Bulldozing of older buildings appears to be emerging trend in North Korean capital’s center.
Close to a dozen apartment blocks have been demolished in recent months in the area surrounding the infamous and long-unfinished Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang’s central district, satellite imagery reveals.
The demolition appears to be part of wider redevelopment efforts ongoing in the North Korean capital, which has seen new apartment towers spring up both as part of large-scale projects and scattered throughout the city in recent years.
At least six five-story apartment buildings have disappeared from a single block of land located along Ponghwa Street since mid-July, NK Pro analysis of medium-resolution satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs shows.
The demolition began between July 9-20 with a single building gone by August 3, and another bulldozed by September 18, according to the imagery.
New demolition in recent months is represented by yellow dots while possible but not confirmed demolition is represented by orange dots. The red dots represent new construction. | Photo: Planet Labs, edited by NK Pro
By the most recent image on October 12, it appeared that at least six and as many as 11 apartment buildings had been demolished in the block, though some details are difficult to discern due to the image quality.
Given the gradual progress of the demolition within the block — the only major new clearing in the neighborhoods directly surrounding the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel — it is possible more buildings there are still yet to be cleared.
But aside from that block, there are additionally other isolated instances of demolition in the area, reflecting the piecemeal redevelopment going on all over the city at present.
This work includes at least three other apartment buildings that have been demolished since this spring, and at least three new large structures seeing significant progress in the months since, analysis of the imagery shows.
Plans for the area around the Ryugyong Hotel as shown in an early-2019 documentary on North Korean television | Photo: KCTV
It is difficult to determine if this is part of any larger plans for the area — though North Korean state media previewed one potential blueprint earlier this year.
The state-run Korean Central Television (KCTV) featured a 3D render of the area surrounding the Ryugyong Hotel at the end of a program on architecture in March, depicting dozens of new apartment towers in what would require the demolition of much of the entire district.
Very few of the existing narrow apartment blocks that are now being demolished, built decades ago, appear in the new blueprint, instead replaced by rows of 10 to 20-story apartment towers and even new, futuristic skyscrapers.
The recent demolition in the block across from the Ryugyong Hotel entrance is the third such instance of such major clearing of old buildings within a single block in Pyongyang’s central district since 2018.
Map of the developments in central Pyongyang | Photo: Google Earth, edited by NK Pro
NK Pro sister site NK News reported in January this year on the razing of similar apartment buildings on the same street across the Pothong River to the northeast, towards the Arch of Triumph.
Another large area of a block to the north of the Ryugyong was razed in summer 2018, according to Planet Labs, and work on a new cluster of buildings there had begun as of the latest high-resolution Google Earth imagery taken in April 2019.
Other major “new street” projects constructed in recent years include Ryomyong Street in the city’s northeast, completed in spring 2017, and Mirae Scientists Street in the southwest, completed in late 2015.