Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

North Korea passes city beautification law

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

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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North Korean architecture

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Bradley Martin, author of Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, has written a review of the book Architectural and Cultural Guide: Pyongyang (learn more here) in the Boston Globe:

An impulse to come to terms with one of the world’s strangest cities animates “Architectural and Cultural Guide Pyongyang” (DOM Publishers). In two volumes, the appropriately strange new book pairs a reprint of the North Korean government’s own guide to its capital (long available to foreigners browsing Pyongyang bookstores; I acquired my copy on a visit more than two decades ago) with a collection of essays by outsiders about what, exactly, we’re seeing here. The editor, Berlin architect Philipp Meuser, describes the work as “a paradoxical attempt to lend normalcy to the abnormal.”

A Western architecture guide to an Eastern city that receives few Western visitors is a curious thing to start with. Beyond that, some might find it almost indecent to think of Pyongyang as an aesthetic achievement. After all, the most towering fact about North Korea isn’t its buildings but the dire circumstances of its people—a country of 24 million now entering the third generation of rule by a dynasty of dictators whose early run of economic policy successes sputtered to an end a half-century ago.

But buildings are valuable aids to understanding any society, and perhaps even more so when it comes to one of world’s most isolated and secretive regimes. The city’s centrally planned skyline, its huge empty avenues and libraries and stadiums, reflect a very particular fusion of Korean culture with socialist ideology. And the streetscape of Pyongyang tells much of the story of North Korea: the gulf between the strange ambitions of the buildings and the often invisible citizens for whom they are notionally built.

Read the full story here.

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Architectural and Cultural Guide: Pyongyang

Monday, August 6th, 2012

UPDATE (2012-12-28): Here is a review in the Wall Street Journal.

ORIGINAL POST: In June 2011 I posted information on the German publication Architekturführer Pjöngjang.

I have just been informed that this publication is now available in English: Architectural and Cultural Guide: Pyongyang. You can look through a bit of the book here. You can order it on Amazon.com here.

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Rason architecture development concept being implemented

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

On 2010-11-5, the Choson Ilbo published a report on a North Korean video which portrayed an urban/architectural vision for the future of Rajin (Rason). I have uploaded this video to YouTube:

A better-quality version of the video can be found on Youku (PR of China) here.

For those of you who don’t want to watch the video again, here are the relevant images:

 

The video begins with a quote by Kim Il-sung who insists that the DPRK needs to make Rason better than Singapore after-which it elucidates the viewer as to how this task will be accomplished.  Part one of the video focuses on the reconstruction of downtown Rajin, where a broad new north-south boulevard lined with new housing and facilities is set to become the new city center.

When I first saw this video I interpreted it as more “wishful thinking” on the part of North Korea’s urban planners than a manifestation of actual policy proposals. According to new[ish] satellite imagery on Google Earth, however, it appears that the North Koreans are actually going for it:

 

The image on the left is an old one archived on my computer so I unfortunately don’t know the date. The image on the right is from Google Earth and was taken on 2011-6-19.  The recenlty released Google Earth image actually predates the release of the North Korean video–so this is what the city looked like when the video was made public. Unfortunately I have not yet seen any new tourism photos from this area to determine if construction has continued to the present day.

Many houses have been demolished to make way for the new road, and I am not sure to where the dislocated families have been moved. If progress continues, however, many more Rajin residents can expect to see their homes demolished to make way for new high-rise apartments. To see a good example of the urban transition, look at what happened in Ryongchon.

Along the south end of the new road, we can see proposed construction projects in various stages of implementation–from “completed” to “unstarted”:

The Rajin Noodle Restaurant has long been completed.  A new project to the north-east of the restaurant has been launched.  I am not sure, but I believe it is either a new library or health complex. South of that is a construction site that has not yet been launched.  The video also shows a large new stadium scheduled to replace Rajin’s humbe sports field and gymnasium.  This work does not appear to have begun either.

If any readers can understand the video and pass along any helpful information I would appreciate it.

UPDATE 1: Calvin Chua of Choson Exchange writes in with the following commentary:

In general, these are three main characteristics of their urban plan which I gather from the video.

