North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently ordered the preparation of a new “master plan” for the construction of homes and other structures in Pyongyang during 2021, Daily NK has learned.

During an expanded politburo meeting held back on Feb. 28, the country’s leadership discussed efforts to quicken the pace of construction of housing in Pyongyang and other areas of the country. These plans did not move forward, however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Daily NK source reported on Monday that Kim’s order to prepare the plans was handed down to the Paekdusan Construction and Architecture Research Institute and the Pyongyang Urban Planning Design Research Institute on Sept. 23.

The research institutes have reportedly formed three broad departments to deal with working-level design issues, on-site visits and investigations, and practical affairs and party guidance during the course of preparing the plans. The institutes aim to finish the new plans by the end of this year.

The Paekdusan Construction and Architecture Research Institute, for its part, has begun creating plans to design the interior and exteriors of housing and “service network” structures to better promote the socialist lifestyle and renew the sense that Pyongyang is the country’s “revolutionary capital.”

The Urban Planning Design Research Institute, meanwhile, is moving forward with creating mockups, structuring the overall construction plans, and conducting research on the population density and geological aspects of the areas to be developed.

“The plans will be completed by mid-December of this year and sent to the Central Committee by the end of the year,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily NK. “There’s a possibility that the plans will be adopted during the Eighth Party Congress next year as a Party line [agenda] aimed at stabilizing the lives of the people.”

Broadly, the plans aim to demolish one-story houses in Pyongyang’s central districts and construct high-rise apartments in their place.

Pyongyang Housing real estate prices
Apartment buildings in Pyongyang. / Image: Todd Mecklem, Creative Commons, Flickr

North Korea has long tried to promote loyalty to the Workers’ Party and Suryong by build houses on Changjon Street, Future Scientists Street and Ryomyong Street and providing them as gifts to members of the elite. The latest plan to build new housing in the city appears to be a continuation of these efforts.

The regime made plans earlier this year to construct Kim Jong Suk Street in the city, and the new construction plans reportedly include this project.

The leaking of these plans out into the open, however, seems to be causing a number of problems, the source said.

Some members of the donju, or the wealthy entrepreneurial class, in Pyongyang are reportedly buying up dilapidated one-room, single-story housing in the city’s central districts, signaling the start of a “battle” to secure ownership rights.

“The price of a one-room house – as small as a shed – in single-story housing areas in Moranbong District have increased 150%, from just USD 3,000 to USD 4,500,” the source said.

“Even though the order was handed down recently – and people [local residents] are saying they won’t sell their houses – [the donju] are trying to buy them up at higher prices, which has led to the price surge,” the source said. “All the fuss made by the donju and the families of cadres [to buy up the houses] seems to have led to the spread of news about the new construction plans across the areas designated for the new development.”

The families of soldiers are reportedly claiming that they should have first dibs on the new housing. “Some are arguing that [the authorities] should allot them apartments separately from those given to civilians, or at least give them housing in other areas,” the source said.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.