Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Interesting new underground facility

Friday, January 26th, 2018

I was going over new Google Earth imagery of the east coast and saw an interesting new underground facility  (UGF) near Tanchon (40.409103°, 128.842130°). Based on Google Earth imagery, it appears to have been built sometime between 2015-7-8 and 2017-11-10. Based on @Planetlabs imagery it appears construction was carried out in the latter half of 2016, though I cannot say with precision owing to image quality.

This UGF is constructed in an abandoned railway tunnel, construction of which was halted at a time that pre-dates commercial satellite imagery (i.e. the tunnel was really old). Utilizing the plan for the original tunnel we can speculate about the size and shape of the UGF in this hill, but there is no evidence to conclude that the tunnel has not been altered as it was converted to meet its new purpose.

There are several other abandoned railway tunnels throughout the DPRK, but this is the first of which I am aware that has been converted to an alternate use.

It may be military related, but not necessarily. It could be a mushroom farm or it could be an underground document storage facility (both of which can be found all over North Korea)–or something else.

Interestingly, the road running into it has not been renovated all that much, and as of yet, I cannot see any power transmission lines running here.

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The strange history of the Pyongyang Teacher Training College

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Today North Korean media reports that Kim Jong-un visited the newly renovated Pyongyang Teacher Training College (평양교원대학).

According to Rodong Sinmun, “[Kim Jong-un] noted that the Party remodeled Pyongyang Teacher Training College with much care as it attaches importance to the teacher training colleges, a pedigree establishment for training teachers in charge of the education of children, and instructed that every province should spruce up the teacher training colleges with it as a model.”

Despite the glowing description of this model school in the official KWP paper, the school’s history has been a textbook case of “Our-style economic mismanagement” [(CR) Curtis Melvin 2018].

Up until early 2010, the Pyongyang Teacher Training College was located at the foot of the Ryugyong Hotel:

However, as work to complete the exterior of the hotel picked up, the school was torn down. In the image below (dated April 10, 2011) the school has been completely removed.

A new location for the school was selected in Mangyongdae District–the site of the old College of Mechanical Engineering. However it took nearly two years for renovation work to begin at the site (in May 2013). In the image below, dated June 1, 2013, you can see that renovation work has begun.

Renovation work on the Pyongyang Teacher Training College seems to have been completed by 2016, and it was featured on KCTV on December 20 (I could link to the actual video, but Google and Youtube have chosen to censor it).

I am not sure where or if the Pyongyang Teacher Training College was operating between April 2011 (when the old campus was torn down) and December 2016 (when the new building was apparently opened).

But we are not finished.

Although renovation work on the school was completed in December 2016, satellite imagery on Google Earth indicated the school was torn down again sometime after January 16, 2017 (Picture below dated April 21, 2017), and a second round of renovations had been launched. This wasteful economic management is apparently what the party refers to as “remodeled with much care.”

So Kim Jong-un’s visit in January 2018 indicates that the second round of renovations took just about a year to complete. Below are images of both renovations placed next to each other.

Unfortunately there are other examples of this type of economic mismanagement.

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Satellite (Wisong) Scientists Street Part 2 Announced (sort of)

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Kim Jong-un made his first guidance trip of 2018 to the State Academy of Science in Unjong District, Pyongyang, on January 12.

While touring the newly renovated history museum, he was photographed in front of a map that advertised the plan for “Phase 2” of the Wisong Scientists Street (위성과학자거리 2단계배치계화안).

I have outlined the approximate area on Google Earth in red below.

Although housing renovation in Pyongyang started before Kim Jong-un took over from his father, he has touted new housing as one of his signature policy accomplishments. Kim Jong-un launched his leadership with the opening of the renovated eastern end of Mansudae Street (and Changjon Street), then moved onto Unha Scientists Street, Wisong Scientists Street, Mirae Scientists Street, and Ryomyong Street.

Construction on new facilities has noticeably slowed over the last year, though implementation of specific types of construction projects is ongoing nationwide. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this project in the next couple of years given all that is taking place in the domestic economy (sanctions).

And just to add to the confusion, this same area has also been previously designated for the Unjong Cutting-Edge Technological Development Zone, so it will be interesting to see how that develops as well.

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New Kim Jong-un/executive runway under construction

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

In this Google Earth image, we can see a new Kim Jong-un/executive runway being installed in Unsan County (은산군) Between the Sunchon Cement Factory and a large industrial construction site just south of the runway.

The new runway is approximately 870 meters and is intended for small Cessna-style aircraft–similar to other runways constructed throughout the country intended for the leader. It appears the runway construction is being carried out in coordination with the new industrial construction site taking place just to the south of it.

