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

New Pyongyang management law aims at modernization

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-11-30

North Korea has recently revised the Pyongyang City Management Law in order to support ongoing modernization efforts by increasing the management and operational authority of the Cabinet and of the State Planning Committee. On October 21, the Cabinet newspaper ‘Minju Chosun’ ran an article emphasizing the need to ensure that necessary capital and supplies were guaranteed for the construction of 100,000 new residences in Pyongyang and now it appears the North is backing up this modernization drive with the law.

The legal code was revised in accordance with Order No. 743, passed down by the standing committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly on March 30 of this year, but was just recently made public in South Korea. What stands out in this newly revised law is that the central government has strengthened its hold on management and operations within the city.

Article 47 of the city management law states, “The Cabinet must naturally take control of and supervise Pyongyang management operations,” and Article 48 stipulates that the State Planning Committee and the Pyongyang People’s Committee establish and strictly follow detailed plans for each sector of management operations within the capital city. Article 47, of the former law (enacted on 26 Nov. 1998), which covered management projects within Pyongyang, was removed while five new articles were added. Article 17 covers housing construction, Article 27 covers management of street lighting, Article 43 covers the delivery of publications, Article 46 stipulates basic working conditions, and Article 51 guarantees that goods will be produced for Pyongyang markets.

Article 17 stipulates that “the construction of housing must completely guaranteed,” and Article 51 states that planning for and production of commercial goods for Pyongyang must be ensured “without fail.” Housing, goods, electricity, capital and other necessities for the modernization of Pyongyang have now been essentially legally guaranteed. New housing in the capital has been a priority for the North, with construction already underway and plans for 30,000 additional units next year and 35,000 more in 2012. In order to show off these new renovations day and night, Article 27 calls for the “logical installation of street lights” to brighten walkways, roads, and national monuments. The new legal revision appears to be yet another step toward shoring up the framework for establishment of a ‘Strong and Prosperous Nation’ and transition of power to yet a third generation of Kims.

The new law reinforces Pyongyang’s centrality in North Korea’s revolutionary ambitions, referring to the capital as “the home of Juche,” “the heart of the Korean people,” and “the face of the nation.”


DPRK signals strengthening central government

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The North Korean regime is enacting sweeping changes to the law to bolster state control. A source familiar with North Korean affairs on Tuesday said four North Korean laws covering economic planning were revised in April and laws governing management of Pyongyang were revised in March.

The revised laws, which the source claims to have seen, “show the central regime’s intention to control everything, from the economy to the daily lives of the people.” North Korea has changed or enacted at least 17 different laws since November last year, just before a botched currency reform.

The revised economic planning law deletes a phrase in Article 17, which stipulated that the economy is planned “in line with methods that are presented from lower levels.” According to the source, the regime inserted the phrase when it announced timid economic reforms in July 2001 in order to give more authority over production to individual factories and businesses. “The deletion of the phrase demonstrates the intention to retrieve that authority,” the source said.

Instead, the terms “provisional figures” and “control figures” were revived after their omission in 2001. “The term ‘provisional figures’ refers to the potential output each factory sets, while ‘control figures’ represent the actual output amount assessed by the central government,” the source said. “So the terms strengthen the centralized economic planning regulations of the past.”

In Article 27, a new clause was inserted which reads, “The planning of the people’s economy is a legal task.” The source said, “This means that the partial freedom given to individual factories over production has now been taken away completely.”

The law on the management of Pyongyang, which was revised on March 30, also stresses the role of the state. Originally, maintenance and management of the capital were up to the Pyongyang City People’s Committee. But under the revision it falls into the hands of the State Planning Committee and the Cabinet. Also, all Pyongyang residents over the age of 17 have been ordered to carry their resident identification cards at all times.

Also added were articles that bind the central government to guarantee housing and the supply of necessities for the residents of Pyongyang. This shows the clear intention of the regime to take charge of housing and goods supply. “Labor and commercial laws also contain clear intentions to bolster government control,” the source said.

Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University, said as conditions worsened after the failed currency reform and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s son has been lined up to succeed his father, “the regime seems to feel that tighter internal control is better than aggressive reform. Even if North Korea is looking to partially open up through economic cooperation with China, this will be difficult to achieve with such a conservative approach.”

The Donga Ilbo also covered the story.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea Reverts to Hardline State Control
Choson Ilbo


North Korea’s cultural life

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Tania Branigan visited Pyongyang for The Guardian and wrote a long article on North Korean culture.  Most of the information is familiar to long-time DPRK watchers, though there were a few nuggets of information I had not heard before.  I have posted these below:

But who knew that The Da Vinci Code was a hit in this strictly controlled city? That Céline Dion is a karaoke favourite? Or that the mass performances are not only a tribute to the leadership and motherland, but the way that many young people find partners?

Few foreigners see this city at all. Around 2,000 western tourists visited last year, plus perhaps 10 times as many Chinese visitors. The expatriate population, excluding Chinese and Russian diplomats, and including children, stands at 150.

There are certainly signs of change here: Air Koryo has new planes and three gleaming airport buses to ferry passengers from runway to terminal. Last week a vast new theatre opened, as did an apartment complex, although it may be destined for officials. The 105-storey Ryugyong hotel – more than two decades in construction – is finally glass-sheathed and due to open in 2012. That year will mark the 100th birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung. But it is hard to see how it can achieve its pledge to become “a great, powerful and prosperous nation” by then – even given the Stakhanovite industrial efforts lauded in its newspapers.

Pyongyang is lucky: no one is plump, but nor is there noticeable emaciation. Dr Andrei Lankov, associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, says the official income in Pyongyang is around 3,000 won a month, but many have ways of making money on the side and – unlike other North Koreans – its residents receive subsistence food rations. Most top those up at markets that are legal though never formally acknowledged (officials insist that “everything is public”). At the turn of the year, the government embarked on currency reforms to eradicate an increasingly independent group of “kiosk capitalists”. But wiping out hard-won savings caused highly unusual public discontent and even, reportedly, unrest.

You can read the full article here:
The cultural life of North Korea
The Guardian
Tania Branigan


Pyongyang’s new, new State (Drama) Theater

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Pictured Above (Google Earth):  State (Drama) Theater before its most recent renovation

According to KCNA:

Pyongyang, October 8 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il gave on-the-spot guidance to the newly built State Theatre and visited artistes’ new flats.

He provided on-the-spot guidance to the newly built State Theatre.

The more than 620-seater theatre has all facilities necessary for art creation, performing activities and audience ranging from stage, latest sound and lighting facilities, rehearsal rooms, make-up rooms to an annex and welfare and service amenities.

He went round the exterior and interior of the theatre to learn in detail about its construction.

The theatre good in its interior structure and built on a high level is flawless in its architectural substance and style as a cultural and art edifice, he said, highly appreciating the feats performed by soldier- builders in successfully building the theatre of eternal value and extending thanks to them.

Noting that it is an astonishing miracle indeed that they completed the construction of such modern theatre to be proud of in a matter of little over four months, he stressed that this signal success is a striking manifestation of the inexhaustible mental power of the soldiers of the Korean People’s Army, the creators of the revolutionary soldier spirit.

The theatre which is a good combination of national and classical beauty and contemporary beauty and looks elegant, magnificent and exquisite is an excellent cultural edifice meeting the need of the new century, he noted, expressing great pleasure over the fact that it has become possible to hand one more valuable treasure to posterity.

He set forth tasks to be carried out to manage and operate the theatre.

He visited the families of the artistes who have just moved to the new apartment houses on the bank of the River Taedong.

He looked round the exterior and interior of the flats for hours to acquaint himself in detail with their construction.

The apartment houses for artistes are ultra-modern flats built according to the party’s plan and intention to provide the people with the best living conditions, he said, adding that these flats are a model and standard for the construction of the houses to be used by all the people in a thriving nation.

