Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
As previously reported by 38 North, neither the Pyongyang General Hospital nor the Wonsan-Kalma resort were completed on schedule. A recent report by Radio Free Asia, based on sources within North Korea, confirms that a lack of goods that need to be imported from China is what’s holding construction back (among other things). At the same time, it isn’t necessarily a lack of funds that’s being cited, but rather, the inability of imports to get through due to the border lockdown:
Work on the hospital began in March 2020, but it has been several months since construction was put on hold.
The pet project of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should have had a guaranteed supply of materials, an official of Pyongyang’s municipal government told RFA’s Korean Service Jan. 21.
“However, the interior work has not been started at all. Electric wiring, lighting, marble, other interior materials and medical equipment should have been imported from China, but they have not been brought in due to the coronavirus,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
North Korea and China shut down the Sino-Korean border in January 2020 and suspended all trade, a move that has all but closed the North Korean economy off from the rest of the world.
Though builders tapped domestic suppliers to begin construction on the hospital’s exteriors in March, work cannot continue until imports resume.
During the ruling party’s eighth congress, held Jan. 5-12, the party ordered factories and other government agencies to wean themselves off of imports so the country’s economy could be more self-sufficient.
But RFA reported last week that because the congress decided to invest heavily in North Korea’s tourism sector, government officials were scrambling to find ways to import materials for building interiors in anticipation of a building boom.
“Inpatient facilities will go in the two main high-rise buildings, so elevator installation is the core of all interior work,” the source said.
“Last year, they signed a contract to import elevators and escalators from a company in Shanghai… but the coronavirus has prevented them from being brought in,” said the source.
(Source: Hyemin Son, Leejin Jun, and Eugene Whong, “Construction Delayed on Showcase Hospital Project in North Korean Capital,” Radio Free Asia, January 26th, 2021.)
On the one hand, it would seem sensible to not prioritize prestige projects when overall funds are so low. On the other hand, Kim Jong-un did recently have his beachside manor upgraded, as reported by NK Pro. Whenever equipment really needs to get purchased or imported, there are ways of making it happen…View Original Article