1) Functional Zoning
Like any typical urban master plan, Rason is divided into various zones: commercial, leisure, residential, distributed according to its geographical characteristics of hilly regions and the sea.

2) Emphasis of Axis and Roundabouts
There is a great emphasis on the long axial roads meeting at roundabouts which are filled with monuments and civic buildings. I believe this is largely influenced by their urban plan for Pyongyang which is planned according to early 20th century socialist urban model. In principle, it is should be efficient for vehicular movement and transportation of goods.

3) Relationship with Mountain and Sea and the 3D Effect Narrative
The urban plan is also built upon a visual narrative of the harmony between the mountain and the sea where the buildings are designed and placed strategically to provide a 3-dimensional effect‘입체감’ (a term that is constantly repeated throughout the video).

Aesthetics aside, Rason’s urban plan seems to be quite basic, it lacks the dynamism of other new SEZs, research parks that are currently being developed. Increasingly, cities are becoming more complex and developing the software infrastructure (data cables, monitoring systems, green technologies, etc) are becoming as equally important as developing the physical infrastructure (buildings and roads). New business parks like Songdo in Incheon are fully wired up jointly by IBM and Cisco. Urban planning and management has become a thriving business for tech companies like Siemens to construction conglomerates like Bechtel which offer one-stop solutions from financing to construction and layout grids for the city.

While Rason is far less sophisticated than Songdo, but in order to be a well-functioning SEZ, it needs to consider and provide better urban management systems beyond physical infrastructure. Rason would need to consider the project on a longer term basis since the urban infrastructure provided today will have economic ramifications in future. For example, to rewire or install new technological infrastructure in future would cost much more than planning for future expansion. Perhaps, it will be interesting to uncover their plans for these ‘soft’ infrastructures together with the organisations (multidisciplinary conglomerates) that would invest in them.

However, luck isn’t on Rason’s side, its development might be hindered by its geographical constraints. It is locked within hilly ridges and to pipe cable infrastructure to it might be costly and it also prevents future expansion of the city. As such, there are many hurdles for Rason to cross before becoming a well-functioning city.

UPDATE 2 (2012-10-18): Calvin Chua offers more data in this post on the Choson Exchange web site.

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Mangyongdae Metro Station concept

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Back in March I wrote a blog post about how the official Pyongyang Metro maps had been updated to reflect the reality of closed stations and stations that would never come to be. You can read all the specifics here.

Just a couple of months after changing the Pyongyang Metro maps, however, the Mangyongdae Metro Station appears to be back on the table.  It was featured at the 12th “May 21 Architectural Festival” (May 9-11):

It is difficult to say for certain where the station would be placed, but older maps show it near Kim Il-sung’s “native house”.

Given the cost and logistics of such a project, I still remain skeptical it will ever be completed…but the citizens of Pyongyang can dream can’t they?

I uploaded video of the metro stop concept pictures to Youtube. You can see them here. You can see the full KCNA video of the architecture exhibit here.

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Kim Jong-un’s guidance trip to the Mangyongdae Funfair

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Wow. In the (approximately) seven years of KCNA reports I have perused on Kim Jong-il’s and Kim jong-un’s guidance trips I have never heard of either of the leaders adopting the tone Kim Jong-un deployed on this trip.

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Mangyongdae Funfair (Not to be confused with the Kaeson funfair or the Taesongsan Funfair). I have actually visited this funfair twice. See here and here.

According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un lashed out at officials of an amusement park for neglecting to take proper care of the facility’s grounds and rides, the North’s state media said Wednesday in an apparent move to highlight the leader’s concern for his people.

North Korean media, including the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said Kim inspected the Mangyongdae Funfair in Pyongyang and scolded officials there after discovering flaws throughout the park.

It is the first time the North Korean media have reported a public censure by the new leader. Reports on similar activities by Kim’s father and late leader Kim Jong-il were also rare.

According to the news reports, Kim Jong-un noticed a damaged path in front of a Viking ride and called it “pathetic,” while also pointing out flaws in the park’s gardens and a roller coaster, the condition of paint on rides and the safety of a water park.

