Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

(Updated) Severe flooding in northeastern North Korea: pictures (summer 2016 floods)

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Larger-than-usual seasonal rains has caused flooding in several cities along the Sino-Korean border. Emergency evacuations have been issued in Tumen and Hunchun on the Chinese side. On the North Korean side, Namyang, a small town in Onsong county, has been struck by unusual flooding. DailyNK explains:

Flooding in North Korea typically occurs near the West Sea, not near Namyang, which is located in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province. In areas like Sinuiju, downpours during the rainy season coupled with high tide in the West Sea are known to drive up the water levels of Amnok (Yalu) River and lead to flooding; however, such an occurrence is rare in areas adjacent to the Tumen River, particularly in the hillside city of Namyang.

As is usually the case in North Korea, flooding impacts are exacerbated by environmental factors related to the economy and food production:

It is therefore believed that unusually heavy rain, which battered the greater northeast region, contributed to the flooding, and was likely exacerbated by the use of embankments as small plots to grow produce by local residents, whose livelihoods depend on doing so. Weeding and digging around this area in order to plant beans and other crops is thought to have compromised the strength of the river banks, yet no preventative measures were put forth by the authorities.

DailyNK has a few pictures of Namyang taken from the Chinese side, showing flooding and destruction.

Full article in DailyNK:
Severe flooding sweeps across Namyang
Kim Ga Young

For reference and comparison, the following pictures I took earlier this summer show Namyang in ordinary times (click for larger pictures):


Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein


Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

Namyang, Onsong county. You can see the train station to the right in the picture. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

Namyang, Onsong county. You can see the train station to the right in the picture. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.









Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.


































(Update 2016-09-04): At least ten people have died in North Hamgyong province as a result of the floods, Voice of America reports (in Korean):

국제적십자사 IFRC가 큰물 피해를 입은 함경북도 지역에 긴급구조팀을 파견해 구조활동을 펼치고 있다고 유엔이 밝혔습니다.

타판 미슈라 주 북한 유엔 상주 조정자 겸 유엔개발계획(UNDP) 상주대표는3일 북한 내 유엔 기구들과 비정부기구 관계자들에게 보낸 이메일에서, 태풍으로 인한 북한 홍수 피해가 예상보다 훨씬 심각한 것으로 파악되고 있다며 이같이 밝혔습니다.

‘VOA’가 3일 단독으로 입수한 이 이메일에 따르면 이번 폭우로 함경북도 지역이 가장 큰 피해를 입었으며, 특히 회령시과 문산군, 연사군, 청진시, 김책시, 경송군, 길주군, 라선시 일대에 큰 피해가 발생했습니다. Summary in English (by NKEconwatch): according to Tapan Misura, UNDP country representative in North Korea, North Hamgyong province has been struck by flooding in the past few days, to a much worse degree than expected. Especially Hoeryong, Musan, Yeonsan, Chongjin, Kimchaek, Kyeongseong, Kilju and Rason have taken strong hits.

또 홍수로 10여 명이 사망하고 1만 여 가구가 피해를 입었으며, 6천7백여 가구가 파괴되고 7천가구가 파손된 것으로 알려졌다고 미슈라 상주대표는 밝혔습니다. Summary in English: As a result of the flooding, ten people have died, about 10,000 homes have been damaged, 6,700 homes have been destroyed and another 7,000 homes have been broken/damaged.


특히 함경북도 회령시의 피해가 심해 가옥 2천개 이상이 물에 잠기고 1천개 이상의 집이 완전히 파괴됐다고 밝혔습니다. 또 적어도 2만6천여 가구가 식수도 없이 고립된 상황이라고 밝혔습니다. Summary in English: destruction has been particularly heavy in Hoeryong in North Hamgyong, where 2,000 houses have been submerged in water, and over 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed. Moreover, at least 26,000 households now lack access to drinking water.

미슈라 상주대표는 함경북도 일대에 지금도 계속 비가 내리고 있고 앞으로 며칠 간 비가 예보돼 있어 피해가 더 늘어날 것으로 보인다고 말했습니다. Summary in English: According to Misura, rain is continuing to fall in North Hamgyong, and will do so over the next few days, so the destruction is expected to grow.

