Archive for the ‘2012 Strong and Prosperous Nation (Kangsong Taeguk)’ Category

Pyongyang seeking to build 100,000 housing units [on hold]

Monday, July 1st, 2013

UPDATE 6 (2013-7-1): The Daily NK reports the effort to construct 100,000 homes in Pyongyang has come to a complete halt. According to the article:

A troubled prestige project to build 100,000 new homes in Pyongyang has been brought to a complete halt under the rule of Kim Jong Eun, and buildings in some areas have fallen into a state of disrepair.

A source from the North Korean capital revealed to Daily NK on July 1st, “The 100,000 homes project has been at a complete halt since Kim Jong Eun took power, and on the outskirts of the city some buildings are half-built and collapsing into a state of disrepair.”

“In this area, people were evacuated in October 2009 so that the construction could commence,” the source went on. “But in many areas those buildings that were begun at that time are still not above the first floor.”

Homes planned as part of the project, which, according to state propaganda, was to form part of celebrations for North Korea’s becoming a “strong and prosperous state” by the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth in April 2012, were expected to feature in propaganda vis-a-vis Kim Jong Eun’s greatness.

However, the project has been plagued by electricity and material shortages from the beginning, sources say, and ultimately could not be completed. In some areas, the construction that did go ahead was poorly done and buildings have subsequently collapsed, which has caused deaths.

The source commented, “From Kim Jong Eun’s perspective the project was promoted so that he could say he was improving the people’s lives. But there were no raw materials and no power, and this caused poor construction; so ultimately it has just been abandoned.”

The North Korean authorities are only genuinely concerned about projects that offer short-term opportunities for public propagation of results, such as water parks and exercise facilities in downtown Pyongyang, the source went on to claim.

Meanwhile, the direct suffering caused by the failed project is falling primarily on those who were moved out of their homes in order for construction to start back in 2009. “In a number of cases, the Party ordered families to move out and live with others temporarily, and here we are, four years on, with multiple families living under one roof,” the source said, adding that the indignity of this is being compounded by mobilization orders calling on people without homes of their own to take part in downtown beautification and cleaning schemes.

I have have posted quite a bit of material on construction in Pyongyang in recent years.  Here are some of the more relevant articles:

1. Mansudae Area Renovation No. 1

2. Mansudae Area Renovation No. 2 

3. Kumgang Street

Read the full story here:
100,000 Homes Project Stopped Dead
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2013-7-1

UPDATE 5 (2011-11-03): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on the status of Pyongyang’s residential construction effort.

North Korea Pushing Forward with the Project of Constructing 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang

In order to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s centennial birthday next year on April 15, 2012, the plan to build 100,000 private homes in Pyongyang is quickly underway. North Korea has announced its intension to upgrade Pyongyang into a city with over 100,000 homes. Pyongyang’s district of Mansudae is to build over one thousand units of high-rise apartments (77 stories), theaters, parks and other recreational facilities.

The KCNA reported on October 11, “For the next Day of the Sun, Pyongyang will be completely transformed.” The news added, “The construction of private homes has been in progress for five months and is at 70 percent completion. Mansudae District is rapidly changing with skyscrapers and high-rise apartments appearing throughout the city. Construction of theaters and service facilities are also in development.”

Facing Mansudae is [East] Pyongyang [area], another area in Pyongyang under enhancement and has secured over 17,400 square meters of land for multi-purpose service facilities and 9,660 square meters for a public outdoor ice rink. The KCNA elaborated, “The multi-purpose facilities encompass bathhouses, beauty salons, and other latest facilities of convenience. In the public outdoor ice rink, circular ice rink, bleachers and cultural recreational facilities will be built to provide necessary environment for people to enjoy various ice sports.”

Rungrado Recreation Ground is also reported to be rejuvenated with a variety of amusement rides and multipurpose water park. The water park will be equipped with wave pools, waterslides, and health pools.

In addition, Pyongyang is focusing on gardening and exterior beautification projects for private homes and public buildings, including installation of colorful tiles and paints as well as bright neon signs in the streets.

“The Development Project of 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang” went into effect since 2009 but talks of reducing the project to 20,000 homes surfaced when it was faced with funding difficulties. However, the original plan of building 100,000 homes has not faltered and appears to be in full swing.

Early this year on January 3, a public rally was held at the Kim Il Sung Square with over 100,000 people present. At that time, the homebuilding project of Pyongyang was announced in which “Pyongyang City will be equipped to enter the era of strong and prosperous nation in all sectors.”

In July 2008, the General Bureau of Capital Construction began a large-scale redevelopment project. Completed a year later on September 2009, 600 old homes mostly built in the 1960s were demolished and in their place an apartment complex with over 800 homes went up. This project received undivided attention from Kim Jong Il, Chang Sung-Thaek, administrative director of the Worker’s Party of Korea, among many other top officials of North Korea.

For North Korea, “The Development Project of 100,000 Housing Units in Pyongyang” has become a symbol of building a strong and prosperous nation.

Additional information:
1. Previous posts on the DPRK’s “2012 Kangsong Taeguk” policies can be found here.

