North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave instructions this year for the construction of  riverside terraced houses in Potonggang District and asked that the houses be distributed as gifts to meritorious citizens from every field, such as labor innovators, particularly meritorious citizens, scientists, educators, writers, and other important human assets. 

North Koreans inside the country, however, predict that the officials who originally lived in the area will simply move in after construction is complete.

“Officials living nearby will move into the riverside terraced houses,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Apr. 14. “There are lots of houses where only cadres can live in Sojang-dong, but there have been a lot of rumors that these houses were too old and needed to be rebuilt.”

When asked how his prediction would make sense considering that Kim himself ordered that the houses would be provided as gifts, the source said that “[only] 20% of the 800 total houses will be gifted…. A photo will be taken [of Kim Jong Un at the project site] to advertise his ‘great love for the people,’ and the other 80% will go to cadres.”

North Korean authorities plan to build 10,000 homes in Pyongyang this year. However, unlike most of the homes which will be built in the outskirts of the city such as the Songhwa or Songsin districts, the riverside terraced houses will be located in Potonggang District, which is considered a central area of the city. 

Mirae Scientists’ Street in Pyongyang. / Image: Ryugyong

Many high-level officials live in this area. Sojang District, in particular, is home to many cadres who occupy department director or higher positions. 

For this reason, the authorities originally designed the new houses under the assumption that they would be used by cadres. Architects specifically planned the houses to meet the needs of party officials by building three rooms, two kitchens, and two bathrooms per unit and installing luxurious interiors.

Additionally, Kim Jong Un conducted on-the-spot guidance for the project on two occasions, even saying that “he will take care of loyal [Party] members personally.” 

The Seventh Bureau and First Brigade have been put in charge of the project. The two units are usually responsible for building national facilities and special-purpose houses for the Kim family, and shows that the authorities are trying to maximize “speed” and “safety” during the construction period.

The authorities also plan to maximize Pyongyang’s beauty as “the capital of the revolution” throughout this project. There are many tourist sites located nearby, including the Ryugong Hotel, the Pyongyang Arena, the Pyongyang Ice Rink, Mansudae Assembly Hall, and Potong Gate, meaning that foreign tourists visiting the city would see the houses during their trip. It appears that the authorities will try to make the houses as appealing as possible for any foreign passers-by that may visit in the future.

“Kim Jong Un talked about city ‘greenification’ and natural scenery in planning for this project, which means that he wants the landscape to be designed in a modern way,” the source said. “To my knowledge, [Kim] made this plan to appeal to both loyal Party members and outside visitors.”

Meanwhile, North Korean authorities have plans to rebuild 200 homes in the Sokam and Sinwon neighborhoods. This proposal was set up in accordance with a plan to build 1,000 more houses in the central Pyongyang district of Potonggang this year. The authorities mobilized local district and Pyongyang city labor brigades for the project.

*Translated by S & J

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Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at