Mansudae Area renovation no. 2 (Changjon Street)

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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Aidan Foster-Carter on the DPRK’s 2012

April 1st, 2012

Aidan Foster-Carter wrties in the Asia Times:

The first quarter of 2012 is almost over. Where did it go, so fast? And for those parts of the world where the calendar is marked by four distinct seasons – which doesn’t apply to much of Asia, but very much includes the Korean peninsula – spring has begun to arrive. Welcome warmth and relief, after the rigors of chilly winter: an especially harsh one in North Korea.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Friday Fun: Some new North Korean art

March 29th, 2012

Although the Korea-watching world is focused on Tongchang-ri at the moment, I thought I would offer a mild distraction this Friday with some rarely-see-by-the-outside-world North Korean art. (A big thanks to a reader for these).

On display in the Mansudae Art Studio (the DPRK’s premier art studio) at this very minute, “The girl with the cell-phone”:

Click image for larger version

And below we have a painting from a book on the art exhibition on the 65th birthday of the Korean Worker’s Party.  The painting is called “Sarangeui jib” (English title: “House of affection”):

Click image for larger version

I bet the painter was a man.

Blogging has been light as I try to clear a big project from my plate. I will play catch up on Tonchang-ri, SPA, KWP , and Google Earth this weekend.

For an additional smile, KCNA has an article today titled, “North Korea Launches Satellite of Love”.

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Lankov on DPRK sanctions

March 27th, 2012

Andrei Lankov writes in The Asian:

However, the decades-long experience of dealing with North Korea leaves little doubt: international sanctions do not work. When the sanctions were first introduced after the October 2006 nuclear test and tightened after the second 2009 nuclear test, many a hardliner believed that this was the way to press the North Korean government into a corner and make them consider denuclearization. In academic articles, newspaper pieces and blog entries, many a hawk was ready to interpret pretty much every piece of news that emanated from the North as a sign of ‘sanctioning beginning to bite’.

But what has happened to the North Korean economy over the past five to six years? Contrary to expectations, the era of sanctions has been, rather, a time of mild economic recovery and growth. The expectations of hardliners therefore have as yet, come to nothing.

Read the rest of this entry »

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DPRK child nourishment

March 26th, 2012

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Nearly two-thirds of North Korean children under 10, or some 2.2 million, suffer from growth disorders related to malnutrition and 18,000 of them are so undernourished that their life is at risk, according to a study.

Hwang Na-mi [황나미], a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in Seoul, published her findings in the March issue of the journal Health and Welfare Forum on Sunday. She analyzed a nutrition assessment conducted in the North by the UNICEF in cooperation with the North’s Central Statistics Bureau in 2004 and 2009.

According to the study, 2.2 million or 61.7 percent of the North’s 3.55 million children under 10 were underweight, chronically malnourished with stunted growth, or acutely undernourished with a frail physique. Some numbers overlap.

Some 320,000 or 18.8 percent of children aged 0-4 years were underweight, and 430,000 or 23.1 percent of those aged 5-9. Five-year-old North Korean boys weighed less than 14.1 kg and girls less than 13.7 kg on average, about 4 kg lighter than their South Korean peers.

Some 1.23 million or 34.7 percent of children under nine showed stunted growth for their age due to malnutrition. Some 210,000 or 6 percent were frailly built and underweight for their height as a result of acute malnutrition.

Conditions varied widely between regions. In Ryanggang Province, which has no proper food rations and suffers from a lack of farmland, a massive 82.1 percent of children were undernourished, nearly double the percentage in the capital Pyongyang (43.5 percent). Next came South Hamgyong, North Hamgyong, and Jagang provinces.

“The health of North Korean children has improved thanks to food aid from the international community, but most of them are still undernourished,” Hwang said. “Some 0.5 percent of the North’s entire child population are at a high risk of dying of diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia or diarrhea because their immune system is so weak due to extreme malnutrition.”

 

Yonhap also reported on this same report:

The life expectancy of an average North Korean stood at 69.3, 10.8 years lower than comparable figure for a South Korean, a report by a social health institute said Sunday.

The report by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) based on a census conducted in 2008, showed the average life expectancy for North Korean men standing at 65.6 years, while for women it reached 72.7.

In the same year, an average South Korean was expected to live 80.1 years. Men and women were expected to live 76.5 years and 83.3 years, respectively, in the cited year.

The latest report also showed the health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) in North Korea stood at 58 in 2007 compared to 71 in South Korea. HALE refers to the average number of years that a person can expect to live without serious health problems.

