A SWISS VILLAGE in the middle of NORTH KOREA? – VisualPolitik EN

A SWISS VILLAGE in the middle of NORTH KOREA? – VisualPolitik EN

February 21, 2020 100 By Kailee Schamberger


North Korea wouldn’t be that well-known
if it weren’t for its nuclear tests, its tyrannical and extravagant government and its characteristic
insults on international leaders, especially those from the United States. Comparatively speaking, it’s a rather poor
country. A country that has just over 25 million inhabitants,
no relevant industry or commerce and a strikingly low purchasing power. However, North Korea has been, is and will
be a leading player in many international forums and summits, due to its constant human
rights violations and its advanced nuclear and ballistic program. The fact is that 2019 was a particularly complicated
year for its dictator, Kim Jong-Un, and 2020 doesn’t look much better. Because you see, along with the effects of
international sanctions on imported materials and products of all kinds, the country is
going through a severe food crisis due to drought, floods and other circumstances that
have caused crop yields to drop to a 5-year low. To give you an idea, food shortages are estimated
to affect almost 40% of North Koreans. This means that the State cannot guarantee
the minimum nutritional requirements to more than 10 million people. So ten million people now depend on international
humanitarian assistance. South Korea, for example, has offered them
50,000 tons of rice to alleviate hunger. However, as we’ve told you before on VisualPolitik,
despite this difficult situation, the North Korean economy has been growing for years. Although growth has come in a somewhat strange,
informal, chaotic way, and is largely driven by the black market, the truth is that North
Korea’s economy has made certain progress in recent years. We’re talking about an irregular economic
growth, but it’s estimated that, in some years, it averaged a 5% annual rate. But don’t get excited. We’re talking about growth rates where the
starting point was extreme poverty, and growth which has only reached certain urban centers. 40% of North Koreans living in rural areas
aren’t even guaranteed energy. Growth and the North Korean government’s
investments in particular can only be seen in very limited areas such as Pyongyang and
other secondary cities like Wonsan, Sinuiju, Rason or Samjiyon. In the rest of North Korea, people basically
have to go out to cut the few remaining trees in the radically deforested landscape in order
to keep warm in winter. This image, this reality greatly clashes with
the other that is projected. This is the new Pyongyang that the North Korean
regime is trying to build. And we aren’t just talking about Pyongyang. In recent years they’ve endorsed macro projects
that are no longer focussed only in the capital. Projects which have prompted the international
community to ask: Are these the result of the megalomania of
Kim Jong Un, a young dictator who grew up studying in private schools in Switzerland
and watching NBA games, or are they signs that the government wants to change? We can’t answer that question, but in this
video, we’re going to tell you about North Korea’s main macro projects. You may be in for a surprise. Let’s go! By the way, if you want to know where the
North Korean government gets the resources for all these projects, don’t miss the videos that I’ll link in the description. (PYONGYANG, FROM STALINIST GRAY TO MULTICOLOR
MEGALOMANIA) When we think of Pyongyang, many of you may
only think of the husk of that gigantic pyramid-shaped hotel that cost a bomb to complete. A husk that didn’t see a single worker for
more than 15 years. Between 1992 and 2008 construction was completely
paralyzed, simply because the North Korean government lacked the resources to complete
it. First as a result of the fall of the Soviet
Union and then due to the effects of the Arduous March, a famine that ended the lives of more
than two million people. It’s a building that’s been called one
of the great emblems of the regime, whose construction was implemented by Kim Il Sung,
the grandfather of the Kim dynasty, and remained unfinished throughout Kim Jong Il’s entire
era, and which Kim Jong Un covered with glass and a giant LED screen. What’s inside, nobody can tell. As for a hotel, a real hotel, it doesn’t
look like one. Since its completion in 2016, not a single
guest has been seen to enter. In other words, we’re looking at a first-class
prop. But don’t think that this is a useless microproject,
not at all. Wait to see what has been erected in Pyongyang
in recent years, and what’s to come. For example, there’s the Mirae street of