2. Previous posts on “Construction” can be found here.

3. The Pyongyang’s university students are (mostly) involved in construction projects.

4. See photos of the construction by Ray Cunningham here.

UPDATE 4 (2011-7-23): Housing unit construction revised down?


Pictured above (Goole Earth): New housing construction in Rakrang-guyok

For several years, the DPRK has been touting that it will build 100,000 new housing units by 2012. See here, here, and here for background.

This week, many South Korean news outlets reported that the DPRK had significantly downsized that number.  According to Yonhap:

North Korea has dramatically cut its goal of building 100,000 houses by next year, a government source said Monday, amid the North being economically squeezed by the international community for its nuclear and missile programs for years.

After the North started the project in Pyongyang in 2009, as part of its plans to achieve a strong and prosperous country by 2012, the North cut the number of planned houses by 75 percent to 25,000. The year 2012 marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s late founder.

The North, however, is continuing to repair a towering bronze statue of Kim and renovate around the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his embalmed body lies, the source said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

Kim is the father of current leader, Kim Jong-il. The Kims are the subject of a massive personality cult that pervades almost every aspect of North Korean society.

Still, the North has embarked on a project to demolish buildings and facilities in central Pyongyang to make room for high-rise apartments, a theater and a park for senior officials.

The North has begun interior work on one of its landmarks, the 105-story Ryukyong Hotel, which stood unfinished in downtown Pyongyang for nearly 20 years due to a lack of capital.

In 2008, the North resumed construction of the skyscraper, but it appears unlikely for the project to be completed next year. It is believed, however, that the North will finish some floors for use.

The last time that KCTV mentioned the 100,000 housing unit goal was on May 26, 2011…nearly a month ago.  I will keep up to see if it is ever mentioned again.  I would not hold my breath waiting for a lower number to be announced, however.

Using satellite imagery of Pyongyang, I can see appx 200 residential buildings under construction.  They are mostly concentrated in Hyongjesan-guyok.  On average, each of these buildings would have to contain 500 housing units to reach 100,000.  This is not possible given the dimensions of the buildings we can see. Additionally, most of these facilities are a long way from being completed.  With a goal of 25,000, that would mean new buildings on average would only need to contain 125 units…a much more reasonable number.

In terms of residential construction, the government now seems to be focusing its efforts primarily on completing the second phase of the Mansudae Street renovations in time for Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday. See here and here.

The prestigious units (visited by Kim Jong-il) that have been completed are all in Pyongyang’s Central District: Near the Potong Gate (Google Maps), Near Haebang Hill (Google Maps), and behind the Central Market (Google Maps).  I should point out, however, that these are not the only buildings to be completed.  Other less-prestigious buildings have been completed and occupied.  Also, many villages (ri, 리) outside the capital are being upgraded and provided new facilities.  I am not sure what the procedure is for deciding which villages receive new homes, but it can’t be random.  Being located next to a major highway seems to be an important variable (keeping up appearances).  I am also unsure what the DPRK does with all of the displaced residents. Are they going somewhere else to live with their families?  Are they living in temporary shelters?

The Daily NK and Choson Ilbo also covered this story.

UPDATE 3 (2011 -7-5): Several days ago, Yonhap reported that the DPRK had quietly reduced its goal of building 100,000 housing units by 2012. So of the 200+ buildings that are currently under construction, which projects are priorities? Mansudae Part II for sure (see here and here).  But what else? There are many construction sites that were launched well before the second renovation of the Mansudae area was begun, and the deadline for completion is rapidly approaching.

Well North Korea recently broadcast a propaganda television show touting Pyongyang’s housing construction (along with quite a lot of singing).  I was able to match up this North Korean television footage with satellite imagery of Pyongyang construction sites to help answer this question.  Given the amount of propaganda being used to promote these particular developments, I would say the following three are also 2012 priorities:

Ryongsong-guyok, Chonggye-dong (룡성구역, 청계동)

Click on images for larger versions.  See in Google Maps here.

Hyongjesan-guyok, Sopho-2 Dong (형제산구역, 서포2동)

Click on images for larger versions.  See in Google Maps here.

Rakrang-guyok, Tongsan-dong (락랑구역, 동산동)

Click on images for larger versions.  See in Google Maps here.

The DPRK also recently hosted an architecture expo in Pyongyang. I have uploaded a video of the event to YouTube, and you can watch it here. I was able to match up some of the projects (though not all) with current satellite imagery. Aside from the renovation of the Ryugyong Hotel, there is no publicly available satellite imagery showing that these projects have been launched.

Hyoksin Area (혁신)

Ryugyong Area (류경)

Additional Informaiton

1. So Marcus Noland was right.  They want tall buildings.

2. For several years now I have been tracking construction in Pyongyang.  See hereherehere, herehereherehere, and here.

UPDATE 2(2010-7-28): According to the Daily NK the construction has come to a halt:

The construction of 100,000 homes in Pyongyang has been put on hold due to a lack of cement. According to a Daily NK source, the project is around 40 percent complete.

