Recent articles in North Korean media and satellite imagery indicate that large-scale upgrades to a vegetable cooperative farm near Pyongyang – which include swimming pools and a theater – were completed in recent months.
The Jangchon Cooperative farm, in the capital’s Sadong district, has been the focus of numerous articles by DRPK media, since Kim Jong Un ordered upgrades to the facility in 2014.
“(Kim Jong Un) set forth a task to build the farm into an exemplary farm and icon of greenhouse vegetable production when providing field guidance to the farm associated with the immortal history of leadership given by President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il in June last year,” a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) article published in June 2015.
A three-page spread in August’s edition of monthly magazine Pictorial Korea also shows images of the completed facility.
The upgrades extend to the adjoining rural town and consist of 130 residential houses and other more luxurious facilities.
“(A) hall of culture no inferior (sic) to an art theatre and Jangchon Health Complex with public amenity facilities including bathrooms, barber’s and beauty salon. There is also a volleyball court, swimming pool, roller rink and a park with a fish-breeding pond,” the Pictorial Korea article reads.
The town also includes a science and research center – complete with laboratories and a library – nurseries and schools.
Analysis of satellite imagery since the start of 2014 also shows the rapid pace of the completed construction. Since January last year the facility was photographed eight times, with each iteration indicating new development.
The imagery shows the construction of new greenhouses to the south of the existing facility, with North Korean media claiming a further 660 were added.
The upgrades to the complex to the west of the original greenhouses also progressed quickly throughout the year, with the health complex seemingly completed as early as May this year.
“This farm has gotten a lot of coverage in the North Korean media, and Kim Jong Un has visited many times. … It is also the DPRK-Libya Friendship Farm,” Curtis Melvin, of the US-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University told NK News.
“That pool is in a health complex, and they are renovating lots of health complexes across the country,” he added.
The photos also indicate that solar panels are among the new cooperative farm’s mod-cons. North Korea struggles to generate enough electricity even for consistent supplies to Pyongyang, with aging plants and harsh winters reducing hydro power output among the contributing factors.
In a possible response, solar panels have sprung up on everything from military bases, to individual and public buildings.
Visitors to the country have commented previously on a noticeable increase in the use of solar panels by residents in Pyongyang, which were reportedly purchased at local markets.
According to another KCNA article on improving energy supplies in North Korea using renewable energy,the Jangchon Co-op Farm is part of this trend.
”Wind and solar generators were installed at the Jangchon Vegetable Co-op Farm in Sadong District, Pyongyang,” the article, published this month reads.
However, while helpful, it’s unlikely solar will have too much of an impact on either the large and small scale energy problems in the DPRK, but may improve the reliability of low power devices.
“One thing to be remembered is that these panels, paired with batteries and LED lights and other low-power-consumption devices, such as DVD players, small TVs, probably military communications equipment, etc, are likely providing very important energy services that are very poorly served when grid electricity is unreliable,” David Von Hippel at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability told NK News.
MODEL BEHAVIOR, A MODEL TOWN
The newly upgraded facility is not the only model farm in the DPRK. There are numerous similar facilities scattered throughout the country.
The photos from North Korean media and satellite imagery however indicate the new Junchang Farm is now the most well equipped.
Recent satellite photos from the Chonsam and Tongbong cooperative farms – which are relatively far from the capital – appear to show more basic facilities.
The KCNA article published last year indicates the farm’s function was to grow vegetables for citizens of Pyongyang, not an unimportant distinction, according to Andrei Lankov of Seoul’s Kookmin University.
“It is an old Soviet approach, from the Stalin era: to choose one or two or three facilities as ‘models,’ to invest heavily into such models, and then to show these models to the local and foreign visitors, so they can admire the prosperity and happiness,” Lankov said.
The benefits and upgrades might not trickle down to North Korea’s other farms however.
“Of course, it was fantasyland. It was officially assumed that in due time all other facilities will reach the level of models, but in real life this was done largely fro propaganda purposes. The choice of particular co-ops was dictated by location and luck. In the case Janchchon … the proximity to Pyongyang is important,” he added.
In another sign of the facilities domestic import, the farm was on the itinerary for a recently visiting delegation of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), along with more common fixtures for delegations such as International Friendship Exhibition House and the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum.
A Jangchon worker at the farm was also recently quoted amid the recent North-South tensions, calling Kim Jong Un, “the iron-willed brilliant commander.”
The Jangchong Vegetable Farm is just one of numerous large scale construction projects in the Pyongyang area. In addition the newly completed airport terminal, work is also underway on a large science and technology complex in Ssuk Islet in the Taedong River.
According to satellite imagery the complex will eventually be in the shape of an atom with orbiting electrons.
Featured image: Pictorial Korea
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 1006 words of this article.