Complaints have emerged regarding the unfinished and potentially dangerous nature of some of the new apartments built at breakneck speed in Pyongyang to meet the 2012 deadline imposed by the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth and help give the impression of rapid development in the North Korean capital.
In order to declare the successful completion of the new apartments, which are most notably to be found in the Mansudae area of the downtown core, the authorities reportedly gave the order to move people into the buildings before the internal décor could be completed.
A Pyongyang source explained to the Daily NK, “Originally, there was no progress going on with new construction because of a serious shortage of materials, so they ordered it to stop while the interiors of finished apartments were dealt with.”
“Despite this order, the work brigades lacked the construction materials to finish the interior construction, and so they started passing responsibility on to the residents,” the source went on. “Most of them are reluctantly getting on with the interior construction, having been told by the work brigades that they are just going to have to get on with it.”
“The residents, scared as they are that they may lose their homes again after losing them once when they were ripped down in the first place, are just living in them while working on the interior construction,” he added.
However, the source noted, “Due to the serious burden of the materials needed to do that, a few others are selling their homes to middlemen,” before adding, “Soon-to-be residents are not readily moving in either, concerned as they are that the buildings might collapse.”
North Korea faces such difficulties not only because of chronic economic problems but because of corruption in the construction management system.
According to sources, cadres and site managers have been guilty of continuously diverting materials, such as sand and steel rods, materials which in a number of cases have come from local people, not the state.
A South Pyongan Province source criticized the situation, saying, “The authorities goal of ‘a hundred thousand homes’ has not been completed after three years of hard work. What is the purpose of offering materials to the state when the cadres are diverting them for themselves? Only the people will end up suffering.”