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N.K. speeds up work to spruce up Pyongyang

Major construction works set to mark  Kim Il-sung’s  centennial birthday

North Korea is carrying out a slew of construction works in Pyongyang despite its economic woes, in an apparent move to cosmetically improve the capital ahead of its self-imposed 2012 deadline to become a “strong and prosperous“ nation.

The communist state has been accelerating such makeover efforts to take the wraps off some major new buildings in time for the “Day of the Sun,” the birthday of its late founding father Kim Il-sung on April 15.
A photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency last Friday shows North Korean workers sprucing up Pyongyang. (Yonhap News)
A photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency last Friday shows North Korean workers sprucing up Pyongyang. (Yonhap News)

The North has long declared that it would become a “strong and prosperous” state in 2012, although its economic travails have continued under international isolation stemming from its nuclear programs.

That year also marks the centennial birthday of Kim Il-sung, the late father of reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.

“Construction is everywhere in Pyongyang now. The scenes of cranes running at their full capacity and flames from welding works can be easily witnessed here and there,” Choson Sinbo, pro-North Korea newspaper based in Tokyo, said recently.

One of the major projects is to provide new homes for 100,000 households in Pyongyang by 2012. News reports said that the amount of construction materials the North imported has conspicuously increased recently, and that the North has mobilized even university students for the construction projects.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, explained that such construction projects are part of efforts to become a “strong nation” in political, military and economic terms.

“For the political part, the North believes it has already achieved it with its military-first policy. Also militarily, it appears to believe that it has attained its goal with its nuclear weaponry,” Yang told The Korea Herald.

“The last remaining requirement to become a strong, prosperous nation is to shore up its economy to feed its people and enhance the welfare for them. In that regard, they are stepping up construction efforts to build apartments and amusement parks, albeit cosmetically.”

According to North Korean media outlets, the North has been constructing a 77-storied apartment complex, theaters and public parks in a district surrounding the two four-way intersections of Mansudae and Changjon.

In another district, the North is working to establish a 17,400-square-meter complex to contain public bath houses, beauty salons and restaurants, and a 9,660-square-meter all-season ice rink. The two facilities are expected to open in April next year.

There will also be new entertainment facilities on Rungrado, an islet famous for its major stadium for the gymnastic and artistic performance, called “Arirang.” A large water park featuring water slides and recreational bathing places is expected to be established also in April next year.

Such construction efforts were also witnessed in several anniversaries of the late North Korean leader. In the 60th anniversary in 1972, the North erected his statue while in the 70th anniversary in 1982, it built a major tower to honor the regime’s “Juche” ideology of self-reliance.

“As the North has declared that it would become a strong, prosperous nation next year, more construction works are taking place now in Pyongyang compared with what took place last year,” a government official said, declining to be named.

“Though it has been detected that their construction efforts look somewhat limited due to economic difficulties, they are focusing their human, material resources on constructing symbolic buildings.”

By Song Sang-ho (