Recent KCTV video and commercial satellite imagery indicate that construction continues on the previously identified projects throughout Pyongyang in advance of the October anniversary of the Korean Workers’ Party. Based on the varied pace of work, the hospital is still clearly the priority project.
Pyongyang General Hospital
Commercial satellite imagery is a useful tool for monitoring activities in areas where access is limited. However, it can only tell part of the story. When paired with ground and now drone photography, we are able to get a much clearer picture of how projects like the Pyongyang General Hospital are shaping up.
On July 20, Korean Central Television broadcast footage of Kim Jong Un’s recent site visit and provided a closer look at how the building is progressing.
Those media images and a satellite image from July 22 show exactly why Kim praised the builders for “exceptionally rapid construction.” In four months, the site has gone from open ground to what we see today.
Figure 1. Close-up of hospital construction progress from February-July.
Figure 2. Drone capture of Pyongyang General Hospital.
Figure 3. Rendering of Pyongyang General Hospital broadcast from Korean Central Television.
As of July 22, work on the shell of the main body of the hospital building and the two towers is largely complete. Around the site, six large construction cranes remain.
At the front of the hospital, construction continues on the entrance structure, which from the photos, appears to consist of a multi-story glass front wall. Columns that will run along the front of the hospital have been erected, and the upper floors of this entrance area seem to be in early stages of construction.
Work has started on a walkway about two thirds of the way up the towers that will connect the two of them.
In the TV images, floor layouts can be seen that indicate the main body of the hospital will have 6 floors, although floors 5 and 6 appear much smaller than the rest.
Figure 4. KCTV still of hospital floor plans for floors 1-4.
Figure 5. KCTV still of hospital floor plans for floors 5-6 and towers.
While Kim praised workers during his visit, he was unhappy with the officials in charge of the project. Despite the fast pace of construction, it appears unlikely the hospital will be able to open to patients by October 10—a deadline timed to match the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The outside of the hospital will likely be finished and perhaps some elements of the interior, but it’s unlikely to open until 2021.
Figure 6. Front view of Pyongyang General Hospital.
Kim Il Sung Square
In the heart of Pyongyang, work continues on the viewing stand on the west side of Kim Il Sung Square. Between July 5 and 22, beams have been installed on the front of the stand. These are likely to support an awning that will protect the VIP viewing area from the weather. The original roof of the VIP platform where Kim Jong Un and senior leadership sit was removed as part of the current refurbishment.
Around the edge of the roof over the enclosed section of the viewing stand, blue material has appeared. It is also visible above the entrance to the Foreign Ministry and along the front of the large government building on the north side of Kim Il Sung Square.
Such material is often used as a temporary or permanent roofing material in North Korea or as a protective barrier during construction. Based on the current imagery, it is difficult to determine why it has appeared.
Numerous workers are visible in the image and a large amount of construction material remains around the site in Kim Il Sung Square, indicating the project not yet completed. Based on current progress, it appears likely it will be finished in time for the October events to mark the WPK anniversary.
Figure 7. Renovation work continues at Kim Il Sung Square.
At the construction project alongside the Taedong River, it appears that the roofline of the building will rise in an arc before dipping slightly in the center then rising again towards the other end.
The identity of the building is unknown but it is being built alongside a tower that was constructed in 2017 that appears unfinished, but also has a curved roof.
The pace of construction at this site and the East Pyongyang Shopping Mall is slower than that at the hospital and in Kim Il Sung Square, indicating a lower priority.
Figure 8. Construction work continues along the Taedong riverbank.
East Pyongyang Shopping Mall
It is difficult to ascertain construction progress in the most recent satellite imagery, but the site was captured in KCTV drone footage of the new hospital, which neighbors the shopping mall.
Recent construction is centered around a building on the north end of the site and the drone footage shows it has now risen to six floors in total. Compared to an architectural rendering of the building, it appears the building is over half-way to its full height.
Figure 9. East Pyongyang Shopping Mall captured in hospital progress footage.
Figure 10. Tower addition continues on the East Pyongyang Shopping Mall.