Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Target Panmunjom

North Korea's asymmetric and urban warfare training capabilities have been the center of intense focus by Kim Jong Un. Nearly every MOUNT (military on urban terrain) facility in the country has been enlarged or upgraded and multiple new sites have been constructed since his rule began.

The post-training ruins of the replica Blue House, constructed near Pyongyang in 2016. 

The country already has a history of constructing mock ups of important buildings like, South Korea's Blue House and defense headquarters. North Korean special forces blew up the mock Blue House during a training exercise in 2016, and in 2017 a replica of South Korea's Gyeryong military services headquarters was spotted at another MOUNT facility near the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Now, a third famous site can be added to the list: Panmunjom.

Gyeryong replica building as seen in September 2018.

Panmunjom (aka Truce Village, aka Joint Security Area) is a small collection of buildings that straddle the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and is the only place where soldiers from both sides stand face-to-face. If you've ever visited the DMZ, you were undoubtedly taken here. The site was the location of the 1953 Armistice signing and has hosted many diplomatic and military negotiations over the years. While Panmunjom was the site of the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, which marked the first time a North Korean leader stepped foot into South Korea since the Korea War.

The real Panmunjom is located less than 11 km from the North Korean city of Kaesong. The copy is also near Kaesong, a mere 7 km to the northwest, close to the village of Haeson. The copy is built at a small military training base that was constructed around 2006 and has had incremental changes over the years.

Locations of the two Panmunjom's in relation to Kaesong. 2019 Google Earth image, annotated by Jacob Bogle.

The first satellite evidence of the site is dated Nov. 29, 2017. Well before the Inter-Korean Summit which happened in April 2018. Curiously, on Nov. 13, 2017, a North Korean soldier defected the country and fled to South Korea via Panmunjom. The layout of the site doesn't perfectly match the real place, but there are plenty of similarities - most notably the design of Freedom House and the facade of the Phanmun Pavilion.


The purpose of this mock facility can only be guessed at, but it's possible it was a rushed construction to give border guards more accurate training to deal with any possible future defections. It could also serve diplomatic causes by giving dignitaries a place to do trial runs and walk through's prior to visiting the real place. However, the fact remains that it was constructed at a military base and during a time when the Kim regime was enjoying blowing up other important locations. This leads me to believe that there is likely a military purpose for it as well as any theoretical peaceful mission.



--Jacob Bogle, 4/2/2019
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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Monuments of North Korea

Murals of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at Jangdae Hill, Pyongyang. (Image source: Commons/Nicor/CC 3.0)

Monuments usually mark the place of an important event or memorialize important historical figures. But they can also be used to to enforce the ruling regime. Through murals of the gentle leader playing with children (subtly suggesting the regime controls all ages) to massive monuments declaring the absolute power of the party and state, North Korea uses monuments physically stamp its control across the country.

However, they're more than just symbols of authority with little part in people's everyday lives. Monuments play a central role in ordering society and maintaining control. Wedding photos are taken next to them, locals are required to pay homage to the Kim's at the monuments on holidays and at other times, and their display and proper upkeep (which is required by law) helps to demonstrate loyalty - which in turn can assist in a town or factory in receiving favors from the government.

Various estimates place the number of monuments at up to 34,000. However, the 2017 AccessDPRK Mapping Project, using Google Earth, has established that there is only a fraction of that total in reality. It located 9,896 individual monuments. In 2018 I resurveyed all of those monuments (spending roughly 150 hours on the project). As part of the survey, I classified them by type and was able to located additional monuments. Despite that, I still cannot substantiate the 34,000 estimate and I feel the 2018 survey places restrictions on the maximum number of monuments (it is greater than 10,000, but will not be higher than 15,000, even considering any others I may have possibly missed). With this in consideration, the only realistic interpretation of the 34,000 figure is that it represents the total number of monuments ever constructed, which would include those that have since been demolished, includes memorial plaques (such as on a chair Kim Il Sung may have sat on), or was simply largely based on anecdotal evidence that led to an incorrect figure.

The 2018 review found 11,170 monuments (an increase of  1,274). This increase in number over the original 2017 map can largely be attributed to the erection of new monuments and updated satellite imagery which made seeing them more easy. Regarding new statues in the context of Kim Jong Un, all joint statues and murals of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are "new" in that they were constructed under the rule of Kim Jong Un. In the new file, I have also pointed out selected other monuments that have been erected since he came to power. In total, there have been at least 410 monuments constructed since 2011.

