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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
A large high-rise apartment fitted with an elevator access control system is under development in Pyongyang’s Central District, a photo obtained by NK News and taken in February shows.
A panel, spotted in the center of the DPRK capital, claims the apartment is being constructed “in a contemporary manner” and guarantees the “highest-quality” construction.
“We guarantee the effect of waterproofing and heat-reserving to the maximum by installing the highest-quality insulated windows with wooden pattern (two-layer glass) at the veranda,” the standing panel reads.
The ground plan says the apartment will be equipped with what appears to be an elevator access control system for additional security.
“By installing the ultrahigh-speed elevator (card-type) with the system of guaranteeing the electricity using solar energy, we will construct the apartment which ensures convenience,” it reads, without providing further details.
North Korea watchers in Seoul said that the installation of an elevator with a card access system appears to be part of a new trend in Pyongyang construction.
Joung Eun-lee, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), suggested that the technology may have come from China.
“My understanding is North Koreans who visit China would have adopted the format after observing it there,” Joung told NK News, citing the increase in trade between Beijing and Pyongyang, growth of markets in the DPRK, and the rapid development of the capital’s construction business.
Dongwoo Yim, the author of several books on North Korean architecture and curator of a recent exhibition on Pyongyang apartments, said the elevator security was “quite a new format.”
“It is also interesting to see that the advertisement for the apartment is explicitly displayed with the phrases promoting [the construction],” Yim told NK News.
The apartments will measure around 180 square meters, excluding the veranda, and will be built in the Taedongmun-dong in the Central District of Pyongyang, according to the February photo.
Kim Young-hee, team head of the North Korean Economy Department at the Korea Development Bank (KDB), said that social and economic changes in the DPRK were likely spurring the development.
“The recent trend is that people with money are moving to new spacious and well-located apartments,” Kim told NK News, explaining that a large number of party officers reside in the central district of Pyongyang.
Builders in the DPRK often gain funds for the projects through pre-construction deals with those interested in living in the apartments, Kim added, with wealthy Pyongyangites providing up-front investments.
KINU’s Joung said prospective customers include wealthy party officials, who often invest in real estate markets and accumulate foreign currency by exporting goods and minerals to China.
And though the growth of spacious apartments was indicative of improving living standards in the DPRK, she added, it is not likely to be a nationwide trend and reserved for the country’s elites.
Yim, however, said that the construction of apartments ranging in size from 165 to 195 square meters had previously been seen on Pyongyang’s Ryomyong and Mirae Scientists streets.
“The interesting fact is that only one restroom exists,” he said, adding the cost of constructive the restroom was likely “very expensive due to plumbing.”
Location of the planned construction in central Pyongyang
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: NK News