N. Korea pushes workers to finish tourist zone by deadline

Construction teams still face a serious lack of construction materials, meaning construction on the site won't finish until at least October, sources say

Military construction units at the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone are being pushed to speed up construction to meet the project’s deadline of Apr. 15, Daily NK has learned.  

“The military leadership is stressing that soldiers on construction teams follow the ‘soldier spirit’ to ensure construction is completed by Kim Il Sung’s birthday [Apr. 15],” a military source told Daily NK on Tuesday. 

“We’re in the very last stage of construction now, so everyone is working really hard day and night,” he continued, adding, “Soldiers on construction teams at the site have slept only about three hours a night.”

The source went on to explain that the military will need to send a report to the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) by Apr. 15 confirming that the construction has been completed. 


One of the country’s biggest tourism development projects, the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone began construction soon after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gained power in 2012. 

Kim has visited the site multiple times to monitor progress and has stressed that the tourist zone will be key to “defy” and “overcome” international sanctions. 

Indeed, the project has taken on new importance in 2020 as North Korean leaders have linked development of the country’s tourism industry with broader attempts at increasing the country’s self-reliance – efforts now enshrined in the recently-coined catchphrase “frontal breakthrough.” 

Interestingly, amid slowed progress in construction on the site due to international sanctions, North Korean authorities have stressed “strengthening the quality of the buildings” on the site. Essentially, they have warned that only buildings that have passed safety inspections will be deemed “complete.”

A map showing all the construction projects in the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone. / Image: KCNA

Military propaganda documents acquired by Daily NK, however, suggest that the authorities continue to place emphasis on speed over safety. 

In the documents, North Korean military authorities praise construction workers at the tourist zone for having completed a high-rise hotel in just 20 days. The emphasis on speed in the documents suggests that authorities are continuing to rush construction teams to finish their projects before or on Apr. 15. 

“The propaganda materials are used during educational sessions for construction workers,” the military source told Daily NK. “The military officials who lead these sessions emphasize that the quick work the workers are doing will ensure the construction ends even earlier than the original deadline.” 

The military leadership is, in short, stressing a “soldier mentality” to encourage workers on the site to finish their projects quickly. The urgency demanded by military leaders, however, reveals just how anxious they are to achieve both quality and speed requirements – an impossible task. 


One reason construction at the site faces obstacles is due to the lack of materials, an issue long reported on by Daily NK. The lack of materials likely means that construction on the site will not be finished until long after Apr. 15, Daily NK sources said.

“Construction on the tourist zone won’t be complete until at least Oct. 10 [the 75th anniversary of the founding of the WPK],” Daily NK’s military source told Daily NK. 

“We still have to complete 7,500 hectare residential and industrial zones in downtown Wonsan, hiking trails that stretch over the 1500 hectare Sogwang Temple, as well as other accommodation and landscaping projects to finish,” he added. 

Development on the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone has been divided into three construction zones: downtown Wonsan, the Kalma peninsula, and Sogwangsa area. The 1400-hectare Kalma peninsula has been further subdivided into the accommodations zone, a zone for conferences and exhibitions, a zone for athletics, an entertainment zone, an economic development zone, and a zone for stores and restaurants.

The tourist zone’s construction projects have been placed into three zones: Downtown Wonsan, the Kalma Peninsula, and Songwang Temple. The Kalma Peninsula, which covers approximately 1,400 hectares, includes zones for hotels, exhibitions, sports, recreation, economic development, and stores and restaurants. 

The regime has reportedly built various recreational facilities, including a theater, golf course, underwater and above-ground hotels, industrial complexes for science and technology and agricultural development in the Tunamsan zone, which lies within the Kalma Peninsula. Islands sitting off the Kalma Peninsula have also been turned into tourism sites.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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