Residents concerned about shoddy construction practices for new houses

Sakju County, North Pyongan Province
Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. Image: Daily NK

Construction began on a series of single-story stone houses in Samjiyon County earlier this month, but a lack of cement and other building materials has led to concerns among local residents regarding the construction quality. Some residents who have close ties with government officials and are aware of where they will be allocated are reportedly trying to meet the demands of construction workers to ensure their houses are built safely.

“The construction of single-story stone houses began in Samjiyon County in early May,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK. “Houses are going up fast, but a lack of materials like cement has led to rumors that the houses aren’t being constructed correctly. Many local residents are saying the houses aren’t sturdy and are worried about shoddy construction.”

The source further reported that the authorities are deliberately keeping residents in the dark about which house they will be assigned to until the construction is completed. However, some residents with ties to government officials have found out which house has been allocated to them.

Construction began on the houses after the allocations were made, with the decisions made in secret.

“Some residents who know which house they will live in are already ‘managing’ the construction of their houses. The lack of construction materials and the failure of construction workers to use the right mixture of cement has caused concern among the residents about the quality of their houses, and they are managing the construction teams directly to prevent issues from occurring,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province reported.

“The residents are providing construction workers with meals and even snacks during break times to ensure the houses are built correctly. They don’t want poorly constructed houses, so they are demanding that construction workers use the right quantities of cement.”

North Korean housing construction generally involves a mixture of one part cement to three parts sand, but UN Resolution 2397 has led to a drastic fall in cement imports. Construction sites are now using one part cement to four parts sand or even one part cement to five parts sand in some projects, according to the source.

Wealthy government officials and residents are also using state-mobilized construction workers to work on private projects, such as storage facilities for potatoes and kimchi along with pig pens.

“Local residents say that houses for ordinary people are built in a quick and dirty fashion,” he said, emphasizing that there are a lot of concerns that the right amounts of cement are not being used. “Some residents are criticizing the wealthy and government officials for the huge gap between the rich and poor, and between the powerful and the powerless.”