North Korea passes city beautification law

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-5-23

It has been confirmed that North Korea has passed a ‘City Beautification Law’ and that it is moving ahead in earnest with environmental beautification projects.

On May 9, 2013 the mouthpiece of North Korea’s cabinet, the Minju Chosun, introduced the city beautification legislation in its ‘Regulations Explained’ section. This is the first time city beautification has been mentioned in one of North Korea’s major publications. The Ministry of Unification claimed that “it has not yet been confirmed” whether this law has been enacted. The City Beatification Law was not included in the Complete Collection of North Korean Statutes which was published in October 2012. As such, one can infer that the City Beautification Law was enacted in the last few months.

According to Minju Chosun, the City Beautification Law is a five page document consisting of 42 clauses. The law’s purpose is “to contribute to providing a culturally sanitary living environment to the North Korean people by setting up strict institutions and establishing order in the following areas: the city cleaning industry, the beautification of buildings and facilities, and city planning.” The City Beautification Law sets regulations that provide for the participation of the North Korean people in the business of city beautification. It also establishes city beautification sectors for management by civic organizations, government agencies, and enterprises.

The legislation includes content which calls on North Koreans to strengthen cooperation and international exchanges in terms of city beautification. It also encourages scientific industry research for the sake of city beautification and the expansion of investment in the city beautification industry. Minju Chosun emphasized that city beautification is not something which can be taken on by only a few individual civic groups. Emphasizing that city beautification is a project which must be conducted on a national scale, the paper reported that, “it is a huge task which must be undertaken by all people across the country.”

Recent reports from major news centers in North Korea seem to confirm that North Korea is concentrating efforts in the city beautification business. In an April 3 article entitled “The Urban Planning Industry is a Noble Patriotic Industry,” Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the Korean Workers’ Party, reported that “Continually, a great effort must be put into the innovation of the appearance of North Korea’s cities.” The paper suggested beautification techniques such as remodeling the facades of buildings, conserving fences, city planning, paving sidewalks with precast pavers, gardening and afforestation of areas around streams, and riverbank beautification.

On April 9, Pyongyang Broadcasting reported that Independence Road Park is being constructed in the Mangyongdae region as a relaxation area for workers and students. The park is projected to have facilities for volleyball, basketball, roller-skating, and mini-golf. At the end of last month, the Sweetbrier Center, a state of the art civic center, was opened on the bank of the Daedong River.

One is able to get a sense of North Korea’s plans for environmental beautification from Kim Jong Un’s recent statements and activities. While visiting the National Science Center Biological Building’s Turf Research Center, Kim emphasized the importance of cultivating grass: “Grass gives the ground a beautiful appearance by covering its exterior like silk. It plays an important role in protecting national land and in cultivating our living environment both culturally and in terms of sanitation.”

According to Kim’s statement, it can be assumed that the City Beautification Law’s enactment was driven by Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on building a “civilized socialist country.” The expansion of the task of city beatification from Pyongyang to other regions coincides with the slogan coined by the Kim regime: civilized socialist country. That the city beautification business is backed by legislation suggests it will not be a short term policy.

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