North Korea Mysteries

I have been mapping North Korea since 2013, and I have reviewed every meter of the country via satellite multiple times. The full version of the #AccessDPRK map contains over 53,000 places, and I have subsequently been working on the next version which already has over 1,000 additional sites.
However, that doesn't mean I know the exact identity or purpose of every single place I map.

In the hopes of advancing the ever growing library of knowledge about the country, I have created this page to list some of the major facilities (or groups of facilities) that I have come across and cannot identify. Without doubt, someone somewhere knows what most, if not all, of these places are. But specialized knowledge rarely reaches the wider public. So if you factually know the identity/purpose of any of these places, or even if you have a pretty good idea, please comment or contact me directly with the details!

Three sites have already been identified: the mystery of the Songwon dam, the identification of a villa, and the identification of a missile base.

This page will be occasionally updated with new sites or new information that finally identifies the location in question. There's no special ranking of the sites, I just listed them as I recalled them.

Click on any image for an enlarged view.

1. Massive Bunkers, N. Hwanghae Province -  38°34'36.93"N 125°56'7.51"E
These are two enormous bunkers/underground facilities located in the mountains 14 km south-southeast of the Hwangju Airbase (and 6 km south-southwest of Yontan-up). Each pad is approx. 60 x 40 meters, the entrances are 40 meters in width, and the doors are each approx. 4-10 meters wide. Construction seems to have occurred between 1995 and 1997, with the pads being finished in 2002.

They could be for housing and protecting missiles or some kind of equipment, or as a well protected launching site. But I don't know the exact purpose of this facility and would like to.

Google Earth image dated March 20, 2011.

2. Unidentified Compounds - I have located over 500 of these facilities across the country (there's likely close to a thousand in total). A handful were identified as prisons by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in a 2017 report. Other North Korea analysts have identified some of them as either military in nature (such as barracks for paramilitary forces) or as food distribution compounds (which sounds the most plausible to me).

These are two random of examples from Chagang Province.

Each of these sites typically follow the same basic layout, and all are surrounded by a wall, often with corner towers. Even for a country as repressive and militaristic as North Korea, it's unlikely that they are all prisons (when massive concentration camps already exist and there are also regional prisons). It's also unlikely that they are all military in nature since we know at least some are smaller jails, and since most military bases follow a completely different configuration. So this leaves the true nature of the majority of these compounds as "unidentified".

3. Pyongsong Military School or Other? South Pyongan Province - 39°14'41.74"N 125°49'55.74"E

This gated compound has a large number of buildings as well as two walled-off villas, and is connected to a large communications tower. Other than a possible military school, its layout and style of buildings makes me think it could also be a research institute that also engages in some level of manufacturing.

Based on historical imagery, it appears construction began in 2003.

4. National Defense University Site, Pyongyang -  39°10'27.18"N 125°47'5.59"E
Located on the National Defense University complex, this site was constructed in 2014. It is not a tunnel, however, the structure is set into the side of a hill. Various possible uses include the production and testing of small batches of solid rocket fuel for educational purposes or use as a bunker to demonstrate small scale explosions. Less likely, a horizontal test site for proving scale models or specific technologies to be used in the development of future rocket engine models.
Read more at "Mystery at the National Defense University".

5. Unidentified Villas: North Korea has several well known villas and palaces, such as the Kim family's main Ryongsong Residence in Pyongyang. However, there are scores of other, smaller ones throughout the country. I'd like to find out the names/designations of some of these places and any history that may go along with them.

(This list doesn't include every villa in the country, only the larger unidentified ones.)

