Construction projects in Samjiyon are currently making slow progress due to a lack of construction materials and food – and even complacency among construction managers, Daily NK has learned. 

According to a source in Ryanggang Province on June 22, the head of the municipal party committee in Samjiyon submitted a document to Ryanggang Province’s party headquarters in mid-May that stated that the project will have “difficulties” meeting its completion date of Oct. 10. 

After receiving the document, provincial party officials then consulted with Samjiyon’s  municipal party officials and other provincial officials in relevant departments before submitting their own views to the central government. 

“The central government responded that the party needs the construction to finish by Oct. 10 at any cost,” the source told Daily NK. “That said, the central government also ordered local officials to, at the very least, complete the exteriors of the buildings by Oct. 10 so that an event attended by Kim Jong Un can be held.” 

The source speculated that the leadership wants to ensure that Kim can attend a completion ceremony celebrating the end of the third phase of the project as part of broader efforts to improve his image as a leader. 

COMPLACENCY RULES

Construction workers have reportedly finished 70% of the third phase of construction in the city. This third phase of construction includes the building of apartments in areas some distance from downtown Samjiyon, such as Rimyongsu and Potae districts, as well as roads and repair work on nearby historical sites and a museum.

This all being said, local officials appear to believe that the area’s construction work will not be finished by Oct. 10, which is the anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s communist party. 

Construction managers also seem complacent about the situation, adopting the attitude that all they have to do is show Kim Jong Un whatever buildings have been completed by Oct. 10, the source said.

Some managers are reportedly saying that there’s little need to hurry the construction because there’s no free movement or foreign tourism due to COVID-19, apart from local tourism to the nearby Mt. Paekdu trail.

North Korea’s top priority this year is, in fact, the construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital. According to the source, Samjiyon’s construction projects are facing shortages because large amounts of building materials are heading to Pyongyang. 

THEFTS AND HUNGER

Adding to the difficulties caused by a lack of building materials, there have been frequent thefts of cement, glass and timber. In response to this, local officials have deployed armed guards to watch over warehouses to crack down on plundering and to hand out tougher punishments.

Daily NK’s source in the province further noted that chronic food shortages are hindering progress on projects in the city.

Soldiers called in to perform construction work are so hungry that they are raiding private homes in search of food to steal, and work units from around the country (“storm troopers,” or units put together on an ad hoc basis to work on construction projects) are deserting the site due to hunger. 

“The daily rations for storm troopers are a mere 450 grams of rice, salted radish, boiled cabbage and salted green vegetable soup,“ the source told Daily NK.

“The soldiers end up raiding private homes because they are not getting enough to eat, and there are two to three of these incidents in each company and battalion [of storm troopers] every day,” he added. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.