Newly built homes in Komdok, South Hamgyong Province, in April 2022. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

North Koreans have moved into the 3,000 homes recently built in Komdok District, South Hamgyong Province, an important area for North Korea’s mining production. However, most families who have moved into the new homes are having difficulty getting water.

According to a Daily NK source in the province on Thursday, people have been moving into the new homes since the exteriors were completed last autumn, but running water is only available on the first and second floors of apartments and in single-story homes, and just barely at that.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un unveiled a plan to build housing in the district after visiting the site of recovery efforts following Typhoon Maysak in 2020. North Korea later included the project to build a housing complex in Komdok in the state’s five-year economic development plan adopted during the Eighth Party Congress. 

At the time, North Korea presented a plant to build a total of 25,000 housing units in Komdok — 5,000 units a year — to improve the lives of local residents by resolving housing shortages and to rebuild the provincial city. Accordingly, the authorities have built about 3,000 new homes between last autumn and this spring.

However, the source said residents of the new homes are struggling with getting water due to slipshod construction.

In fact, the source said that after receiving a barrage of calls from local residents, the logistics department of Komdok Mining Enterprise and the party committee informed the construction headquarters, which is now building one or two communal faucets in each village in the district.

The source said earlier this year, residents of the new homes complained that apartments on the fourth floor or above were receiving no water, perhaps because of low water pressure. Construction officials responded that it could be because the pipes were frozen as it was winter and that residents should take their water from lower floors, promising to repair the pipes in spring.

Having received a flood of complaints and petitions from Komdok residents who have been without water for over three months, South Hamgyong Province’s party committee has begun looking for people to blame for the shoddy construction. However, the construction headquarters that was tasked with building the homes is retorting that the problem is not slipshod construction, but a need for more pumping stations.

The source said builders were unable to install enough pumping stations for the number of households because they were focused solely on completing the homes. Chronic shortages of supplies, support and equipment meant pumping stations were also underpowered, another reason for the water shortages.

He said power transmission equipment such as transformers and electrical poles were carried away in the post-typhoon floods, and builders have been unable to restore the power grid to what it once was. The source further said pumping stations need a lot of voltage to send water to higher floors, but they are failing to receive constant voltage, leading to water shortages.

However, the construction headquarters said they are well aware how difficult it must be for sixth floor residents to draw water. It said even though the designs were drawn up to state standards, they could not take responsibility for problems as long as the state failed to ensure proper equipment and supplies. The source said people believe this means that shoddy construction will continue to be a problem in future projects. 

Meanwhile, people are complaining that while they welcome the state’s plan to build 25,000 new homes over five years, occupants of new apartments are suffering water issues because they are being moved into incomplete homes. Moreover, people say builders, too, are wasting their time repeatedly installing communal faucets.

The provincial party committee is moving to soothe local discontent, deliberating a plan to supplement the insufficient pumping stations by building a solar-powered outdoor pumping station.

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