Expansion of Electrical Infrastructure in Samjiyeon for Mt. Baekdu Tours?

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee
1/11/2008

Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Chosun (North Korea) Workers Party, discussed the construction of new electrical infrastructure in Samjiyeon in a feature titled, “The New Legend from the Night-less City, Samjiyeon,” on December 26.

Rodong Sinmun praised Samjiyeon’s current condition, saying that “It is literally a night-less city where countless lights from houses and streetlights along the beltway shine like stars.”

The newspaper implied that providing electricity to hotels and other lodging for visitors was the reason for setting up the electrical infrastructure, noting that “Visitors who have completed long distance marches would want to take a rest, sing songs, and play accordions in the heated rooms of lodgings by the lake of Samjiyeon.”

The newspaper revealed, “The electricity produced by the Samsoo Power Plant, which was completed in May 2007, is now flowing to Samjiyeon.”

It added, “The June 18 Shock Brigade and workers form the Ministry of Electric Power pursued the lofty goals of the great General to expand the electrical infrastructure of the Mt. Baekdu region. They provided materials and equipment for the construction of power-transmission wires and towers and built them.”

To accomplish the goal of the North Korean authorities, in there words: “to improve the hometown of the General to meet global standards” – the Propaganda and Agitation Department organized the “Shock Brigade for the Propagation of the Party Ideology” (June 18 Shock Brigade) and made the brigade tear down houses and start reconstructing the city.

Although North Korean authorities said that they redeveloped the Samjiyeon district for the purpose of restoring Kim Jong Il’s hometown, a rumor is spreading among cadres that this reconstruction project was actually carried out in preparation for the commencement of Mt. Baekdu tours for South Koreans, according to inside sources.

In 1998, when the North and Hyundai Asan started Mt. Geumgang’s tour business, they agreed that Hyundai would offer 942 million dollars to the North in return for the right to use the tour site and to run the tour business for 30 years. Similar preparations to the ones being made in Samyijeon were completed prior to the opening of the Geumgang site.

It appears that North Korea has been carrying out construction work in Samjiyeon since 2001. Experts point out that reconstruction of the houses in the area was inevitable because these sites would soon be revealed to South Korean tourists.

North Korean authorities stressed that the newly-built houses are on par with international standards but residents complain of insufficient electrical supplies, according to the inside sources.

Sources said that the power situation was so dire that residents are forced to cook outdoors and bring heated stones in their houses for heating.

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