North Korea’s Showcase High-rise Apartments Come Up Short on Power And Water

2017-03-23
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High-rise residential buildings on the outskirts of Pyongyang are shown in a file photo.
High-rise residential buildings on the outskirts of Pyongyang are shown in a file photo.
AFP

High-rise apartment blocks built as showcase pieces in the North Korean capital Pyongyang are suffering frequent interruptions in elevator service, leaving their upper floors mostly unoccupied, sources in the country say.

Few occupants of these buildings are now willing to live above their 20th floor, leaving the upper levels looking like empty houses, a Chinese businessman and long-time resident of Pyongyang told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Almost no one wants to live on the high-rise floors,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The buildings themselves look good, but the elevators often don’t work,” he said.

“Though [national leader] Kim Jong Un has ordered that electricity be provided to the high-rise buildings, the elevators will usually run only when people are commuting to work, and even then they sometimes stop.”

“A bigger problem is that tap water doesn’t run at all on the high-rise floors,” he said.

Nationwide boasts of 40 and 50-storey buildings in the country’s capital mean little if residents can’t comfortably live there, RFA’s source said, adding, “Many of these apartments remain empty, and homeless children who have no place to go will secretly live there as a result.”

When work on Pyongyang’s 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel was abandoned due to lack of funds, “homeless children crowded in, and the children frequently quarreled with police,” he said.

“Homeless children hidden in the top-level apartments play hide and seek with the police and are difficult to catch,” a North Korean defector formerly living in Pyongyang said, also speaking to RFA.

“And even if they catch them, they are difficult to handle, so the police will only ‘pretend’ to catch them.”

High-rise buildings now under construction in Pyongyang’s Ryomyong Street will face similar problems when finished, the source, surnamed Lee, said.

“It will be hard to find residents for the high-rise floors, and eventually those floors will be occupied by homeless children just as they are in the other buildings.”

Reported by Joonho Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. 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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