Kwon Song Ho, the head of North Korea’s Ministry of State Construction Control, was given a “stern warning” on Aug. 11 as punishment for failing to properly oversee projects carried out in localities throughout the country, a Daily NK source in Pyongyang reported on Sunday.  

According to the source, most of the construction projects in question have been performed by unlicensed companies made up of technicians and members of North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class, or donju

The source told Daily NK that North Korea’s central government has been unable to secure sufficient materials and manpower for construction projects outside of Pyongyang, and provinces, cities and counties are generally unable to mobilize enough materials and labor to perform the projects. This has meant that localities have had little choice but to rely on the donju to move construction projects forward. 

Ever since the Arduous March, most construction projects outside of Pyongyang have relied on [investment from] individuals and have failed to receive much support from the state,” the source pointed out, adding, “Donju are able to line their pockets through [these investments] and officials in the construction departments of provincial, municipal and county people’s committees have also benefited.” 

Now, however, the poor quality of construction that has resulted from this corruption has become an issue, the source said.

North Korean authorities have reportedly criticized the Ministry of State Construction Control (MSCC) for just providing permission for construction projects submitted by provincial, municipal and county people’s committees to proceed while failing to monitor the progress of these construction projects. 

The source pointed out, however, that “given the current shortages of everything within the country, progress on construction projects at the provincial, city and county levels would [have already] stagnated if the donju weren’t involved.” 

While it is typical for officials found guilty of being involved in such corruption to have all their assets confiscated and to be sent into exile along with their families, Kwon seems to have escaped harsher punishment because those in power know that construction projects do not go ahead without the involvement of the donju, the source said. 

North Korean authorities have, however, punished officials affiliated with the construction departments of people’s committees in Nason, Nampo and Kaesong by sending them on a stint of forced labor at the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex in Songnim, North Hwanghae Province.

“The punished officials were relieved to learn that the punishment wasn’t serious enough to have them exiled along with their family members, but I heard that their families were very tearful,” the source added.

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

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.