Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pyongyang in Apartment Modernization Drive

North Korea is building spanking new apartments with Western kitchen and bathrooms in Pyongyang, with glossy features advertising them in the illustrated magazine Choson. The one featured in the magazine are on Mansudae Street in central Pyongyang.

The North is building 100,000 homes throughout Pyongyang by 2012, and the redevelopment of Mansudae Street is part of the project. The street was once an area of decrepit low-rise apartment buildings with about 600 households but since July last year has been turned into a complex of new six- to 18-story apartment buildings with about 800 homes. Authorities expanded the floor space per household to more than 100 sq.m. instead of increasing the number of flats per building.

Photos in the magazine show Western-style kitchen sinks, bathtubs and balcony, looking not very different from their counterparts in South Korea. Each apartment has a separate storage space for kimchi jars on the balcony. Kim Jong-il has hailed the apartments as "top-rate modern homes reflecting the party's intention and plans."
The bathroom of a new apartment on Mansudae Street in Pyongyang /Yonhap The bathroom of a new apartment on Mansudae Street in Pyongyang /Yonhap

There is speculation that the project is part of a propaganda drive to ensure a smooth succession of power. Prof. Lee Jo-won of ChungAng University said the Pyongyang city modernization project, including the redevelopment, will probably be used as a propaganda material aimed at highlighting the achievements of Kim Jong-un, Kim senior's third son and heir apparent.

The project is apparently being supervised by Jang Song-taek, the director of the Administrative Department of the North Korean Workers' Party, who is believed to be behind the succession plan.

Past propaganda made out that Kim Jong-il pleased his father Kim Il-sung by designing and building the Grand People's Study House, the People's Palace of Culture, and the Pyongyang Ice Rink.

Chosun Ilbo

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