Thursday, May 17, 2018

NK's Construction Boom Continues

As I noted with Pyongyang, North Korea has embarked on a multi-billion dollar construction campaign since Kim Jong Un assumed power in December 2011. From new and improved airports, to expansive tourist developments, and more, the construction boom is continuing apace.

While most of the attention is given to Pyongyang and Wonsan, the large east coast city of Hamhung is receiving its fair share of upgrades. Current changes include hundreds of new housing units, a new orphanage, and the complete reconstruction of an underground complex. Other projects completed since 2011 include a new rocket engine test facility, a water park, and additional housing throughout the city.

Click on any image for an enlarged view.

There have been three large sets of family housing constructed between 2015 and 2017. The yellow area was constructed from 2015-2016, the two blue areas in 2016, and the red between 2016 and 2017.

Additionally, Hamhung now has its own version of Pyongyang's Mirae Street - new large apartment blocks and tall buildings lining a major road. For Hamhung, they're located across from the National Science Academy on Jongsong Street. The initial planning for part of these apartment blocks began sometime before 2007, as foundation excavation can be seen, but the project stalled and construction didn't resume until 2010. The southern half of the project didn't get its start until 2015, and the whole row of buildings weren't completed until late 2017-early 2018.

New orphanages, nurseries, and retirement facilities have been constructed in many of the largest cities in the country, with Hamhung recently completing its new orphanage and nursery.

The nursery also has 8 small sets of solar panels. Some are in the yard and others are on the roof.

Based on historical Landsat imagery, this underground complex and its associated external buildings were constructed around 2003. Beginning in 2016, major renovations and reconstruction could be seen. The different buildings are in various stages of work.

Hamhung has a long history of playing a role in North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Undoubtedly such a large underground facility is part of a major research program. Unfortunately, I have not been able to positively identify the site. If you know what purpose it serves, please leave a comment or contact me directly!

Here is a close-up of the Hamhung water park that was constructed in 2013. Since coming to power, Kim Jong Un has devoted a large amount of resources to constructing leisure facilities like water parks, amusement parks, ski resorts, and upgrading open spaces and athletic facilities.

Finally, located less than 2 miles (2.8 km) down the coast from the "No. 17 Explosives Factory" in southern Hamhung, is the Magunpo Rocket Engine Test Facility. Construction of the site began in 2013 and was completed by the end of 2014-early 2015. The focus of the facility is to test solid propellants, and the last test occurred in October 2017.

--Jacob Bogle, 5/17/2018

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