Unit during the inspections, people distinguish whether or not the People’s Unit chairperson is smart and experienced or not. If the chairperson is judged to be not smart, then he or she has to relinquish his or her position.”

It is interesting that the chairpersons take such an interest in protecting their constituents from outside authorities, however, it is naïve to think that local elections are responsible for this behavior.  The reality is that these chairpersons probably know a good deal of information about their residents and collect some form of direct payment, or “taxes”, for their services.  The quote above, “big-time merchants pay careful attention to their relationship with the chairpersons,” is just a more polite way of saying this.  If the chairperson position was not profitable in some way, why would anyone want it?

Read the full Daily NK story here:
Who Is the Chairperson of the People’s Unit?
Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee
8/18/2008

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