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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently expressed disappointment in the way building plans were taking shape at the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area construction site, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Thursday.
The remarks were made during an official on-site inspection of the site, just days after a visit to another of the country’s main construction projects in Samjiyon earlier this week.
Kim’s visit to another nearby tourist zone, the “Yangdok Hot Spring Tourist, was also reported by KCNA Thursday morning.
At the east coast Wonsan site – which the latest official photos show has recently seen dozens of hotels and other large buildings reach advanced framing stages – Kim stressed concerns over the “harmony” of the layout, urged better planning, and suggested new, previously unreported additions.
The article said that after studying the construction plans extensively, Kim “found that the whole street was not perfect in the artistic aspect,” adding that “only the formative artistic quality of each building is stressed.”
“The artistic reciprocity, compatibility and connectivity among the buildings were not flexible, and high and low buildings were not combined in a harmonious way,” he said.
Kim said the project could only “have its peculiar character and charm… when buildings of many different forms and scales are arranged in a harmonious way and their artistic reciprocity is ensured.”
He also expressed concerns over working conditions and preparedness at the site, saying a “labor safety policy and policy for preventing all kinds of work accidents must all be made,” and that “material procurement policies must be strengthened according to advanced plans.”
As for new additions to the project, Kim reportedly called for building more game arcades, movie theaters, a stadium, water park, and funfair “in the vast area between the coastal line and the airport.”
He also reiterated demands for the construction of “more hotels and inns with over 30 floors” first mentioned during his August inspection of the site.
In addition, he reportedly asked officials “to arrange an office building” to house various party and security agencies “as a high-rise building near the coastal area so that they can become part of the street.”
Tall towers were also once part of a different large-scale construction project in Wonsan city and even another project near Kalma, which both appear to have been scrapped in favor of the beachside project started earlier this year.
Regarding the zone’s transportation, Kim requested that officials study new forms of public transport and rebuild Kalma Station, and for “a huge parking place” to be built in the tourist zone.
Similar to statements made during inspections in August, Kim linked progress on the Wonsan-Kalma project to the country’s determination to develop despite international economic sanctions.
He called the projected success of the beach resort an “on-target impact on hostile forces and is precisely a decisive battle for safeguarding the authority of the Party.”
Kim also again directly criticized the measures, saying “the hostile forces are foolishly keen on vicious sanctions” and that “they will be made to clearly see over time how our country, that has built its strength hundreds of times defying hardship, build its own country as a powerful nation by its own strength, technology and efforts.”
Photos released Thursday show most buildings nearing their final shapes but still as bare concrete frames, without windows, and with interior and exterior work stages yet to begin – though a few buildings have already been fitted with neon lights atop their roofs.
The long beachside park, with small walls and structures as well as landscaping, appears in a more advanced stage.
Thursday’s report repeated the October 10, 2019 deadline for the project’s completion, first announced during Kim’s previous visit in August.
The project was initially slated to be completed by next April.
Kim also ordered the October 10 date be the deadline for another tourist zone halfway between Wonsan and the capital Pyongyang: the Yangdok Hot Spring Tourist Area, despite it still being in the planning stages during his on-site inspection this week.
He reportedly “set forth specific tasks for finishing the foundation work by the end of this year,” with photos from the visit showing a planning board including at least 100 new structures, but only few small buildings and a field of stacked bricks on site at present.
The Hot Spring Tourist Area would, like Wonsan-Kalma, be built “for the cultural and emotional life of the people,” Kim said, suggesting that the destination would primarily be for domestic tourists.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA