According to South Korean news site DailyNK, North Korean officials are afraid to take up residence in the newest Pyongyang high-rise development meant to represent the country's strength and defiance. The reason: Potential residents are afraid of shoddy workmanship.
The high-rise development project known as Ryomyong Street is a series of 3,600 flats in various high-rises, the tallest of which is 70 stories high. North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un only announced development for the project a little over a year ago, but had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the project's completion on April 13, two days before the commemoration of the birthday of North Korea's first communist leader, the late Kim Il Sung. The ceremony was a massive event, with reporters from all over the world in attendance.
However, according to DailyNK's Choi Song Min, North Korean officials are hesitant to take up their allotted residences in the towers because of alleged unsafe conditions caused by both a shortage of supplies and the undue speed of construction.
"The project was a display for foreign propaganda and to promote national pride, so Kim Jong Un spared nothing to make this achievement look as grand and luxurious as possible," Choi writes. "However, there are critical problems over the quality and safety of the construction, as it was carried out with an over-emphasis on construction speed leading to questionable workmanship.
"This is not just a personal opinion but a fact, with the officers and staff involved in the project sharing the same concerns," Choi adds.
Choi reports that this project was announced shortly after the United Nations declared sanctions on North Korea due to Kim Jong Un's pursuit of nuclear missile technology in March 2016, and says that construction began on April 4 last year. Kim declared that the high-rise project was an "intense confrontation with the United States and their axis of allies.
"So the project was nothing more than propaganda to distract the domestic audience and flex its muscles to the international community," Choi reports.
This rush to completion, Choi says, made the government turn to the people for their household items to be used as construction materials, and pay fines if they couldn't provide any.
However, as the construction began without sufficient materials including cement and steel, residents and students were forced to make increasing donations to the authorities who stated that Ryomyong Street was a nationwide effort requiring the support of all residents. Students and residents throughout the country were forced to hand in their household pots and fire pokers, even forced to pay cash if they couldn’t meet the quotas.
It is no exaggeration to say that the framework and concrete structures along Ryomyong Street are made from the sweat and blood of the residents.
Choi reports that while the country has an overwhelming source of manpower, much of the equipment used to construct buildings like these is old and outdated, including the country's only 30-ton crane, which is in a state of disrepair. Collapses and cave-ins, he reports, are a common occurrence in the country.
Taking into account the speed with which the project was completed, the lack of sufficient supplies, and the horrible conditions of the tools with which the project was built, officials are afraid for their safety, and have refused to move into the Ryomyong Street towers.
Furthermore, there are added fears of collapses as the apartments are all high-rise buildings of 40 to 70 stories. An official from the Ministry of People’s Security claimed that he would not move into the apartments even for free. Giving the excuse that his elderly parents would be inconvenienced by living in such high-rise buildings, he handed his allocated apartment to someone else and paid a great deal of money to live in an apartment in another region.
An anonymous North Korean defector told Radio Free Asia in March that many of North Korea's showcase towers have electric and water problems, especially on the higher floors. As with the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, the upper floors go abandoned due to lack of basic services, and are soon occupied by homeless children. The same will happen to Ryomyong Street's towers, predicted the defector.