Kim launches vast project near North Korea’s myth­i­cal moun­tain

The National - News - - NEWS - THE NA­TIONAL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has opened a flag­ship con­struc­tion project close to Mount Paektu, a sym­bol of the na­tion and of­fi­cially the birth­place of his fa­ther and pre­de­ces­sor, state me­dia re­ported yes­ter­day.

The cer­e­mony in Samjiyon was held be­fore thou­sands of sol­diers and civil­ians as snow fell, and the open­ing was por­trayed as a demon­stra­tion of the re­silience of the North, which is sub­ject to in­ter­na­tional sanctions im­posed for its nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes.

It comes as time runs out on Py­ongyang’s de­mand for the US to of­fer it new con­ces­sions by the end of the year, and be­fore Mr Kim’s New Year speech on Jan­uary 1, a po­lit­i­cal set piece in the iso­lated coun­try.

Mr Kim donned a black leather trench coat and gloves for the cer­e­mony, and cut a red rib­bon in front of a statue of his fa­ther, Kim Jong-il. Win­ter al­ready has North Korea’s far north in its grip, and footage from Korean Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion showed the largely empty streets cov­ered in snow.

Ban­ners pro­claimed: “Long live the great leader of the force of our party and coun­try, com­rade Kim Jong-un”.

Mr Kim had “worked heart and soul to turn Samjiyon County, the sa­cred place of the revo­lu­tion, into the utopia town un­der so­cial­ism”, the of­fi­cial KCNA news agency said.

The Korean peo­ple were, it said, “ad­vanc­ing along the straight road cho­sen by them­selves with­out any vac­il­la­tion de­spite the worst tri­als”.

Py­ongyang has poured re­sources into the re­build­ing of Samjiyon, the clos­est town to Mount Paektu, a dor­mant vol­cano that strad­dles the border with China.

Mr Kim is closely as­so­ci­ated with the plan and has vis­ited the area sev­eral times, re­port­edly rid­ing a white horse to the moun­tain’s sum­mit in Oc­to­ber. The vast Samjiyon project in­cludes a mu­seum of rev­o­lu­tion­ary ac­tiv­i­ties, a win­ter sports com­plex, pro­cess­ing plants for blue­ber­ries and po­ta­toes, and 10,000 flats.

Thou­sands of work­ers swarmed over the site dur­ing con­struc­tion, many of them sol­diers. Much of the North Korean army has been di­verted to con­struc­tion.

Stu­dents have been sent to work on the scheme dur­ing univer­sity hol­i­days, KCNA re­ported pre­vi­ously, while diplo­mats say chil­dren have also been sent to work there.

Ac­cord­ing to North Korean pro­pa­ganda, Kim Jong-il was born at the nearby Mount Paektu Se­cret Camp, where his own fa­ther, Kim Il-sung, was fight­ing the Ja­panese. But his­to­ri­ans and Soviet records say he was ac­tu­ally born in Rus­sia, where North Korea’s founder was in ex­ile.

The of­fi­cial story plays a cen­tral role in Py­ongyang’s teach­ing about the Kim fam­ily, who have led the coun­try for three gen­er­a­tions.

Ev­ery year, 100,000 or more pupils and work­ers are taken on study trips to the area.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un launches an ex­ten­sive build­ing project in Samjiyon

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