North Korea’s Latest Bizarre Interior Decorating Craze

Previously, North Korea hasn’t exactly been known for their fun, colorful design elements, but that’s all about to change. Take a look inside the country’s latest (mandatory) design craze.  

1. “A socialist fairyland”

Panorama of Pyongyang and the Taedong-gang river

He wants the country to transform into a colorful oasis. | Greg2016/iStock/Getty Images

North Korean leaders have a vision: a socialist fairyland. “Let us turn the whole country into a socialist fairyland!” announced Marshall Kim Jong-un, declaring another one of North Korea’s 310 official patriotic slogans. But what does a socialist fairyland look like? It looks a lot like the set of a Wes Anderson movie.

2. No more drab gray

Security area North Korea border

The pops of blue against the grey background is striking. | Frank Bucter/iStock/Getty Images

Most western visitors who come to North Korea on these strictly-controlled trips, accompanied by three official guides at all times, expect to find a drab gray world of crumbling concrete and monumental Stalinist slabs, (of which there are, of course, plenty),” says CNN. “But what stands out is the color.”

Goodbye monotonous gray, hello mustard yellows, turquoise, baby blue, and terracotta.

3. Pastels

View of the Pyongyang city and Tucheto River

The buildings can be found in pastel pink and green. | Matej Hudovernik/iStock/Getty Images

The main palette for this socialist fairyland is a wide array of whimsical pastels. You can find them in their theatres, their schools, gymnasiums, hotels, and restaurants. These buildings that feature this otherworldly, fairytale-inspired color scheme give the impression of being on a type of movie or theatrical set; these interior designs don’t feel like real life. Along with the pastel walls, design elements include shiny vinyl floors and brightly upholstered furniture.     

4. Everything is just so

Pyongyang North Korea Metro

Everything is done just so. | Sze Soong Teoh/iStock/Getty Images

Though this design seems both childlike and quirky, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t follow a strict set of rules. “The spaces tend to be symmetrically aligned along a central axis,” says CNN writer Oliver Wainwright. The colors are playful, but everything seems to be placed very deliberately and carefully; nothing about this design is an accident.   

5. Interiors are decorated with the leader in mind

Metro in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Architectural space must pay hommage to the country’s leaders. | Matej Hudovernik/iStock/Getty Images

All of these interiors have one thing in common: they all point to an image or statue of one of North Korea’s leaders. “Architectural space must be composed to ensure that the leader’s image dominates all the elements of the space, and that all the architectural components throw the leader’s image in bold relief,” Kim Jong-il wrote in the 160-page architectural treatise that acts as a manual for all new design development.  

6. Both inside and out

Pyongyang Skyline

The buildings are just as colorful on the inside as the outside. | josephferris76/iStock/Getty Images

It’s not just the inside that looks like a pastele fairyland, it’s the exterior of buildings as well. Among all the old, gray, industrial buildings you’ll see pops of color in bright blues, oranges and yellows. It’s not just government buildings that are getting colorful makeovers, either, it’s personal homes and apartment buildings as well.  

7. What the design is really about

Nampo, North Korea

They use color to distract from the bleakness of poverty. | Aleks66/iStock/Getty Images

So why the sudden drastic change in design? Wainwright has a theory: “It is interior design as anaesthetic — a consciousness use of kindergarten color schemes to distract from the reality of mass poverty, food shortages and deteriorating standards of education and healthcare that is crippling the country.”

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