Pyongyang Gears Up for Major Workers’ Party Anniversary Events

Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates the construction on the exterior of the Pyongyang General Hospital appears to be finished, meeting the ambitious target of completion within 200 days. However, the status of its interior work is unknown. With only days now until the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, it appears that Kim Il Sung Square has been secured for the weekend’s festivities while training for a military parade continues.

Pyongyang General Hospital

When construction for the hospital began on March 16 this year, Kim Jong Un set an ambitious 200-day target for completion. That deadline expired on October 2 and imagery from October 6 at 11:32 a.m. (local time), shows the exterior of the building is complete. Although the driveways leading to the main and rear entrances still require asphalt, cement trucks are present and will likely pave the area in the next few days.

The hospital will form one of the main propaganda pillars to this weekend’s events, along with a massive military parade through central Pyongyang. As such, Kim Jong Un will likely visit on Thursday or Friday, in time for newspaper and TV headlines on Friday and Saturday.

However, the status of the interior work is unknown. It is impossible to determine from satellite imagery what has taken place inside the hospital, but given the likely difficulties of getting finishing materials and medical equipment into the country due to both sanctions and border shutdowns for most of the year as well as the lack of interior photographs in official North Korean media coverage of the hospital, it is doubtful that the hospital’s interior is anywhere close to complete.

While the main hospital building construction appears to be finished, additional construction has started on the northern and southern edges of the hospital site. Several low-rise buildings in this area appear to have been demolished between August 8 and September 17, and the foundations for new buildings were laid sometime before October 6. Whether they will be related to the hospital is unclear.

Figure 1. Exterior of Pyongyang General Hospital appears complete.

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

Kim Il Sung Square

Throughout the summer, work took place on the VIP viewing stand at the head of the square and on the roads leading up to it. The work is complete, and no remnants of the construction remain.

There are no people observed in the area immediately around the refurbished VIP viewing platform or the square in front of the platform. This area has likely been cordoned off to prepare for Kim Jong Un and other senior North Korean leaders to attend Saturday’s events.

There is little to no traffic in the few blocks surrounding the square, despite usual traffic levels farther out. This area has likely also been cordoned off for security purposes ahead of the anniversary events, permitting only official traffic into the area.

In the absence of vehicles, thousands of people can be seen walking along roadways and hundreds are streaming across both bridges over the Taedong River. There are lines of buses in several areas on the outskirts of the second cordon, likely partaking in pre-anniversary festivities. There are numerous cars and buses parked at the People’s Palace of Culture which could indicate the location of several exhibitions marking the founding anniversary reported in Rodong Sinmun on October 6.

While the North Korean government has not officially announced the parade as of yet, which is typical, parade preparations have been ongoing for several weeks. It is anticipated the parade will take place on Saturday morning and televised by state-run Korean Central Television.

Figure 2. Kim Il Sung Square likely cordoned off.

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

Figure 3. Thousands of people observed walking on roadways and bridges.

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

Figure 4. Tourist cars and buses parked at the People’s Palace of Culture.

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

Mirim Parade Preparations

Across the Taedong River at the Mirim Parade Training Ground, there are approximately 40 formations of troops practicing at the replica of Kim Il Sung Square. In imagery from October 6, about 69 coach buses, along with a few other cars and trucks, are present near the April 25 Hotel.

In the vehicle storage compound, the temporary shelters at the southern entrance have been replaced with 10 flatbed cab-over tractor-trailers. Nine are grouped together on the east side of the gate, and one on the west side. This type of vehicle would be used to haul tracked vehicles, such as tanks. Netting is also present throughout the courtyard parking area, which would likely be used to cover any special vehicles parked outside of the garages for a degree of camouflage.

Figure 5. Troop formations practicing at Kim Il Sung Square replica.

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

Figure 6. Troops and buses observed outside of April 25 Hotel.

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

Figure 7. Close-up of vehicle storage compound.

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