The Daily NK reports that construction is afoot at numerous DPRK leadership compounds.
Residence 15 in the Central District (중앙구역):
The residence is located at 39° 0’56.39″N, 125°44’45.45″E. The first photo is dated March 23, 2009. The second is dated December 20, 2009. The third image is from the Daily NK story overlaid onto Google Earth.
Onpho Spa in Kyongsong County (경성군):
The Daily NK also provides a new image of the elite compound at the Onpho Spa. Here is the original low resolution image from Google Earth and the new high resolution image:
This compound is located at 41°39’26.91″N, 129°30’29.57″E. Even though the “before” image is in low resolution, we can see that the compound has been drastically rebuilt. It bears resemblance to the Sinchon Elite Compound (satellite image here) which also is built on a spa. Barbara Demick mentioned this facility in her recent Nothing to Envy.
The Daily NK also mentions that here is construction taking place at the leadership compound in Songdowon, north of Wonsan. Satellite image here.
The reconstruction of leadership compounds has been underway for some time. I blogged about some other projects in February 2009. Read about them here.
Here is the text from the Daily NK story:
An unusual level of remodeling and reconstruction of official buildings and special villas is going on across North Korea, according to sources.
One such source inside North Korea reported today that after demolishing the No. 15 Official Residence, located in vicinity of Kim Jong Il’s current office in Pyongyang, the authorities began construction of a new building in July, a claim which has been confirmed by satellite images.
The No. 15 Official Residence was where Ko Young Hee, Kim Jong Eun’s mother, used to live. The location is linked to Kim Jong Il’s office and other official buildings by underground tunnels fitted with an electronic train. When Kim Jong Eun was a child, he also lived there.
However, the source said he believes that the prime real estate may be undergoing a change of use.
The source also reported that in December, 2009, Kim Jong Eun ordered the destruction of another special villa in Kyungsung, North Hamkyung Province, a place famous for hot springs, and the building of a new conference hall and villa with imported construction materials in its place.
Approximately ten kilometers of road and rail construction has also been going on so that the area can be reached more conveniently, the source added.
According to the source, around 1,200 soldiers have been mobilized alongside residents of Chongjin and Hoiryeong for the work. In addition, each household in the area has had to provide ten buckets of rocks for construction and pay 500 won for their delivery.
Regarding this work, North Korea Reform Radio reported in July, “During construction of Kim Jong Eun’s special villa in Kyungsung, the authorities diverted the flow of a stream flowing through Haonpo-ri in Kyungsung, burying farms and angering residents.”
Reconstruction of another villa and conference hall at the coastal Songdowon Resort in Wonsan, Kangwon Province is also ongoing. This construction is reportedly a gift for Kim Jong Il on the orders of Kim Jong Eun.
The construction consists of two large, circular buildings. One of them has a lot of separate rooms, while the other has just one big hall, according to rumors.
Therefore, the source assumed that the finished building might be a similar to Kim Jong Il’s Seoho Villa, the No. 72 Villa in Nakwon, South Hamkyung, which is rumored to have one room extending 100m below the ground.
A South Korean architect estimates that the construction of the three facilities and railroad will cost a total of around $180 million dollars, an amount which, according to the current international market price of corn, $300/ton, is enough to buy 600,000 tons of corn, enough to feed 2.3 million North Koreans for two months.
According to documents the South Korean military and intelligence authorities provided for submission to a hearing of the Diplomacy, Commerce and Unification Committee of the National Assembly by lawmaker Yoon Sang Hyun, there are 33 luxurious villas in beautiful mountainous areas and along the coasts of North Korea. Since 2008, 13 out of 33 sites have been under maintenance work, according to intelligence.
There are also 28 stations for the exclusive use of Kim Jong Il across North Korea.
In North Korea, in general, around two or three facilities are remodeled per year, but the current degree of widespread construction and remodeling suggests that Kim Jong Eun may be set to use the villas in the future.
On this, an anonymous expert with a national policy institute suggested that it does not portend a scaling back of the Kim family ruling style. “Seeing Kim Jong Eun’s luxurious life pattern,” he said, “he seems set to follow his father’s conventional method of dictatorship.”
Read the full sotry here:
Luxury Villa Construction Booming
Kim Tae Hong