Archive for the ‘Google Earth’ Category

30 Ancient Koguryo Tombs unearthed in DPRK

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Chondok-ri ( 38.481739°, 125.927308°) with a 2km radius indicating the approximate location of the tombs

According to KCNA (2016-12-8):

Archaeologists of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently unearthed a large group of tombs dating back to Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).

In this regard, Dr. Cha Man Dal, head of an excavating party under the Archaeological Institute of the academy, told KCNA:

The group tombs are located on a hill, about 2 kilometers northeast of Chondok-ri seat, Pongsan County of North Hwanghae Province.

There are nearly 30 tombs in four rows in an area of 185 square meters with individual ones around it, which shows the area was a big burial site with hundreds tombs.

Most of tombs are 10 meters in diameter and 2 meters in height and the biggest one is 17 meters in diameter and 2.4 meters in height. The tombs are arranged at intervals of 10-20 meters and can be divided into the earthen one with a stone chamber and the other with two stone chambers, all of them with arch-style or inclined-plane ceilings before getting collapsed.

Unearthed from the tombs were human and horse bones, bronze spoons and decorations, silver-clad iron nails, iron handles of coffin, grey earthenware and other remains.

The newly-unearthed tombs and remains will serve as material evidence to give fresh understanding of advanced cultural development of Koguryo, a powerful state that existed in the East for a thousand years, and precious treasures showing the good qualities of the Korean nation.

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Has Camp 18 been re-opened or merged with Camp 14?

Friday, September 30th, 2016

The consensus among North Korea watchers (myself included) was that Camp 18 had been closed sometime in the late 2000s (between 2006 and 2011). The coal mine located inside the camp, the Pongchang District Coal Mine (봉창지구탄광), was even featured on North Korean television on 2011-1-3,  2012-2-27, and 2012-10-20.

Recent satellite imagery of the camp featured on Google Earth (2016-3-30), however, indicates that a new prison camp has been opened on the site of the former prison sometime between 2013 and 2015. If a new prison camp has been been opened, it’s name and administrative classification remain a mystery, though I post some evidence and speculation below for your consideration….

New Security Perimeter
A new security perimeter has been built around the former Camp 18, and it is not built along the same path as the old Camp 18 security perimeter.

new-camp-18-security-perimeter-2016-3-30

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The outlines of the new prison camp security perimeter (in yellow) and various historical security perimeters associated with Camp 18 (in black)

The difference between the security perimeter of the old Camp 18 and the new prison camp can be most clearly seen along the eastern and norther edges of the camp. Camp 18 had a security perimeter along the norther border, and remnants of it still remain, but the new prison camp does not yet appear to have a northern border (other than the Taedong River).

The new security perimeter appears to be composed of two barbed-wire fences held up by concrete posts.

new-camp-barbed-fense-2016-3-30

The new security perimeter has five new guard posts along the mountain ridge and two new security checkpoints, one at each of the two transit points. The eastern security checkpoint appears to be the main entrance. The southern mountainous checkpoint appears to be for delivery of coal to the “famous” 2.8 Jikdong Youth Coal Mine Mine (2.8직동 청년 탄광) located outside the security perimeter.

guard-post-2016-3-30

Pictured Above (Google Earth: 2016-3-30): Security perimeter of prison camp (yellow line), five guard posts (yellow points), two transit checkpoints (red points), roads in/out of the camp (blue lines)

Here is a closeup of the new guard post at  39.546986°, 126.018297°. It was built between 2013-10-1 and 2015-4-4. You can also see the barbed wire perimeter running next to it.

new-guard-post

There is also a guard post on the bridge that links the area with Camp 14, but this checkpoint appears to be a remnant of the former Camp 18.

camp-18-rail-guard-post-2016-3-30

New Guard Barracks?

