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FTV observes growing social inequality reflected in North Korea’s housing development projects (2017/01/24)

Industry
Post date:2017-01-24
  In North Korea, where there’s no such thing as a privately-owned residence, all houses are state-owned and assigned directly to residents. Under orders from the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, 26 apartment buildings went up along the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang starting in 2014, designated as dwellings for professors at Kim Chaek University of Technology and other scientists. The large and well appointed flats in the complex have become the envy of many North Koreans, who see the preferential treatment given to scientists and experts as a reflection of growing inequality in the ostensibly socialist country. Our exclusive report, from FTV News Director Anne Hu and her team in the Hermit Kingdom. 

There are excellent views from the banks of the Taedong River, where the North Korean government decided in 2014 to build 26 modern high-rise apartments for the country’s university professors and engineers to live in. The large and well-appointed flats, in an area that’s been called “Future Scientists Street,” have become a topic of debate in the country.

Anne Hu
FTV News Director
Future Scientists Street runs along the Taedong River, and currently has a total of 11 towers, which are all apartments for professors at Kim Chaek University of Technology. We’ve specially applied to see the inside of the buildings today.

The government took a long time to approve our visit to this home, where only the daughter-in-law and grandson of the primary male resident were there to greet us.

Hello.

This woman surnamed Kim said her father-in-law was a professor at Kim Chaek University of Technology, and her mother-in-law was a doctor, while her own husband used to play on the national soccer team. Knowing we were curious about the living conditions of North Koreans, she took us through the whole apartment, explaining what each room was for. We noticed that the bedroom used by Mrs. Kim’s in-laws had its own en-suite bathroom.

Kim Mi-ran
Resident of Future Scientists Street
This is my in-laws’ room. That’s them in the picture. It’s their bedroom.

(This is a suite, with a bathroom.)

Kim Mi-ran
Resident of Future Scientists Street
This is the toilet. You want to see the toilet too? It wouldn’t be impolite?

(Come and have a look.) (Does the average North Korean use a bathroom like this?)

Kim Mi-ran
Resident of Future Scientists Street
Because they’re old, they need to sit when using the toilet. This is the library, where my father-in-law reads. It’s his library. This is his doctoral diploma.

(Where did your father-in-law get his doctorate?)

Kim Mi-ran
Resident of Future Scientists Street
He got his doctorate at Kim Chaek University of Technology. (The diploma was issued by the state.) This is my kid’s room. It’s a bit messier, because it’s a kid’s room, with lots of toys. We’ve put the beds together, because he says he doesn’t want to sleep alone. Come in. This is a commendation that my son won in school. A commendation and an award. I’ve taken pictures of my son as he’s grown up, and hung them here.

The 60-ping apartment has 5 rooms and one common area. Not many in Taiwan have an apartment that large. Could it have been set up just for our visit?

(Is every room the same size?)

Kim Mi-ran
Resident of Future Scientists Street
Our family, like every family, has adults and kids, and we’ve split up all our rooms in accordance with standards. 

(The apartment looks really big, (Do you know how many ping it is?) It’s 210 square meters (63 ping)) (How many other flats this size are there in Pyongyang?)

Kim Cheol
Kim Chaek University of Technology
Looking at all the apartments here, though there’s few people in our country living in a home as big as ours, all the people in our country live in apartments bigger than 100 square meters (30 ping). 

There’s three generations of the same family living in this apartment. In North Korea, the oldest son often lives with his parents, and a bigger family can apply for a bigger apartment. Before handing over an apartment, the government will furnish it with a sofa, desks and chairs, lighting, and kitchenware. Here, there’s no such thing as a bare, unfurnished flat, and no furniture sellers or interior decorators. 

Kim Cheol
Kim Chaek University of Technology
In your experience, how much would a 210-square-meter apartment cost in your country? In Europe, it would cost at least US$1.5 to US$2 million, but our leader provides our teachers these kinds of high-end luxury apartments for free. What I want to say is that, though the world has lots of teachers, researchers and scientists, there’s no better place on earth for teachers and scientists than our country, which is the envy of the world. 

There have been signs of the superior treatment given to researchers and professors. In 2010, the country built two cylindrical apartment towers in Pyongyang to house artists and broadcasters. After coming to power, Kim Jong-un in 2013 ordered the construction of a community for scientists and engineers to live in, and had a living complex built for professors working at the nation’s top school, Kim Il-sung University. The “Satellite” community for scientists was finished in 2014, and “Future Scientists Street” was finished by the end of 2015. A similar development, dubbed “Dawn Street,” is set to open this April, in yet another example of the country’s using urban development to redistribute social resources.

Heo Kyung-hee
North Korean Tour Guide
In the last few years, we in North Korea have been building at a tremendous speed, but even at such a speed, we have also guaranteed quality up to standards where these buildings will be around for countless generations.

The redevelopment of each of Pyongyang’s districts reflects the pace of new building in the city, which is changing faster than many might think. In North Korea, those in the teaching, engineering, and doctoral professions were always allotted higher wages, and had a higher social status. More recent housing developments show even more clearly the preferential treatment they receive, treatment which has exacerbated class inequality in a country which still holds up basic human equality as one of its core values.

This exclusive report brought to you by FTV’s Anne Hu, Johnson Lee and C.F. Su in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Last modification time:2017-06-26 AM 10:45

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