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View more articles by JH Ahn
JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
Update March 29, Korea: Picture provided by KCTV, the only picture with the exterior of the new Mirae Shop in it, showed striking resemblance to the building which the article claimed as the new Mirae Shop.
North Korea has finished the construction of the Mirae Shop and Health Complex building in Pyongyang, the state-run media Rodong Sinmun reported on Monday.
From neckties to wide computer screens, state media displayed the inside of the newly constructed Mirae Shop filled with a variety of goods. The paper said the complex has a built-in public bathhouse, swimming pool and barber shops to be opened less than a month from now.
“The new Mirae Shop is built bigger than the previous Mirae Shop and has set the example of being a convenient and aesthetically built modern shop,” Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying by the Rodong Sinmun.
“I am delighted to see cosmetics, daily necessities, electronics, groceries and many other high-quality products that are made by North Koreans’ own hands,” Kim said. “Get ready to open the shops on the Day of the Sun (April 15, national founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday).”
The exact location of the shops were not given by the media, but the Rodong Sinmun said the shops have been built alongside the Potong River, that they consist of two virtually identical separate buildings – one called Mirae Shop and the other the Health Complex – and are bigger than the previous Mirae Shop which opened in 2012.
The pictures of the exterior of new buildings were not provided, but the article wrote that the new buildings look “dandy,” “stylish” and “modern.”
The only two identical buildings that matched the article’s descriptions can be seen on Google Earth’s most recent satellite imagery, taken last August.
Assuming they are the right buildings, interior and exterior construction of the two large department stores was completed within two years.
Referred to as “Pyongyang Speed,” the emphasis on speedy construction was re-stated in North Korea around the time of the completion of Mirae Scientists Street, last November. Previously, state media claimed the construction of the whole street took “less than a year.”
A South Korean engineering professor said, on condition of anonymity, that the construction of two separate store buildings – as shown on Google Earth – is possible thanks to modern construction methods.
Construction of these buildings could also mean that Pyongyang residents will have at least five separate luxurious stores – the new Mirae Shop, the Health Complex, the old Mirae Shop, Mansugyo Meat and Fish Shop and Mansugyo Soft Drink Restaurant – within a small area.
“It is not surprising that Pyongyang residents’ purchasing power has increased over the years,” said Lee Jong-kyu, the researcher from Korea Development Institute.
Lee said this could be Kim Jong Un’s continuing effort from last year, to develop the domestic economy as an alternative way of absorbing locals’ foreign currency.
“The North Korean imports from China has significantly dropped since last year, with Kim emphasizing ‘localization’ and depending less on foreign products. These two new stores can be seen as his efforts to improve the domestic economy,” said Lee.
Featured image: KCTV, Google Earth