The year’s aim is to finish 35,000 households out of the total 100,000 planned for construction. Work is due for completion by 2012.

The North Korean authorities had planned to construct 20,000 houses along the railroad from the Ryongseong-district via Seopo in the Hyeongjesan-district to the Ryeokpo-district and 25,000 houses in the center of the city. The schedule for laying the foundations has been set for September this year with plastering and interior works running until the end of the year.

The frame work of the houses, expected to finish by September, have been suspended due to lack of cement and other materials. A source commented that, “It was planned that general construction of frame works would finish in September but exterior construction has been halted due to a lack of materials.”

The North’s authorities have attempted to supply materials through the Sangwon Cement Complex, the Chollima Steel Mill Complex and other factories across the country. Annual production of cement in North Korea amounts to 6.4 million tons, approximately 12 percent of South Korea’s. However this is not enough to fuel general construction of key facilities such as social infrastructure and military facilities.

Large scale power plant constructions such as the Heecheon Power Plant combined with the building of 100,000 houses in Pyongyang have meant the shortage of cement is particularly acute.

Last year the North established the Pyongkeon Development Investment Group, attracting 320 million dollars of foreign capital. According to the plan submitted by the Group, 300,000 tons of cement are needed for foundation work in March alone.

Chosun Shinbo, the publication of the Chongryon (General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan), reported the construction of 35,000 houses was started in September last year. Since then, old houses in the districts have been torn down and neighborhoods rezoned. In March, the foundations of the houses were laid and the exterior frame work was built but construction has made little progress throughout June due to low cement levels.

The 100,000 household construction project in Pyongyang has been led by Jang Sung Taek, Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Workers’ Party, later appointed as the Vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission earlier this year at the Supreme People’s Assembly.

A source reported that, “Jang Sung Taek ordered foreign currency earning organizations to procure cement and that even selling coal should be considered.”

North Korea launched the state project to construct 100,000 houses in Pyongyang as a symbol of completion of the strong and prosperous state as part of a three-year campaign. Additionally, this project has been advertised as an achievement of the successor, Kim Jong Eun. If the plan fails then it will be a blow to the succession. If construction is suspended completely in advance of the Delegates’ Conference, happening in September, the image of Kim Jong Eun could be damaged.

UPDATE 1 (2010-5-2): Pyongyang’s 2012 renovations

Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times correspondent and author of the very interesting and enjoyable Nothing to Envy, was the first western journalist to write about Pyongyang’s construction boom and the DPRK’s goal of achieving a strong and prosperous nation  by the time of Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012.  The article is a bit dated, but I thought it would be fun to go back and point out all of the construction projects she mentioned in Pyongyang (plus a few more).

Below are some blurbs from Demick’s article supplemented with satellite imagery:

Blurb 1: “Yet these days, high-rise apartments in shades of pink are taking shape near the Pueblo, the American spy ship captured in 1968 and still anchored in the river. A tangle of construction cranes juts into the skyline near Pothong Gate, a re-creation of the old city wall. About 100,000 units are to be built over the next four years.”

I have already blogged about the new housing near the Potong Gate (see here).  Here is the housing near the Pueblo (click on images for larger versions):

pueblo-housing-4-6-2005.JPG  pueblo-housing-11-12-2006.JPG  pueblo-housing-1-28-2009.JPG

The dates of the pictures are 4/6/2005, 11/12/2006, 1/28/2009). The original Los Angeles Times story had a picture of the completed building but that does not appear to have been archived.  Kernbeisser got a photo of the building under construction.

Blurb 2: “But South Korean companies and individuals have mostly ignored the political chill. Among the biggest players here are a unit of the Hyundai conglomerate, which operates the resort where the shooting occurred, and companies affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, which also runs a car assembly plant in North Korea [Pyonghwa Motors]. The church last year completed work on what it calls the World Peace Center, behind the Potonggang Hotel, also owned by church affiliates.”

You can see a satellite image of Pyonghwa Motors plant near Nampo here.

Here is an image of the Potonggang Hotel.

Here is the World Peace Center.

Blurb 3: A Chinese company, meanwhile, is renovating the No. 1 Department Store in the heart of downtown.

Here is an image of Department Store No. 1.

Blurb 4: The Taedonggang Hotel, where Soviet dignitaries stayed in the 1960s and which burned down in 2002, is being restored as a five-star hotel. The Pyongyang Grand Theater, which stages revolutionary operas, is under renovation. The oldest and most elegant of the city’s movie theaters, the Taedongmun Cinema, was restored over the summer and used for screenings at the Pyongyang International Film Festival, which opened here last week.

Here are satellite images of the Taedonggang Hotel reconstruction:

taedong-hotel-8-6-2005.JPG taedong-hotel-11-12-2006.JPG taedong-hotel-12-26-2006.JPGtaedong-hotel-1-28-2009.JPG

Kernbeisser offers a great visual contrast between the hotel’s past and future. Click the links for images.

Here is an image of the Pyongyang Grand Theater under renovation.

