Excessive ‘speed battle’ in flood restoration results in continuing failures

Efforts to rebuild following the floods
that devastated the city of Rason
in North Hamgyong Province this August are going
poorly, Daily NK’s sources report, due to a push to finish prior to the Korean
Workers’ Party anniversary celebration that took place on October 10th. The
rush to meet the deadline has meant workers are cutting corners on the
construction of houses and other buildings, resulting in shoddy work. 

On October 11th, a Daily NK reporter spoke
to a source located in North Hamgyong Province over the phone, who spoke about
the situation. Several days prior to the conversation, elites from Pyongyang
came down for a photo op in the newly reconstructed houses in Baekhak District
of Rason; however, the state of the completed houses in Hakdong left much to be

“In some of the houses, the walls have cracks
and the floors are coarse and uneven. It’s so bad that they should be rebuilt,”
our source said.

This information was crosschecked with two other sources in the same province.

Families who were displaced by the floods
and who had been living in tents or with relatives were looking forward to
moving into their new homes. However, due to the poor state of the houses, the
mood quickly turned to one of reluctance.

“A war of speed was fought to complete the
homes in time for Kim Jong Un’s visit prior to the Korean Worker’s Party
anniversary. But in the end, the ones who really suffer from the consequences
are the families,” our source lamented.

Although North Hamgyong Province is quite
chilly, residents fear the walls on the new houses will be too thin to
withstand the cold, especially once the temperatures drop below freezing. Residents
are already pointing out the numerous repairs that will already need to be made
in the coming year. 

While it is fortunate that those who were victims of the
flooding already have new houses after only a month, with winter fast
approaching, the construction is receiving a lot of criticism.

Construction on approximately 1300 houses
for the flood victims began in Baekhak District of Rason at the end of August
following orders directly from Kim Jong Un. Not long after on October 8th, North
Korean state media widely publicized the successful completion of the project,
built by the “benevolence of the General (Kim Jong Un).”

For residents inhabiting these residences,
however, there is one significant drawback– the homes are effectively devoid of
value. Altering the houses, even slightly, may be viewed as an action that
disregards the kindness of the ‘General’ and thus a political crime, opening
up purported transgressors to a host of formidable repercussions, according to the source.

“Swapping, buying, and/or selling them in
North Korea’s burgeoning underground real estate market would be difficult,” she explained.

As such, the joy experienced by the
residents who received the new houses is fleeting in comparison with the added
pressure and worry coupling the residence.

However, not everyone is complaining.
“There are some people who are very grateful that despite the damage they
suffered from the floods they have been able to move into housing that they
never could have saved up enough money to buy,” she asserted.

“Families in Chimsu are very happy about
the gifts of televisions and new kitchenware.”

Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.