While most people think of the famous satellite images of North Korea at night if they think of North Korea at night at all, there are still 25 million people living there and not all of them go to sleep when the sun goes down.
While those in larger cities will have sporadic electricity, the supply has improved over time and Pyongyang, in particular, sees few and usually only brief power outages. In villages and smaller towns, generators may supply a small amount of electricity to light homes, or people resort to flashlights or candles, solar-powered lights or even wind up lights. More and more North Koreans own a solar panel which they can use for heating water and charging torches cellphones.
While looking at satellite images of Korea can give a drastic picture of the difference a lot of what we see in South Korea or China is essentially light pollution, advertising, heavy traffic on the roads etc, so the idea that night time for North Koreans means sleeping or sitting in the dark is a natural but somewhat false conclusion to draw from an image like that.
So what is North Korea at night like?
Obviously there is a big divide in terms of North Korean nightlife depending on where you live as to what’s available.
In most cities, there are bars that can usually keep the lights on until it gets late enough to close, so going out to a pub for a drink is possible for most city dwellers. Another alternative is visiting a friend’s home to play cards or other games and share a meal or have a drink together. With cheaper LED lighting flooding in from China, the cities also look much brighter from ground level.
Smaller villages will sometimes have a bonfire or share something such as Diesel Clams or Potato BBQ which also provides light and heat washed down with beer, soju or homemade alcohol, Those living in Coastal regions or cities such as Wonsan will also often have a seafood BBQ by the sea.
Combined with a few torches or solar lights, a battery-powered set up for Karaoke or just your best singing voice, you can have yourself a decent little party.
How about Nightlife in Pyongyang?
Here you’re obviously going to get a much better choice. There are few power cuts, although people still take care to not overtax the grid, and you won’t usually see every light in an apartment turned on.
In terms of things to do, there are of course more options than anywhere outside the capital. Bars are abundant as are restaurants and Karaoke bars and with more reliable power supply, places tend to stay open later. Coffee shops have also become a popular place especially for younger couples or groups of friends to frequent and while still difficult it’s not impossible for even a tourist to find a decent cocktail.
There are also a couple of brightly lit service boats that ply the Taedongang such as the “Rainbow” and “Sunrise” featuring entertainment and eating onboard, or more bare-bones speedboats that you can ride at night. aside from that, there are multiple theme parks that open at night, featuring funfair rides, video games and 4d theatres, there is also a dolphinarium that starts it’s show at 7PM, a minigolf course, cinemas, theatres, sports, musical performances, magic shows and sometimes massive performances like Arirang. Service centers with swimming pools/saunas or gyms etc stay open until reasonably late to allow workers to sweat off some stress or get some lifts in. The only thing is many of these options cost money- so as with most people around the world, many Pyongyangites just grab street food with a friend or go to each other’s place for a meal, or take a walk with their spouse/partner to see the lit-up sights of Pyongyang city, however for much of Pyongyang’s growing middle class, these expenses are becoming more affordable.
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