For this article, I am only focusing on permanent monuments that are made out of stone or metal. There may be upwards of 1,000 propaganda signs, but many are often transient and may be left to deteriorate. Additionally, there are countless wooden signs placed in fields, at construction sites, and other places which promote whatever propaganda theme is being pushed at the time. These signs are likewise often temporary.

To directly download the Google Earth KMZ file, click here. (You must have GE to access the data.)


Monument Types and Identification

North Korea's monuments can be broken down into six main categories: Towers of Immortality, statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, murals of the two Kims, general murals (may feature the Kims, images of daily life, nature, etc.), general monuments and statues (monuments to an event, ones carrying slogans or sayings, non-Kim statues), and large monuments (such as the Juche Tower).
Slogan signs, general murals, and other such monuments all fall within a broader system of generalized monuments and so I haven't given each general monument its own classification label. A key reason for this is the fact that many are small and any detailed identification via satellite is basically impossible. So I have focused on breaking down the monuments into the following major categories: Towers, Kim statues, Kim murals, large monuments, and "others" (which encompasses everything else).

Tower of Immortality on Sungri Street, Pyongyang. (Image source: Commons/Nicor/CC 3.0)

From satellite imagery, Towers look like this

This is the primary Tower of Immortality and is located in Pyongyang.

Towers located in towns and elsewhere, such as in this example, will have a more simple appearance and will be smaller.


This is the Mansudae Grand Monument which features giant bronze statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. While these are the largest statues in the country, smaller statues of the Kim's exist in each provincial capital and at some major institutions.

This is the site as seen on Google Earth.


Murals of Kim Il Sun and Kim Jong Il at Jangdae, Pyongyang. (Image Source: Commons/Nicor/3.0).

From satellite, the murals look like this


Many murals are placed at schools, universities, and factories, and because they are relatively thin (as seen from above), it can be hard to locate them as they may blend in with trees or building facades.

Joint KIS-KJI murals are all labeled within the KMZ file "Others". However it also includes all additional murals, which can have a wide range of images painted on them, as well as slogan monuments, which are typically the smallest kind and has various quotes from the leadership and Party, and larger monuments like the monument to the foundation of Korean Worker's Party and Juche Tower.

This is an example of an institution that has multiple types of monuments around the grounds.

Air Defense and Combat Command, Pyongyang. Base image by Google Earth with annotations by AccessDPRK.com.



Distribution

As a general rule, there's one joint statue of the deceased Kim's in each provincial capital and one joint mural in each county seat. Towers of Immortality are placed in every city, town, and village of note, as well as universities and major factories. In most cases, military bases will not have a monument, but some key military schools, headquarter facilities, and other important bases will have at least one monument.



Final Numbers

North Korea has at least 11,170 monuments, a 13% increase from the 2017 file. Of those, 5,175 are Towers, 29 are joint statues of Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il (KIS-KJI), 265 are KIS-KJI joint murals, and 5,701 are various other monuments. While I did not attempt to locate every monument erected since Kim Jong Un came into power, I did determine that there are at least 145 of them (representing 1.3% of the total number of monuments in the country). This doesn't include the joint murals, all of which were erected after the death of Kim Jong Il (usually in the place of the single murals of Kim Il Sung that existed prior). If you take those into consideration, then at least 410 monuments are new.

Breakdown by Province

Chagang has 657 total monuments. Of those, there are 346 Towers, 1 is a KIS-KJI statue, and 16 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 294 monuments of various types.

N. Hamgyong has 864 total monuments. Of those, 463 are Towers, 1 is a KIS-KJI statue, and 19 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 381 monuments of various types. There is also an example of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 7 other examples of new monuments (built in 2009 or later)

S. Hamgyong has 1,295 total monuments. Of those, 690 are Towers, 1 is a KIS-KJI statue, and 26 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 578 monuments of various types. There are also 7 example of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 12 other examples of new monuments (built in 2009 or later)

N. Hwanghae has 1,265 total monuments. Of those, 568 are Towers, 3 are KIS-KJI statues, and 25 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 669 monuments of various types. There are also 6 examples of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 16 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

S. Hwanghae has 1,254 total monuments. Of those, 667 are Towers, 2 are KIS-KJI statues, and 24 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 561 monuments of various types. There are also 9 examples of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 22 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

Kangwon has a total of 1,073 total monuments. Of those, 444 are Towers, 2 are KIS-KJI statues, and 16 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 611 monuments of various types. There are also 3 examples of demolished monuments (not included in the overall counts).
There are 23 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

