Samjiyon: North Korea Unveils Newly-Reconstructed “Utopia” Town
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has cut the red ribbon at the new town, Samjiyon, near Mount Paektu.
The North Korean media called the town as the “epitome of modern civilization”.
It is hailed as one of the country’s most important construction projects.
State media KCNA said Samjiyon – which is able to accommodate 4,000 families – boasts new apartments, a ski slope, and a stadium amongst other facilities.
However, forced labor is said to have gone into the construction of the new town.
Samjiyon – even if it lives up to state media billing – will be an outlier in North Korea, where the majority of people live in poor conditions.
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According to non-governmental organization the National Committee on North Korea, many “suffer from shortages of food, fuel, electricity, running water and other necessities”.
However, Samjiyon has not exactly been built from the ground up.
A town already existed before the reconstruction. Some buildings were remodeled, while many more were torn down and replaced with new buildings.
State media previously reported that more than 450 new buildings would be constructed, including industrial and recreational facilities.
KCNA said Samjiyon had undergone a “drastic change”, describing it as a “utopia town under socialism”.
It is not clear if anyone has moved in, but Samjiyon was previously home to some residents – though it is also unclear how many.
It is not known how much money has gone into construction of the town.
Construction happened at a time when North Korea is under tough sanctions, and its completion shows how much importance the government placed on the project.
The town is important for its proximity to Mount Paektu – considered to be a sacred mountain in North Korea and said to be the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s father.
Samjiyon has also been presented as a model for other towns in the country to look up to.
In his annual new year’s address this year, Kim Jong-un directly referenced Samjiyon, calling it an “ideal socialist village”.
He said in his speech: “The whole party, the entire army, and all the people should turn out to transform Samjiyon into a model of modern mountainous city, an ideal socialist village.”
Samjiyon opening is just one part of a bigger scheme. It’s the second stage of a three-stage plan to boost the entire county the town is located in.
The three-stage construction project is expected to be complete by October 2020.