North Korea’s ambitious 10,000-home construction project is way behind schedule

Residents were told they would be able to move in before New Year, but many are still waiting.
Jieun Kim
2022.02.08
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North Korea’s ambitious 10,000-home construction project is way behind schedule Service personnel and civilian builders launch a ground excavation project for the construction of 10 000 homes in the Songsin and Songhwa areas of Sadong District, Pyongyang, North Korea on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
AP

North Korea has not met leader Kim Jong Un’s ambitious plan to build 10,000 homes in the capital Pyongyang by the end of 2021, leaving many residents there in a state of housing limbo, sources in the country told RFA.

Pyongyang, the country’s largest city with a population of about 3 million, suffers from a severe housing shortage. Kim promised at the ruling Korean Workers’ Party Congress in January 2021 to build 50,000 houses by the end of 2025, one-fifth of which were to have been finished by the end of last year.

But a shortage of construction materials, mostly due the shutdown of trade with China during the coronavirus pandemic, has severely delayed the project.

“Winter is coming to an end and the Pyongyang citizens who have been waiting for new homes are still waiting to move into their new apartments,” a resident of the city told RFA’s Korean Service Feb. 5.

“The new residential houses being built in the Songsin and Songhwa areas are high-rise apartments with 20 stories. The external construction has been completed with locally sourced steel aggregate and cement, but the interior work is suspended because it needs imported materials,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

“There is no glass for windows, no interior wall finishing materials, no fixtures for kitchens and no toilets and bathtubs. Everything must be imported from China, so it is difficult to predict a completion date,” he said.

North Korea and China finally resumed cross-border rail freight late last month, although RFA reported that various government-run industries are competing for cargo space.

North Korea has forced soldiers and citizens to work around the clock to try to keep Kim’s housing goals on track. But construction was shut down when the workers ran out of building materials.

One family in the city that lost their home to the project has been forced to find temporary housing with relatives, another resident told RFA.

“My acquaintance was happy to be assigned a new apartment, but he called me two days ago complaining that the family still couldn’t move in. They are living at his brother’s house,” said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“They left the house they lived in just before construction started and moved into his brother’s house more than two miles away, and he had to commute to work. It must be very inconvenient and difficult to have a family of four living together with his brother’s family of five, including their two elderly parents,” she said. “Their dreams of moving into a new home were shattered.”

The 10,000-home construction project is a major priority for the North Korean government. RFA reported in June that authorities routed electricity away from other regions of the country to keep Pyongyang fully powered so construction workers could work through the night.

Working on the project has been grueling and dangerous for the mobilized workers. Pyongyang residents complained in May that the underfed workers were mugging civilians to get money for food. Additionally, a fire in a workers’ dormitory killed 20 workers in April, RFA reported.

Translated by Claire Lee and Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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