Follies of central planning-real estate

From the Daily NK:
Kang Jae Hyok

My nephew had lived in an apartment in 1dong of new Dancheon (Tanchon). The apartment was completed in 1991 and transformed into a dumping ground in 4 or 5 years. [How] did it happen?

It was in 1983 that the apartment was completed in Younggangli. The instruction of Kim Il Sung who visited ‘Dancheon Magnesite Factory’ led to the construction of the apartment complex. Kim Il Sung ordered to build an apartment complex for workers working in ‘Dancheon Refinery’ and the factory around the Younggangli sea, and to design the apartment same as the Changgwang apartment in Pyongyang. Aftermath, an apartment construction group was formed from each province, city and district, and began to construct the apartment.

A 2,500 household apartment complex was completed in 8 years

During the construction period, N. Korean economy had been being stagnant. In addition the supplies of construction materials and equipments so often stopped that the construction was often dispensed. Some construction materials such as soil and gravel were gathered from the close places. Yet, because of proximity of railroad, construction condition was good.

However, cement, woods and ferroconcrete had been not supplied on time and thousands of workers had often wasted time. So, it had taken as many as 8 years to complete the 2,500 household apartment complexes. The number of workers for the construction was 4,500. Apartments had ranged from 5 floors to 15 floors and various designs.

Yet, nobody wanted to live in the apartment. In a desolate plain only apartments stood, there were no convenient facilities and no Jangmadangs.

It 8 km to arrive at the factory from the apartment, yet there were no shuttle buses. Head of South Hamkyung province who thought the apartment had to be filled forced workers to live in it. Powerless workers were obliged to live in it.

A 100watt light bulb and a baby in a box

The new apartment complex was named New-dancheon, and divided into two, 1 dong and 2 dong. In the first year tap water and heater were supplied, yet in the next year no heating in the apartment. The freezing whether of South Hamkyung province was the one that even stout adults stand.

In N. Korea, electricity is allowed only for light and watching TV. It can not be used for other purposes. Electricity monitors watch day and night. If a household caught in the monitor, it is not allowed to use electricity and punished by Giupso (state owned enterprise) or People’s unit.

A couple of workers working for the refinery put their baby and a 100 watt bulb in a box and warmed the baby with the bulb plugged into electricity. It was caught in a crackdown. Yet censors could not say anything about their illegal action.

Residents living in the apartments suffered from others as well. Tap water was often suspended, so that each house had to prepare a few crocks that were filled with water and used for a rainy day. As the water in crocks was empty, all family members had to carry water from the distant wells. If the apartment building was not high, residents would have suffered less.

From 1994 when food crisis began and the number of the death increased, workers working in the Dancheon refinery and Magnesite factory could not get food and some workers died of starvation. The highest number of the death was from the New-dancheon apartment complex. The survivors left the apartment and moved around for food.

The apartment complex was taken away and became like a haunted house. Only in the first floor lived some workers and in the second floor were nobody.

Here and there in the apartment dumps and garbage began to be found. Moreover, the murder incidents happened so that people began to call the apartment a ‘Ghost Apartment’. Residents living in the Ghost Apartment struggled to leave it, yet they had no money to move.

The main cause that produced the Ghost Apartment was an instruction of Kim Il Sung, ‘Build an apartment complex having a good sea view’ and without a plan construct it. The Ghost Apartment Complex definitely shows the internal situation of N. Korean society.

I wonder if by now my nephew left the ‘Ghost Apartment’.  


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