North Koreans Labor Under 'Harsh Conditions' on Construction in Pyongyang

2016-07-15
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Buildings in North Korea's capital Pyongyang are shown at night in a file photo.
Buildings in North Korea's capital Pyongyang are shown at night in a file photo.
Robert Harding World Imagery

In a symbolic rebuke of international sanctions imposed for nuclear weapons tests, North Korea is forging ahead with a massive construction scheme, drafting thousands of Pyongyang city residents to labor on the showcase project till late at night under harsh conditions, North Korean sources say.

The construction of apartment blocks and other public buildings on Pyongyang’s Ryomyung Street has pulled in “hundreds of thousands” of workers from the capital city alone, with others brought in from other provinces, a source from South Hamgyong province told RFA’s Korean Service.

“[They] are undergoing terrible sufferings in their work,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

City residents including ordinary workers, city officials, and private businesspeople are all being forced to work with inadequate equipment at Ryomyung till late at night, the source said.

“They march straight to Ryomyung Street in the evening at the end of their own daily work,” he said.

“The soldiers and laborers from construction battalions working there now do not get enough sleep and are forced to camp out at the construction site,” he added.

Work shared among provinces


Responsibility for completing the work is being divided among ruling Korean Workers’ Party organizations in provinces across the country, with factories in North Hamgyong ordered to send from two to three workers each to the Ryomyung site, one source in the province said.

“Workers in construction battalions were told by authorities to bring 10 kg [about 22 lbs.] of corn with them when they came, so they all brought food to Pyongyang,” he said.

Officials in charge of the project are pushing workers hard to finish frame construction on the buildings, which include a 70-story high-rise apartment building and at least 60 other structures, before the weather gets too cold, sources said.

South Korean analysts believe the massive project when finished will be held up as a symbol of defiance of U.N. sanctions enacted to punish North Korea for a recent nuclear test and missile launch.

North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, followed on Feb. 7 by the launch of a satellite-bearing rocket that the world viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test. That test prompted the latest and strictest of several batches of U.N sanctions on Pyongyang.

Reported by Young Jung for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Jackie Yoo. Written in English by Richard Finney.


CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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