Post-Party Congress Clean-up in Pyongyang
Recent commercial satellite imagery of Pyongyang shows Kim Il Sung Square has quickly returned to normal just days after a major military parade.
The parade took place on the evening of January 14 after the conclusion of the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Imagery from the morning of January 17 shows work crews in the square dismantling a few final parade structures, with little evidence remaining of the parade and festivities that took place just days before.
Figure 1. Banners and temporary viewing stands can be seen on the front of a ministerial building in Kim Il Sung Square during a Pyongyang city rally on January 15, 2021.
The structure that was built directly in front of the viewing stand was revealed in TV coverage to be an enclosed area for the orchestra. The structure was reminiscent of what might be found at an upscale garden party in the West, and was probably necessitated by the extreme cold, which would affect both the instruments and the musicians who would be seated for at least an hour.
Figure 2. The enclosed bandstand structure in the middle of Kim Il Sung Square during the military parade on January 14, 2021.
The structure was removed by January 17. It is entirely unclear why the North Koreans began constructing it so far in advance of the parade or why it was kept behind a shroud. The roof of the structure and a surrounding high wall went up in early December, around a month before it was needed. While TV images showed the structure had been wired for audio and lighting was installed, this would not have taken a month to accomplish, as witnessed with the rapid building of the for the New Year’s Eve concert.
The structure also stayed covered and went unused during that New Year’s Eve concert on December 31, 2020.
Figure 3. Bandstand structure removed by January 17, 2021.
Elsewhere in the square, workers and trucks can be seen gathered in front of the ministerial buildings on the north and south sides of the square. Huge banners that were draped over the fronts of the buildings and temporary audience stands are being removed. A truck with a crane attachment is observed, similar to those that were present before the parade.
Figure 4. The VIP viewing area and two large LED displays look down on Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade on January 14, 2021.
On either side of the main viewing platform, workers are gathered around two large LED video displays that were used to broadcast the parade to people in the square. These workers are likely dismantling the display screens.
While the Party Congress ended on January 12, it was followed by a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) on January 17 at the Mansudae Assembly Hall. Imagery from that morning (at 11:23 a.m.) shows that the area around the hall is quiet although the assembly was likely in session.
Figure 5. Close-up of Mansudae Assembly Hall on January 17, 2021.
Throughout this central part of Pyongyang, traffic was light with buses and only a few cars on the streets. This contrasts with the busier traffic usually seen and suggests that the special security arrangements for the Congress were probably still in place, likely through the Supreme People’s Assembly.
A greater number of cars are visible outside of the central security area.
Outside the People’s Palace of Culture, 39 coaches are visible. Most are parked but six appear ready to pick up passengers. The coaches are similar to those observed outside the April 25 Hotel that had been ferrying participants to the Party Congress from the Mirim Parade Training Ground.
During past large political events, the People’s Palace of Culture has hosted banquets for delegates although no such banquets have been mentioned in state media for this Party Congress.
Figure 6. Coaches observed at People’s Palace of Culture on January 17, 2021.