Loo roll for North Korean elites only as hotels and restaurants use newspapers

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Toilet paper is still only used by elite members of society in North Korea, with hotel guests and restaurant diners mostly having to make do with newspaper.

The majority of North Koreans are also still using squat toilets, although that can be through preference with water shortages not necessarily making a sit-down toilet a more attractive proposition.

These lavatory insights have been shared as part of the NK News website's Ask a North Korean feature, where readers are encouraged to submit questions to defectors from the country, many of whom have only left in recent years.

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The toilet trivia comes via Hyun-seung Lee, who is from an elite North Korean family but defected in 2014.

He is a contributor to NK News, which is an American subscription-based website that provides news and analysis about North Korea.

Having been asked about North Korean bathroom habits, Lee revealed: "Toilet paper is available, and while it is not seen as a luxury item per se, only the North Korean elites and the middle class typically have access to it.

"Families with the money will buy good toilet paper for the home, but the less fortunate will use old copies of the Rodong Sinmun (with images of the leader removed!), pages from notebooks or simply wash with water.

"I often saw bathrooms equipped with such makeshift toilet paper. Newspapers and other printed material had been torn up into palm-sized pieces and stacked up conveniently beside the toilet.

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He added: "This was the norm even at hotels and public buildings, restaurants and shops, though it is also not uncommon for people to bring their own means of wiping if they used a toilet outside their home.

"North Korea produces toilet paper, but production volume is limited due to material shortages. Generally, toilet paper is only distributed or sold to the ruling party and in Pyongyang."

Energy shortages, though, mean an average household only has running water for between two to three hours a day, leading to flushing and tank refilling issues.

Spare parts are also scarce for sit-down toilets, while the continued popularity of human excrement as agricultural fertiliser is another reason why many North Koreans persist with squat toilets, according to Lee.


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