scientists. Mirae means “future” in Korean. It’s a street full of residential skyscrapers,
shops and restaurants serving Korean and International food. This avenue was opened as a prize for the
nuclear program’s scientists, and for university professors who were in step with the regime. It has car access control, which makes it
a kind of gated neighborhood. Social classes? Who said social classes? And that’s not all, the most recent one,
in Ryomyong Avenue, was inaugurated in April 2017, and has almost 20 residential skyscrapers,
many of them painted with blue and turquoise and decorated with lots of tiles, to imitate
the color of the glass of modern skyscrapers in neighbouring South Korea and China. Now, what exactly is the real objective of
these projects? Well… here the goal is twofold: A local
objective and an international one. The local goal was the message that Kim Jong
Un wanted to transmit to the North Korean power core in his early years as a leader. Kim wanted to convey the idea that even though
he was young, he would be the one to modernize, develop and transform the country, no matter
what happened outside. And in a way, this was the best news for the
international community: an apparent change of spirit. Although the truth is that wasting resources
on such sterile projects doesn’t look like the best way to achieve it. And on the other hand, Kim builds all these
works, which he can’t afford, to convey a message to the world. Something like: Hey, “You can throw all the sanctions you
want at me, Juche socialism is strong and will resist.” Because that’s precisely the message that
holds Kim in power, his chest beat before the West. Even if he’s only pretending to be something
he isn’t. In any case, what seems clear is that this
kind of golden veneer will continue for a while for Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un just presented a new macro project
in 2019, to completely change the neighborhood that surrounds the ghost hotel. (AUDIO: KCTV reveals large-scale plans for
district surrounding iconic Ryugyong Hotel – NK News) But just a second. So far, we’ve only talked about the capital
but… what’s happening outside Pyongyang? Is Kim also promoting these types of projects
outside the flashy capital? The answer is yes, he is. In fact, the most outlandish projects are
being carried out beyond the capital. In particular Samjiyon and the Kalma Peninsula,
in the city of Wonsan. But, of course, I know you’re thinking:
Simon, who’s ever heard of those places? Well, until now they had no relevance whatsoever. But, Kim, as a good kid who was educated in
Switzerland, wanted to have his own version of a European-style ski resort, as well as
his own summer vacation town. And that’s exactly what he’s making. The objective? Supposedly to flood his country with tourism. In 2018, North Korea received a record number
of visitors: 1.2 million Chinese tourists, 50% more than in 2017. And along with them, the odd handful of tourists
from other nationalities. Of course, all duly accompanied by guides
who control their movements at all times. But yes, tourism fever seems to be reaching
even as far as North Korea. Would you like to know more about Kim’s ultimate
commitment to gain the foreign currency he direly needs after all the international sanctions? Well, listen up. (TWO NEW CITIES FOR WINTER AND SUMMER) To turn North Korea into something like the
Thailand of Northeast Asia, Kim Jong Un is spending a lot of money – a lot, considering
the country’s true economic standing, – to create tourist complexes. We can see the two greatest examples in Samjiyon
and Kalma. Samjiyon is a town located at the foot of
Mount Paektu, which according to Korean tradition is the place where Korea was founded. And also where, according to North Korean
propaganda cartoons, Kim Jong Il was born, you know while birds sang and a bright rainbow
danced on the horizon. The fact is that, today this region is better
known for being one of the most beautiful natural places in the country and for having
fantastic conditions for winter sports. And that’s precisely where Kim Jong Un decided
to build his miniature Switzerland. Therefore, he ordered the entire town to be
demolished to build a new one with a large hotel, shops, apartment blocks and houses
with colored roofs, to house 4,000 families, 380 public and industrial buildings and, of
course, a few ski slopes. All this was built in a year and a half. Of course, when we look behind the curtains,
the story isn’t as impressive. To complete the build, the regime employed
semi-slave labor and even the army itself. Workers were mobilized from forced labor camps,
and electricity had to be redirected from the surrounding towns, leaving the towns without