“Seeing the weeds grown in between pavement blocks in the compound of the funfair, he, with an irritated look, plucked them up one by one,” the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch monitored in Seoul. “He said in an excited tone that he has never thought that the funfair is under such a bad state and a proverb that the darkest place is under the candlestick fits the funfair.”

The KCNA reported Kim’s rebukes in detail, using strong expressions of disapproval.

“He scolded officials, saying why such things do not come in their sight and querying could the officials of the funfair work like this, had they had the attitude befitting master, affection for their work sites and conscience to serve the people,” it said. “Plucking up weeds can be done easily with hands as it is different from updating facilities, he added.”

Kim also instructed officials to draw a lesson from touring the site and take it as a warning of the need for a “proper spirit of serving the people,” the KCNA said.

Choe Ryong-hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA), accompanied Kim on the trip and received the task of “sprucing up the funfair as required by the new century by dispatching strong construction forces of the KPA.”

Analysts in Seoul viewed the North Korean media’s unusual approach as an attempt by the leadership to transform Kim’s image. The new leader, believed to be in his late 20s, has thus far been portrayed as a friendly and gentle character with a striking resemblance to his grandfather and founding leader Kim Il-sung. Now, the aim is apparently to depict him as a leader who deals sternly with his aides in order to serve the public, the analysts said.

“It’s an attempt by Kim Jong-un to tighten discipline among ranking officials,” said Jang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. “The fact that it was broadcast shows that the aim is to instill an awareness among ranking officials across North Korea that Kim Jong-un is a benevolent leader but also strict when it comes to principles.”

Jang also said the report could serve other purposes, such as proving Kim’s ability to look after detailed aspects of policy, or blaming government officials for the people’s frustrations.

Below I have posted the original KCNA report of the event:

(more…)

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April 15: Pyongyang via Digital Globe

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

An unknown reader sent in this beautiful Digital Globe satellite image of Pyongyang taken on April 15th, 2012:

Click Image for large version

Photo highlights:

1. Check out the mass rally in Kim Il-sung Square. 영광 (Yonggwang) means “glory”. A tourist made this nice video of the events taking place in the city.

2. The image features the military parade through the newly re-built area of Mansudae street. Looking back, this remains my favorite photo of the construction work (large version here), which was captured by a tourist.

2. The image features the new Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il statues on Mansu Hill.

3. The long-abandoned wading pools on Rungra Island have been filled in, but farther north on the island some new water slides are being built.  Now some new, unknown construction appears to be taking place at the old location:

 

Kim Jong-un recently visited the new wading pool and water slides (not visible in the image). According to KCNA:

The next leg of his guidance was the construction site of the Rungra Wading Pool.

The pool consists of water slide with four tracks 18 meters high and more than one hundred meters long, a shower bath site, soft drink stands, dressing room, etc.

He was very pleased to picture to himself the happy school youth and children and working people who will laugh boisterously while fully enjoying wading at the wading pool when completed on the occasion of the day of the victory in the war.

He underlined the need to add a diving tower and different service facilities to the area around the wading pool so that it may be a cultural recreation place for people which will remain impeccable even in the distant future.

You can see pictures of the new pools and water slides here.

4. We also have a good picture of the new 창광원식목욕탕, Changgwang Health Complex (not to be confused with the pre-existing Changgwang Health Complex), and Pyongyang Haedanghwa Center.

5. I tried creating a Google Earth overlay of this image for you to download, but for some reason I can’t get it to work. Only 1/4 of the picture appears on Google Earth. If anyone knows the cause of and solution to this problem, please let me know.

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North Korea, concrete utopia: Architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Authors: Jelena Prokopljevic and Roger Mateos

“North Korea, concrete utopia” (Muñoz Moya Publishers) is a new book which focuses on the use of architecture as a propaganda weapon in North Korea.

Architect Jelena Prokopljevic (Belgrade, 1972) and journalist of EFE News Agency Roger Mateos (Barcelona, ​​1977) discuss the role of the architectural monumentality in North Korea as a propaganda tool, both to the outside, to give an image of power, such as inward, to convince citizens living in a “socialist paradise”.

