Saturday, September 27, 2008

Little pink houses... in Pyongyang?

While real estate markets in the United States appear to be bottoming out, Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times reports that there is a veritable construction boom going on in Pyongyang. It appears there are two reasons: the 100th anniversary in 2012 of Great Leader Kim Il-sung's birth, plus a pragmatic sense that Pyongyang needs to spruce itself up to attract tourists and investors and to keep the locals feeling comfortable.
By the dizzying standards of Asia's exploding mega-cities, the construction here is nothing you could call a real estate boom. But it is a remarkable -- and somewhat mysterious -- development in a city that looks like it was frozen in time, with its Stalinist slabs of concrete from the 1950s and '60s.

Except for the monuments glorifying leader Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, hardly anything new has gone up in decades. By night, the city is so quiet you can hear a baby crying from far across the Taedong River, which cuts through the center of town.

Yet these days, high-rise apartments in shades of pink are taking shape near the Pueblo, the American spy ship captured in 1968 and still anchored in the river. A tangle of construction cranes juts into the skyline near Pothong Gate, a re-creation of the old city wall. About 100,000 units are to be built over the next four years.
The big question is: Who's paying for all this (and what are they getting out of it)?

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