Since Kim Jong Un came to power following the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011, North Korea has seen a significant uptick in construction.
While government investment has on the one hand focused on the completion of colossal prestige projects like Ryomyong Street, Mirae Street, and the Masik Ryong Ski Resort, on the other hand scores and scores of much smaller building projects have been rising throughout the country.
From new apartment blocks in once decrepit parts of Pyongyang, to new shopping mall ‘service centers’ on the banks of the Taedong River, construction efforts remain brisk in Pyongyang, July photos seen by NK News show, despite the recent completion of construction at the landmark Ryomyong Street in April.
And a lack of tell-tale military propaganda on the sides of some of these new projects suggests private investment could be funding some of Pyongyang’s ongoing construction projects, it appears.
But what does the non-stop construction program that we can see in Pyongyang – and further flung cities like Wonsan, Chongjin and Rason– actually mean?
While some observers say construction projects must mean that sanctions are not working, it’s important to recall that building in the DPRK costs significantly less than in the West.
With tens of thousands of soldier builders available, dredging teams generating almost infinite supplies of sand on a daily basis, and factories nationwide capable of manufacturing cheap glass for windows and cladding for walls, the ongoing rise of new buildings throughout the country might not actually be as telling as some observers think.
Nevertheless, the city remains littered with abandoned construction projects, a sign that despite the low costs, the perils of North Korean investment can be too much for even the best laid plans.
But whatever is the case, the general direction of movement suggests that the skyline of Pyongyang – and other cities, too – looks set to continue changing for many years more.