With its huge palaces and public places, giant blocks of flats and large avenues, Pyongyang tries to radiate a splendor that is contradicted by the dire reputation of a regime repeatedly condemned by the United Nations by the systematic violation of human rights.

Hence, it is in Pyongyang where there are, for example, the officially biggest stadium in the world, the highest triumphal arch, a library of greater capacity or one of the highest obelisks. This is one of the objectives of architectural art in communist Korea, according to the authors: creating an urban setting to live up to the utopian ideals of the regime. A showcase city, Pyongyang, completely disproportionate for a country that has received big amounts of humanitarian aid since in the 90′s suffered a devastating famine.

Throughout its nearly 70 year history, the regime has given high priority to the construction sector, both to satisfy their megalomaniac fantasies and to improve the housing of the millions of people who saw their homes destroyed in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953.

Mateos and Prokopljevic divide the book into four sections: the first reviews the historical development of the construction, the second seeks the connections between architecture and the Juche idea, the Korean version of Marxism-Leninism, and investigates the role of architects and Leader, the third part describes the styles and influences detected and the fourth analyzes the most important works of the North’s architectural heritage.

Here is the English-language web page for the book.

My friends have pointed out a couple of other architecture publications:
1.  Architekturführer Pjöngjang by Philipp Meuser

2.  Kim’s Pyongyang (via Choson Exchange)

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Mansudae Area renovation no. 2 (Changjon Street)

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

UPDATE 12 (2012-9-21): Taiwanese television was able to send reporters to the new Changjon Street construction site:

Part 1:

Part 2:

UPDATE 11 (2012-4-23): the Daily NK reports on the quality of the housing:

Complaints have emerged regarding the unfinished and potentially dangerous nature of some of the new apartments built at breakneck speed in Pyongyang to meet the 2012 deadline imposed by the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth and help give the impression of rapid development in the North Korean capital.

In order to declare the successful completion of the new apartments, which are most notably to be found in the Mansudae area of the downtown core, the authorities reportedly gave the order to move people into the buildings before the internal décor could be completed.

A Pyongyang source explained to the Daily NK, “Originally, there was no progress going on with new construction because of a serious shortage of materials, so they ordered it to stop while the interiors of finished apartments were dealt with.”

“Despite this order, the work brigades lacked the construction materials to finish the interior construction, and so they started passing responsibility on to the residents,” the source went on. “Most of them are reluctantly getting on with the interior construction, having been told by the work brigades that they are just going to have to get on with it.”

“The residents, scared as they are that they may lose their homes again after losing them once when they were ripped down in the first place, are just living in them while working on the interior construction,” he added.

However, the source noted, “Due to the serious burden of the materials needed to do that, a few others are selling their homes to middlemen,” before adding, “Soon-to-be residents are not readily moving in either, concerned as they are that the buildings might collapse.”

North Korea faces such difficulties not only because of chronic economic problems but because of corruption in the construction management system.

According to sources, cadres and site managers have been guilty of continuously diverting materials, such as sand and steel rods, materials which in a number of cases have come from local people, not the state.

A South Pyongan Province source criticized the situation, saying, “The authorities goal of ‘a hundred thousand homes’ has not been completed after three years of hard work. What is the purpose of offering materials to the state when the cadres are diverting them for themselves? Only the people will end up suffering.”

UPDATE 10 (2012-4-15): A reader sends in an April 15, 2012 satellite image of Pyongyang allowing me to produce before/after images of the construction:

 

Pictured above: Before and after pictures of the Mansudae Area renovations.  Dates: 2010-10-6(L), 2012-4-15 (R)

UPDATE 9 (2012-3-29): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies asks if the Mansudae construcitonis nearly completed:

North Korea announced that the apartment construction in the Mansudae area in Pyongyang is in the completion stage. This has been touted as a part of the effort in building a powerful nation. North Korea announced in January 2008 of its plans to construct 100,000 apartment units in Pyongyang by 2012 to provide housing for the residents.

The Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea, announced on March 24 that, “The completion of Pyongyang Mansudae Apartment Complex is right before our eyes,” and “presenting a magnificent view of the new road in Pyongyang.”

