Construction in KJU’s Backyard
Satellite imagery shows a combination of ongoing and finished construction projects in two VIP areas in central Pyongyang. These VIP areas are located in central Pyongyang’s “Forbidden City” where Kim Jong Un (KJU; Kim Cho’ng-u’n) and other core North Korean elites live and work.
Projects in Progress
Ongoing construction is occurring at three sites near Kim Jong Un’s headquarters [KJUHQ] building (better known as the Workers’ Party of Korea [WPK] Central Committee Office Building).
In Google Earth [GE] imagery from May 2022, a parcel of land next to the Haebangsan Residence was under development. This area sits about 600 feet (188 meters) south from the KJUHQ building. In the image, two excavators and two dump truck can be seen, and there appears to be ongoing excavation work on the east side of this parcel. It appears that exterior framing for four (4) buildings is complete, and there is ongoing construction work at several smaller structures. It remains to be seen if the four buildings will be linked together by the construction of breezeways or corridors or a smaller building. It is highly probable, given the size of the land allocation and the footprint of the construction work, that the project is a large residence or a banquet/entertainment hall.
A banquet hall and households support building between KJUHQ and Residence #15 (KJU’s official residence) has been upgraded and renovated. In the May 2022 GE image, most of the exterior renovation, which may have included the addition of another level, has been complete. Based on the presence of personnel equipment near the premises, it appears that some interior and finishing work was not yet complete. The ornate architecture raises the possibility that this structure might be an additional residence or a guest house for foreign VIPs. If it does become a guest house this would be in line with major renovations at KJUHQ during 2018 and 2019. That renovation project was focused on upgrading the WPK Central Committee Office Building into a traditional head-of-state residence for the Suryo’ng to receive foreign visitors and discharge domestic political business. Despite a three (plus) year delay, constructing a guest house near the premises would be in line with the goal of the main building’s renovation.
Finally, ongoing construction is taking place in a complex of guard and support buildings next to Residence #16, about 320 feet (99 meters) from KJUHQ. Among other things this support building complex contains meeting rooms as well as some of the computer and telecommunications infrastructure used by KJU and other core elites. The May 2022 GE image shows two areas of construction on either side of the support building complex. On the east, next to a security gate and checkpoint (also known as a reception post) it appears a new building is being constructed. This most likely means the building under construction is an addition to the support building complex. On the northwestern side of the support building complex there appears to be the beginning of construction of utilities and possibly another small support building.
One interesting note in the May 2022 GE imagery is the distinct white vehicle tracks on So’so’ng Street in front of this construction site. This could represent a high amount of excavation work or demolition of concrete. Similar white vehicle tracks can also seen on the road in front of a security complex about 800 feet (243 meters) north of the construction site. According to several sources, this security complex is the above-ground headquarters element for the underground network of tunnels and roads used by KJU to travel between VIP compounds. This might be sitting on a thin speculative branch, but there is a possibility that this project is an expansion and/or upgrade of the underground network.
Between May 2021 and May 2022, nine luxury buildings and one Guard Command [GC] support building were constructed on the Ch’angkwangsan Compound. The Ch’angkwangsan Compound faces Haebangsan Street to the south and behind Central Committee staff apartment housing west of Ch’angkwang Street. The Ch’angkwangsan Compound was not really a compound, in true Kim Family fashion, until the 2010s. Until 2012, it was the location of Kim Jong Il’s [KJI] #26 Residence (KJU and his siblings spent some of their childhoods here), the more modest residence of his sister Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i), the residence of Jang Song Thaek (Chang So’ng-t’aek), KJI’s personal archives (including the storied film collection) and elements of what is currently the Guard Command’s [GC] 2nd Bureau (which some sources identify as the Ch’angkwang Escort Bureau) which is responsible for household, logistical and personal support to KJU, members of the Kim Family and select core elites.
Eight luxury houses were constructed on the south side of the Ch’angkwangsan Compound. Five houses were constructed on the southwest side. In the May 2022 GE imagery, there is land clear next to these residences where an additional three to five residences could be constructed in the future. Across the driveway, in the south-center of the Ch’angkwangsan Compound, are three other new luxury residences. Further up in the compound is a large luxury house with some highly intricate and ornate architecture. This residence sits between Residence #26 and the Ch’angkwangsan GC complex.
Two notes about the housing construction. First, not all of these structures on Ch’angkwangsan Compound are necessarily residential. One of them might be a entertainment/banquet hall for the core elite living in the area. Second, the architecture closely resembles that seen on other Kim Family residential compounds, particularly the Su’ngbop-ri Compound in north Pyongyang (also known as the #55 Residence).
These residences could be designated for extended members of the Kim Family, members of the Ko Family (KJU’s mother’s family) or KJU’s in-law family via Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu). They might also be given to KJU’s favored and close aides in his Personal Secretariat (people like Hyon Song Wol) or possibly (but less likely) other senior DPRK elites who prefer a single family home over slumming it in a tower apartment (of course, these people get a whole floor to themselves and their families). On one hand, who is to say that all of these houses will have occupants? One or two could very well be shells. On the other hand, if one is worried about things like a decapitation strike, perhaps a few new luxury houses make it easier to be a moving target.View Original Article