power. And all this in order to finish as planned,
in the first quarter of 2020, to be able to take advantage of that year’s winter campaign. Because if there’s one thing Kim needs,
it’s cash. Dollars, euros, yen, yuan… Money! Perhaps, with a bit of luck, one or two Chinese
tourists will go down his ski slopes and stay in one of his soulless accommodations. Anyway, Samjiyon has been sold by the regime
as “the socialist utopia”, the demonstration that the regime can create a winter paradise. However, Martha Thorne, executive director
of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, doesn’t see it that way. Check this out. (“It’s just a simple ski resort. It doesn’t reflect any new ways of living. It puts little emphasis on urban quality and
public land use. And it doesn’t project spaces where people
can develop a full life.” Martha Thorne, executive director of the Prtizker
Prize) But well beyond these debates about urban
planning and the fact that it seems economically unfeasible, Samjiyon is currently one of the
best places in the worst place on the planet. The question now is whether they’ll be able
to reproduce this in Kalma, in the city of Wonsan. What is being built there is almost the opposite
of the snowy Samjiyon. We’re talking about a true summer vacation
city. From end to end, it consists of almost five
kilometers of buildings that are all currently under construction. All this with a newly remodeled airport and
a beautiful and shiny terminal, to which nobody flies. Kim Jong Un wants it to be the Cancun of the
East Sea, the North Korean Miami, the Communist Benidorm. The project’s magnitude makes it perhaps
the most expensively unrestrained project of the last decade for impoverished North
Korea. We’re talking about 12 hotels, 2 shopping
centers, 26 commercial buildings, cinemas, an exhibition palace, an arcade game building,
an indoor water park, an ice-skating rink, a restaurant complex and more than 48 mansions
and 200 Luxury chalets to lure the tourist dollar. All this in a country that’s closed to the
world and anchored in extreme poverty, where a large part of the population has trouble
even getting the minimum nutrients they need to live. Obviously, most North Koreans won’t be able
to enjoy this. The country’s elites, senior officials and
perhaps some tourists may use these services. But the others… obviously won’t. And it doesn’t stop there, because in addition
to Pyongyang, Samjiyon and Wonsan, other cities like Sinuiju, on the border with China, are
also seeing a certain real estate boom. For example, there’s the construction of
this sun-shaped hotel in the Kangmun district. It’s designed to house businessmen once
the Sinuiju Special Economic Zone between North Korea and China is activated. Right now that zone is crippled by international
sanctions. Kim’s idea is to reform the entire riverfront
of the Yalu River, to not only exploit the growing economic activity that is brewing
in this area thanks to trade with China and the black market – in which the government
itself participates – but also to make the view from the other side, where the prosperous
Chinese city of Dangdong is located, a picture of development and prosperity. Now that you’re familiar with North Korea’s
main macro projects, there’s something we really need to clarify. All these projects may look like examples
of development… But the reality is very different. In most cases, these types of projects simply
end up empty, because there are no people to attend or customers to pay for anything…. Ghost towns. If he doesn’t radically open up to the world,
Kim Jong Un will be wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, which could be used for many more
necessary things, such as improving the country’s poor infrastructure. To give you an idea, of the more than 25,500
kilometers of roads that the country has, only 800 are paved. That’s barely 3%. These resources could also be spent on dams,
pipelines and dikes to avoid flooding when it rains heavily, and also to collect water
reserves to prevent recurrent droughts and therefore food shortages. Or, it could also be spent on boosting electricity
production once and for all, since most of the country is shrouded in darkness at night. But of course, a ski resort or a vacation
town is much more chic. Anyway, what do you think, do you think that
the country, in general, can benefit from these tourism projects? How can they fill these hotels while North
Korea remains such a repressed place, where one can’t even move without a guide? Leave your answer in the comments. So I really hope you enjoyed this video, please
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