Kim launches vast project near North Korea’s mythical mountain
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