KIHASA’s findings said death while giving birth reached 77.2 per every 100,000 mothers in the communist country in 2008, up from 54 in 1993. This is five times higher than the maternal death rate in South Korea.

The infant mortality rate in the North stood at 19.3 for every 1,000, which is again five times higher vis-a-vis the South.

Other illnesses cited for fatalities were also high, with tuberculosis accounting for 344 deaths per every 100,000 in 2010 in North Korea. This is much higher than 97 deaths caused by the same disease in the South.

The institute said that judging by the data, health conditions for people living in North Korea seem to have deteriorated over the years. It added that data released by international agencies such as the Nations Children’s Fund showed a gloomier picture of health conditions in the impoverished country, indicating that Pyongyang’s official census may not be totally reliable.

The actual census data can be found here.

Read the full stories here:
Most North Korean Children Under Nourished
Choson Ilbo 
2012-3-26

N. Korea’s life expectancy 10 years lower than South: report
Yonhap
2012-3-25

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American chorus to perform at Spring Arts Festival

March 25th, 2012

The Sons of Jubal, an all-male chorus and orchestra made up entirely of Georgians, has been invited to perform during the Spring Arts Festival in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea). They are the largest American group ever invited to enter the country. The visit is the culmination of years of preparation. They will also perform additional concerts in Beijing, China.

Here is the press release:

All-Male Chorus and Orchestra to perform in Pyongyang, DPRK 

ATLANTA—A 150-member all-male chorus and orchestra from the Atlanta area will perform in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during their Spring Arts Festival in April.

The chorus and orchestra, named the Sons of Jubal, will be one of the largest musical groups of Americans ever to enter the DPRK. The Sons of Jubal was founded in 1954 and consists of volunteer professional musicians, church musicians, educators, and institutional leaders from the state of Georgia.

Global Resource Services, Inc. (GRS), a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Atlanta, is coordinating the cultural exchange. Through its “Advocacy for the Arts” program, GRS is providing opportunities to promote goodwill and reconciliation.

GRS has already sent three other groups to DPRK, including the Grammy Award Winning group, Casting Crowns. The organization has three main principles: relationships, respect, and reconciliation.

“We are excited that this opportunity has come after a decade and a half of experience in DPRK-United States musical exchanges,” said Robert Springs, GRS Chief Executive Officer and President.

The Sons of Jubal will also have performances in Beijing, China, which will include a brass choir, handbell choir, and vocal ensemble. The group has presented concerts in major halls, local churches, and communities in the United States, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and Russia.

“This is a historic opportunity for the group and I am privileged to be a part of this great musical endeavor,” commented Dr. Jon Duncan, conductor of the group for the past 10 years.

The Sons of Jubal performs an extensive repertoire in the classics, Broadway show tunes, spirituals, and contemporary genres. Members of the Sons of Jubal will leave on April 10 and return to Georgia on April 23.

UPDATE: Here is a follow up article on the group (Augusta Chronicle):

Last month, amid reports of rocket launches in North Korea, a handful of Augusta pastors and musicians were quietly making history.

They were part of a men’s choir that performed in North Korea and China.

The 150-member Sons of Jubal, who are ministers from churches across the Georgia Baptist Convention, is the largest group of Americans to visit North Korea in decades, according to Global Resource Services, an Atlanta nonprofit that coordinated the trip.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We made history,” said the Rev. Roy Kiser, an associate pastor with senior adults at First Baptist Church of North Augusta. He has sung in the choir for 14 years.

The choir performed American show tunes, Korean folk songs and a few hymns at various venues, including a Beijing Christian church; the Morang Hill Symphony Hall, the home of the North Korean National Symphony Orchestra; and a spring festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the first rule or North Korea, who died in 1994.

For those two weeks, members of Sons of Jubal were celebrities everywhere they went, said the Rev. Keith Burrow, an associate minister of music and senior adults at First Baptist Church of Augusta, who has sung in the choir for five years.

“We were the first Americans a lot of them had ever met,” he said.

The performances took more than three years of planning and six months of rehearsals. The choir worked hard to learn How Great Thou Art in Chinese, and a few traditional Korean songs, Burrow said.

“Music has a way of breaking down barriers in ways other things can’t,” he said. “You could feel the two people groups coming together, all because we sang in their language.”

Between concerts, the group did a little sightseeing, stopping at both the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Under military escort, the group toured the north side of the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea.

Upon returning from the tour, church members have asked Burrow whether he ever felt scared while traveling through the communist countries.

“Not once,” he said. “Because of the (political) relations between us and them, we really didn’t know what to expect. We saw over and over again that people are people no matter where they are.”

