North Korean license plates are like the plates of most nations. That is because unlike in capitalist countries few cars are privately owned. Thus the colour of the North Korean license plate tells a story.
Those with a keen eye may notice different coloured North Korean license plates while driving through the streets of Pyongyang. With blue, black, red, green and yellow license plates to be seen, each colour can give a small insight into who might be driving each car.
North Korean license plates – Blue ones
The most common colour to be seen is the blue North Korean license plate. All blue license plates are state-owned vehicles. They may be registered to companies or businesses, but are essentially, and technically like all companies are owned by the state. Not all that different to how you might get given a company car in the west. Although state owned North Korea has a lot of companies.
THus you will notice that your trusted KITC tourist bus will have a blue license plate.
North Korean license plates – black
Second most common is the black license plates. These are all vehicles owned by the military. Being owned by the military does not mean that they are al military vehicles, in fcat far from it. You will see buses, vans, trucks and some of the best cars in North Korea sporting the black number plate.
North Korean license plates – Green
One of the rarer North Korean license plates that you will see going through Pyongyang. The green plates are used by cars owned bu embassy workers, NGO’s, and other international organizations that are based in Pyongyang.
Red license plates in North Korea
Red North Korean license plates are another rare site in Pyongyang and again are very specific to the group they belong. They are private vehicles, privately owned by foreign nationals living in North Korea, so not embassy staff for example. The majority of red license plates are thus owned by Chinese businessmen resident in the DPRK, although this is far from exclusively he case.
Yellow license plates
My absolue favourite when it comes to North Korean license plates. Thesew ere formerly so rare that I would buy a beer for the first guest to spot one, people rarely did. Nowadays though they are a much more common sight. These are cars privately owned by North Korean citizens. Some might be gifts from the state for winning a gold medal, but some are paid for with hard earned cash. This could be by North Koreans involved in business, or ones with rich relatives in Japan for example.
727 license plates
In amongst all these colours, look out for license plates started with 727, signifying July 27 – the DPRK’s date for their Victory Day. These cars are driven by high state officials and come in a variety of colours. Needless to say you will not see too many old bangers sporting this number.
If you cannot read Korean, you might be wondering what the Korean characters at the beginning of each plate mean. These characters are the name of the city in which this car is registered. Obviously he vast majority of cars are registered in Pyongyang, but certainly not all of them and it can be fun to try and find ones that were registered elsewhere.
Can you see foreign license plates in North Korea?
Whilst you are unlikely to see all that many in Pyongyang, in the border cities of Sinuiju and Rason Chinese vehicles, such as certain taxis are allowed to enter the DPRK. North Korea also imports and exports various goods, so you will see Chinese and Russian going through various parts of the country.