Full article here:
유엔 ‘북한 함경북도 등 홍수로 큰 피해…10여명 사망’
Kim Hyeon-jin
Voice of America

Korean Central News Agency reports some estimated figures on the destruction:

It rained heavily with strong wind in North Hamgyong Province and other parts of the DPRK from August 29 to September 2, affected by a combination of typhoon-10 and low pressure field formed in the northwest.
According to data available at the State Hydro-meteorological Administration, the rainfall reached 320 mm and 290 mm in Kyonghung and Puryong counties of North Hamgyong Province from 00:00 Monday to 12:00 Friday.
And over 150 mm of rain fell in Onsong, Kyongsong, Kyongwon, Yonsa and Hwadae counties of the province as well as some parts of Ryanggang Province including Taehongdan County.
The River Tuman flooded some areas of Hoeryong and Rason cities, Musan, Onsong, Kyongwon, Kyonghung and Yonsa counties, causing big damage.
Especially, flood heavily hit Hoeryong City, Musan and Yonsa counties, claiming 15 people missing in Hoeryong.
17 180 houses were partially or completely destroyed with at least 44 000 people homeless in North Hamgyong Province.
Damage investigation goes on there.
And a campaign to help victims and heal the damage is being conducted in the flood-stricken areas.

Full article:
North Hamgyong Province of DPRK Suffered from Flood Damage
Korean Central News Agency


Gravity-fed tap water system established in DPRK

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

According to KCNA:

Gravity-fed Tap Water System Established in DPRK

Pyongyang, March 22 (KCNA) — Today marks World Water Day.

In this regard, Ri Nam Hyon, section chief of the DPRK Ministry of Urban Management, noted that the government has striven to supply quality drinking water to citizens on a normal basis.

He told KCNA:

The DPRK government has made big efforts to the introduction of gravity-fed water supply system.

This introduction began in the township of Pukchong County, South Hamgyong Province, in 2003 while a brisk work was launched to explore the headstreams throughout the country.

At present, the gravity-fed water supply system has been established in 35 cities and counties, including Rason and Wonsan, across the country.

The establishment of this system was carried out in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund and other international bodies and governmental and non-governmental agencies of various countries.


Kim Jong-un: urban planner [Book on land management]

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

UPDATE 2 (2013-9-10): According to Yonhap:

A speech made by North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un last year that detailed his plan on land management has been published in Chinese, a state media report said Tuesday, in what is believed to be his first Chinese-language publication.

The Chinese-version of Kim’s speech, titled “On Brining About a Revolutionary Turnabout in National Land Management Work to Meet the Demand of Building a Powerful Socialist State,” was published on Sept. 3 in Dandong, China’s border city with North Korea, China News Service reported.

According to the report, the speech by Kim was published by a Chinese printing firm named “Longshan,” but it did not give other information, including the name of its publisher or whether the publication is being sold.

Kim, who took power in late 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, made the speech on April 27 of last year, while convening a meeting of key members of the North’s Workers’ Party of Korea and economic organizations.

During the April 27 meeting, Kim said, “Land management is a patriotic work for the eternal prosperity of the country, and a noble work for providing the people with better living conditions,” according to a report by the North’s state media at the time.

Kim also ordered officials to improve water management, including the improvement of rivers and streams as well as dams, lock gates and “gravity-fed waterways and irrigation channels.”

Read the full story here:
N. Korean leader’s plan on land management published in Chinese

UPDATE 1 (2012-11-19): Aidan Foster-Carter has sent me a Naenara link to Kim Jong-un’s full remarks (published in English).

I have put the entire speech into a PDF which you can view here.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-5-8): On 2012-5-8 KCNA posted two articles citing a publication by Kim Jong-un on “land management”. The paper, titled “On Effecting a Drastic Turn in Land Management to Meet the Requirements for Building a Thriving Socialist Nation”, was not posted but will no doubt be offered for sale to Pyongyang tourists before too long. However until I receive a copy, the two KCNA articles below will have to do:



Ryongsong water-purifying station completed

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Here is the relevant satellite imagery from Google Earth which shows the construction of the facility (which began in late 2005):


Image Dates: (L) 2005-8-5, (R) 2005-10-5


Image Dates: (L) 2006-11-11, (R) 2009-4-16


Image Dates: (L) 2010-3-28, (R) 2010-10-6

You can see the facility in Google Maps here.

Here is the story according to KCNA:

Pyongyang, November 9 (KCNA) — The Ryongsong Water-purifying Station has been built on a modern basis.

Latticing, detritus chamber, settling basin and others were successfully built to ensure the flow of clean water into the River Pothong and provide the people in the capital city with better living conditions and circumstances.

A ceremony for its completion took place on Wednesday.

Present there were Vice-premier Jon Ha Chol, officials concerned, scientists, builders and workers.

Hwang Hak Won, minister of Urban Management, addressing the ceremony, noted that the station was perfectly completed in a short span of time.

He stressed the need to strictly abide by the requirements of the technical regulations in managing and operating the station, further perfect the processes and make green-belt in its surrounding area.

Additional information:

1. Some Pyongyang water sanitation projects  have been funded by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

2. Here is a previous post on waste management in the DPRK.


Clandestine video of post-flood Sinuiju

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The video was originally released by the Choson Ilbo, but the Telegraph (Britain) has posted a high-quality version of it:

Click image to link to video

According to the Telegraph:

The video, obtained by Chosun Ilbo media agency, shows people [in Sinuiju] living in tents on streets with their water damaged belongings. Others can be seen buying water from a salesman.

