With work on the third stage of a major housing project in Samjiyon coming to an end, North Korean authorities are also moving forward with a plan to construct low-rise housing along the Sino-North Korean border.

However, with authorities concentrating resources in building homes in Samjiyon –  deemed by the regime a “sacred revolutionary site” – housing projects elsewhere are apparently being neglected.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea on Tuesday, the Central Committee handed down an order in mid-February to construct low-rise apartments of five-to-seven stories in certain border areas of Yanggang Province by December of this year.

The authorities responded by selecting sites for the apartments in the city of Hyesan and the counties of Kimjongsuk, Pochon and Taehongdan. They also quickly decided how big the new apartments should be, and reportedly began drawing up blueprints and making other basic preparations.

However, the Central Committee issued another order in March calling on the authorities to “fully mobilize” all efforts, materials and modes of transport in Yanggang Province for the housing project in Samjiyon. Construction efforts in other towns were, for all intents and purposes, suspended.

Propaganda posters in Samjiyon extolling the completion of the city’s modernization project by Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

In fact, as recently as early March, work on five, six and seven-story apartments in Sinsang-ri, Kimjongsuk County was proceeding without a hitch. Groundbreaking had also reportedly begun, with eight local enterprises contributing about 10 men each for the construction efforts. 

However, after Mar. 20, the builders were sent to Samjiyon, ending their work on the housing project in Kimjongsuk County.

With Yanggang Province focusing resources solely on Samjiyon, residents of other regions are reportedly feeling ostracized.

The source said it appears the authorities ordered the housing projects to soothe complaints by residents of other regions. “But judging from what we’ve seen so far, it’s ultimately been a failure,” he said. 

“Work on Samjiyon has yet to be completed, despite authorities mobilizing nationwide support and manpower over the last couple of years,” he said. “When even state-led construction is facing difficulties, how can they push construction of apartments in the border regions?”

In an Oct. 28 article entitled “People Move to New Modern Houses in Samjiyon City,” the Rodong Sinmun reported that “10-dongs and ris of single-storey, small-storey and multi-storey modern dwelling houses” for “a thousand and hundreds of families” were built in Rimyongsu-dong, Sinmusong-dong and elsewhere.

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

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.