Kiser agreed.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us,” he said. “Everyone was friendly, personable. They made quite the positive impression.”

So did one translator in particular, Burrow said.

“Our guide told us, ‘I will never look at Americans the same way again.’ She said, ‘I hope you never look at Koreans the same way again either.’ ”

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Humedica donates 20 tons of rice to DPRK

March 23rd, 2012

According to Reliefweb (2012-3-23):

According to the World Food Programme of the United Nations, one in three children is affected permanently by hunger, mal- or undernutrition to a degree so alarming that the children are too small for their age. Also one in four nursing mothers is mal- or undernourished – and we can imagine the consequences for the infants.

In order to help above all those who are weakened by diseases, we offer support in the form of food supplies and together with a local partner of humedica we sent another relief good shipment, this time containing 20 tons of rice, to the DPR of Korea on March 23.

The nutritious staple will be provided to the hospital in Haeju (Hwanghae-namdo province), where ill children, women and men are offered medical treatment during their stay as in-patients. Thanks to the humedica shipment, these patients will regain new strength.

Haeju is a city of 222,396 inhabitants. It is located at the western coast of the country, 140 kilometres south of the capital of Pyongyang. Located at a distance of seven kilometres and half from the town is Mount Suyang, which is above all famous for of its cataracts. The water of Mount Suyang falls down over cliffs of a height of 128 metres and a breadth of twelve metres into the depths of a picturesque little lake.

On the mountainside itself, there is an old fortification built in the Goryeo Dynasty that can be visited by tourists. Sights in Haeju are an old stone cooling house (also built in the Goryeo Dynasty) and a pagoda of five floors. Haeju is an important traffic junction; above all companies in the cement and chemical industry have set up their businesses there (Source of information: Wikipedia).

Since 1998, humedica has been sending relief shipments with a value of more than one million euros to the DPR of Korea. Besides food, seeds or special additional food these shipments also contain drugs, sanitary articles, medical equipment and every-day necessities.

Please support us with your personal contribution so that we will be able to help the people in this country also in future.

humedica e. V.
Donation reference “Famine relief North Korea”
Account 47 47
Bank Code 734 500 00
Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
SWIFT/BIC-CODE: BYLADEM1KFB
IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

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DPRK undergoing 2012 calendar recall

March 23rd, 2012

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Kumsong Youth Publishers (금성청년출판사), (R) Pyongyang General Printing Factory (평양종합인쇄공장). According to the Daily NK article below, both factories print calendars in the DPRK.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-23): The Daily NK updates us on the DPRK’s 2012 calendars:

The slogan on the cover of the calendar has been edited from “The Great Leader President Kim Il-sung will always be with us” to “The Great President Kim Il-sung and the Great Leader Kim Jong-il Will always be with us”

The new calendar marks February 16th (Kim Jong-il’s official birthday) as “The Day of the Shining Star”. This same day is also celebrated as the day Kim Jong-il received the title “generalissimo”.

“The Day of the Sun” (April 15th–Kim Il-sung’s birthday) was always there, however, revised text about other dates has been added.

The May picture comes from the DPRK film Petition. The June image comes from The Blessed Land.

 

July – October calendar pages

December 17th 2012 commemorates “Juche 100″. December 17th is the day Kim Jong Il passed away.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-10): According to the Daily NK:

North Korea has recalled all 2012 calendars because they do not specify the date of Kim Jong Il’s death (December 17th), and is producing new ones.

A Shinuiju source confirmed for Daily NK on the 5th, “Pyongyang Combined [General] Printing and other printers are creating new calendars marking Kim Jong Il’s death.”

“An order was handed down through Party organs, enterprises and people’s units calling for the return of those calendars which had been distributed. Calendars stored by traders who were planning to go and distribute them outside of North Korea are also being recalled,” the source added.

However, most of those calendars which have already been exported, such as the one obtained by Daily NK [see picture here], will continue to circulate.

The absence of the date of death is not the only problem with the new calendar. There are also problematic messages such as ‘We hope for great leader comrade Kim Jong Il’s good health.’ As such, the new calendar will reportedly both include Kim Jong Il’s official date of death and the latest slogan, ‘Great leader comrade Kim Jong Il is with us forever.’

Official North Korean calendars are designed and published by a number of publishing houses including Keumsung Youth Publishing House and Agricultural Publishing Company on the authority of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department. They are still distributed to all Party organs, enterprises and military bases, although due to economic and production limitations the paper quality has dropped in recent years, and even this measure has not been enough to stop distribution to households breaking down.

On this, one defector from North Hamkyung Province commented, “There are 28 households in a people’s unit, but only 10 calendars were given to us once.”

