Commercial satellite imagery indicates the massive new housing development—nearly 10,000 new apartments—in Pyongyang’s Sadong District is nearing completion. This would be the first of several construction projects to be completed as part of Kim Jong Un’s plan to build 50,000 apartments in the capital over five years. This effort to solve housing problems in the city has been described as “the most important promise” made to Pyongyang residents by the Workers’ Party of Korea, making progress vital. As such, the rapid push to finish the Sadong District housing is likely tied to be part of celebrations to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung (the Day of the Sun) on April 15.
A second housing project will open next week as part of the anniversary propaganda. The development of low-rise houses alongside the Pothong River in central Pyongyang was visited by Kim earlier this week and declared ready for residents. The project is separate from the 50,000 apartment plan but adds to housing stock in the city and represents another success for Kim that can be presented to the nation.
In the last several years, several key construction projects have stalled and slowly disappeared from state media attention after missing deadline after deadline. One of the best examples of this sits just a few kilometers away from the new apartments: the Pyongyang General Hospital, which has sat empty on the bank of the Taedong River for well over a year.
Sadong District Housing
Construction on the Sadong District housing project began in early April 2021, and within three months, the majority of 34 high-rise apartment buildings were already several stories high. By November, little evidence of external construction was evident in satellite imagery, and activity at the site was concentrated inside of the buildings. At around the same time, some of the nearby temporary housing for workers was removed, likely those involved in external work.
One of the more recent additions was a large, circular pedestrian walkway that sits across an intersection at the center of the development project. Work on this feature began in March and, as of March 31, appears to be nearly complete.
Figure 1. Sadong housing district on March 31, 2022.
Figure 2. Sadong pedestrian walkway construction.
On the southern side of the development, work continues on the sports field in what is likely to be an educational complex comprised of several school buildings.
Interestingly, the road paving work has extended an additional block beyond the southern boundary of the project through land that has been used for temporary worker housing. This hints at the possibility that an additional development might be planned on the southern end, but nothing about this has been publicly announced to date.
Figure 3. Roadway expansion and construction support buildings.
Pothong Riverside Terraced Residential District
At the same time as construction began in the Sadong District last year, work also began at a smaller development in central Pyongyang. The Pothong Riverside apartments sit close to the Russian Embassy and Mansudae Assembly Hall. While these apartments are not part of the 50,000 apartment expansion plan, Kim Jong Un has visited this terraced riverside project several times since last April.
Figure 4. Kim Jong Un visits the Pothong Riverside Terraced Apartments, broadcast on Korean Central Television on April 4.
This week, North Korean state media reported that Kim made another visit to the completed project and declared it ready to accept residents. The Korean Central News Agency said that Kim ordered a “significant completion ceremony” be held before April 15.
Such ceremonies are often seen when new housing developments open across the country and usually include speeches from local party leaders and the ceremonial awarding of residency certificates, which give people permission to live in a particular home. In North Korea, all housing is owned by the state, and residents are granted permission to live in a particular building or unit.
On March 31, several vehicles, possibly coaches, were observed immediately north of the development, likely in preparation for opening ceremonies.
“Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un Makes Speech at Groundbreaking Ceremony for Project to Build 10 000 Flats in Hwasong Area,” Rodong Sinmun, February 13, 2022.