There also appears to be six facilities (four that are new) that could serve as guard barracks scattered around the camp.

new-camp-18-guard-facilities

The guard facilities/barracks are located here: 1.  39.536004°, 126.051207° 2.  39.521812°, 126.079342° 3.  39.579655°, 126.080485° 4.  39.593158°, 126.115249° 5.  39.576379°, 126.131835°

The five facilities are very similar in construction. Here is a closeup of the facility that lies at the main entrance to the new prison camp:

main-checkpoint-18-2016-3-30

Housing Razed

A substantial amount of housing was razed in the camp between 2013 and 2016, which would support the idea that “innocent” people were moved out of the camp perimeter (possibly to eastern neighboring Myonghak Coal Mine (명학탄광) or Tukjang Youth Coal Mine (득장청년탄관) which have both seen substantial housing growth starting in 2011). It is possible that once the “innocents” were moved to the neighboring coal mines,  the Pongchang Coal Mine in the former Camp 18 could return to the exclusive use of prison labor.

housing-razed-camp-18-2016-3-30

In image above areas where houses were destroyed are outlined in red.

Below are images from neighboring Myonghak Coal Mine (명학탄광) which saw a housing boom starting in 2011. Were these people being removed from former Camp 18?

myonghak-coal-mine-2011

By 2014, this new housing construction appeared to be complete.

myonghak-mine-2014-2016

The Myonghak Coal Mine also received a new market in the period after camp 18 was closed ( 39.576284°, 126.171663°):

 myonghak-market-2011-5-23 myonghak-market-2013-10-1 myonghak-market-2016-3-30

Pictures dated (L-R): 2011-5-23, 2013-10-1, 2016-3-30

The Pongchang Coal Mine received a market when Camp 18 was closed, but it does not appear to have been torn down yet despite the arrival of the new prison. However, it is unlikely that the market is operating. You can see the market at these coordinates: 39.564626°, 126.075621°. All I can say for certain about it is that it was built between 2007-1-7 and 2011-8-19.

Immortality Tower Removed

The “immortality tower” that is present in the vast majority of villages, factory complexes, and mining complexes has been removed. The monument was torn down sometime after 2013-10-1. I am not sure what this means.

immortality-tower-removed-before

immmortality-tower-removed-after

Although all prison camps have an immortality tower next to the MSS administrative buildings, they are not found in remote parts of the prison camps. When Camp 22 was closed, we could see immortality towers being built in parts of the camp that were being converted to normal villages (because they did not have them, and most other normal villages did). Perhaps a new tower will be built next to the headquarters building in due time so that the new camp will in this respect be identical to all the others.

Another possible explanation for the tower’s removal is that it is being “updated” to include fidelity to Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, as many other towers have been.

Did Camp 18 merge with Camp 14?

Pictured below is the ferry that goes between Camp 14 and former Camp 18.  It was built sometime between 2007 and 2011 (sorry, not much imagery here). Coordinates:   39.589340°, 126.077555°.

camp-14-ferry

The fact that a ferry appears to be operational between the two prison camps, coupled with the observation that the new camp has no northern perimeter (and that they have always been connected by railway and temporary road), supports the hypothesis that the Camp 18 area may have been taken over by Camp 14. The history of the relationship between Camp 14 and Camp 18 is complicated, but there is also some historical precedent.

Wrapping up

If this is a new prison camp, and I believe the evidence shows this is plausible, it will be the second in the Kim Jong-un era. I spotted the first new prison facility of the Kim Jong-un era in January 2013 on the north west side of Camp 14. Its official name and administrative classification remain a mystery.

Let the debate begin…

ADDENDUM: The Ponchang Area Coal Mine (봉창지구탄광), the name of the coal mine in Camp 18 has only been featured in KCNA twice. I post the articles below (via KCNA watch):

Lives Devoted to Prosperity of Motherland

Pyongyang, December 10 [2009] (KCNA) — In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea there are many people devoting their clear conscience and even lives to the prosperity of the country.

Ri Yong, a heading workteam leader of the Pongchang Area Coal Mine, devoted his life to the coal production.

