Immediately after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the Pyongyang General Hospital (PGH) construction site and ordered the replacement of the construction project’s leadership, three construction managers were replaced, Daily NK has learned. 

“The PGH Construction Collective Task Force contains 12 departments, and three department heads were replaced after the Supreme Leader visited the construction site,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Wednesday. 

According to the source, the heads of the General Organization and Planning Department (GOPD), Architecture and Construction Department (ACD) and Technical Oversight Department (TOD) were replaced immediately after Kim’s visit to the site. 

The GOPD was reproached for being “too stubborn and forceful” with its work, which involves considering construction deadlines, managing construction workers, supplying materials, the use of party funds, and unspecified “technical issues” involving the construction. The ACD, for its part, was criticized for failing to maintain the same quality and speed of construction compared to the early stages of the project because of “idling by without creative methods” to ensure the project is completed on time.  

The TOD, meanwhile, was criticized for making a “mess of the construction.” The department is tasked with “leading on-site work” by presenting “appropriate construction techniques” for each stage of the construction process in line with available equipment and workers.

Now, the vice chairman of the National Planning Committee and head of the Ministry of Finance have become joint managers of the GOPD, while the ACD is to be led by the head of the “Guard Corps Construction Design Department.” The TOD, meanwhile, is now being led by the head of the Ministry of Construction and Building-Materials Industry. The four newly appointed managers are reportedly experts in their respective fields and were recommended by the country’s Cabinet and military. 

RI MAN GON AVOIDS REPROACH

According to a recent North Korean media report, Kim issued a strong reproach during his on-the-spot guidance at the hospital construction site. Specifically, he said that officials were “making a serious digression” from the communist party’s policies around supplying equipment and materials and “severely rebuked” them for burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of “assistance.” 

The North Korean leader took issue with the fact that although an adequate supply of materials had been secured, the construction project’s headquarters failed to properly deploy and arrange such materials in line with each process, causing delays to the construction of buildings that were already supposed to be finished. 

Daily NK previously reported that Ri Man Gon, who was dismissed from his former position over a corruption scandal related to a party cadre training institution, had been put in charge of securing construction materials for the hospital construction project. 

Since his appointment, Ri has been visiting production units, including munitions factories, in areas outside Pyongyang to ensure there are no shortages of materials, the source said, adding that his efforts have more or less ensured that “large” construction supplies (such as metal poles for construction) as have made it to the site.

Ri was reportedly at a regional munitions factory on July 19, the day Kim visited the hospital construction site. Kim paid tribute to his efforts, stating that he would relieve Ri of his duties and put a vice premier in charge of securing materials since Ri had already laid the groundwork for success.

Two months out from the project deadline, however, construction workers are saying that there is no way the hospital will be “100%” finished by Oct. 10, according to the source.

A HASTILY ARRANGED EVENT   

The source further noted that because of worries that the “mistakes” of working-level officials were serious enough to ensure that the project would not be finished on time – despite, of course, the “wisdom” of the party’s orders, policies and the “idea of serving the people”  – construction workers were “not happy” about Kim’s on-the-spot guidance. 

“The Supreme Leader’s on-the-spot guidance was arranged quickly, and the event was held after armed officers with the Events General Bureau, Ministry of Social Security and Ministry of State Security had locked down the construction site and its surroundings,” the source said.

Formerly called the 5th General Bureau, “Events General Bureau” officers are mobilized for duties during events attended by Kim Jong Un. 

“Construction workers and other laborers working on the site were kept inside a ward of the hospital from 9 AM until 12 PM, and resumed work at 2 PM – after the event was over,” the source 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.