North Koreans May Have Found the Coolest Status Symbol
North Korea has one of the oddest instances of conspicuous consumption.
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North Koreans may live in heavily controlled isolation from the rest of the world, but they still suffer from ridiculous conspicuous consumption. But unlike the Lexuses (Lexi?), mansions, and handbags of suburbia, North Koreans flaunt their wealth with fridges.
In 1999, only one in 100 families owned a fridge, but thanks to a burgeoning black market and increased trade with China, that number has jumped up to one in every 15 or 20 households, based on information given by defectors.
Usually imported from China, these fridges aren't actually that weird a choice for a status symbol. Just over the DMZ, we've long heard stories that fancy kimchi fridges separate the upper classes from the proles.
Strangely, thèse nouveau riche don't actually use their fridges for cold storage, due to a horrendous power grid that is about as fickle as Pyongyang's mood. So for now, many of these privileged North Koreans are using the fridges for storing books.