Of course these places only scratch the surface of construction work in the DPRK in the last few years. I started to make a list of construction and refurbishment projects, but it got very long very fast.  Since I have other things to do on this lovely Sunday afternoon you will have to wait for me to get around to it at a later date.

ORIGINAL POST (2009-10-20): According to KCNA:

General Secretary Kim Jong Il went round newly-built apartment houses in Mansudae Street.

Saying that the newly-built apartment houses of new styles in the street are the most modern ones which fully reflect the plan and intention of the Party to provide the people with the best living conditions, he added that those apartment houses in the street serve as a model and standard for building dwelling houses to be used by all the people in a great prosperous and powerful nation.

He said that it is necessary to build in Pyongyang modern flats for 100,000 families, houses similar to those apartment houses standing in Mansudae Street, in a matter of a few years as an immediate task.

He expressed great expectation and conviction that all builders of the capital city would create new “Pyongyang Speed” in the era of Songun in the construction of the capital city and usher in “an era of prosperity of Pyongyang” in the new century just as the people created the world-startling “Pyongyang Speed” in the 1950s by building a flat for a family in just 14 minutes true to the Party’s policy of prefabricated construction after the war and as the people in the 1970s and the 1980s opened up “an era of prosperity of Pyongyang” by building many modern streets and great monumental edifices in a matter of 15 years and thus demonstrate once again to the whole world the revolutionary spirit of the service persons and people of the DPRK, successors to the great history and tradition.

 

The goal of constructing 100,000 flats has been repeated in KCNA since then: December 5, 2009, January 22, 2010, February 6, 2010, March 18, 2010.  In KCNA they have been careful not to declare a specific deadline for completion, but (thanks to a reader) in the monthly magazine Korea they have set Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday in 2012 as the date.

I have blogged about and mapped the construction on Mansudae Street.  You can see the inside and outside of these buildings here.

So where will all these flats be located, and what does the construction look like? Below I have posted a GeoEye satellite image from Google Earth which highlights the residential construction areas (in yellow).

 

100-thousand-housing-overview-thumb.jpg

Click image for larger version

So it looks like the majority of the residential construction will be located in Hyongjiesan-kuyok (형제산 구역) in the north and Rakrang-kuyok (락랑 구역) in the south.

According to the June 7, 2010 DPRK evening news, it looks like soldiers are involved in the construction.  No surprise there.  It is unclear how many are involved.  Based on the image below I will let the “professionsals” determine which brigades are involved in the work:

 

construction-worker-2010-6-7.jpg

According to the same evening news broadcast, it looks like the workers have reached the second floor of at least one of these construciton areas.

As with the post-explosion reconstruction of Ryongchon (see images here),  the North Korean government is tearing down traditional, single-family houses and building “modern” high-rises in their place.  At this point the status of the former residents is unclear. Have they been moved into temporary housing (assuming they will get new flats once they are completed) or have they been permanently relocated to make room for the 100,000 lucky families?  (This method of residential development reminds me of Ceauşescu’s Romania.)

4-10-2009-py-housing-thumb.jpg

12-20-2009-py-housing-thumb.jpg

Click images for larger versions.  Top: April, 10, 2009  Bottom: December 20, 2009

Looking at the urban geography of the area I get the feeling that Jane Jacobs would be very disappointed.

 

hyongjiesanhousing-2009-thumb.jpg

Click image for larger version (rotated 90 degrees  –  so “north” is on the right, “south” on the left)

It seems like the new residents of the northern part of Hyongjiesan will be de facto residents of Sopho even though the railway line makes them separately distinct neighborhoods.  Sopho offers the closest train station and market. Residents at the southern end of the Hyongjiesan housing project will need to use a smaller market near the Sopyong Train Repair Factory (See satellite image here) and the West Pyongyang Railway Station.  Although the railway line defines the eastern border of Hyongjiesan District as of today there are only two places where commuters may cross over the tracks—at the West Pyognyang and Sopho Railway Stations. The distance between these two railway crossings is 3 miles (4.82 kilometers).

As of now, it appears there is little industry and few schools this far out of the city, so it is probable that most of the residents will be commuting into town.  However, none of the new housing is metro accessible.  Sopho receives bus service and the West Pyongyang Station receives bus and tram service. However the bus from the West Pyongyang Station to the Sopho Station lies to the east of the new housing and is separated by three miles of railway.  Adding more bus stops between the two stations and providing more railway crossings from the east side to the west side of the tracks would be very helpful in reducing the amount of walking residents would need to take. Somehow, I do not think that will happen.

As for the buses, with only one line to service 100,000 families look for them to be crowded.  It is possible that a commuter rail-line could easily transport workers to the center of town (like in Hamhung), but that might be wishful thinking at this point.

And finally, although the 100,000 families that do end up living in these homes will theoretically enjoy newer, higher-quality housing, their movements in and out of the buildings can be more easily monitored by inminban (인민반) than those in the single-family homes. In the traditional single-family homes there are multiple avenues to enter and leave the neighborhood, but when everyone uses the same door to enter and leave, residents’ activities can be more easily monitored.