Noting that the flats for artistes were designed well and built on the highest level, he highly appreciated the feats performed by the soldier-builders in completing them in a short span of time and extended thanks to them.

Then he visited the families of Paek Sung Ran, Choe Kum Hyang and Kim Chol Jin, actresses and actor of the State Theatrical Troupe, and Ri Ji Yong, head of the troupe, who have just moved to the new flats.

After congratulating them on their moving to the new flats and having cordial talk with them, he took deep care of every aspect of their living as a real father would do. He bestowed upon them such great benevolence as presenting them with household articles in token of his visit.

He praised the artistes, noting that the artistes intensely loyal to the Party and the leader are the reliable sentinels standing on the ideological front to powerfully encourage the masses in the drive to implement the Party’s policies.

Noting that the Korean people’s age-old ideal and wishes are becoming a brilliant reality thanks to the high-pitched drive for effecting a great surge, he said that this stirring event in the era of the Workers’ Party has put on the horizon a rosy future of a thriving nation of Juche which will stand imposingly on this land.

Making the rounds of streets of the capital city taking on new looks day by day on the same day, he advanced highly important tasks which would serve as guidelines for turning Pyongyang into a more magnificent and beautiful city.

Noting that housing construction is of very weighty significance in settling the issue of the people’s living, he stressed that as an immediate task it is necessary to complete in the shortest possible period the construction of flats for 100,000 families in the city as modern as the apartment houses now standing in Mansudae Street and the newly built apartment houses for artistes.

He expressed great expectation and conviction that all the builders of the capital city would work new miracles in its construction in the new century and thus once again demonstrate the revolutionary spirit of the service persons and people of the DPRK, the successors to the great history and tradition.

He was accompanied by Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Ri Yong Ho, members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, Kim Yong Chun, Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Yang Hyong Sop, Kim Kyong Hui, Kang Sok Ju, Ju Sang Song and Hong Sok Hyong, members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee, and Jang Song Thaek, Kim Yang Gon, Kim Yong Il, Pak To Chun, Choe Ryong Hae, Ju Kyu Chang, Ri Thae Nam, Thae Jong Su, Kim Phyong Hae, U Tong Chuk, Kim Jong Gak, Kim Chang Sop and Mun Kyong Dok, alternate members of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee.

Before this news release, the theater was known as the “State Drama Theater”.  KCNA reports only two performances here since 1996: here and here.

What is strange is that this is the second major renovation of the rarely-used theater in a decade.  Below is a satellite image of the theater’s first renovation in June 2000 (Google Earth):

Here is a picture of the facility as it appears today (

The new housing for the theater’s “artistes” does not appear on available satellite imagery, but its location is easy enough to determine using KCNA photos.  Below is a picture of the new buildings as well as a photo of the location next to the Pyongyang’s central district market:


Sinchon Street Market

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Even when the official marketplace is closed, there is still plenty of street trading.

Click image for larger version
38°21’32.50″N, 125°29’1.18″E
Sept 9, 2009
Google Earth/GeoEye

Sinchon also appears to be getting some 2012 construction support.  The city is building a new stadium and park with open air theater and pavilion:


Click images for larger versions
38°21’16.36″N, 125°28’48.94″E
October 2, 2006 (L), Sept 9, 2010 (R)
Google Earth/GeoEye


2012 construction and safety issues

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

There have been grievances reported amongst residents of provincial areas that are part of North Korea’s renovation efforts to become a “strong and prosperous state” by 2012.

North Korean authorities announced a plan last September to reconstruct old houses in regional cities. However, a lack of construction materials and electricity has pushed back the start date. After the currency redenomination last November, rumors amongst residents suggest that construction could end before a single plough dug into the ground.

Construction efforts were revitalized in April this year as authorities set specific targets for city construction teams and state owned enterprises to build large residential buildings holding ten to thirty households. October 10 was set as the deadline before which all construction was to be complete, the same day as the founding date of the Chosun Worker’s Party.

