NK Leadership Watch will refrain from posting about the DPRK’s economic activities, but the country operates under command ‘n’ control so, occasionally, its economy relates to the leadership or internal security. Housing in Pyongyang is certainly a conjunction of the economy with internal security, and leadership (Pyongyangites are the leadership’s loyal employees whether they are working in a bureau or department directly subordinate to the CCKWP or the NDC, or punching a time card at a Pyongyang factory). Yonhap News Agency passes on a report from Chosun Sinbo of a plan to add 100,000 new housing units in and around Pyongyang in time for 2012, the 100th Anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth year.
Despite the rolling blocks of gargantuan apartment housing, Pyongyang still contends with a housing shortage. The last major housing constructions in Pyongyang occurred in the late 1980’s with the completion of Kwangbok Street in Mangyongdae District and the Co-Op City-like apartment blocks of the Rakrang District. It does not help that construction authorities have tended to demolish buildings before plans for new housing are finalized. A case in point can be found this past Spring in Taesong District. A report found that the Central Party had knocked down tenements before allocating the basic materials, labor and design for new homes. Things reached a critical mass among the dong’s locals requiring the direct intervention of Jang Song-thaek (it helped the local KWP Secretary had connections to Mr. Jang’s political network), who visited the effected area and gave a speech that attempted to assure the displaced Pyongyangites.
The population of the DPRK capital is strictly controlled, for security reasons. Backgrounds are routinely checked, and the slightest trespass can be grounds for mandatory relocation. The North Korean security authorities do not want its capital city citizens fomenting revolution from below. From time to time, groups of (ex-) Pyongyangites have been bused from their residences to the countryside (those six-lane roads in Pyongyang are not just for aesthetic or military purposes).
There are also other residency restrictions. A North Korean family residing in Pyongwon County can’t decide to up and move without the approval of the Ministry of Public Security, via their Party Cell or workplace committee. Moving in the DPRK could be facilitated with a bribe in the form of currency or material goods, but during the recent 150 Day Battle Campaign, the MPS, Organization and Guidance Department and Central Public Prosecutor’s Office cracked down hard on Party and State corruption involving living arrangements.
Speaking of the 150- Day Battle Campaign, Curtis Melvin includes a report from the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES), based on another Chosun Sinbo product.