The price of water has increased since the floods, according to the agency’s source, with a bowl costing 6 pence. The usual monthly wages are around £1.30.

Heavy rains in July and August have hit food production that, even in a good year, falls a million tonnes short of the amount needed to feed North Korea’s 23 million people.

According to the Chosun Ilbo, North Koreans in Shinuiju were complaining about the government and their inability to help the area properly.

Last week the South Korean government offered to provide £5.5m in emergency aid, including food, relief materials and first aid kits – but not rice nor construction equipment, as per Pyongyang’s request.

North Korea’s request was made through the Red Cross at the weekend, and is being reviewed, the Unification Ministry said in a statement.

South Korea has been reluctant to give rice to the North because it is worried it will not reach the people who need it most.

Pictures of the flooding can be found here.

Read the full story here:
Rare footage from inside North Korea reveals aftermath of floods


WHO launches health initiative in DPRK

Monday, April 26th, 2010

UPDATE:  According to the Associated Press (Via Washinton Post):

North Korea formally launched a medical videoconference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang with the help of the World Health Organization.

WHO has been providing cameras, computers and other equipment to North Korea to help the reclusive, impoverished country connect a main hospital in Pyongyang with medical facilities in 10 provinces. The system is designed to allow doctors to talk to each other to provide additional services to rural patients.

On Tuesday, North Korean health officials and visiting WHO Director-General Margaret Chan held the formal inaugural ceremony for the system at the Kim Man Yu hospital in Pyongyang, according to footage from broadcaster APTN.

“This is an excellent vision because it meets the needs of the government,” Chan said.

Chan, clad in a white gown, later tested the system by talking with provincial doctors via video link.

One unidentified doctor at Jagang province, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Pyongyang, told Chan he is satisfied with the system because it’s too far for his patients to visit specialists in the capital.

She arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, becoming the U.N. agency’s first chief to visit the communist country since 2001.

WHO opened its office in Pyongyang in 2001 and has coordinated the purchase of medical equipment and supplies for North Koreans. The world’s health body says on its Web site that it is currently focusing on strengthening the North’s health infrastructure.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Associated Press (via Taiwan News):

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan arrived in North Korea on Monday on a rare visit to the isolated country.

The U.N. body has said Chan will spend two days in the reclusive communist country _ the first chief to go since 2001 _ to tour health facilities and meet the country’s health minister.

The WHO has not provided details of Chan’s itinerary, but the Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch that Chan arrived in Pyongyang on Monday.

The dispatch said the government held a reception for Chan, who arrived the same day as Red Cross and Red Crescent officials. It was not clear if the visits were connected.

The North faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside assistance to feed much of its population since a famine believed to have killed as many as 2 million people in the 1990s.

Malnutrition, dysentery, and vitamin and iodine deficiency are believed to pose serious risks among children in the country, which also faces a shortfall of hospitals and lacks an efficient state health care system.

Read the full stories here:
WHO chief arrives in North Korea on rare visit
Associate Press (Taiwan Times)

NKorea launches telemedicine network with WHO help
Associated Press (via Washinton Post)
Kim Hyung-Jin


Waste management in the DPRK

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

UPDATE: Lots of additional helpful information in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

ORIGINAL POST: It is not glamorous, but it is interesting–and largely unexplored.

In all the time I have spent visiting or investigating the DPRK I have been curious about how they handle waste management and sanitation.  There is not much written on the subject (other than periodic reports that people collect their solid waste for fertilizer, or that school kids were sent out to collect it during the Arduous March), so I thought I would kick off a discussion about the topic and if any readers can point out more information, I would appreciate it.

Where does the garbage go?
On my second trip to the DPRK, I saw a garbage incinerator next to the Moranbong Middle School.


Click on the image above for a larger version.  The garbage incinerator is in the lower left corner. A satellite image showing its location is here. It is awkwardly placed next to the school and a children’s playground, and it is probably for use by residents of the nearby apartment block.  Maybe this is under the control of the building inminban.  After seeing it, however, I assumed that residents of Pyongyang simply burned their trash in similar facilities all across the city—but I never saw another incinerator in Pyongyang or any other city I visited. Later I was told by some defectors that garbage was collected (for some anyway–I don’t have any details) and that garbage is buried in actual landfills.  Since the DPRK is a poor country, we can expect the level of garbage to be lower than in neighboring countries, but in all the thousands of hours I have spent looking at North Korea on Google Earth, I never saw an easily identifiable landfill…until March of this year.  Below is both the largest (and only) landfill I have identified in the DPRK:


The coordinates are  37°57’12.80″N, 125°21’36.11″E in Ongjin (South West).  It is approximately 33 meters in diameter at its widest point.  There is no telling what is in there or how well it is sealed off from the local water table.  If any former residents of Ongjin happen to see this post and can fill in the details, please let me know.