     A. Kanggye, Chagang Province -  40°59'29.22"N 126°32'24.10"E
     B. Tongchon, Kangwon Province -  38°58'52.28"N 127°52'14.70"E (this looks to be more like a secured pleasure ground, than an official residence)
     C. Onsong, N. Hamgyong Province-  42°57'31.99"N 130° 3'36.79"E
     D. N. Hamgyong Province -  41°33'13.23"N 129°27'38.29"E (this villa is near an elite leadership train station)
     E. Seaside villa, N. Hamgyong Province -  41° 5'6.26"N 129°43'38.42"E
     F. Tanchon, S. Hamgyong Province -  40°28'45.93"N 128°55'31.88"E
     G. Sinchang, S. Hamgyong Province -  40° 6'36.38"N 128°26'51.92"E
     H. Two villas, S. Hamgyong Province -  40° 4'37.43"N 128°10'19.42"E
     I. Hongwon Elite Resort, S. Hamgyong Province -  40° 1'58.49"N 127°58'42.83"E
     J. S. Hamgyong Province -  39°51'53.72"N 127°19'38.53"E (there are several large villas here)
     K. Villa, N. Hwanghae Province -  38°22'18.86"N 126°44'44.77"E
     L. Kuwol Palace, S. Hwanghae Province -  38°24'11.30"N 125°16'39.46"E
     M. Chongju, N. Pyongan Province -  39°40'25.45"N 125°14'48.23"E (this isn't a villa, but seems to be some kind of resort or spa)
     N. Villa, N. Pyongan Province -  40° 1'55.53"N 125°10'37.96"E
     O. Mabon Palace, N. Pyongan Province -  39°54'12.29"N 124°52'15.83"E
     P. Nampo Villas, S. Pyongan Province -  38°41'54.84"N 125°17'1.81"E (these overlook the Taedong River Reservoir as well as a naval dock)
     Q. Villa, S. Pyongan Province -  39°32'38.55"N 125°42'46.64"E
     R. Pyongsong, S. Pyongan Province -  39°15'20.39"N 125°47'51.02"E
     S. Apparent palace, S. Pyongan Province -  39°35'34.57"N 125°48'56.82"E
     T. Group of villas, S. Pyongan Province -  39°14'8.08"N 125°36'14.44"E
     U. Palace 1, Pyongyang -  39° 6'36.75"N 125°59'48.50"E
     V. Two large villas (A), Pyongyang -  39° 3'35.37"N 125°47'12.11"E
     W. Two large villas (B), Pyongyang -  39° 3'21.67"N 125°46'52.54"E
     X. Large villa, Pyongyang -  39° 4'57.74"N 125°46'26.71"E (constructed in 2009)
     Y. Palace 2, Pyongyang -  38°54'41.13"N 125°55'24.87"E
     Z. Large villas, Pyongyang -  39°11'45.80"N 125°50'2.39"E
     AA. Possible Villa, Rason Province -  42°22'55.24"N 130°38'43.31"E (constructed in 2010)
     BB. Villas, Rason Province -  42°18'51.12"N 130°23'31.41"E
     CC. Possible Villa, Ryanggang Province -  41°24'9.75"N 127°46'9.06"E

6. Agricultural sites or military buildings, S. Pyongan Province -  39°19'24.05"N 125°44'44.53"E
There are a total of five of these buildings roughly 12 km west of Pyongsong. Located in a Korean People's Army agricultural area, these buildings do not look like clusters of grain silos (as seen in the rest of the world). This is also the only place within the country, as far as I can tell, where this exact style of building exists.

A number of possibilities come to mind: general agricultural warehouses, some kind of weapons production facility, or even simply aging barns for domestic alcohol production. Regardless, I don't know what these are and would like to.

Here is a closeup of one of the buildings.

And here is the general area with all five marked out.

7. Unidentified Area, Chagang Province -   40°34'21.52"N 126°37'16.92"E (entrance)
This is a large area that it located in Chonsan-ri. Spread out among valleys (running north of the entrance), the area has housing units, apparent villas, and factories.

Vehicles can be seen at the factory on Aug. 6, 2014.

8. Possible local prisons/forced labor camps: These sites differ in various ways from the "compounds" discussed above. I'm looking for either positive verification that these are prisons (along with their designations) or that a site is something else.

    A. Kanggye, Chagang -  40°59'16.68"N 126°39'40.50"E
    B. Songgan, Chagang -  40°48'52.97"N 126°31'56.58"E
    C. N. Hamgyong -  42°16'1.93"N 129°45'55.27"E
    D. Tongrim, N. Pyongan -  39°52'39.26"N 124°43'46.09"E (Based on the description given in        Under the Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley Martin. As described by defector Lee Soon-ok on page 562.)
    E. Nyongbyon, N. Pyongan -  39°50'1.34"N 125°46'1.63"E
    F. Chongnam, S. Pyongan -  39°29'18.41"N 125°27'6.93"E
   G. S. Pyongan - 39°11'26.60"N 126°29'35.74"E
   H. Pyongyang -  39° 0'6.54"N 126° 3'30.01"E

9. Taehwa-do Naval Base, N. Pyongan Province -  39°26'2.53"N 124°37'8.65"E

Very little information can be found about this naval installation. Despite it being on a relatively small island, it contains an underground facility and a vessel turn table. I'd like to find out what unit is stationed there and any post-Korean War history.

Taehwa-do Island.

A closeup of the main base facility with underground entrance.

--Jacob Bogle (first published on June 13, 2018)

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