Hyesan Orphans Given Special Treatment

Kim Jong Eun recently ordered an education center for orphans in Hyesan to be rebuilt
and expanded, Daily NK has learned. The North Korean leader is also said to have personally guaranteed the necessary
materials for the project. However, this is fostering discontent within the local construction sector.

“The construction
process there has been rapid since the inputs were guaranteed by the Marshal, so they are
now in the closing stages,” a source from the Yangkang Province capital reported to Daily NK on the 11th. 

The decision to place the state’s strength behind the project has, the inside source said, caused anger in other construction units, since only one of many is receiving inputs of money and materials from Pyongyang, while others are being forced to sustain themselves.

“Other construction projects, including apartments for local people to live in, are being put back,” the source said. “It’s common to see workers messing about and killing time on construction sites. Some houses in the city have been demolished to build apartments, but in some areas that construction hasn’t even started yet.”

According to citywide
sources, there are numerous construction projects underway in Hyesan these days,
including an indoor stadium, an eatery called
Amrokgak, and civilian apartment blocks. However, as the source noted, most are progressing slowly due to chronic supply
shortages, while the education center for orphans, which got
underway much later than most others, is moving at lightning speed in comparison.

Facilities exist in each province of North Korea to educate parentless children up to the age of 15. The system is divided into four sectors: up to four years of age, four and five years of age, elementary school age (6~9), and middle school age (10~15). Each province has at least one of each type. The facility in Hyesan caters to the latter two age cohorts.

“Clothes
and food there are provided by the center,” the source explained, adding that electricity is also more
predictable there than in most other parts of the city.

However, she cautioned, “It’s unwise
to have complete faith in units receiving special treatment. Even a Pyongyang
apartment block collapsed in May, and it was for senior people so they probably used good materials.”
 

It is not clear why the Kim regime is offering special treatment to this particular site, though it may be because foreigners risk doing harm to North Korea’s public image by photographing them, or simply to bring under control the groups of Kotjebis that tend to linger around the station and marketplaces. Irrespective of either goal, it also allows for propaganda about Kim Jong Eun’s “love for the young,” a core propaganda trope that surrounds all North Korean leaders. Kim Jong Eun has visited a large number of education facilities in the first years of his rule to emphasize his concern for the development of the country’s young generation.

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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. Many of her articles are featured in the Jangmadang section of the Daily NK website. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and LA Times, among others, and is a contributor on North Korea issues for TBS and KBS.