In my Chollima Statue review I explained how Kim Il-sung was keen that the redevelopment of North Korea, after the devastating impact of the Korean War, occur as quickly as possible and in 1956 he first urged his people to “rush at the speed of Chollima.”
Chollima, literally ‘thousand li (400kms/per day) horse’ is a mythical winged horse originating from the Chinese classics.
North Korea still rushes at the speed of Chollima as it continues to build its Juche inspired utopia.
Probably one of the best recent examples of Chollima speed in practice was the construction of the, very out of place looking, Changjon Street Apartments. Apparently the apartments, everything and more than you can see in my pictures (excluding the Soviet style buildings picture) were completed in less than a year.
As is normal at openings /refurbishments in North Korea high praise was lauded upon the construction workers who, in this case, “successfully implemented the behests of leader Kim Jong-il by dedicating their wisdom and enthusiasm to the project with intense loyalty”. Shortly after their official opening Kim Jong-un personally visited a number of families in the new apartments and “unreservedly” sat on the floor to chat with family members. What a man of the people!
The apartments (which incorporate shops and restaurants) were officially opened in June 2012. Built for privileged government workers, the apartments are note worthy not only for the speed at which they were built but also for the major change (if indeed it is the start of a trend and not a one-off) in architectural style for North Korean apartment buildings which up to then had been built in that very distinctive 1950s Soviet style.
Another major difference is the exterior lights mounted on the buildings which probably now account for, if you exclude a few of the key monuments and Kim Il-sung square, half the lights in Pyongyang of a night. It is certainly the only building to use coloured lights to the extent it does and it really stands out at night.
I cannot, try as I might, work out the function of the curricular building , which forms part of the complex. On Google Maps, etc it is just indicated by an unnamed circle. I presume it is some sort of amenities block/ shops though I didn’t notice anyone going in or out and we passed it a number of times.
Like all major construction projects in North Korea, the apartments were built by the military though there are reports (confirmed by foreign embassies) that universities were ordered to cancel classes so that students could assist on this and other projects in the run up to Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday anniversary celebrations in 2012.
The apartments are certainly a very different addition to the Pyongyang skyline.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries on The Rambling Wombat’s trip to Pyongyang, North Korea which I recommend you read in a particular order. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Admire the Taxis in Pyongyang! If necessary, go to my Pyongyang introduction entry – Pyongyang – A Capital City Unlike any Other – to start this loop at the beginning.