North Korea is busily preparing for the centennial of Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15, gathering military and youth brigades, and university students to the Mansudae area. When completed, it will house 14 high-rise apartments, convenient facilities and parks in the region.

According to a source in North Korea, “The apartment construction in Mansudae is built differently from the slipform method commonly found in the apartment construction in South Korea. It incorporates a combination of concrete and PC (precast concrete) method.”

The PC method uses less concrete than the reinforced concrete method. North Korea opted to use this method, as it is seen as a better choice for North Korea, which has limited construction equipment (such as concrete mixers and vehicles), and because of the tight time constraint.

Since the seventieth birthday celebration of Kim Jong Il on February 16, North Korea introduced newly constructed buildings and industrial facilities as a symbol of the strong and prosperous nation and as an achievement of Kim Jong Un’s leadership.

On February 23, Rodong Sinmun published an article, “Mansudae area will provide housing for the workers,” and “The nearly completed high-rise apartment is standing tall, boasting to the world of the greatness of our everlasting socialism under the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

In another article, the news reported, “The new road in the Mansudae area incorporates the paramount importance of the people and the masses. We will wholeheartedly remember our Father and Dear Leader Kim Jong Il’s love for his people through the new road.” It added, “At the behest of our General and under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, we are full of determination to construct a powerful socialist nation providing happiness to all the people on our land.”

Such statements are regarded as a movement to idolize Kim Jong Un, by acclaiming the construction of new buildings as emblematic of his accomplishment in building a strong and prosperous nation.

This is similar to what occurred in the 1980s and the 1990s, when there was construction of large-scale buildings including the Juche Tower,Monument to the Party Foundation, the West Sea Floodgate, and the Arch of Triumph. All these buildings were attributed as achievements of Kim Jong Il.

UPDATE 8 (March 2012): Google has updated imagery of Pyongyang:

Pictured above (Google Earth: 2011-10-6): Mansudae area renovation

UPDATE 7 (2012-2-14): Google has uploaded new satellite imagery of Pyongyang to Google Maps (but not Google Earth).  I just started going through it, but we can see some of the changes in the Mansudae area:

 

Click images to see larger versions

Pictured to the left is the “before” picture (2010-10-6). The structures that have survived are outlined in yellow. To the right is the new image on Google Maps. I am unsure of the date this image was captured.

The structures that have survived (as of hte image date): 1. Part of the Changjon Primary School, the Pyongyang Kyongsong  Kindergarten, and the Kumsong Middle School No. 1.

Access to the Sungri Metro Station also appears to be unimpeded.

UPDATE 6 (2011-10-4): According to the Daily NK:

Progress on the project to build 100,000 homes in Pyongyang is moving forward rapidly in at least one location: central Changjeon Street. According to a source from the city who spoke with The Daily NK yesterday, “There are around 30,000 homes being constructed along Changjeon Street, and the shells have almost all gone up.”

Changjeon Street is in the heart of Pyongyang, near well-known spots such as Mansudae Assembly Hall and the giant bronze statue of Kim Il Sung. The authorities are known to be focusing the state’s limited power on construction in this area, with the intention of completing at least the most visible part of planned projects ordered for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth in April, 2012.

North Korea is understood to have invited a number of foreign dignitaries to witness several big events it has planned for next April, including the Spring Friendship Art Festival and the April 15th ‘Day of the Sun’ birthday celebrations. In that context, completing construction along Changjeon Street is a natural priority.

Changjeon Street was apparently given a further boost following the visit of Kim Jong Il to China in May. Kim was reportedly struck by the inadequacy of Pyongyang when held up against major cities in China, and called for improvement.

The authorities thereafter ordered that the skeletons of homes on Changjeon Street be completed by the anniversary of the Party foundation, which falls on October 10th. According to the source, “The pace of construction has picked up since the authorities ordered that the building frames be completed by October 10th.”

“They started work on a 40-storey building at the end of May, and now are up to the 35th storey. They are using a waterproofing agent that causes the cement to dry quickly, which means they sometimes get through three floors a day,” he continued.

