On Monday, festivities on North Korea’s Mount Paektu, a mountain of great spiritual significance for both North and South Koreans, marked the reaching of a milestone in the Samjiyon County construction project. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un himself had ordered the project two years ago.

North Koreans celebrated the completion of stage two in the Samjiyon County construction project with large-scale dances and celebratory fireworks on Mount Paektu this past Monday.

According to reports from the North Korean media, “builders and inhabitants in the community presented a ‘sea of dancers’ across the entire township.” The reports went on: “Beautiful fireworks were illuminated the sky above the holy Mount Paektu.”

To the North Korean people, Mount Paektu is of both mythical as well as historical significance. They claim Kim Il Sung had his military headquarters on the mountain from which he fought the Japanese colonial forces. In addition, they believe their “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was born on this particular site. Those claims, however, were never verified.

The celebrations on Mount Paektu marked the reaching of a milestone in Samjiyon County’s building site. The project is of great importance to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, who personally ordered the entire county’s reconstruction after having visited it two years ago.

Kim thus joined the recent festivities and even cut through a ribbon in a symbolic act. He resided in the event area to watch the celebration – allegedly with an expression of satisfaction on his face.

The third construction stage in the Samjiyon County project is planned to be completed by Oct. 10, 2020. This date will mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.


Kim Jong Un’s personal construction projects – among them Samjiyon County as well as the Wonsan-Kalma and Yangdok Hot Springs tourist areas – outline his vision of North Korea as a self-reliant and economically successful nation. To him, his large-scale construction projects are a visual proof of success, which validate and reinforce his self-reliance ideology.

The North Korean media, too, stressed those principles in their reporting. According to them, the construction process in Samjiyon County was “a grand victory, which was achieved through the strength of self-reliance.”

“Nothing could stop the march of the socialist Choson forces, who were driven by unity and self-reliance,” the outlets further claimed.

kim jong un horse
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on a horse atop Mount Paektu. This image was released by North Korean state media on Oct. 16, 2019. / Image: KCNA

Meanwhile, the negotiations between North Korea and the United States are still deadlocked. North Korea has set the end of 2019 as the deadline for negotiations. It was thus believed that North Korea and the US would reopen their talks in late November or early December. Currently, however, there’s no indication that the negotiations will continue any time soon.

Hence, while North Korea has always stressed the importance of “self-reliance” to its people, the concept has recently gained a whole new significance for North Korea.

If the regime continues to enforce this “new path” instead of trying to improve its relations with the international community, self-reliance might soon be the only way to ensure the survival of its people.

Whether Kim Jong Un’s demeanor at the commemoration ceremony on Mount Paektu was an early indicator that he’s already sealed the deal on this “new path” remains yet to be seen.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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