[imText1]According to an inside source, the North Korean authorities have, at the behest of Kim Jong Il, been using the “Mt. Baekdu Tourism Fund’ for improving areas in and around the city of Hyesan in Yangkang Province.
The source relayed the news in a phone conversation with The Daily NK on the 11th, saying, “Recently, many changes have been taking place in Hyesan. At the General’s suggestion, the ‘Mt. Baekdu Tourism Fund’ was channeled to the city, and has been used to dramatically improve the road to and beautify the area around the Samsu Powerplant, as well as creating parks around the Kim Jong Suk Performing Arts Theater.”
In May 2007, after five years under construction, the North Korean authorities held a ceremony for the completion of the Samsu Powerplant. Subsequently, in preparation for an onsite inspection by Kim Jong Il, the beautification of the area around the plant was completed and a new, 24km section of the No. 1 Road running from nearby Wangduk Station (one of a number for the exclusive use of Kim Jong Il) up to the powerplant was constructed.
Construction of the road was apparently extremely difficult, involving removing mountainsides and filling in streams to facilitate the construction of the road, part of that which connects Hyesan with Samjiyeon.
North Korea mobilized around 100,000 people in the period between January 2007 and May 2008 for the work, including 30,000 members of the June 18th Shock Troop, workers from a nearby collective farm, Hyesan Factory and other enterprise laborers.
The construction funds, said to be in the region of $800,000, were sent directly, in cash, to the Party Provincial Secretary and the Provincial Trading Bureau in 2007. They even brought in iron rods, gasoline and diesel fuel from China.
It is apparently difficult for even the vehicles of officials to pass down the No. 1 Road due to the existence of an Escort Bureau checkpoint.
The source also explained about other projects, “Separate from this construction, the project to renovate the road which goes around Wangduk to the Chundong district of Hyesan (where the No. 10 Army Corps Headquarters is located) also began recently (in 2009), and $80,000 has been invested in a beautification project in the area around the Kim Jong Suk theater.”
The road construction project connecting Wangduk and the Samsu Powerplant and the project to repave the existing road from Wangduk Station to the No. 10 Army Corps Headquarters in Chundong were both completed between May 2008 and the end of the “150-Day Battle” in preparation for Kim Jong Il’s inspection of army units in the area.
The beautification of the area around the newly constructed Kim Jong Suk Theater is also noteworthy. The surrounding area contains the No. 7 and No. 8 apartments, which until recently were extremely worn out. Additionally, when an 8-floor apartment next to the No. 7 apartment collapsed in July 2007, some 30 people are said to have lost their lives.
The authorities, while remodeling the No. 7 and No. 8 apartments in an effort to clean up the area, renovated dilapidated apartments and even started a project to lay down Chinese paving blocks in the area.
The Daily NK’s source could not be sure what the original source of the funds was, but confirmed in particular that “it was first tapped under the General’s instructions. Most officials are aware of this.”
On a related note, work on the incomplete Mt. Baekdu-Samjiyeon Railway has still not resumed since its interruption in May. This would seem to indicate that even the Mt. Baekdu Tourism Fund was insufficient for the work.