Rodong Shinmun, the Party mouthpiece publication, described the renewed pace of operations on Changjeon Street last Thursday, stating proudly, “The blinding pace of the audacious construction offensive, paying no heed to night or day, has allowed for the construction of the framework of a 40-floor high-rise residential building in no time at all.”

Similar progress is being seen on road extensions and beautification projects nearby. The source said, “Road extension projects have been completed, including that of the road in front of the Botong River and Pyongyang Gymnasium. They’ve put flower beds by the side of the road and the whole area is now in a very good state.”

However, the fixation with construction on Changjeon Street is leading to accidents there, the source added, noting, “Because they only pressure us to speed up and don’t say anything about safety, there have been frequent incidents of workers falling.”

It is also causing other projects in the city to lag far behind. According to the source, “The authorities are doing renovations on houses along the main roads, but only painting and sprucing up the areas which can be seen. The buildings along Tongil, Hyungsaesan and Yongseon Streets were all demolished in 2009, but as yet there is no sign of progress from the company which has been tasked with the construction work.”

UPDATE 5 (2011-6-8): According to the Daily NK:

Finally, yesterday’s Rodong Shinmun, citing a statement from Kim Jong Il himself, went on to remind the people, “Construction in Pyongyang is not simply an issue of operational economics regarding the formation of roads and construction of homes, it is an important political issue related to the prestige of Socialist Chosun and dignity of the Kim Il Sung Motherland.”

This kind of propaganda push is aimed at ensuring the people are cogent of fact that modern buildings are being constructed by the authorities; an attempt to bring to life ongoing propaganda about the strong and prosperous state, which inside sources suggest is viewed with considerable public cynicism.

According to the Chosun Shinbo piece dated June 23rd, the construction at Mansudae is set to include a complex of 14 new apartment buildings, including North Korea’s tallest at 45 floors, a school, nursery and other public buildings. Elsewhere, there is a plan to pull down older construction in Mansu-dong and replace it with a park, and another to put up a modern cylindrical and square apartment building in the vicinity of Pyongyang Students’ and Children’s Palace.

Meanwhile, all the talk of modernity fits well with efforts to promote the youthful vigor of successor Kim Jong Eun, especially as it surrounds the statue of Kim Il Sung on Mansudae Hill, which is itself said to be undergoing a facelift.

In yesterday’s piece, Rodong Shinmun went on, “According to the Party’s grand capital construction plan, a fire of new Pyongyang creation is blazing violently in the ongoing Mansudae area construction,” adding, “According to this warlike strategy, in a short time, less than a month after it began, the groups taking part in the construction had achieved innovative results, digging the vast foundations of the new homes and laying the concrete.”

However, rumor has it that the reality does not meet the heights of this official propaganda, with the authorities having only managed to construct some 500 new residences in the period to the end of 2010.

UPDATE 4 (2011-6-8): KCTV has braodcast new footage of the construction zone and explained what a few of the new buildings will be.  I have uploaded the particular video clip to YouTube, and you can watch it here.

Below are screen shots.  In the picture on the left, we can see that many of the older buildings in the area have already been removed and holes have been dug for the new foundations.  In the picture on the right we can see another conceptual shot of the area from the other side of the Taedong River.

UPDATE 3 (2011-6-8): According to the Pyongyang Times:

A huge construction project has been undertaken to renew the looks of the Mansudae area of Pyongyang on the occasion of the 100th birthday of President Kim Il Sung (April 2012) as part of the grand capital construction plan of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

The project includes the construction of modern dwelling houses and a monumental structure in the area in central Pyongyang where the statue of President Kim Il Sung stands and the development of parks in the surroundings to meet the requirements of the new century. It will be a big stride forward to building Pyongyang magnificently as the world-level city.

The ground-breaking ceremony took place on May 22.

It brought together Premier Choe Yong Rim, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun, Vice-Premiers Jon Ha Chol and Ro Tu Chol, officials from ministries, national agencies and municipality and tens of thousands of builders.

Premier Choe Yong Rim made a keynote speech.

He noted that leader Kim Jong Il saw that monumental structures were built everywhere in the capital to glorify the President’s revolutionary exploits for all ages. He then referred to the facts that the leader initiated the construction of Changgwang and Kwangbok Streets and other large projects and led them in the van to bring about a radical turn in building the capital and improving the people’s livelihood.

