Pyongyang Construction Update: Two Months to Deadline

Commercial satellite imagery indicates multiple construction projects around Pyongyang are progressing quickly, presumably all aiming for completion ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on October 10. While smaller projects like renovations to the viewing stand at Kim Il Sung Square and a new addition to the WPK Central Committee complex appear to be on track to be finished in the coming weeks, the Pyongyang General Hospital, the centerpiece of these efforts, is unlikely to be fully operational by the looming deadline. Given the hospital’s current pace of construction, however, it could be at least externally complete in time for the anniversary.

Pyongyang General Hospital

Imagery from August 8 shows the exterior work for the majority of the building is in the finishing stretch, although slightly more work remains on the front quarter of the building around the entrance hall area.

The building now clearly resembles the computer-generated, architectural rendering of the hospital previously featured on Korean Central Television (KCTV). In addition, the construction site has become less busy with much of the heavy construction machinery gone. However, several large construction cranes remain on site.

Kim Jong Un broke ground on the site in mid-March and said the hospital would be ready by October, as a gift from the Workers’ Party to the North Korean people on its 75th anniversary. Therefore, a failure to deliver would be an embarrassment.

The pace of construction has been swift although not without its challenges. Kim recently visited the site and expressed frustration at the management of the project—although some level of criticizing the managers and praising the workers is consistent with Kim’s approach to field guidance on projects of this magnitude. However, even if the hospital won’t be ready for patients in October, workers are probably rushing to finish the exterior and key interior areas by then so it can be shown off as a success.

Figure 1. Close-up of Pyongyang General Hospital.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].

Figure 2. Rendering of Pyongyang General Hospital broadcast from Korean Central Television.

(Source: KCTV via Martyn Williams)

VIP Platform in Kim Il Sung Square

The rebuilding of the VIP viewing platform in Kim Il Sung Square, while not nearly as extensive a project, is also important for the October anniversary plans, especially if Pyongyang holds a large military parade as expected. Unlike the hospital, this one will have to be ready to host Kim Jong Un, senior party and military officials, and other VIP guests.

Since the last update, the roof above the top floor of the platform has been completed but the west side of Kim Il Sung Square is still closed to traffic due to the construction work. Workers are likely facing a deadline of mid-September to complete their work, as citizens will require access to the square to conduct rehearsals ahead of the expected October 10 activities.

Figure 3. Roof above VIP platform in Kim Il Sung Square completed.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].

Central Committee Complex Addition

The August 8 image reveals more detail about a building that has been going up near the WPK Central Committee complex. In the last month, the roof of the four-story structure has been completed, and work has commenced on the grounds around the building.

It has been uncertain whether this building would be part of the network of WPK buildings in the area or simply a neighbor to them, but the latest image makes clear it will be integrated into the Central Committee complex. Access to the building will be from within the protective security cordon of roadblocks that surrounds the area, suggesting this building is for party or government use.

Figure 4. Roof completed over new building.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].

East Pyongyang Shopping Mall

The multi-story building at the north end of the East Pyongyang Shopping Mall has continued to rise in the last month. This long-stalled project was started in 2014 as a high-end shopping mall joint venture with a Chinese partner, but it sat half-finished for years. While this multi-story building is likely not tied to the October anniversary, especially since other buildings in the complex remain unfinished, construction resumed earlier this year shortly after work on the hospital was underway. Its progress, though, has not been as rapid or consistent as the other facilities under construction.

If the multi-story building is to match a rendering seen in 2015, then a few more floors will be added before it is complete.

Figure 5. Construction ongoing at East Pyongyang Shopping Mall.

Image Pleiades © CNES 2020, Distribution Airbus DS. For media options, please contact [email protected].
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