N. Pyongan has 1,252 total monuments. Of those, 637 are Towers, 2 are KIS-KJI statues, and 39 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 574 monuments of various types. There is also an example of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 9 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

S. Pyongan has 1,497 total monuments. Of those, 673 are Towers, 4 are KIS-KJI statues, and 54 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 766 monuments of various types. There are also 10 examples of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 32 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

Pyongyang has 1,473 total monuments. Of those, 449 are Towers, 11 are KIS-KJI statues, and 21 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 992 monuments of various types. There is also an example of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).
There are 20 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

Rason has 109 total monuments. Of those, there are 33 Towers, 1 is a KIS-KJI statue, and 2 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 73 monuments of various types. There are also 3 examples of a demolished monument (not included in the overall counts).

Ryanggang has 431 total monuments. Of those, 205 are Towers, 1 is a KIS-KJI statue, and 23 are KIS-KJI murals. There are an additional 226 monuments of various types.
There are 4 other examples of new monuments (built in 2011 or later)

Below shows the ratios of monuments to population.
The population figures are based on the 2008 national census. The annual population growth rate between 1993 and 2008 was 0.84%. That period included a major famine and economic collapse. To estimate current populations, I am going to use growth rate of 10% for the 2008-2018 period, as the economy and food supply situation has improved.

Chagang - 1,429,813 / 657 monuments = 1:2180
N. Hamgyong - 2,560,098 / 864 monuments = 1:2963
S. Hamgyong - 3,372,614 / 1,295 monuments = 1:2604
N. Hwanghae - 2,325,039 /  1,265 monuments = 1:1837
S. Hwanghae - 2,541,533 / 1,254 monuments = 1:2026
Kangwon - 1,625,340 / 1,073 monuments = 1:1514
N. Pyongan - 3,001,528 / 1,252 monuments = 1:2397
S. Pyongan - 4,456,865 / 1,491 monuments = 1:2989
Pyongyang - 3,580,816 / 1,473 monuments = 1:2431
Rason - 216,649  /  108 monuments = 1:2006
Ryanggang - 791,195 / 431 monuments = 1:1835
National population - 25,901,490 / 11,170 monuments = 1:2318


To directly download the Google Earth KML file, click here. (You must have Google Earth to access the information.)
Remember, this file has over 11,000 places marked. The file is broken down by province, so in order to not slow down your computer, click on the province you're interested in, or to view the full file, click on each province one at a time.


Additional Reading
1. The Price of the Cult of Kim, by Jacob Bogle, AccessDPRK (2017)
2. North Korean Cult of Personality, Wikipedia


--Jacob Bogle. 2/27/2019
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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New Ichon Military Base

The town of Ichon, Kangwon Province is located a mere 20 miles from the DMZ, and 5 miles east of the town, new facilities have been popping up in the hills of the Kŏnsŏl-li valley.

Click on any image for a larger view.


Based on open-source satellite imagery, construction began in 2015 and lasted until late 2017. It includes bunkers, storage sites, and housing facilities.

The below image shows the locations of all of the bunkers, storage sites, and some other features.


This military base is of brigade size and likely plays a role in the production and storage of various munitions.

This 2013 image shows the two small valleys where most of the sites are located prior to any construction.

This 2017 image shows the area after construction, with multiple new buildings and 23 new housing units.

This 2016 image shows various bunkers under construction. The base has 8 (possibly 9) bunkers, two hardened structures, and at least one underground site.

The existence of protective berms between many of the buildings, and the presence of storage facilities suggest that this base is used in the manufacture and/or development of ammunition. There is no apparent testing range, so it is unlikely that this is some kind of training base, which would also require ammunition storage.


This new addition may help support other military units in the area. Specific details about this site are sparse, however, it ties into the previous article I wrote on the continued growth of North Korea's conventional forces despite sanctions and talks of peace.


--Jacob Bogle, 1/23/2019
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Kim's Army Marches On


Much attention has been paid to North Korea's nuclear weapons, and the focus of recent talks and summits has been to get the country to give them up. However, little to no attention has been given to their conventional military forces which is among the world's largest. With a million men and women currently under arms, nearly 6 million citizens belonging to paramilitary organizations, 200,000 special forces personnel, 1,600 air defense sites, over 800 underground locations, 700 hardened artillery sites, and thousands of tons worth of chemical and biological weapons, North Korea's conventional military remains an extremely deadly force despite the outdated nature of its equipment.

