Materials shortage leads to sluggish construction progress in Sinuiju

Kim Jong Un in Sinuiju on November 16 to review major development plans for the city.
Kim Jong Un in Sinuiju on November 16 to review major development plans for the city. Image: KCTV

The modernization of Sinuiju, a project launched by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in November of 2018, is still facing difficulties getting off the ground. Sources in North Korea report that a lack of construction materials has led to slow progress in the city.

“There was a lot of talk about developing Sinuiju, but nothing has really happened there yet,” said a North Pyongan Province-based source on February 15. “Construction was  halted due to the winter, but it’s now unclear whether it will continue again.”

“Moreover, the lack of construction materials means that nothing is progressing,” he added. “Hotels and other buildings in the middle of construction near the Sinuiju riverside area have not been touched for the past month or two.”

The “Master Plan for Sinuiju’s Construction” was revealed after Kim Jong Un ordered the project to begin in the area in November last year. According to information obtained by Daily NK, the regime wants to add to existing plans to create an “international city” 13 times the size of Yeouido in Seoul, dubbed the “Sinuiju International Economic Zone,” through the creation of an international airport, 10 or so hotels of 20 stories in height or more, and around 50 apartment complexes.

Sources reported early last year that the project had begun and that basic steps had been taken to construct buildings in the area.

Daily NK discovered that the lack of construction materials in the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area has led to delays for the massive project and the North Korean authorities are taking funds to pay for the project from the salaries of ordinary North Koreans.

North Korea’s economic situation appears to be in dire straits given that authorities are still scrambling to allocate construction materials for the project despite it being one of the state’s top priorities.

The development of Sinuiju is also of keen interest to Kim Jong Un, and his involvement suggests that construction in the area should begin soon. On the ground, however, there are significant hurdles to overcome.

“Materials from China have still not arrived yet. The authorities say that construction will begin again in March, but that seems unlikely,” a separate source in North Pyongan Province reported.

Sanctions on the country have not been relaxed, causing further difficulties for the country in executing its large-scale construction projects.

The prices of apartments in Sinuiju, however, have continued to rise following Kim Jong Un’s visit to the city last year to order the start of the “master plan.” Local residents appear to be unconcerned, perhaps because the North Korean state has generally finished its construction projects in the end, despite delays, according to the source.

“Apartment prices in the city have continued to increase,” he said. “Eighty square-meter apartments that have yet to have their interiors finished are fluctuating between 18,000 to 20,000 USD”

The price of 100 square-meter apartments were selling for 10,000 USD in October last year, demonstrating the impact of the “Kim Jong Un” effect on housing prices in the area.

Daily NK reported that following Kim Jong Un’s visit to the city in December 2018, housing prices in Sinuiju spiked an average of 30% to 40% compared to October of the same year.

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