So why not build more high-rises in the center of town where people actually work? These kinds of planning snafus are reflected in most socialist cities and are (unfortunately) predictable. To learn more about the urban economics of planned cities, I recommend not just  Jane Jacobs but also “The Urban Dimension of the North Korean Economy: A Speculative Analysis” by Bertrand Renaud.  Read his full chapter here.  Lots of good stuff from them.

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Tanchon Port reconstruction completed

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Tanchon-port-2012-12-19

Pictured Above (2012-12-13): Tanchon Port

UPDATE 2 (2013-4-25): Yonhap reports on the DPRK’s plans for the Tanchon Port:

North Korea is scurrying to develop the resources-rich city of Tanchon on the east coast as part of the country’s efforts to make it a source of foreign currency income, recent news reports from the North showed.

Tanchon will become a key transit point in shipping goods to and from Russia’s Siberia, the northeastern part of China and Mongolia, said the Wednesday issue of the Choson Sinbo, a Korean language newspaper published by North Korean nationals in Japan.

The newspaper, a mouthpiece of North Korea, said the port city of Tanchon should become the source of finance for the country’s broader policy line of pursuing both economic development and nuclear capacities.
In a bid to boost exports, the country completed the construction of a port in May last year in the city with rich reserves of magnesite, zinc and other mineral resources, which sits about in the middle of the country’s east coast line. the Choson Sinbo said the city has about 5.4 billion tons of magnesite deposit, possibly the third biggest reserve in the world.

The news outlet also highlighted the country’s planned ways to increase earnings in the resources-rich city from which the country used to export mineral resources to China for meager profits.

“North Korea will move to manufacture processed magnesite goods in order to make high-value added goods,” the Choson Sinbo noted. “To that end, many plants will be built in the Tanchon region and the areas will become a new industrial zone.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also underlined the country’s plan to boost profits from the Tanchon development, saying in a national meeting of light industrial workers last month that profits from Tanchon development should be exclusively used to prop up the livelihood of North Korean people.

UPDATE 1 (2012-5-3): KCNA announces the completion of  the Tanchon Port:

A modern trading port made its appearance in the area of Tanchon in South Hamgyong Province on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of President Kim Il Sung’s birth.

The construction of the port with a cargo traffic capacity of millions of tons provides a guarantee for greatly contributing to developing the nation’s foreign trade and improving the people’s living standard.

A ceremony for the completion of the construction was held on the spot Thursday.

Present there were Choe Yong Rim, Kwak Pom Gi, Ro Tu Chol and other officials concerned, officials of the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport, builders and working people of industrial establishments in Tanchon City.

Read out there was a joint congratulatory message sent by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Cabinet of the DPRK to the officials and members of shock brigades who performed labor feats in the construction of the port.

The message highly praised them for successfully building another giant structure in the era of Songun greatly conducive to building an economic power true to the life-time desires and last instructions of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

It expressed belief that they would perform greater feats in the efforts for the country’s prosperity united close around the WPK Central Committee headed by the dear respected Kim Jong Un.

Minister of Land and Marine Transport Kang Jong Gwan, in his speech made for the occasion, said the construction of the port was a brilliant fruition of the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il who initiated the construction of the port and worked heart and soul to translate the desire of the President into a reality till the last moments of his revolutionary life and the clear-sighted guidance and meticulous care of Kim Jong Un.

Speakers at the ceremony pledged themselves to carry out their tasks including dredging in a short span of time in the same spirit as displayed in the construction of the port.

At the end of the ceremony the participants looked round different places of the port.

You can see video of the port inauguration here. (KCNA)

Just a few days ago, the Choson Sinbo reported the following (via Yonhap):

The North is estimated to have 15 billion tons of anthracite coal, a key mineral Pyongyang uses to produce steel, the Choson Sinbo newspaper said.

The North also has an estimated 5.4 billion tons of magnesite in Tanchon, a home to mines in South Hamgyong province, and other areas, according to the newspaper.

North Korea is set to open Tanchon as a modern trade port, the newspaper said, without giving any specific time frame for the opening.

ORIGINAL POST (2010-12-9): On December 2, KCNA announced that Kim Jong-il visited the port in Tanchon County, South Hamgyong County (40.412522°, 128.917731°) where he gave guidance on the port’s reconstruction.

Judging by the satellite imagery of the area on Google Earth, it appears that the project had already begun by May 13, 2009, where we can see concrete blocks ready to be used to extend the jettys (breakwaters).  I have outlined the proposed port project on Google Earth imagery below and provided a picture of the completed project from KCTV:

After the jettys are extended, the major construction work and dredging can begin.  Below are images of the port’s main construction site as it appears on Google Earth and a prediction of the project’s conclusion from KCNA:

It appears from the picture that the port will be connected to the railway system—likely via the nearby Tanchon Smeltery and Magnesia Plant (both recently renovated) whose products will probably be exported from the port.