Working at the mine for nearly three decades as a heading worker and a heading workteam leader, he, together with his men, had procured thousands of tools and accessories needed to overfulfil the workteam’s heading plan every year.

He had dedicated his all to coal output, encouraging his men to do their part as coal miners to increase the production. That is why he, though dead, is still remembered by people.

Among such patriotic coal miners as Ri Yong are Jo Nam Sik and Kang Kye Jin of the Kangso Coal Mine.

Jo rescued fellow colliers when a pit was collapsing in last June, while Kang was an official of the mine with a 30-odd years long career of pitman.

Ri Jin Guk, a worker of the Sunchon Plastic Daily Necessities Factory, kept his machine going until the last moment of his life, giving a pattern of life devoted to the country.

Sonu Pong Nam, a hewer of the Ryongnam Coal Mine, Sin Kum Nam, a farmer of the Ryongok Co-op Farm in Yomju County, Kim Ho Sok, a worker of the Kosan Essential Foodstuff Factory and Ri Jang Gun, a member of the Revolutionary Battle Site Management Office at the secret camp of Mt. Paektu are also known as patriots who lived for the prosperity of the socialist motherland.

Their true life and working manner recorded in the history of the building of a great, prosperous and powerful nation inspire the Korean people to work miracles in the efforts to bring about a new revolutionary upsurge.
Coal Miners Do Not Stop Working in Collapsed Pit for 19 Hours

Pyongyang, August 27 [2013] (KCNA) — Some days ago, the 3rd-shift group under the 6th pit of the Pongchang Area Coal Mine in the DPRK was doing preparatory works for next shift after fulfilling its daily quota at 102 percent.

At that time, hundreds of meters of pit ceiling fell down, affected by earth pressure, leaving the pit entrance closed.

The miners could come out of the pit through an air tunnel. But they did not stop mining coal.

They turned out scores of tonnes of coal for 19 hours until the entrance reopened.

Their devoted efforts were prompted by a strong sense of patriotism to contribute to the country’s prosperity even a bit.

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Camp 14 updates (2016-3-30)

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

camp-14-overview-2016-9-29

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Kwanliso 14  (Camp 14) outlined in the center and in the upper left a smaller prison camp area I was the first to discover in January 2013.

Google Earth has uploaded new imagery of Camp 14 and an auxiliary prison camp on its northwest border (first noticed in January 2013) whose formal name remains a mystery. The new imagery is dated 2016-3-30 and it shows a number of facility upgrades in the prison camp. These upgrades suggest the camp continues to serve a necessary role for the North Korean government and will probably not be closed for the foreseeable future.

Below I list some of the changes Camp 14. Some of them I have already reported in Radio Free Asia.

New Firing Ranges Constructed/Renovated

 camp-14-firing-range-2016-3-30

Pictured above is a new firing range constructed between 2013-10-1 and 2016-3-30. It is approximately 240m from the firing position to the bulls-eye in the painted hill-side target in the upper left. This firing range has been built near the camp headquarters (coordinates:  39.574979°, 126.047860°). Two other smaller firing ranges have been built/renovated along the western perimeter. One is near the camp entrance at  39.559300°, 126.013005°. The third firing range is not new, but is being renovated at  39.629702°, 126.035436°.

Fish Farms Renovated/Modernized

camp-14-fish-farm-before-2013

camp-14-fish-farm-after-2016

Pictured above is a small fish farm in Camp 14 (Coordinates:  39.606592°, 126.098545°). In the top photo, dated 2013-10-1, we can see the fish farm before renovation. In the lower photo, dated 2016-3-30, we can see it after renovation. Fish farms at  39.600450°, 126.072176° and  39.601567°, 126.051970° have been similarly renovated.

I suspect that fish produced at these farms could be intended as a food source inside the camp for guards and administrators (maybe prisoners?), but they are more likely used as a source of funding to support the camp operations. In this case they would be sold domestically to the official wholesale distribution system and/or to other quasi-private vendors, or sold internationally through a trade company controlled by the Ministry of State Security.

Camp Facilities Upgrades

The headquarters area of the Camp (administered by the Ministry of State Security) has been renovated.

camp-14-mss-hq-2013

camp-14-mss-hq-2016

New Housing Completed and New Facility Under Construction

housing-2011

housing-new-facility-2016

In the area next to Camp 14, near Tongrim-ri in Kaechon City, we can see a few interesting developments.

tongrim-ri-camp-overview-2016

Pictured above (Google Earth): Tongrim-ri Prison Area (Official name unknown)

New Mining Activity

tongrim-ri-camp-2014

tongrim-ri-camp-2016

In the south east corner of the camp area, a road has been built from the Mujindae Youth Coal Mine (무진대청년탄광) inside the camp security perimeter (yellow line) to promote coal mining. The road allows coal mined inside the camp perimeter to be loaded onto the railway network for domestic or international shipment. 

New Graves

tongrim-graves-2014-4-7

tongrim-new-graves-2016

In the satellite imagery we can see the emergence of some new graves over time. This is unusual. In most North Korean prison camps, identifying graves is not this easy, and rarely are there any traditional Korean graves like these on the hillsides (there are none in Camp 14 as far as I am aware).

What this means about the prison area is an interesting topic of discussion.

Finally, recent satellite imagery of Camp 18, which is believed to have been closed by 2011, indicates that the prison camp may have been relaunched! You can read about it in Radio Free Asia now, and I will post more on that tomorrow (Friday).

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Camp 16 imagery update

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

UPDATE 1 (2015-11-18): There was some follow-up media coverage of this work that claimed Camp 16 is about half the size of Pyongyang. This is not the case. Here are the actual statistics comparing the geographical sizes of Camp 16 and Pyongyang [Measures are approximate using Google Earth measuring tools]:

Pyongyang has 230 mile (371km ) perimeter and area of 679 sq miles (1758 sq km).
Camp 16 has 72 mile (115 km) perimeter and area of 212 sq miles (548 sq km).

So Camp 16 is approximately 31% the current size of Pyongyang. If we included Sungho, Sangwon, and Junghwa, which were moved into North Hwanghae Province, the percentage would drop even further.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-11-12): I previously wrote about Camp 16 in Myonggan here (2013-7-19). Now Google Earth has updated the imagery of Camp 15 with satellite pictures dated 2015-11-2 and 2015-10-15. I reported some of the changes in this RFA report this week, but here they are again…

1. New small hydro power plant. The North Koreans built a dam, drainage canal and small power station near one of the camp’s production facilities:

 Camp-power-station-16-2013-10-3 Camp-16-power-station-2015-10-15

Here is a close up of the plant and a nearby factory that appears to be operational:

Camp-16-2015-10-15-power-plant-factory

2. New housing and possibly a sports field. A new apartment block was built in the camp. It appears to be nearly 160m in length and is composed of just a couple of stories. The building behind it that is probably for livestock. The picture also reveals what appears to be a sports field of some kind next to the housing. The image is not very clear, so this could be something else, but I am not sure what.

Camp-16-New-Housing-2013-10-3 Camp-16-New-Housing-2015-10-15

Here is a closeup of the “sports field”. If you have a better idea what this is, please let me know.

Camp-16-sports-field-close-up

3. New fish farm. The fish farm is small, just over 1,100 sq meters surface area.

Camp-16-fish-farm-2013-10-3 camp-16-fish-farm-2015-10-15

4. Housing Razed. Just north of the fish farm some buildings, which could be small homes or workshops, appear to have been razed:

Camp-16-Housing-razed-2013-10-3 Camp-16-housing-razed-2015-10-15

5. Evidence of continued mining and logging. Below we can see evidence of mining activity since 2013.

Camp-16-mine-activity-2013-10-3 camp-16-mine-activity-2015-10-15

Here are piles of felled trees which indicate the mine also exports lumber:

Camp-16-lumber-2015-11-2

If the minerals that are mined and the lumber that is harvested are exported for hard currency, the transaction would likely involve a trade company under the control of the Ministry of State Security (MSS,  SSD, NSA), however, I am not privy to the details of those transactions.

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Growth and Geography of Markets in North Korea

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Some shameless self-promotion: the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS released a report yesterday where I (with the help of Curtis and others) study how North Korea’s formalized markets have grown over time, and how they are distributed geographically using satellite imagery from Google Earth. The report is available here. These are the main findings:

  • With a few exceptions, formalized markets have grown in North Korea over the past few years. In some cities, they have more than doubled, while other cities have seen only nominal or no changes. Only Pyongsong, the capital of South Pyong’an Province, has seen a significant decline in aggregate market space.
  • There exists only a weak correlation between population size and aggregate market space. The correlation between aggregate market space per capita and proximity to Pyongyang, a large driver for demand in the North Korean economy, is also relatively weak. 

The largest aggregate market space per capita can be found in cities in the southwestern part of the country. This suggests that trade on formal markets may be driven by other factors than those commonly assumed, such as sea route trade and agriculture.

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Kim Jong-un’s new runway

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Satellite imagery of the east coast of Korea dated 2014-7-4 has recently been uploaded to Google Earth. Among the more noticeable items is that Kim Jong-un had a new runway built at his family compound in Wonsan right next to his private train station.

 Wonsan-runway-2014-3-17

Wonsan-runway-2014-7-4

In the top picture you can see a small helipad (where Dennis Rodman landed) which was torn down to make way for a runway,  approximately 560m in length. The new runway should be able to accommodate small aircraft and helicopters. Although Kim Jong-il favored trains, the North Korean media has shown Kim Jong-un traveling by car, boat (military and yacht), and plane (even sort of flying one).

Last summer Kim’s guidance tour schedule seemed to suggest he was spending much of the time in Wonsan. With a runway like this, he will presumably be able to get around the country more easily from his “summer home”. Maybe in future satellite imagery we will get a view of his personal craft on the runway!

This was picked up by Radio Free Asia.

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New statues at Security University of the DPRK (MSS University)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

MSS-Uni-Statues-2014-11-19

Pictured above: Security University of the DPRK (formerly “University of KPA Unit 10215″) in Mangyongdae District (39.044446°, 125.633676°)

KCNA has announced the unveiling of new statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at the “Security University of the DPRK”. The bases for these new statues can be seen in the satellite imagery, but the statues themselves can be seen in the official photos below:

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MM00227349

According to the article:

Present there were Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Won Hong, Jo Yon Jun, and commanding officers of the Ministry of State Security, officials of security organs at various levels and teachers, students and employees of the university and their families and officials and those of meritorious services of units which contributed to erecting the statues.

Kim Jong-il last visited this facility on May 5, 2009. Kim Jong-un has yet to make an official visit.

univ-of-KPA-unit-10125

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New satellite imagery of Pyongyang (2014-9-21)

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Google has offered some beautiful new satellite imagery of the Pyongyang area dated September 21, 2014. The imagery shows the Pyongyang region remains an area undergoing tremendous transformation that has taken place over the last decade. Below I have highlighted some of the more interesting changes that have appeared in the last few months.

1. The nearly completed Wisong (Satellite) Scientist Street (위성과학자거리) in Unjong District, Pyongyang: 39.231244°, 125.870377°

Wisong-Scientist-Street-competed-2014-9-21

The Satellite Scientist Street is in Unjong District next to the State Academy of Sciences and inside the newly-announced Unjong Cutting-Edge Technological Development Zone. The area is approximately 900m x 360m and consists of 24 residential blocks (each seven stories, appx 13m x 80m) of alternating green and yellow. There are also approximately eight parks (of one kind or another), nursery, kindergarten, primary school, junior secondary school, standard North Korean retail outlets, hospital, polyclinic, health complex, greenhouses and vegetable gardens. Also constructed nearby is the new Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences and a new Paesomjon train station.

After being out of public view for over a month this fall, Kim Jong-un made a notable appearance here on October 14. It was completed and opened on the 17th. Officially the compound is for scientists at the State Academy of Sciences.

2. Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage (평양육아원,애육원): 39.042442°, 125.794987°

Pyongyang-Baby-Home-Orphanage-2014-9-21

This new orphanage in Pyongyang is by far the country’s largest and nicest. It sits on a plot of land approximately 110m x 250m. Kim Jong-un visited the completed facility on October 27.

During the construction, many visitors to Pyongyang were unaware of the location of this project (I know because I asked). This is because it lies secluded behind exclusive leadership residencies (Undok Housing Complex and and United Front Department Housing) in northern Taedonggang District.

location-of-orpanage-2014-10-31

3. New luxury restaurant boat on Taedong River: 39.014252°, 125.755015°

Leisure-boat-2014-9-21

A large restaurant boat is under construction on the banks of the Taedong River in central Pyongyang. Not much is known about this boat yet, but it is approximately 118 meters long–nearly twice the length of the largest restaurant boat in the DPRK, the Taedonggang Restaurant Boat. The investors in this project must have high expectations. It will be interesting to see if these boats will all be managed by the same organization, and whether the Pyongyang consumer economy can support two such operations.

NK News was the first to report on this boat back on September 11. You can see a photo of the ship here.

UPDATE: Kim Jong-un visited this boat on 2015-9-28. It is called the “Combined Service Boat Mujigae”.

4. Progress made on Mansudae Underground Convenience Store (만수대 지하편의상점): 39.026505°, 125.749284°

Mansudae-Underground-Convenience-Store-2014-9-21

 

A Koryo Tours delegation in March of 2013 was the first to report that the Hakdanggol Fountain Park had been torn down to make way for a new facility in the heart of the central district.  The DPRK has yet to announce much information related to the project, but tourist photos indicate it will be an underground shopping center below a park.

Mansudae-underground-convenience-store-vision

5. Progress made on high-rise shopping center near Tongil Market: 38.982815°, 125.733247°

Tongil-shopping-highrise-2014-9-21

Situated just north of Pyongyang’s most popular market (for foreigners), the Tongil Street Market, and just south of the failed investment project KKG Avenue, this large high-rise construction project continues to make progress. The building appears to have an “H” shaped base approximately 110m x 70m. This project is likely being supported by foreign investors, however we do not know who they are or anything substantive about this project.

6.  Progress made on East Pyongyang Shopping Mall (동평양지구 상업거리): 39.030246°, 125.775913°

east-pyongyang-shopping-mall-2014-9-21

The groundbreaking ceremony for this project was held on January 16th, 2014, but little substantive work had been done as late as April. The construction site is approximately 270m x 110m and was unoccupied as far back as 2000. When launched, this shopping center was under the auspices of the State Economic Development Commission (SEDC–the same organization responsible for the nation’s new economic development zones) and a Chinese consortium named “Great China International Group”. Since the launch, the  SEDC, Ministry of Foreign Trade, and the Joint Venture Investment Corporation (JVIC) have been merged into the Ministry of External Economic Affairs (Not to be confused with the External Economic Affairs Commission which was dissolved in the late 1990s).

7. Closure of east Pyongyang tram depot and removal of tracks

FORMER-East-PY-tram-2014-9-21

According to new satellite imagery, one of Pyongyang’s tram lines has been removed. The tracks, which were inlaid into the road, seem to have been completely pulled up and the roads repaved. The tram depot remains in eastern Pyongyang, but it can be easily be re-purposed to serve as storage or manufacturing needs in the future.

East-PY-Tram-depot-2014-1-27 East-PY-Tram-depot-2014-9-21

It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on the Sadong Market which lies directly next to the former tram depot. It would have been relatively easy for customer to travel to the market with such convenient public transport, but will people make the effort when the commute becomes more complicated?

UPDATE: Reader Gag Halfrunt sent in the following helpful information:

Judging by this map from Transphoto.ru the closed tram line is the eastern portion of line 1. Line 1 has another depot at the western terminus in Mangyongdae, which is still open in the latest Google satellite photo.s.

Indeed there’s a note on Transphoto.ru saying the line will be converted to a trolleybus line. Translated by Google, it says:

Tram line 1 of route to the east of the city Songsin and depot at the end of the line are closed. The tram is expected to be replaced by trolley. This line was the only one in the city where the tram followed by the middle of the carriageway and not along the roadside, which is not the North Korean standards. Previously the line had already been shortened to Sintra area-Dong, before the bridge, on the east bank of the river Tedogan, before you reach the town center . Tram Pyongyang also begins to experience significant deficits with operational rolling stock.

 

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Quanhe-Wonjong Bridge: Renovated and to be replaced (UPDATED)

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

 rason-bridge-2016-3-19

 Pictured Above (Google Earth) the Hunchun-Rason Bridge: (L) 2009-5-28 (R)  2016-3-19

UPDATE 6 (2016-3-19): New satellite imagery shows progress being made on the bridge, but it seems to be moving slowly.

UPDATE 5 (2014-6-28): According to Xinhua, the bridge is to be replaced:

China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)agreed on Friday to jointly build, manage, and maintain a new border bridge between thetwo neighbors.

An agreement was signed by Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai and DPRKVice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Guk, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The Quanhe-Wonjong bridge over the Tumen River, which was built in the 1930s, hasbeen in a shabby condition.

UPDATE 4 (2012-10-26): Rajin-Wonjong Road Opened to Traffic

 

Pictured Above (KCNA): Photos of the official opening of the renovated road

According to KCNA:

Rajin-Wonjong Road Opened to Traffic

Pyongyang, October 26 (KCNA) — A ceremony took place in Rason City of the DPRK on Friday to open to traffic the Rajin-Wonjong road in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone jointly developed and operated by the DPRK and China.

Attending it from the DPRK side were Jo Jong Ho, chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, officials concerned and people of the city and from the Chinese side were Zhang Anshun, secretary of the Yanbian Autonomous Region, Jilin Province, Committee of the Communist Party of China, Chen Weigen, vice-governor of the Jilin Provincial People’s Government, Tian Baozhen, consul-general to Chongjin, and other officials concerned.

Congratulatory speeches were made at the ceremony.

Hwang Chol Nam, vice-chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, said it is very glad that the road has been opened to traffic amid great expectation and interest of the peoples of the two countries at the historic time when the traditional bilateral friendship is growing stronger.

The whole course of the road project served as an occasion in deepening the friendly relations of the DPRK and China and displaying the validity and vitality of their joint development and operation of the Rason Economic and Trade Zone, Hwang added.

The road helps increase the cargo traffic and transport of freight from northeastern China to Rajin Port and promote the development of economic relations between the two regions, including tourism, he said.

Zhang Anshun warmly welcomed the opening of the road on behalf of the Jilin Provincial Party Committee and Government, saying that it is a good start for the progress of the zone to be jointly developed and operated by the two countries.

Zhang hoped that the two countries would develop the economy and their peoples would enjoy happiness under the guidance of the Communist Party of China headed by Hu Jintao and the Workers’ Party of Korea headed by Kim Jong Un.

Members of the platform cut the tape to declare the opening of the road. Then vehicles passed along the road amid display of fireworks.

Here are additional articles that mention the bridge:

1. Recent articles on Rason’s future (2011-5-4)

2. Rason’s Chinese investor tour (2011-4-4)

UPDATE 3 (2011-9-7): A reader send in a photo of the road:

Rajin-China-Road-2011-9-7

Click image to see lager version and source.

UPDATE 2 (2010-6-23): Hunchon Bridge opens.  According to Kyodo (via Breitbart):

China has repaired a bridge in Hunchun at the Chinese and North Korean border, giving it a safer access to North Korea for use of Rajin port to ship coal to Shanghai, according to Jilin Province officials.