One highly-qualified reader asserts that there is no way this could be a landfill, but has no idea what it could be.  If anyone else has a hypothesis about this location, please let me know.

Sewage Investments:
I have also been cataloging sewage and water treatment facilities across the DPRK.  Not surprisingly, there are few to be found.  The largest facility, however seems to be under construction north of Pyongyang.  It has been under construction since approximately August 2005 and it is still not complete.  It is located at  39° 7’6.80″N, 125°46’20.87″E, and here are some photos of its development:




Thanks to a tip from Michael we can also see the crumbling of the Phyongchon District (Pyongyang) sewage plant:



Kuwait was reported to be lending the DPRK $21m to update its water and sewage facilities. The indispensable Stalin Search engine has more on Kuwait and the DPRK.

So if anyone knows of any papers, etc. on sanitation in the DPRK, please let me know.


North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here


The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).

Water Trade Burgeoning in North Korea

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee

Amidst the trend of increasing numbers of civilians trying to make ends meet through trade in the wake of the July 1st Economic Management Reform Measure, medical students in North Korea have started doing business by drawing water from the Yalu River.

However, due to the territorial nature of the Yalu River, water-selling, and attendant incidents of violence in order to grasp commercial rights, have become more frequent.

A source from Yangkang Province said in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 9th, “Three Hyesan Medical School students who were selling water near the People’s Committee of Yangkang Province building attacked a couple in their 30s, who had to be taken to hospital on the 7th.”

The source said, “Generally, the Yeinbong-dong (in Hyesan) is where students of Kim Jong Sook College of Education and Bongheung Middle School sell water, and the area around Hyemyung-dong is designated for Hyemyung Middle School and Hyesan Medical School students. The Hyesan Medical School students mistook the villagers drawing water for people trying to enter their zone, so the incident erupted.”

According to the source, the medical school students used their handcart to crash into the couple’s sleigh. The husband, angry at this, hit one of the students, which provoked the two remaining students to collectively assault the couple and flee.

The source relayed, “Subsequently, the relatives of the couple and their friends sought out the Hyesan Medical Student dormitory with axes and spades, so the People’s Security Agency (PSA) was called. The PSA searched all over the dormitory, but ultimately could not find the suspects.”

In Hyesan, Yangkang Province, as water provision to civilians became more erratic due to failing subsistence, the business of drawing supplies from the Yalu River to take to far-flung regions started springing up. Not only does the business not require much capital, but water can be fetched from the Yalu River with a handcart or a sleigh and be sold in residential areas, so it is popular among college students who come from farming regions to Hyesan, or among middle school students.

“Selling water is mostly monopolized by middle school and college students. This is a job that ordinary people will take up as a last resort,” the source said.

He added, “Those college students who come from the country side and live in dormitories take up this business. A portion of middle school students, in order to contribute to the livelihoods of their families or to make personal allowances, choose to do it as well.”

“In Hyesan right now, 50 liters of water costs around 300 North Korean won, and a 70-liter Chinese bucket sells for 400 won,” he explained.

He then said, “Water is fetched from the Yalu River with a handcart or a sleigh: one sleigh can carry about four to five 50-liter water buckets. This business cannot be done solo, so people usually undertake this in groups of three or four.”

The source stated, “Water merchants go back and forth between the Yalu River and where they are based at least four times a day. Sometimes, they can even go seven to eight times a day, but there are not too many people who buy water.”

“Those who buy water are mostly cadres or merchants who have to go to the markets. Also, people who sell liquor or tofu require a lot of water. With so many water merchants, incidents of fighting over territory are quite common.”

Hyesan, which began receiving aid from international organizations in 2003, was the pride of the North Korean authorities, especially since the completion of a “natural water supply system” which took two years to construct. However, as a result of simultaneously burying the water and the sewage system at the time of construction, the polluting of the city’s water resulted. The residents of densely populated areas, which are located mostly on hillier regions relatively far from the Yalu River, have not been receiving tap water, noted the source.


The Dreams of North Korea’s Youth Is to Succeed as Merchants

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Daily NK
Park Hyun Min

The future dream of North Korea’s teenagers is no longer to become party leaders or soldiers, or even join the Party, but to become “merchants.”

Good Friends,” an aid organization for North Korea, said through “Today’s News on North Korea” No. 104 on the 27th, “Most of the elementary and senior middle school students nowadays, upon being asked what they would like to do post-graduation, say they would like to be merchants.”

The source relayed, “Many of their peers have stopped going to school and have started doing business. It is too burdensome for some students to attend school, so they sell noodles or vegetables by sticking around the jangmadang (markets) and contribute to their families’ livelihoods.”