Speediness blamed in collapse of apartments

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Speediness blamed in collapse of apartments

The May 13 collapse of a 23-story apartment complex being built in Pyongyang could be the result of North Korea’s policy of speeding along construction work, according to analysts here.

A North Korean source said, “The accident could have been anticipated because of shoddy construction, including lack of cement and steel reinforcement, as well as unreasonable concrete construction in the middle of winter.”

North Korean authorities have blocked access to the site and have not yet revealed the exact number of casualties from the accident. But South Korean officials estimate that 92 households had already moved into the apartment in Phyongchon District. The area is comparable to the wealthy Gangnam District in southern Seoul because it is a newly-rising center for Pyongyang’s elite.

This incident can be compared to a North Korean version of the deadly collapse in April 1970 of the Wawoo apartment structure in Mapo District, western Seoul, which killed 33 people.

The shoddy construction of the Wawoo complex, which should have taken two years, was completed in just six months with cost-cutting measures that led to the use of cheap materials.

Pyongyang, four decades later, may be coming across the same obstacles South Korea faced in order to achieve rapid modernization and urbanization.

Kim Jong-un initiated a campaign last year to hurry along development and construction work throughout the country, with a particular emphasis on yielding maximum results in building Masikryong Ski Resort in Wonsan.

The North’s promotion of speedy construction work did not originate in the Kim Jong-un regime. It dates back to the late 1950s during the time of Kim’s grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. It was seen again during the era of the incumbent leader’s father, Kim Jong-il.

BY SARAH KIM, LEE YONG-JEONG [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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