However without sufficient resources, including labor, it remains to be seen whether the project will finish. Furthermore, large and small accidents have raised some concerns amongst local populace.

On July 12 a three-story brick building at Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, collapsed in the middle of construction. Seven workers were injured by the accident. A source cited the mixing of excessively brackish sand with cement was the reason behind the collapse.

North Korea is currently suffering from a lack of cement. Not only is supply from the authorities non-existent but following the construction of 100,000 houses in Pyongyang, the market no longer has any consistent supply. With prices rising, cement is being smuggled from regional construction sites and sold in markets. This is one another key reason for the shoddy construction.

A source stated that, “Construction workers pretend to work,” because there is no payroll to even feed them. This creates serious obstacles for workers, forcefully mobilized for construction, who cannot provide for their families.

The source added, “In a situation where selling on the jangmadang is a prerequisite to earning a living, you can only suffer losses if you are chosen to work on construction sites.”

Accidents arising from a lack of safety precautions are also a concern. A source said, “Many people that are brought to work become ill due to dust particles. When this is ignored, they end up coughing blood and taken to hospital.” With a chronic scarcity of medicine there is no cure for those suffering from respiratory illnesses.

Basic safety is also not being met due to lose security at construction sites leading to a passer-by being struck by a falling brick and injured.

Local residents have voiced their discontent regarding prolonged construction projects due to their relocation to neighboring households since April. At the time, North Korean authorities had promised to assign new houses to both the residents who were forced to move and the neighbors who had accommodated them but with no end of construction in sight, tensions between families are rising to the point where the People’s Safety Ministry has to intervene. The winter season will only add to the collective anxiety.

To make matters worse, residents living near construction sites must pay money for project support. Members of the people’s unit must always have 100 to 500 won on hand for project funding.

Local residents are increasingly worn out by the construction that has spanned for over twelve months, since last year’s 150-day Battle. Their suffering has increased due to the unsuccessful nationwide economic and social plan, implemented from April to September of last year by North Korean authorities to revive the failing and chaotic economy.

Read the full story here:
Residents Anxious of Accidents on Construction Sites
Daily NK
Park In Ho


DPRK shakes up elite in order to meet 2012 “strong and prosperous” goal

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-06-14-2

During the third session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, convened on June 7, Kim Jong Il promoted his brother-in-law Jang Sung Thaek to vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), named a new premier, and replaced several department heads and ministers. This appears to be an attempt to shore up the regime as it seeks to “open the door to a strong and prosperous nation” by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. Kim Jong Il made a personal appearance at this latest assembly meeting, unlike the SPA meeting held in April. The leader’s presence hints at the importance of the latest gathering.

This promotion of Jang Sung Thaek and shake up of Cabinet positions appears to be part of efforts to realize the quickly approaching goal of establishing a ‘strong and prosperous nation’ by 2012, assigning those most able to positions of responsibility, regardless of age or experience. Most notably, Jang, widely thought to be second-in-command in North Korea, was promoted to vice-chairman of the NDC. He was first appointed to the NDC at the first meeting of the 12th SPA in April 2009, making his climb to vice-chairman in a mere 14 months.

Before the latest promotion, Jang held the position of vice-director of the Workers’ Party of Korea, a newly created position that he was the first to hold. In this position, Jang oversaw national security offices, police, and the courts, putting him in a position of power difficult for anyone else to achieve. Having traveled to both South Korea and China, Jang Sung Thaek was likely promoted to present the image of a strong military and, at the same time, establish stable relations with the international community in order to ensure a smooth transition of power as well as to resurrect the economy by 2012. When Kim Jong Il led a delegation to China last May, the Chinese government treated Jang very well, ignoring standard protocol for someone in his position.

In addition, Choe Yong Rim was named the North’s new premier, and eight new vice-ministers were appointed. Regional Party secretaries were allowed to participate directly, allowing those who are most knowledgeable of local conditions to impact the decisions of the administration. Most of the new appointments were very experienced elites, including Choe Yong Rim (80) as premier, and Kang Neung Su (80), Kim Rak Hui (77), Ri Thae Nam (70), and Jun Ha Chul (82). The regime is promoting a number of veterans who are making their “last stand for the motherland” as part of the effort to ensure stable transformation of power after Kim Jong Il.

With Kim Rak Hui’s appointment as vice-premier and new appointments to the Ministry of Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Industry as well as the head of the Light Industry Ministry, North Korea seems to be pursuing the improvement of standards of living promised in the 2010 New Year’s joint editorial. Pyongyang Party officials appear to be attempting to reassert a centrally planned economy in the aftermath of botched currency reform efforts; however those witnessing regional economic conditions appear much more able to come up with appropriate economic policies. North Korea has been unable to make any significant progress in resolving its food shortages or its inability to provide daily necessities to the public, leading the regime to scapegoat some high-ranking officials. Now, many in and outside of North Korea are watching closely to see if the regime can launch economic efforts capable of successfully ‘opening the door to a Strong and Prosperous Nation’ in the next two years.


Mansudae Street residential construction

Friday, April 16th, 2010

UPDATE: Here is a satellite image of the completed project:


UPDATE: Mansudae Street construction is now visible on Google Earth.  Below I have included before and after pictures.  If you open them in separate browsers, you can click back and forth between images to compare.



ORIGINAL POST: As capitalist countries are struggling with falling property values and a glut of housing inventories, Pyongyang is experiencing a housing construction boom (previously covered here and here). In North Korea, however, the housing boom is not the result of an “unexpected” asset bubble but rather a deliberate government policy to achieve a “strong and prosperous country (Kangsong Taeguk)” by 2012 — the year the earth is predicted to be destroyed according to the Mayan calendar.

As part of this construction boom, the North Koreans are (re)building a substantial number of housing units on Mansudae Street east of the Potong River Gate and north of the Russian Embassy.  Kim Jong il recently gave an “on-the-spot-guidance” visit there, so using information provided in the coverage of his tour, I was able to map out the areas to be torn down and rebuilt.

First, here is the image from Kim’s visit (courtesy of Daylife and Reuters):

(click image to enlarge)

Using this and other information, I was able to map out the construction areas in Google Earth.  Here are some pictures to explain the scale of the work (click images to enlarge):

Construction area

(red=demolish/rebuild; white=preserved)

Previous real estate posts can be read here.

Previous construction posts can be read here.

If you would like to make an effort at improving on my work, you can download my Google Earth overlay here and use it yourself. Some of the buildings in the construction area are specifically identified in North Korea Uncovered.

UPDATE: Here are some pics of the construction site:



Propaganda on ice

Friday, April 16th, 2010

The image below was taken on Jan 27, 2009.  The coordinates are 39° 9’33.50″N, 125°40’35.96″E.  The writing is appx 8.4m tall and 22.7m in width.



강성대국 reads “Kangsong Taekuk” which loosely translates to “A strong and prosperous nation”


North Korea Offers Sand, Rents for Concrete, Fuel, Munhwa Says

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Sangim Han

North Korea’s cash-strapped government is offering to swap sand, resources licenses and rental income in return for concrete, steel and fuel, according to Munhwa Ilbo newspaper.

The government sent letters to companies in China and South Korea asking them to invest $320 million in a construction project in the capital, Pyongyang, the Korean-language paper reported. In addition to the investment, the government is seeking 30,000 tons of diesel and gasoline, 50,000 tons of steel bars and 300,000 tons of cement, the paper said, citing one of the letters.

In return, the letters offer investors long-term rental income, the rights to resource development and sand. North Korea’s finances are being squeezed by United Nations sanctions imposed because of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The letters were sent to the companies via an investment group, the paper said. The government wants to build 100,000 homes in Pyongyang, it said.