He said that under his wise guidance modern houses including those in Mansudae Street and at the foot of Haebang Hill, cultural and public service facilities, parks and recreation grounds were built in recent years and gigantic housing development and city landscaping projects are now dynamically pushed forward in Pyongyang.

More recently the leader suggested the development of the Mansudae area and took drastic measures to push the project from design to mobilizing the builders and supply of materials, he noted, and added that all the officials and builders should be well aware of the importance and significance of this construction, strictly observe the instructions of the designs, building operations and construction methods and work hard to create a new building speed.

He stressed the need to finish the construction of houses in Ryongsong, Sopho and Ryokpho areas in time together with the construction in the Mansudae area.

He called on the whole Party, the entire nation and all the people to turn out to support the construction in the Mansudae area.

He was followed by other speakers.

UPDATE 2 (2011-6-3): KCNA has finally published a story about the new construction in the Central District:

There started the project to build on the best level the Mansudae area in Pyongyang where President Kim Il Sung’s statue stands in the run-up to the centenary of his birth.

A monumental edifice, high-rise apartment houses, skyscraping buildings, public buildings and cultural and service facilities will appear as required by the new century in the vast area covering dozens of hectares where its old appearance will be no longer to be seen.

A new street will make its appearance as required by the modern sense of beauty, completely free from the existing mode of urban construction.

It will be unique in the formative artistic representation of architecture and the whole area will turn into a huge park. This is a new idea in the lay-out of the street in the area.

A round-shape big people’s theater will spring up in the area of Mansu-dong.

Trees of good species and flowering plants will be planted in the more than ten hectare area around the theater facing the Mansudae Assembly Hall. Promenades and public service facilities will keep in good harmony.

The height of the high-rise apartment houses to be built in the area covering hundreds of thousands of square meters in Kyongsang-dong, Jongro-dong and Taedongmun-dong is expected to gradually increase and twin tower buildings will be concentrated in the area near the Changjon Intersection so that one can enjoy a bird-eye-view of rhythmic distribution of huge buildings on the street.

A catering street will rise to face Okryu Restaurant and public buildings and cultural and service facilities of unique styles will be distributed to the convenience of the residents. They will be decorated with peculiar street lamps and diverse lights.

What draws attention in the lay-out of the streets is the fashionable appearance of high-rise and skyscraping apartment houses of peculiar styles, a harmonious combination of circular, semi-circular and angle style architecture.

The houses will have de luxe flats which will meet the cultural need of Pyongyangites.

When the construction of the Mansudae area completed, it will best match the monumental edifices including the Chollima Statue, the Tower of the Juche Idea, the Monument to Party Founding, the Grand People’s Study House and the Moranbong Theater and structures in the era of the Workers’ Party including An Sang Thaek, An Sang Thaek Street, Munsu, Mansudae and Changwang streets. This will change the appearance of the capital city beyond recognition.

Conceptual images of the construction area can be seen below.

UPDATE 1 (2011-5-24): In the comments, a reader points out a photo by a recent visitor to Pyongyang.  See a LARGE version of the photo here. The photo (2011-4-24) shows that renovation of the Mansudae area began over a month ago.  As of April 24, area families and all of their belongings had already been relocated (to where?); shops had been closed and emptied; and building destruction had begun.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-5-23):

The May 22 episode of the DPRK’s evening news (via elufa.net) featured a ground-breaking ceremony for a re-development project in the Mansudae area of Pyongyang’s Central District (만수대지구, 중구 역). You can see a clip of the evening news broadcast (with English translation) here.

I used the project overview map in the evening news to map out the construction area on Google Earth:

In Jongro-dong (종로동) the Pyongyang School Children’s Palace (평양학생소년궁전) will be spared destruction.  It looks as if the exclusive Kumsong Middle School No. 1 next door (굼성제1 중학교–not to be confused with the Kumsong School in Mangyongdae) will be torn down, but I bet it will be spared.

In Mansu-dong (만수동) we will see the destruction of the historical Changjon Primary School (평양창전소학교) and the DPRK’s central bank.  Maybe the central bank will get a home in the new facilities, but I have no idea.

