Progress on the project to build 100,000 homes in Pyongyang is moving forward rapidly in at least one location: central Changjeon Street. According to a source from the city who spoke with The Daily NK yesterday, “There are around 30,000 homes being constructed along Changjeon Street, and the shells have almost all gone up.”
Changjeon Street is in the heart of Pyongyang, near well-known spots such as Mansudae Assembly Hall and the giant bronze statue of Kim Il Sung. The authorities are known to be focusing the state’s limited power on construction in this area, with the intention of completing at least the most visible part of planned projects ordered for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth in April, 2012.
North Korea is understood to have invited a number of foreign dignitaries to witness several big events it has planned for next April, including the Spring Friendship Art Festival and the April 15th ‘Day of the Sun’ birthday celebrations. In that context, completing construction along Changjeon Street is a natural priority.
Changjeon Street was apparently given a further boost following the visit of Kim Jong Il to China in May. Kim was reportedly struck by the inadequacy of Pyongyang when held up against major cities in China, and called for improvement.
The authorities thereafter ordered that the skeletons of homes on Changjeon Street be completed by the anniversary of the Party foundation, which falls on October 10th. According to the source, “The pace of construction has picked up since the authorities ordered that the building frames be completed by October 10th.”
“They started work on a 40-storey building at the end of May, and now are up to the 35th storey. They are using a waterproofing agent that causes the cement to dry quickly, which means they sometimes get through three floors a day,” he continued.
Rodong Shinmun, the Party mouthpiece publication, described the renewed pace of operations on Changjeon Street last Thursday, stating proudly, “The blinding pace of the audacious construction offensive, paying no heed to night or day, has allowed for the construction of the framework of a 40-floor high-rise residential building in no time at all.”
Similar progress is being seen on road extensions and beautification projects nearby. The source said, “Road extension projects have been completed, including that of the road in front of the Botong River and Pyongyang Gymnasium. They’ve put flower beds by the side of the road and the whole area is now in a very good state.”
However, the fixation with construction on Changjeon Street is leading to accidents there, the source added, noting, “Because they only pressure us to speed up and don’t say anything about safety, there have been frequent incidents of workers falling.”
It is also causing other projects in the city to lag far behind. According to the source, “The authorities are doing renovations on houses along the main roads, but only painting and sprucing up the areas which can be seen. The buildings along Tongil, Hyungsaesan and Yongseon Streets were all demolished in 2009, but as yet there is no sign of progress from the company which has been tasked with the construction work.”