Over 4800 students from more than 110 universities across North Korea are spending their summer vacations at work on the marquee construction project in Samjiyon, ruling party daily the Rodong Sinmun reported this week.
Students from some of North Korea’s most prestigious universities “dedicated their summer holidays” to lend assistance on the building site, the report said.
“At the construction sites of the Samjiyon Children’s Camp, the Millim Health Complex and others, members of students’ shock brigade carried over 1 300 cubic meters of sand, fine gravel and pumice sand and other building materials to the construction sites,” it continued.
They also “removed and excavated thousands of cubic meters of earth on the first day of their work.”
Students from Pyongyang’s Kim Chaek University of Technology and other higher education institutions based in the DPRK capital were also involved in tough manual labor, the report continued.
State media said they had “wound up hundreds of cubic meters of concrete tamping and arranged a thousand and several hundreds of square meters of area in five days.”
A group of students from Wonsan’s Jong Jun Thaek University of Economics and University of Fisheries, in turn, were reported to have “dug out hundreds of cubic meters of earth.”
They also “paved a 200 meters-long principal road with concrete by collecting large amounts of building materials,” it added.
Other students were said to be providing “agitation and band music performances at construction sites” and “rendered lots of aid materials to builders,” as well as taking “warm care of the living of war veterans and disabled soldiers in the township of the county.”
The Samjiyon project, which is expected to be completed by October 2020, is politically significant, given the area’s proximity to the “sacred” Paektu Mountain and the purported birthplace of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The reports come on the heels of a visit to the site last week by North Korean Premier Kim Jae Ryong, who was last Friday said to have toured the area and reviewed progress.
“He gave a pep talk to builders who are making positive efforts to complete the construction projects prioritized by the Party within the period set by it,” KCNA said.
It’s unclear, however, how many hours the students are working or in what kind of conditions the work is being carried out.
State media reports this week echoed similar coverage of volunteer construction activities at Samjiyon in January, when the Rodong reported that “thousands” of North Korean students were spending their winter holidays at work in the town.
The work, which took place in sub-zero conditions, was being undertaken “voluntarily,” the Rodong claimed, and was motivated by a desire to “actively help toward renovating” the area.
And while state media has largely emphasized that the site’s primary labor force is drawn from the military, NK News‘s sister site NK Pro previously reported on imagery that revealed that civilians had been put to work digging foundations for new buildings by hand.
According to a source at the time, the work for people at the site typically lasted between 0800 and 2000, with what appeared to be a mass rally or political event taking place locally at the end of the day until 2200.
Edited by Colin Zwirko
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun