Two North Korean soldiers die during bridge repair

Pyongyang’s Ongryu Bridge. Image: DPRK Today

Two soldiers have died after falling from a bridge while repairing the Nampo-Pyongyang expressway last month for North Korea’s Department of Roads, according to sources in North Korea’s capital.

“The soldiers were working at night and not wearing any safety equipment. They fell off the bridge while moving some cement mix,” a source in Pyongyang told Daily NK.

“The lights at the repair site weren’t very bright due to the lack of electricity. The temporary lumber guardrails in place gave way and they fell into the river below.”

Working with inadequate lighting and safety equipment, the soldiers involved in the incident were victims of the poor safety standards typical in North Korea, according to the source. The Department of Roads is a military unit under the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces (MPAF), which manages military projects throughout the country.

“The MPAF decided to have the soldiers work from 5 AM to midnight so that the repairs could be completed as quickly as possible. The soldiers on site were given three meals and an extra meal in the evening, but they faced really difficult working conditions.”

According to a separate source in Pyongyang with knowledge of the incident, the soldiers were forced to work 16-hour days, with breaks only for meals.

“The two soldiers who died were carrying the mixed cement together when they fell off the bridge. Other soldiers nearby heard their screams and ran to where they had fallen off the bridge, but they couldn’t find them in the dark,” he said.

The unit involved in the repairs conducted a search for the soldiers the next morning and found their bodies several hundred meters downstream.

“Soldiers drift off to sleep while working during night shifts,” the source said. “Other soldiers at the site say that the two soldiers were walking sleepily when they stepped on a poorly-made part of the bridge and fell into the water,” he said.

The incident may have been caused by the removal of a handrail on the bridge that would have prevented the soldiers from getting too close to the edges. The military unit involved in the repairs, however, blamed the two soldiers who died for their own failure to follow “safety procedures.”