Kim Jong Un has not only accomplished North Korea's long-standing goal of developing functional nuclear weapons and the capacity to launch them at the US through their ICBM program, but he has poured millions of dollars into modernizing the country's conventional forces. This modernization program includes the construction of entirely new bases, the expansion of existing ones, and there has been a large focus on specialized warfare centers like hovercraft bases and military on urban terrain (MOUNT) facilities. An important take away in the face of denuclearization talks is that all of this activity has been happening since Kim took power and it continues to this very day. This article will examine five examples of this to show that Kim's army is marching right along.

Click on any image for a larger view.


Kyongsong Air Base Reconstruction

Under Kim Jong Un, several changes to the country's air force bases and airports have been observed, and I have tried keeping you up-to-date with these changes (see Rockets and Runways and NK's Air Force). However, the changes to the Kyongsong Airbase is one of the most extreme cases of modernization since Wonsan's Kalma Airport was reconstructed at a cost of $200 million.

Kyongsong in August 2018 before any construction has begun.

By October 2018, the entire airbase had been razed and new facilities are under construction. 

Kyongsong isn't expected to cost such a grand sum, but the complete reconstruction of the runway and administrative area is a major recent change to the country's military infrastructure. Kyongsong is subordinate to the 8th Transport Division and is the home of an officer's training school. The school, located to the north of the base, isn't currently undergoing any major changes.


New Urban Warfare Base

One of North Korea's newest MOUNT facilities is located 21 km northwest of Haeju. I have written about these facilities before, but this is a large base, was constructed within the last two years, and is located in an area with several other military training bases that have also undergone expansion.

2017 satellite image of the MOUNT facility's location before its construction.

The MOUNT facility after its construction. It has three sets of mock buildings used in training activities.

A close-up of the mock buildings constructed at the site and another training course.

The continued construction of MOUNT facilities, some small and some large like Haeju's, points to the regime's commitment to asymmetric warfare and their dedication to the long-standing policy of supporting the forced reunification of the peninsula under Kim family rule.


New Hovercraft Base

Yonbong is a hovercraft base under construction that places North Korean military assets within 30 miles of South Korean territory. Located near the city of Songang, South Hwanghae Province, construction of the base began in 2014 and is ongoing. The hovercraft shelters are dispersed around small sea inlets and are built into the sides of low hills, which provides greater protection for the site. According to Joseph Bermudez, this is one of the most forward deployed naval sites North Korea has. While it may take some time before the base is completed, once it is, it will represent a great danger to South Korean islands in the region and to marine traffic.

Yonbong facilities under construction in 2015.

This image shows multiple years of work at the base, including work done in 2018 which was close to the Kim-Trump summit and despite North Korea's apparent "good behavior" of not testing missiles since 2017.

A close-up of the different groups of hovercraft bays.

The construction of this new base has been happening at the same time as several other facilities and while the Muncho Naval Base has undergone major upgrades. Munchon, located near the east coastal city of Wonsan, is home to Korean People's Navy units 155, 597, and 291 and houses a large number of hovercraft. Additionally, Kim Jong Un has ordered an increase in the production of high-speed torpedo boats. North Korea currently has over 200 such boats.
The combined effect of all of this is the heightened capabilities of North Korea to launch rapid attacks against South Korea and to defend their own borders against any Western allied invasion, thus it poses a risk to American forces in such an event.


ICBM Bases Activity

North Korea has an estimated 20 missile bases. Of those, 13 have been positively identified, and one of them shows substantial recent activity (despite wrongly reported claims that North Korea agreed to halt production of their missiles).

The base is Yeongjon-do, located near the Chinese border. Known about for decades, previously unidentified construction has been located at the site and may be a second headquarters facility for an annex of the expanded base.

This 2004 image of the older, core base shows five tunnels and two "drive-thru" bunkers where mobile missile launchers could be loaded and deployed. Image from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).

The area of concern lies 7 miles away.

This 2018 image shows the new "headquarters" which was originally constructed in 2014. Image from CNS.

Additional activity shows the ongoing construction of a large underground facility.

This comparison image shows the growth of a spoil pile (discarded soil and rock) from the excavation of the underground site. Image from CNS.

North Korea maintains over 800 underground facilities and tunnels which include sites to protect factories, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, missiles, and other important equipment. Based on the images, construction progress has sped up significantly since 2017. Its exact purpose is unknown to the public, but private sector analysts and intelligence agencies are carefully watching the area.

(Side note: I would like to say that while I had marked new housing construction associated with this  area years ago as part of AccessDPRK, I did not identify it as a missile base.)