Tanchon is also home to the DPRK’s Komdok and Taehung Youth Hero Mines (among others).  As is well known to readers, raw materials exports are the DPRK’s most significant (legal and transparent) source of hard currency.  According to Yonhap’s North Korea Handbook 2002:

Geomdeok [Komdok] Mine is a special company in Bonsan-dong, Dancheon, South Hamgyeon Province, and is very famous for about 300 million tons of deposited leads and zincs. This mine annually produces 52,000 tons of lead, 124,000 tons of zinc, both of which account for 47% of total production in North Korea, and more than twice as much as the production of Eunpa Mine, North Korea’s second largest mine, in Eunpa-gun North Hwanghae Province. Concentrates of lead and zinc produced from Geomdeok Mine are processed into electric zinc at Dancheon refinery. Opened in 1932, this mine produces 14,200 tons of raw ore annually with three ore dressing plants. Annual production capacity can reach up to 11 million tons. The first dressing plant was completed in July 1953, near the end of the Korean War. It now processes a million tons of ore a year. The second dressing plant was opened with a production capacity of 3,200 tons of ore. The third one constructed in September 1983 can process 10 million tons of ore.

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North Korea Lauds Its Economic Achievements One Year After Kim Jong Il’s Death

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-12-14

In preparation for the first anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death, North Korea is calling attention to its economic achievements.

North Korean media announced that workers in each production sector met the goals of this year to commemorate the death of Kim Jong Il.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on December 7, “To honor the oath of bloody tears made before our Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, with burning hopes to charge ahead to meet the annual People’s Economic Plan, industrial production output reached 100 percent and production of daily necessities reached 113.7 percent, as of December 5.”Specifically, the machinery industrial sector was said to have reached its annual production goal by 107 percent as of the end of November.

Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), also mentioned that a product exhibition was held from December 3rd to 6th in the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1.

In addition, KCNA reported that many hydroelectric power plants across the nation have already exceeded the annual electricity production plan. The KCNA claimed that Sodusu power plant exceeded the annual goal by 120.3 percent, while the Hochon River power plant and Jangjin River power plant reached 107.6 and 109.3 percent, respectively.

North Korean media boasted its economic development and spoke of its economic revitalization strategy. In the KCNA commentary: “We have developed our own economic revitalization strategies for economic development and devotion for this goal is deepening with time.”

North Korea’s recent announcement and actual launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is also claimed to be an essential process for North Korea’s economic development.

“Unha-3rocket carryingthe satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, was developed by North Korean scientists and engineers by its own technology, and it is a noble achievement for its scientific and technical advancement to realize the goal of economic revival,” stated Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper.

Analysts see North Korea’s recent moves (that is, its stressing of economic achievements and the rocket/satellite launch) as Pyongyang’s effort to emphasize the Kim Jong Un regime’s intent to uphold the teachings of the late leader Kim Jong Il through strengthening the economy.

The year 2012 was propagated by North Korea to be the first year of its kangsong taeguk (“strong and prosperous nation”). North Korea is trying to prove to its people that, despite Kim Jong Il’s death, this effort is still continuing under the Kim Jong Un leadership.

In the December 7th article of the KCNA, annual evaluation was made of the various economic achievements. The article called the past year “a historical miracle of a new era,” and “first year of new centennial of juche.” It also stated that a “new historical miracle was created to mark the new era of strong Korea (Chosun) upholding the great teachings of General Kim Jong Il.”

The KCNA mentioned the ‘Day of the Sun’ celebrations and other various celebrations, WPK conference, Kim Jong Un’s onsite visits to military bases, completion of the Huichon Power Station, Pyongyang city park construction, and Moranbong band performances as major achievements of the year.

In addition, the new 12-year compulsory education policy, outstanding performance by North Korean athletes at the 2012 London Olympics (i.e., four gold and one bronze medal), and the commissioning of the new State Culture and SportsGuidance Commission were also mentioned as main accomplishments of the year.

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Hoeryong: New Chinese tourist destination

Monday, October 15th, 2012

 

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Two Google Earth satellite images of Hoeryong (L: 2002-4-27, R: 2008-12-25) which show the construction of residential apartments buildings as well as the town’s new main market.

Hoeryong is a town in North Hamgyong Province that lies across the Tumen (Tuman) River from China.  According to North Korean political narratives it is also the childhood home of Kim Jong-il’s mother, Kim Jong-suk.  It has been the the site of a large construction boom in the last five years, and now, according to the Daily NK, Chinese tourists are being brought in on very limited itineraries. According to the article:

The Hoiryeong source explained, “North Hamkyung Province ‘shock troops’ and military unit construction teams have been here for three years on Kim Jong Il’s orders for the construction, and now it is finished.” Local households were asked to contribute 12,000 North Korean Won each to the construction effort, he added.

Hoiryeong used to have few buildings with five floors, but now it has a considerable number of new four and five floor apartment buildings built around the center of the city, as well as a number of newly built commercial facilities. Buildings in the downtown core have also been spruced up with external lighting, a project that began last April.

There are a number of new restaurants in the area. One, ‘Hoiryeonggwan’, has been decorated in the style of Pyongyang’s famous ‘Okryugwan’, something that Kim Jong Il is said to have ordered in December 2010 when he visited the construction site. Elsewhere, restaurants serving spicy marinated beef, duck, dog and Chinese food have also opened their doors.