The new large construction site itself is over 1.5km in length, but its purpose remains a mystery. Like many projects, it has not been mentioned in the official media. If any readers have any ideas what any of the building foundation imprints could be for, please let me know.

I have already talked about this with Radio Free Asia.

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DPRK reports tens of thousands of new houses constructed this year

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2016-12-15

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s official wire service, reported on December 3 that tens of thousands of new houses had been built this year. The KCNA report stated that six counties/cities in areas damaged by floods in North Hamgyong Province had seen 19,000 new apartments constructed with families then moving in.

In imitation of the city of Kimchaek, hundreds of housing units have been built in Puryong and Hwadae counties, while hundreds more were constructed in Kangryong county, and 200 multistory houses in Paechon county. Eighty (80) apartments were built at Ryongjon Fruit Farm in Pukchon county, 150 at Chawi Cooperative Farm, and 200 at Sujin, Uiju County.

With flood damage in late August, the Party central committee announced on September 10 that the ‘200 day speed battle’s goal’ would be to restore damaged areas, and reconstruction of housing in those areas finished on November 11. People have now begun moving in.

Unlike on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang — extolled as a personal achievement of Kim Jong Un — construction outside the capital is said to not be progressing properly. Housing construction in Yokjon, Hoeryong, North Hamgyong that began in 2010, as part of a campaign celebrating the personality cult of Kim Jong Suk (the wife of Kim Il Sung), has yet to be completed. There is talk that completion is slated for 2017, but people living there do not believe that will happen.

However, sources indicate that the North Korean authorities have invited individuals to get involved in construction, and thus the project in Hoeryong has resumed. It seems that because construction was part of the campaign to build the personality cult of Kim Jong Suk, there was a fear that stopping the construction would badly influence internal unity.

With the state lacking funds but deeming the continuation of the construction necessary, individuals were eventually allowed to take over. Apparently investors were induced by promises that they would get 50 percent of the proceeds generated from the new housing stock.

Sources say that construction began again in March, and construction materials continue to be brought in. Individual investors have hired workers separately and are managing on-site operations.

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Pyongyang Folk Village (UPDATED)

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

UPDATE 4 (2016-11-30): The most recent Google Earth imagery of the Folk Park demolition is posted below (2016-10-4). Three earlier images that were posted to Google Earth have all been deleted.

UPDATE 3 (2016-11-9): Yonhap has posted yet another image of the Folk Park demolition that briefly appeared on Google Earth, but has since been deleted.

UPDATE 2 (2016-6-28): Yonhap has published imagery from Google Earth showing the demolition of the park has begun. You can read the article here (in Korean). For unknown reasons, this imagery was only briefly posted to Google Earth. It has since been deleted.

UPDATE 1 (2016-6-14): Yonhap reports that the Pyongyang Folk Park is being torn down. According to the article:

North Korea’s leader has ordered the dismantling of a folklore theme park in Pyongyang in a bid to erase the remaining legacy of his uncle Jang Song-thaek who was executed in 2013 for treason, a source familiar with the reclusive country’s affairs said Tuesday.

The North’s leader Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered his officials to close the Pyongyang Folklore Park which opened in April 2012, the observer said. Work on the park began late 2008 under the instruction of the incumbent leader’s late father Kim Jong-il.

Located in the foot of Mount Taesong in the North’s capital, the 2 million square-meter theme park is known to have been set up and spearheaded by Jang, and features propaganda structures as well as a folk village.

“Since early last month, the sound of explosions has been heard inside the park,” the source said. “Rumor has it that the folklore park is being dismantled.”

Another Pyongyang watcher said that the North’s leader is said to have expressed negative views that the park reminds him of the relative he ordered killed.

“The closure of the park appears to reflect Kim’s uneasiness about the possibility that traitors can show up at any time even as he has consolidated power through the reign of terror,” the source added.

In 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his once-powerful uncle Jang, accusing him of treason. The move is seen as a step to reaffirm the leader’s power which he inherited in late 2011 after the sudden death of his father.

The North’s leader has strengthened his reign of terror by purging and executing scores of party and military officials.

My sources tell me that the park is definitely closed, but cannot confirm anything else in the story.

You can read the full story here:
N.K. leader orders theme park closure to erase executed uncle’s legacy: source
Yonhap
2016-6-14

ORIGINAL POST (2011-12-6): 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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Financial complex and upscale hotel construction presses ahead in Wonsan

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

To develop the ‘Wonsan-Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone’, plans have been put in place to build a General Financial Complex and five-star hotel in Wonsan.

