North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a ceremony celebrating the start of construction of the hospital on Mar. 13, 2020. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

North Korean authorities recently issued an order to open Pyongyang General Hospital within the year.

The hospital has yet to open, despite a public pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to complete the facility by Oct. 10, 2020.

According to a Daily NK source in Pyongyang on Monday, North Korean authorities recently ordered the Ministry of Public Health to complete equipping and systemizing Pyongyang General Hospital so it can open within the year.

The source said the party is preparing an opening ceremony for the hospital, focusing on its political significance as “an achievement of the first decade of Kim’s official administration.”

At the groundbreaking of the hospital on Mar. 17, 2020, Kim called on everyone to work together to open the facility by Party Foundation Day — Oct. 10 — of that year “without fail.”

However, builders could not keep the deadline in the face of multiple adverse factors, including the protracted closure of the border in the wake of COVID-19 and foreign currency shortages due to international sanctions.

North Korean authorities have presented two concrete goals to open the Pyongyang General Hospital; namely, to smoothly deliver required medical equipment, and to equip the hospital with a remote medical system so that it — as the top hospital in the land — can provide medical services to lower-level hospitals.

According to analyses of Google Earth images and reporting by Daily NK, the exterior of the hospital appears complete.

Multiple sources in the country told Daily NK that while the hospital’s exterior and landscaping have been complete since the middle of last year, the facility still lacks medical equipment and finished interiors.

Only a battalion of technicians currently remains at Pyongyang General Hospital to administer the facility.

North Korean authorities have been ordering the Ministry of Public Health and trade bodies to provide medical equipment and medical supplies to Pyongyang General Hospital “as quickly as possible” since last year. However, they have apparently been unable to resolve the equipment situation.

Moreover, according to the Pyongyang source, along with ordering the hospital to become an “advanced medical institution” with remote medicine systems, the authorities have called on the facility to play the role of “mother hospital.”

North Korean authorities have recently been focusing on promoting the party’s image as one that looks after the people, emphasizing the “mother party.”

Along the same lines, calling Pyongyang General Hospital the “mother hospital” suggests authorities are promoting the role of Kim Jong Un’s “leadership of love of the people” in its construction.

The term “mother hospital” also appears to underscore the unified system of control and maintenance linking Pyongyang General Hospital and small regional medical institutions.

In its order to the Ministry of Public Health, North Korean authorities called on Pyongyang General Hospital to play the role of “mother” to all other hospitals, and to provide remote surgeries and treatments to allow regional hospitals to treat diseases they cannot treat on their own.

Meanwhile, the party has yet to decide whether Kim will attend the opening ceremony of the hospital.

The source in Pyongyang pointed out that Kim ordered the “completion” of the hospital, but not the “opening” of the hospital. Nevertheless, he said party officials feel “somewhat burdened” by the failure to carry out Kim’s instructions.

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

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