However, these restaurants only currently open on the weekend or when Chinese tour groups make an advanced reservation, according to the source, who revealed that local people regard the construction effort more as an attempt to generate tourist revenue than to make it a real ‘model city’, as the official propaganda claims.

“Chinese tourists come, then they visit the statue of Kim Jong Suk and the place where she grew up, and then they are taken to one or other of the restaurants,” the source said. “They drink and make merry then go, all without visiting any scenic spots; thus, the authorities make money.”

As with other tourist operations, it is possible that this small step will lead to a softening of restrictive tourism regulations and potentially the arrival of Western tourists.  But don’t hold your breath!  Chinese tourists have been visiting Sinuiju on a regular basis, but westerners are generally still prohibited from touring the city

Additional Information: 

1. On the opening of Hoeryong’s “Food Avenue”

2. Succession not popular in Hoeryong

Read the full story here:
Model City or Tourist Trap: Hoiryeong Sparkles
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-10-15

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New stores and factories open in North Korea

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Pictured above (Google Earth): The location of the Mansugyo Meat and Fish Shop (a.k.a. “Hero Street Meat Shop”) in Pyongyang

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-5-2

Recently, new stores are opening in Pyongyang.

On April 26, Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, congratulated the opening of a meat store in Mansugyo.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on April 26 that the “dear respected Kim Jong Un appeared at the shop to congratulate its opening,” and “looking round the interior of the shop, Kim Jong Un expressed great satisfaction with the soldier builders having built the shop to be loved by the people. He ardently said leader Kim Jong Il would have seen the shop with the highest service level.”

The three-story store covers over 5,000 square meters. The first floor has fresh and frozen fish; the second floor sells beef, pork, goose, turkey, quail and processed foods; and the third floor is equipped with a restaurant serving bulgogi or barbecued beef.

Kim Jong Un is reported to have visited the construction site for the store in January and March and provided guidance over the direction of the project.

On April 27, the KCNA reported that another store, the Mirae Shop for scientists and technicians, opened in Pyongyang. It eulogized Kim Jong Un for naming the shop and commended “his noble intention” for promoting the development of science and technology.

The shop is reported to have a variety of popular goods for sale, including daily necessities, electrical appliances and foodstuffs. In addition, it also boasted its convenient facilities for customers such as alteration and watch repair services as well as elevators and beverage vendors.

On the same day, the KCNA also reported on opening of two other establishments; modern soymilk powder production process of Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuffs Factory and a process for producing sanitary articles at the Pyongyang Cigarette Paper Factory.

The soymilk powder production factory was described as follows: “Employees of the factory, soldier-builders and researchers of Kim Chaek University of Technology manufactured dozens of equipment needed for automatic packing process and the process of carrying and melting sugar powder and installed latest equipment.”

The development of the sanitary products factory was celebrated as an achievement that will meet the needs of women’s daily necessities.

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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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Noland on the DPRK economy

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Marcus Noland writes for the East-West Centre:

With global attention focused on North Korea’s failed rocket launch today, it’s worth also taking a look at the other claim the Pyongyang regime has long made for the imminent April 15 birth centennial of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung: emergence into economic prosperity.

Originally, the regime had declared that the country would emerge as “a strong and prosperous nation” during this time, but with that aspiration far from attainment, the goal has been relaxed recently to marking the country’s “passage through the gate” to prosperity. In reality, the North Korean economy today is characterized by macroeconomic instability, widening inequality and growing corruption.

No one (including the North Korean government) knows with any true confidence the size or growth rate of the country’s economy, but the consensus among outside observers is that per capita income today is lower than it was 20 years ago, and by some reckonings is only now re-attaining the level it first achieved in the 1970s.

Price data indicate that since a disastrous currency reform in November 2009, inflation, including for basic goods such as rice and coal, has been running at well over 100 percent a year. The black market value of the currency has been falling at a similar rate, meaning that those with access to foreign exchange are insulated from the ravages of inflation while those reliant on the local currency have seen their buying power dwindle. Unlike in the past, when grain prices fell after the harvest – sometimes by quite substantial amounts – prices have continued to rise this year. Analyses by both the U.S. government and international groups indicate that there is not enough food to go around, and some families are going without.

Help was supposed to be on the way in the form of a resumption of U.S. aid, but the unraveling of the “Leap Day” food-for-weapons deal in the wake of North Korea’s announcement of its rocket launch means that conditions for the North’s chronically food-insecure population may not improve.

This picture stands in sharp contrast to numerous anecdotal reports of improved living standards, abundant cell phones, and even traffic jams in Pyongyang, though it is consistent with the less numerous reports of grim conditions in provincial cities. My colleague Stephan Haggard has dubbed this phenomenon “Pyongyang illusion” and believes that it may well go beyond typically observed urban- or capital-bias in governance, and represents an attempt by an insecure regime to forestall any Tahrir Square type activity in the capital city.

