300 homes near border to be demolished to block defector routes

Kang Mi Jin  |  2016-05-02 17:10
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Ahead of North Koreas 7th Party Congress scheduled to start on May 6, an order has been put forward to forcibly evict 300 families currently living in Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province. The move is being seen as an attempt by Kim Jong Un to demonstrate regime consolidation to a domestic and international audience with proactive attempts to block defector routes. 

In a telephone conversation with Daily NK on April 29, a source in Ryanggang Province said, Recently, authorities have handed down an order to demolish 300 family residences in Hyegang-dong, a riverside region in northern Hyesan City. The stated purpose is to reorganize the border areas, with the demolition poised to begin immediately following the completion of the 70-Day Battle in early May. Nearby residents are upset about the news.   

When asked about the attitude of these residents, the source said, Everyone expected to breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the 70-Day Battle, which entailed accelerated construction by mobilizing residents with hard work for long hours. But now these residents are facing a grim reality, given the news that their homes will be destroyed in short order. The fact that North Korea is entering the peak agriculture season only compounds their problems. 

According to the source, the current effort is an extension of earlier actions undertaken by the regime to destroy private homes in Hyesan Citys Songhu-dong and Kanggu-dong areas in 2014. The forced relocation of residents in Hyegang-dong is a continuation of the regimes efforts to block defector routes by depopulating the border areas. 

Provincial authorities are stating that these orders have been made in order to block traitors (defectors), so dont even consider complaining. Some residents in the region are assuming that the number of people who are considering leaving North Korea must be increasing, because their lives have gotten more difficult after the implementation of the UN sanctions. This, they say, would explain why the regime is reorganizing the region near the bank of the Amnok [Yalu] River in Hyegang-dong.   

The provincial Peoples Committee Department of Housing has already collected landlord certificate documents from all of the residents whose homes will be destroyed. A minority of these residents will be able to afford the purchase of new homes, but most are in a state of shock and will have few options available to them, an additional source in Ryanggang Province reported.

For their part, the North Korean authorities have promised to build new homes for these residents, but practically no one believes this. Last year, the authorities publicly guaranteed the reconstruction of 52 homes that were destroyed by a fire in Kangan-dong, but progress has been exceedingly slow.

Construction managers for the new homes to replace those lost in the fire have only just started recruiting construction workers, the source explained. Knowing this, the Hyegang-dong residents have realized that it will be a considerable amount of time before they can hope to have their homes replaced. The authorities are using the lure of new homes being provided [by the state] in order to push the residents whose homes will be demolished to participate more fully in the work demanded of them, including mobilizations.   

Due to the severity of the situation, some of the affected residents are undertaking preparatory measures in desperation, purchasing vinyl sheeting to lay atop of wooden planks (to create makeshift shanties) after their dwellings have been demolished. 

*Translated by Jonathan Corrado
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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