In Kyongsang-dong (경상동) the Pyongyang Kyongsang Kindergarden (for musically gifted youngsters) as well as the Pyongyang Children’s Department Store will be torn down.  These too may receive  a new home in the reconstructed neighborhood facilities.

Additional information:
1. This project comes immediately after the first Mansudae Area redevelopment project near the Potong Gate (just to the west of this one).  Read about the first Mansudae Street renovation project here.

2. This residential construction project, though unlikely to be completed by April 2012, is probably part of the DPRK’s 2012 Kangsong Taeguk (강성대국) campaign.  As part of the campaign, Pyongyang is to receive 100,000 new housing units.  Read more about 2012 construction projects herehere, and here.

3. One report says that the KPA has been put in charge of the DPRK’s renovations.

4. Pyongyang just held an architecture exposé.  See some of the work here.

5. These projects appear to be priorities as well.

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Pyongyang Folk Village update

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Back in April 2010 I wrote about how the DPRK had launched the construction of a “Folk Village” (평양민속공원) at the foot of Mt. Taesong in eastern Pyongyang. In May of 2010 I posted new satellite imagery of the park’s construction.

Last weekend I was discussing this facility with some friends, and today KCNA posted images of the park’s construction (all below)–so I thought it would be time for another update.

Using North Korean television and print images (plus a little common sense) I have been mapping out all of the attractions in the new folk village:

The Google Earth satellite image above is dated 2010-10-6, nearly a year after the project was announced on North Korean television in December of 2009.  Despite the image being taken nearly a year after the park’s construction began, I have identified: The Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang Ice-Skating Rink, Sosan Handball Gymnasium, Mangyongdae Children’s Camp, Monument to the Party Founding, Grand People’s Study House, West Sea Barrage, Arch of Triumph, Tower of the Juche Idea, Chollima Monument, Okryu Monument, Tangun’s Tomb, an ancient dolmen, and a walking path shaped like the Korean Peninsula.  There are still quite a few places to label, so contributions are welcome.

Here is what KCNA recently had to say about the project (2011-12-6):

The construction of the Pyongyang Folklore Park is progressing apace in Korea.

Frame assembling and interior projects have almost been finished in the park construction.

The park, which is being built in a large area at the foot of Mt. Taesong, will showcase the history of the nation and miniatures of historic relics, structures built in recent decades, folk village, folk amusements and Mts. Paektu and Kumgang.

Visual aids showing the 5 000-year-long Korean history will be installed in the quarter of history at the entrance of the park.

More than 130 full or reduced-sized historic relics, including the mausoleums of King Tangun and King Tongmyong and the monument to the great victory in the battle in northern area of Korea, are taking shape in the quarter of historical interest.

The present era quarter will include miniatures of the Tower of the Juche Idea, Party Founding Memorial Tower, West Sea Barrage, Arch of Triumph, Chollima Statue and other monuments and edifices.

The folk village quarter is full of models of palaces, government offices and dwelling houses dating back to Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668), Koryo Kingdom (early 10th century-late 14th century), Palhae Kingdom (698-926) and Ri Dynasty (1392-1910).

Restaurants serving cuisines peculiar to different localities are also being built there.

The visitors will be able to enjoy views of Mts. Paektu and Kumgang and folklore amusements like archery, ssirum (Korean wrestling), seesawing, swinging and yut-game in the park.

Although the above satellite image is dated 2010-10-6, the recent photos from KCNA (2011-12-6) show some progress has been made:

 

 

 

UPDATE: According to a later article published in the Choson Ilbo (2011-12-8), two of the temples in the 5th picture above  are replicas of  Dabotp and Seokgatop in Gyeongju’s Bulguksa Temple.  These are cultural relics of the southern Silla Kingdom, not the northern Koguryo Kingdon to which the DPRK frequently claims to be the cultural inheritor.

There is only one other “Folk Village” in the DPRK of which I am immdeiately aware, and it is in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province. See it in Google Maps here. I “helped” with its construction when I visited the DPRK in 2004. I did not really help, but the photo op for the North Korean media made it look like I did.

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