Changchun, China — North Korean authorities have started construction for expanding the railway connecting Hyesan, Yangkang Province and Samjiyeon from a narrow to a broad railroad.
An inside source from Yangkang Province relayed in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on October 16th, that “Since the 1st of this month, the ‘Shock Brigade for the Propagation of Party Ideology (the June 18th Shock Brigade)’ came and started preparing for expanding the railway between Hyesan and Samjiyeon. Now, they are building housing for brigade members who will begin construction in early November.”
According to the source, the Hyesan-Samjiyeon railway was a “narrow gauge (railroad)” which connected the rail between Hyesan and Bocheonbo to Samjiyeon Lake in the mid-1980s and only small cars which fit 38 people could travel on it. Not only was it a railroad on which small trains could travel, it suffered significant damage in the 1994 mass flood and ceased operations until recently.
The North Korean authorities believed that Samjiyeon played an important role to propagandize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s revolutionary ideology, so they attempted to build a “broad gauge” between Hyesan and Samjiyeon when Kim Il Sung was alive. However, the project is still under construction due to the nation’s weak financial predicament and rough construction environment.
The source relayed, “The number of construction workers totals approximately 50,000 people, including 30,000 ‘June 18 Shock Brigade members and 20,000 others mobilized from rural areas, enterprise officials, and farms. The area of construction is approximately 70km, but it is a rough, mountainous terrain, so the construction will not be easy.”
He also stated, “Currently, a part of the Shock Brigade have come in to build housing, but at the end of October, all members will come. The Shock Brigade is in charge of doing construction far from the city and in some places near the city, and the enterprise officials or farmers will take charge and lead the construction.”
At the news of the beginning of the railroad construction, citizens showed a welcoming and a concerned response.
The source said, “The merchants are glad at the opportunity to make money, but the farmers are all concerned that the number of thieves will increase on the farms. The place where construction will take place is near the border region, so smugglers are concerned that the border patrol will become toughened.”
The source added that, “The Shock Brigade mobilized for the construction has said that the construction has to be completed before the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Leader’s (Kim Il Sung) birthday in 2012. That is why people have been rushing to begin construction despite the coming of winter.”
The Los Angeles Times reported on the 27th of last month that the construction of high buildings has been rapidly taking place in Pyongyang and hotels and theaters have also been refurbished. The construction of the 107-story Ryukyung Hotel, which has been left under construction for a long time, also has resumed.
The LA Times pointed out the fact that such construction is taking place when the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned of an economic crisis as serious as in the mid-1990s, during which 2,000,000 starvation deaths resulted in North Korea, is simply miraculous and outrageous.