North Korea has celebrated the completion of leader Kim Jong-un’s signature construction project, a new city near the sacred mountain where his family claims its roots, with state media on Tuesday calling it the “epitome of modern civilisation”.
A massive celebration involving fireworks was held at the city near Mount Paektu on Monday, the official KCNA news agency said. Newspaper the Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece for the ruling party, ran photos showing Kim smiling as he cut a ribbon at the ceremony, and buildings covered in snow.
The city, named Samjiyon, is envisaged as a “socialist utopia” with new apartments, hotels, a ski resort and commercial, cultural and medical facilities, it reported.
KCNA said it could accommodate 4,000 families and had 380 blocks of public and industrial buildings spanning “hundreds of hectares”.
The city is one of the largest economic initiatives Kim has launched as part of his drive for a self-reliant economy, but its construction was delayed, chiefly by shortages in construction materials and labour as a result of international sanctions imposed to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
The delays prompted the Kim regime to mobilise youth labour brigades, which defectors and human rights activists have likened to “slave labour” because they receive no pay, poor food and are forced to work more than 12 hours a day for up to 10 years in return for a better chance of entering a university or joining the all powerful Workers’ party.