Naenara (My Country), a North Korean propaganda website that targets an international audience, indicated that the goal of ‘Wonsan’s Chungdong General Land Development’ Investment Proposal released September 1, 2016 was to “develop Wonsan into a commercial and cultural exchange center, as well as a center for trade and financial transactions.”

According to the proposal, the target of investment is the Chungdong district and parts of the Sangdong district of Wonsan (Kangwon province) with a total area of 300,000 square kilometers. The total amount to be invested was set at USD 196,560,000.

In addition, the proposal sets out plans to first construct ten separate buildings, including 10 units of rental housing, a three-star hotel, an international finance complex, a department store, an indoor gym, and a restaurant for world cuisine.

The proposal adds: “in the surrounding area (of the center), world-class facilities including an ultra-luxurious five-star hotel called the Wonsan Hotel, a General Financial Complex, a General Office Complex, an International Exhibit, and a library are to be constructed.”

It also makes clear that existing housing, commercial facilities, offices and factories in the area will be demolished.

With respect to international investors, the proposals envisage that development will utilize the BOT (Built-Operate-Transfer) method. BOT is a method of funding infrastructure projects in which a contractor is given the right to operate a set of facilities for a prescribed period in order to recover both the initial investment and a profit, before control of the facilities reverts to the contracting party.

The website states that “the Committee to Promote the Development of the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang International Tourism Zone was chosen for the spill-over effects for both the Wonsan area and the zone as a whole.”

Moreover, the separate ‘General Finance Center Proposal’ was also released via Naenara on the same day– the building is set to be 15 stories high, with additional two basement floors.

The complex has a total area of 1,500 square meters, the actual building area of 800 square meters, and total floor of 12,000 square meters. The building will play host to banks, office space and restaurants.

The proposal emphasized that “the development of the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang Tourist Zone into a world-class tourist site reflects the firm will of our party and government . . . . The future tourist zone will radiate the light as the ‘East’s Pearl’ transformed into a renowned tourist destination both in East Asia and more broadly the entire world.”

Here is the text from the Naenara article (PDF).

 

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Sinuiju Stadium torn down

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Sinuiju-stadium-2015-3-12 Sinuiju-Stadium-2015-9-2

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Sinuiju Stadium on 2015-3-12, (R) Sinuiju Stadium on 2015-9-2.

The stadium is either being renovated or this will be the location of the North Phongan Sports Village. New imagery will reveal the answer!

More at RFA here (in Korean).

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New market construction and renovation in North Korea

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

New-nampho-Market-2016-5-19

Pictured Above (Google Earth, 2016-2-2): Construction of what I believe to be a new market in Nampho.

I have identified a few other smaller examples in this Radio Free Asia article.

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Pyongyang’s ‘Mirae Shop’ opens, showing Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on science and talents

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Mirae-shop-2015-8-6

Pictured above: The Mirae Shop (R) and Mirae Health Complex (L)

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Mirae Shop’ (literally ‘future shop’) has reopened, showing the importance and privilege being placed on developing science and talented people in the Kim Jong Un era. The store is located along the banks of the Pothong River in Pyongyang. On April 12, state media outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that “since the store’s reopening in early April, it has been packed with scientists, engineers and people coming in every day.”

Mirae Shop was first opened in 2012 and recently moved to its current location. The store’s architecture portrays rockets and earth-like pillars holding up the roof. The store sells domestically produced goods such as home appliances, cosmetics, daily necessities, and food.

The name of the shop was chosen to by Kim Jong Un to commemorate the late Kim Jong Il’s visit to the store in January 2012. He ordered during on-site instruction last March to “open the store as soon as possible to let not only scientists and engineers but everyone to come and shop as much as they please.”

Prior to the construction of the store, Kim Jong Il himself took charge of the store’s site, architectural design, construction, construction materials, and products guarantee policy and on December 15, 2011, just before his death, he ordered for “the store to be used by scientists and engineers.”

Mirae Shop opened initially in 2012 in Pyongyang to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth. It was opened for scientists and engineers to shop. KNCA also introduced the store and explained how the name was chosen by Kim Jong Un. The report also underscored how development of science and technology is the key factor in the country’s prosperity.

According to KCNA, this store has a variety of popular products from home appliances to groceries and has a wide range of customer services such as personal tailoring, watch/clock repairs, elevators wide enough to accommodate shopping carts, and fountain drinks served in the lounge.

The store is used mainly by the employees and researchers from Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology and scientists from the National Academy of Science.

I have also written about the Mirae Shop and Health Complex in Radio Free Asia.

Here are some photos and information posted to Naenara.

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