Tire tracks indicate heavy construction by Kim Jong-un
Satellite images from Pyongyang have raised speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is fortifying his underground hideouts in case of a South Korean or U.S. attack.
The images, which were analyzed by 38 North, show vehicle tracks on a road in front of a security complex inside a residential and office compound in downtown Pyongyang that is believed to sit above an underground complex of tunnels and roads.
According to 38 North, the distinct white vehicle tracks could represent a large amount of excavation work or demolition of concrete.
The area was described by former British Ambassador to North Korea John Everard and others as the regime’s modern-day equivalent to Beijing's Forbidden City, with entry restricted to the Kim family and the regime’s highest-ranking members.
Kim is believed to move within the compound surrounding the Workers’ Party Central Committee Office Building through the underground network to evade satellite reconnaissance of his movements, according to 38 North and previous intelligence reports.
According to 38 North, there is a possibility that this project is an expansion or upgrade of the underground network.
In Google Earth images from May examined by 38 North, construction work was also underway at two other sites near the Workers’ Party Central Committee Office Building.
On a large plot of land approximately 188 meters (600 feet) south of the building, two excavators and two dump trucks can be seen, with excavated soil on the east side of this area.
In their analysis of the site, which shows exterior framing complete for four buildings and construction of smaller structures, 38 North said it was “highly probably” that the project is a large residence or a banquet hall.
Satellite images from the same period examined by 38 North show another banquet hall and support building between the leader’s headquarters and his official residence have been upgraded and renovated. But the presence of construction equipment nearby suggests the building’s interior and finishing touches were not yet complete.
The ornate architecture of this banquet hall also raises the possibility that this structure might serve as an additional residence or a guest house for foreign dignitaries.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]