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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Updated 1905 KST to include additional details regarding plans to connect roads to the New Yalu River Bridge, as well as new images from KCTV
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently visited Sinuiju along the country’s border with China, state media reported Friday morning, ordering the building of high-rises, shops, and parks as well as a complete review of the city’s overall plan.
The most current plan for the city was shown in images released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), with Kim standing before a large 3D model of Sinuiju containing dozens of new modern towers along the Yalu (Amnok) River and elsewhere, as well as major development of large areas of currently empty land.
Also included in the blueprints of the city hung on the wall behind Kim and other local officials was a map appearing to show plans to finally connect the New Yalu River Bridge with North Korean roads.
Ordering the “sprucing up [of] Sinuiju City to meet the demand of the present era,” Kim said construction should center around the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il statues near the river, arranging “high-rise apartments and public buildings… along the main axis and arterial road of the city and the bank of the Amnok River in a formative artistic way.”
NK News revealed last week that the area between the statues and the river is the site of one of the more ornate of the new buildings, which has already reached advanced stages of construction.
The images of the Sinuiju model released by KCNA Friday reveal this building is circular in shape, suggesting only a few more floors are yet to be built according to the progress seen in early-November images of the structure.
Kim described Sinuiju a “gateway city of the country” in Friday’s report, with this circular tower appearing to be its main gate, overlooking the Yalu River Broken Bridge in Dandong – one of the Chinese city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Within Sinuiju, Kim reportedly also called for the building of a “theater, cinema, sports village, ice rink and sci-tech library and service facilities including hotel and department store.”
But he also ordered that the current master plan be reviewed, saying local officials should consult with “powerful design organs of the country” to come up with something better.
Officials “must submit a realistic, remapped plan within the span of a few months,” KCNA reported Kim as having ordered, which the “Party Central Committee would discuss and decide on the plan after going through relevant procedures.”
“The construction of the border city will be conducted year by year and phase by phase with the state backing after setting the goals of 5-year plan,” Kim reportedly added.
While the KCNA article did not mention plans to connect North Korean roads to the Chinese-built modern New Yalu River Bridge just to the west of South Sinuiju, blueprints for road plans are visible on the wall in the room Kim visited during his inspection.
New elements visible in the 3D model – which is subject to change with the newly submitted plan – include high-rises lining the banks of the Yalu river along the entire stretch of Sinuiju, a new stadium in the city’s western quarter, and a green park running through the city’s center.
In addition to explicitly requesting the building of high-rise apartments, Kim stressed the importance of building parks as part of the city’s “cultural environment,” saying Sinuiju should become known as a “city within a park.”
“He called for creating green belts near the city’s main road and around the industrial area to make sure that there are 50 square meters of green land per capita, and for building city park, botanical garden and recreation ground in a cozy and peculiar manner to suit the specific conditions of the local city,” KCNA reported.
Kim is also seeking the “remodeling the railway station of the city and Uiju Airport in a modern way” in addition to “sprucing up the present industrial areas.”
North Korean national carrier Air Koryo currently runs flight JS6101/6102 between Pyongyang and Uiju Airport, which, lying around 10 kilometers to the east of Sinuiju, is now not much more than an airfield and a small reception building.
The largest change to Sinuiju as seen in the model, however, lies in the two kilometer-long stretch of open land between the area closest the border and South Sinuiju (highlighted in red below), where it appears there are plans to build over 100 new structures.
But while some elements of the model appear to reflect reality, such as the circular building springing up on the river’s edge, other elements may be merely placeholders.
For example, the large new area highlighted above contains some familiar designs, such as a miniature version of the 70-floor spire-topped tower on Pyongyang’s Ryomyong Street.
A review of recent satellite imagery does not reveal any other large-scale construction underway in the city or surrounding areas, nor any signs of work to finally connect the New Yalu River Bridge with North Korean roads.
The latest professed plan for the city follows smaller-scale upgrades in recent years, including the building of a sports stadium in the eastern sector and a few new medium-sized apartment buildings.
Kim’s last visit to the Sinuiju area saw him inspect the Sinuiju Textile Mill and Sinuiju Chemical Fibre Mill, as well as Sindo and Pidan Island further to the west where the Yalu River meets the West Sea.
The North Korean leader’s inspection of the Sinuiju plan and calls for economic development and increasing the number of “local area construction projects” was reported on the front page of Friday’s Rodong Sinmun, with his overseeing of a new “ultramodern tactical weapon” test carried on page two.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCTV