North Korea appears to be fixing up railways before foreign journalists arrive

Jo Hyon  |  2018-05-16 18:31

There are reports that North Korea is preparing construction on a railway that would be used to transport foreign reporters to the scheduled destruction of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. 

Last Thursday, members of the municipal Socialist Women's League and laborers from factories under the direction of administrative officials conducted construction work with poles, hoes, hammers and brooms around railroad tracks in the area, said a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province on May 14.
Residents in the area had received orders regarding railroad construction aimed at better serving the Supreme Leader (Kim Jong Un) from the Party, and each person was required to prepare one five centimeter piece of track ballast." 

Each year, North Korea conducts a campaign to tidy up the railroad on or around Railroad Day (May 11). The source said that usually the campaign is aimed at fixing up the railway traveled upon by the Suryong (Kim Jong Un), but the level of work this year was much different from years past. 

On May 12, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Punggye-ri Nuclear Site would be destroyed on May 23-25 and that a special train would be used to transport foreign journalists from Wonsan, Kangwon province, to Punggye-ri for the event. The sources report suggests that the construction work on the railway is related to this event.

Members of the Socialist Womens League and the male laborers were dealt out sections of track according to the district they were affiliated with and place of work, respectively, said the source. One district leader from the KWL reportedly complained about her teams workload.

Our district (three inminban or neighborhood watch, 60 families) got 10 meters of track to work on. There is a lot of sand and gravel [for track ballast] that we have to prepare. Its going to be a lot of work, she was reported as saying. 

Only the right kind of gravel is accepted by the authorities, but there are so few pieces of rock on the ground in the city that those involved in the project simply steal rocks used to prop up large trees and hammer them down to smaller pieces, the source said. People who arent even getting enough to eat found the work to be very difficult. 

There is work being done on railroad tracks in South Hamgyong Province as well.

There were many residents from all across the province working on the railway, but finding rocks for track ballast was hard, even to the extent that fights broke out, said a source in the province. Finding rocks was so hard that some people would steal track ballast from those sections of the railway that were finished being worked on. As a result, there were people watching for thieves even after the work was done. 

Ri Kwang Myong (alias), a North Korean defector who worked at the Chongjin Railway Department before entering South Korea in 2008, said that if foreign journalists reporting on the destruction of the nuclear site take a train, they will cross train tracks in Kangwon, South Hamgyong Province and North Hamgyong Province. It appears that the railway departments and residents of those areas are being mobilized to fix up the tracks.
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