Other than the official calendar published for distribution, each of the authorized publishers produces a higher quality 7-page calendar for sale in places like the jangmadang. Some high-quality scroll calendars are also produced by People’s Army Publishing House, People’s Safety Ministry, and National Security Agency etc.

An additional point of interest for the reproduced calendars is whether Kim Jong Eun’s birthday (January 8th) will be made prominent. January 8th, 2012 is a Sunday and as such would typically be marked in red anyway, but usually to emphasize special days the numbers are printed in a bigger font.

Read the full story here:
North Korea in Mass Calendar Recall
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong
2012-01-10

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Kim family Kangdong compound updated

March 23rd, 2012

I am going through some new satellite imagery of the Pyongyang area and wanted to point out a new highlight:

Among the many things that Kim Jong-un inherited from his father is a new, exclusive train station built just across the river from the family’s Kangdong estate (39.198864°, 126.016210°).

 

Google Earth images. (L) 2006-12-17 (R) 2011-11-13.

Pictured above are two Google Earth screen shots of the Kangdong complex (highlighted in red). The new train station can be seen to the north west of the compound on the opposite side of the river.

 

The station compound is 780 meters in length, and there is no train visible.  Although the satellite image is dated 2011-11-13, it is unclear if this facility has ever been used–this is the only commerically available photo of the station. It is also worth noting that a village just north of the station has been removed.

This new train station is connected to the national railway system at the Phyongsong Station via a dedicated line that is approximately 11.5km long.

Google Earth offers an interesting perspective of the railway line construction:

 

In the images above (TOP: 2009-4-16, BOTTOM-L: 2010-3-28, BOTTOM-R: 2011-11-13) We can see the construction of the railway line. A nearby factory was torn down to make room for the tracks.

This dedicated line has one branch that is under construction and extends south towards the Taedong Fruit Farm before abruptly ending.

The Kangdong facility itself has also received a few new additions:

 

Pictured above are two different Google Earth images of part of the Kangdong Leadership Compound.  (L) 2006 (R) 2011.

Judging from these satellite images, the Kandgong leadership compound has received a new residency (for Kim Jong-un?) in the upper-right side of the 2011 photo, a new support facility (bottom-center), and new sports facilities (top-center). On the left side of the photo is a peculiar area that appears to be a tree farm, but in all honesty, I can’t say with any confidence what it is.  Ideas welcome.

Additional information:

1. This compound has been drastically overhauled since Kenji Fujimoto visited.  See his pictures here, here, here, and here.

2. Kim Jong-il lived here while recovering from a stroke in 2008.

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Kim Il-sung Youth League gets new leader

March 23rd, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth:  39.018532°, 125.728943°): The Central Committee of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League in Pyongyang (청년동맹중앙위원회)

According to the Daily NK:

Chosun Central News Agency reported today that Ri Yong Cheol, the 1st Secretary of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, has been dismissed, replaced by Jeon Yong Nam.

Ri was removed by the 47th plenary session of the organization’s central committee in Pyongyang yesterday for reasons related to his age, according to the report. Ri, the son of former Workers’ Party Guidance Department Vice Director Ri Hwa Seon, had been in the job since December, 2007. He was also on the funeral committee at the death of Kim Jong Il.

The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League is among the first political organizations with which young North Koreans come into contact. Acting as the youth wing of the Chosun Workers’ Party, its membership, comprised of persons aged 14-30, is estimated at approximately five million.

Here is coverage in Rodong Sinmun:

The 47th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League was held in Pyongyang on March 22.

At the meeting former First Secretary Ri Yong Chol was relieved of his post and recalled for his age reason and Jon Yong Nam was posted instead.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Kim Il-sung Youth League:

Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League (Korean: 김일성사회주의청년동맹, Hanja: 金日成社會主義靑年同盟) is a Korean youth organization. It is the main youth organization in DPR Korea.

It was founded by Kim Il-sung on January 17, 1946 as the Democratic Youth League of North Korea. It became the youth wing of the Workers Party of North Korea, later the Workers Party of Korea. It was renamed the Democratic Youth League of Korea and in May 1964 renamed as the League of Socialist Working Youth of Korea.[1] It assumed its present name on its 50th anniversary in 1996.[2]

The 47th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League was held in Pyongyang on March the 22th of 2012. At the meeting former First Secretary Ri Yong Chol was relieved of his post for his age reason and Jon Yong Nam was elected to the post.

Read the full story here:
KIS Youth League Gets New Head
Daily NK
Kang Mi-jin
2012-3-23

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