China paid 3.6 million yuan ($528,526) to repair the bridge over the Tumen River, a project jointly pursued with North Korea, the officials said Tuesday.

Work was completed June 14.

The bridge serves as a gateway to Pier No. 1 at Rajin port, which a Chinese company has obtained the right to use for 10 years.

In April, the Chinese government approved a plan to transport coal and other items produced in Jilin to Shanghai via Rajin in northeastern North Korea.

China and North Korea have been in talks about financing of a plan to build a 50-kilometer road leading to the port, the officials said.

UPDATE 1 (2010-6-6): DPRK border bridge to reopen this month, highway to border opens in October
By Michael Rank

A bridge on the Chinese-North Korean border that will take traffic to the North Korean port of Rajin is due to reopen at the end of this month, while a highway from the Jilin provincial capital of Changchun to the border city of Hunchun 珲春 will open in October, according to Chinese reports here and here.

As NKEW reported in April, the 70-year-old bridge over the Tumen river near Hunchun  is being rebuilt as part of a reported $44 million plan to modernise the road from the border to Rajin. Built during the Japanese occupation in 1938, the bridge is 535 metres long and 6.6 metres wide, and joins the Chinese border post of Quanhe 圈河 with the North Korean town of Wonjeong 원정.

The highway will open on October 1, China’s national day, and will cut the journey time from Changchun to Hunchun from eight hours to five, the report said. But it indicated that the 60-km road from the border to Rajin, said to be mostly unpaved and prone to frequent accidents during rain, would not be ready by then.

A Chinese company, Chuangli Group, based in Dalian in Liaoning province,  was reported in March to have signed a 10-year deal to lease a pier at Rajin (also known as Rasŏn or Rajin-Sŏnbong), giving China access to the Sea of Japan for the first time since the 19th century when the Qing imperial government signed treaties under duress from Japan and Russia.

ORIGINAL POST (2010-4-13): Bridge on China-North Korea border being renovated
By Michael Rank

A 70-year-old bridge on the Chinese-North Korean border is being renovated to improve transport to and from the North Korean port of Rajin 라진 (Rason [Raseon]/Rajin-Sonbong) which a Chinese company has taken over on a 10-year-lease, a Chinese website reports.

The bridge over the Tumen river near the city of Hunchun 珲春 in Jilin province will be reopened at the end of June after almost five months of work. Built during the Japanese occupation in 1938, the bridge is 535 metres long and 6.6 metres wide, and joins the Chinese border post of Quanhe 圈河 with the North Korean town of Wonjeong 원정. The report gave no details of costs but said it was being renovated under a deal between the cities of Hunchun and Rason 라선. It said the bridge would help to boost trade in both Hunchun and Rajin and in the region generally.

The refurbishment of the bridge is part of a reported $44 million plan to modernise the road from the border to Rajin.

Ahn Byung-min, an expert on North Korean infrastructure at the Korea Transport Institute, was quoted by the Korea Herald as saying a senior Chinese local government official had told him that the governor of Jilin had signed an agreement to invest 300 million yuan in expanding and paving the road to Rajin.

A Dalian-based company named Chuang Li agreed in 2008 to revamp the road in exchange for leasing a pier at Rajin. “Chuang Li isn’t a company big enough to afford the road construction, so the Jilin government took on the direct investment instead,” Ahn said.

Additional Information:
1. The existing 60-km road is mostly unpaved and prone to frequent accidents during rain.

2. The coordinates of the new bridge are  42°34’4.45″N, 130°31’24.16″E. You can see it on Google Maps here. Thank you for the tip, Mr. Cha.

3. There are a couple of more bridges in the area: here (which looks like it has been unused for some time) and here.

4. Photos of the construction opening ceremony are here.

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Some new satellite images

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Below are the first public satellite images of the new Munsu Water Park and Mirim Riding Park.

Munsu-wading-pool

 

Mirim-riding-park

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