New Surface-to-Air Missile Base

Based on an AccessDPRK review of military sites in 2018, North Korea has 58 verified SAM (surface-to-air) locations (with a further three that may actually be dummy sites). This new site may be the 59th, although more recent satellite imagery once the site is completed will likely be needed for a positive identification.



North Korea has been working to deploy their version of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system, the KN-06. The KN-06 has a range of 150 km and is vehicle based, unlike their older SAM systems which are launched from dedicated SAM bases. However, the KN-06 can be stored in hardened bunkers until needed as well as kept mobile to avoid detection.

This new site is located within the main SAM belt that runs the length of the DMZ and it is placed near major cities and military bases that would need aerial defense. Its general design also somewhat differs from older, more conventional SAM facilities which makes me think it may be a kind "shelter site" (North Korea houses thousands of different missiles and various other equipment in bunkers across the country).  


Conclusion

Relations between North Korea and the US and South Korea have definitely changed since 2016. But despite the current rapprochement with South Korea and photo-op summits with President Trump, their suspension of nuclear tests, and all of the claims coming from the Trump administration of denuclearization and even hints at general disarmament, the fact remains that North Korea's conventional military is marching right on with no signs of slowing down. These examples show that nearly every other non-nuclear branch of their military is continuing to be developed and countless millions are being poured into modernization schemes.

North Korea may have halted the development of new nuclear technology, but their current nuclear and ballistic technology is already more than capable of inflicting great harm on the US and our allies. And regardless of any nuclear halt, Kim Jong Un's army, navy, and air force are even more capable and adaptable today than it was two years ago.


--Jacob Bogle, 1/17/2018
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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

AccessDPRK in 2018


Here's what happened with #AccessDPRK in 2018.

For every large article or big mapping project, I try to mix in several smaller ones to continue to the goal of exposing North Korea and keeping my readers interested. This year was no different, however, I made the choice to focus more on those bigger items.
In 2018 I made eleven posts to this blog (making for 70 posts overall). Three of those this year included either a release of information via Google Earth files or an explorable Google Map. And when you make room for the various images included, these eleven posts represent 85 pages of printable material.

The two largest projects I began this year involves the military and the country's monuments.
The military project can be divided into two smaller, yet still large in themselves, projects. The first is a complete re-mapping of North Korea's military sites and re-organizing of my file system within Google Earth. I am wanting to take a much more granular look them to provide ever greater levels of detail. While this project will take some time to complete, I have already made over 500 additions to what was included in the Phase II map, and made hundreds of additional changes to the original material as well.
The second part of the "military project" involves the country's air defense sites. The current, non-public map that I now have has even more locations identified and updates those older ones that may have become decommissioned, upgraded, or otherwise changed since 2016/2017. Without giving too much away, I am working on a new map specifically for this subject and it will help to give greater-detailed answers to certain questions that are out there.

The second major project is also re-mapping the whole country, this time, in regard to the vast numbers of monuments. I have also broken them down into a few specific categories that will be of use to others. One reason I decided to do this is to help resolve a discrepancy between my own findings and the often quoted estimations of others on the number of monuments around the country. It will also give a general idea as to how many new monuments Kim Jong Un has constructed, and offer insights into the amount of effort and money still being dumped in the personality cult at the expense of other sectors.
I have completed the mapping portion. Now all I have left to do is write my report on it and publish the KML file, so that will definitely become available in 2019.

In terms of social media, it's been a fun year. Traffic to the blog for 2018 was over 600% higher than the first year of having it. I made over 80 Tweets about North Korea that was connected to #AccessDPRK and those garnered over 200,000 impressions.

Here was 2018's top Tweet.



I'm also proud to say that a GIS company reached out to me for some assistance with one of their projects earlier in the year, and I was able to give it. Additionally, I discovered that the RAND Corporation used parts of the Phase II map to help create their 2018 report, The Korean Peninsula: Three Dangerous Scenarios. It's always exciting to me when I see things being of use to others (when proper credit is given, of course, which is was by RAND).

I have still been considering setting up a Patreon page, as I first discussed last year. Well, I've already set it up (not published) but I haven't quite figured out what direction I want to go with it (either to allow people to donate monthly or per article. What kind of rewards to offer, etc.) But considering the amount of time some of these things take (over 150 hours just on monuments), I don't think it's the right way to go to shoulder the full burden of research, buying new books/articles, up-keeping domains, etc. without some support from those most interested. Life does get the way at times, and having some added income would help speed things up and allow me to produce more content.

Here's looking forward to another year of shedding light on the Hermit Kingdom!


--Jacob Bogle, 1/1/2019
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