Macroeconomic imbalances and shortages have exacerbated the country’s problems with corruption, already assessed by Transparency International as the worst in the world. The situation not only represents a drag on growth, but could impair the regime’s capacity to govern, as the parochial interests of corrupt officials diverge from the policy preferences of Pyongyang. In the wake of the December death of leader Kim Jong-il, the state has responded with heightened control measures, including purging the security units who were supposed to pursue corrupt officials but who had evidently themselves been corrupted. But there are limits to the effectiveness of repression when the underlying problems remain unresolved.

In short, the country is beset with macro instability, deepening inequality, rising corruption, and a political leadership that appears to lack the vision or capacity to respond. Some current policies have allegedly been ascribed to Kim Jong-il’s “dying wish,” and it would not be surprising if the regime uses this rationale for some time. But at some point Kim Jong-un and the new leadership will have to take ownership of policy. That transition could well begin on the centennial of his revered grandfather’s birth.

Read the full article here:
Behind North Korea’s rocket launch, economic turmoil
East-West Centre
Marcus Noland
2012-4-12

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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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DPRK in 2012 fundraising spree

Monday, October 31st, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea is pushing every angle to try and obtain more foreign currency to bolster its coughers and fund its 2012 festivities.

According to North Korean sources, apart from the standard blanket expropriation of a large proportion of the $200-1500 per month incomes of laborers based abroad, in recent times the authorities have also started to move in on the reserves of ordinary citizens inside North Korea’s borders.

Various enterprises and organizations are said to be in fierce competition to get hold of whatever foreign currency and gold is held by the people. Trade banks have also apparently responded to the situation by offering to exchange foreign currency at the black market rate of 2,800 won per U.S. dollar, instead of the laughable official exchange rate.

Elsewhere, mobile phone sales are helping the regime to dredge currency from the people. The North Korean Ministry of Communications is reportedly making impressive profits by monopolizing the importation of phones made by Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei, buying them for $80 per handset and reselling them for $300. Based on known prices, connection fees and a service take-up of 700,000 people so far, the authorities have presumably managed to earn $250m through this practice alone.

Overseas Koreans also say they are being pushed to add to the funding drive. Ethnic Koreans in the United States have claimed that North Korea has offered them the chance to reunite with long lost family members in the North for a cost of several thousand dollars per person, including brokerage and security fees, although this has been apparently going on for a number of years.

Over in Japan, meanwhile, it was also revealed by weekly publication AERA that North Korea has sent letters to elderly members of the Chongryon inviting them to return to North Korea with the promise of being able to live well on their pensions. It is suspected that the North hopes to be able to withhold news of their eventual passing so as to keep receiving the pensions in the medium term.

Finally, the workers and businesses at the Kaeseong Industrial Complex have also become a target of the fund raising drive. North Korean management in the Complex requested back in August that South Korean businesses stop offering ‘Choco-pies’ (a South Korean snack) to North Korean workers and give them cash instead.

However, the overall results are unlikely to be positive. The planned illusion of plenty may be briefly achieved next year, but the majority of experts agree that the North Korean regime is now distorting the economy more and more by focusing on events idolizing the Kim family at the expense of other issues that will inevitably come back to haunt the regime later.

Yonhap also reported on this story.

Read the full Daily NK piece here:
2012 Funding International Overdrive
Daily NK
2011-10-31

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Hamhung traders taxed to fund Pyongyang construction projects

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities in Hamheung are demanding 150,000 won from each trader in local markets to support construction projects in Pyongyang, according to a source from the city.

“Since the start of October, Hamheung Municipal People’s Committee has been taking money from market traders on the premise that ‘You have to give material support to Pyongyang construction workers,’” the source told the Daily NK today. “In the case of traders in the markets in Hoisang and Sapo, they are being asked for as much as 150,000 won each.”

Hamheung is the most famous industrial city in North Korea, and as such has larger markets than many other places. Thus, given that each of the two markets mentioned by the source has more than 500 traders, if the authorities were to reach their goal figure then they would be able to take 75,000,000 won from each one.

However, the Market Management Office for each market already receives 300-500 won per day from traders in the form of a ‘stall tax’, with sellers of home appliances and other high priced goods paying 500 won and those who sell food only paying 300 won. Thus, 150,000 won represents a huge cost, and many traders are apparently reacting to the demand with incredulity.

The source also noted that this does not appear to represent a central Party directive, with only traders in South Hamkyung and Yangkang Province having been hit by it to date.

“In Hyesan Market in Yangkang Province, it is 100,000 won per trader,” the source revealed, adding, “It seems like a case of the provincial Party preparing funds to support Pyongyang construction by taking money from traders.”

Elsewhere, although traders are now angry at the demand for funding, everything else is good, with official market controls being very lightly implemented at the moment, according to the source.

“The market is open from morning to night, and with the exception of the usual crackdowns on grasshopper traders there are no notable inspections,” he revealed.

But then, he added sarcastically, “They are taking money from the market as if it were some kind of state industry, so maybe that’s why they are leaving it alone.”

Read the full story here:
To Hamheung Traders: 150,000 Won for Pyongyang!
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young
2011-10-18

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