Kim Jong-un seeing Samjiyon for himself. Published in November 2018 by the Rodong Sinmun.

On December 2, Kim Jong-un cut a ribbon at a ceremony to mark the completion of the special tourist zone in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province. Despite being labelled by the regime as a “clean, new city,” voices of discontent have already been rising among residents, with some saying they “will be unable to live” at the site. A reporting partner living in the area explained the situation.

Samjiyon County is situated at the foot of Mount Baekdu, the “sacred site of the revolution” and supposed birthplace of Kim Jong-il. (Historians agree, however, that Kim Jong-il was born in Vyatskoye, Russia.)

In November 2016, Kim Jong-un ordered for Samjiyon district to be built into a world-class international tourist zone. With the order, local residents were forced to provide manpower and resources towards making the project a reality. To inspire the dedication of locals, Kim Jong-un made 3 on-site inspections to the area in 2018, followed by another 2 visits in 2019.

According to official state media, the city now boasts 4,000 apartments as well as 380 hospitals, schools, and other public facilities. According to a reporting partner mobilized for the construction, all old buildings in the area were demolished, with residents moved into large, state-of-the-art apartment complexes. However, just 2 weeks since completion of the site, there is already a growing sense of dissatisfaction.

The first problem regards electricity. A reporting partner in Ryanggang Province said, “As Kim Jong-un himself instructed for this area to be made into the world’s best mountainous city, the apartments are spacious and have good, Chinese-made facilities. The apartments are all electrically heated to prevent the burning of firewood and coal. At the expense of other regions, electricity has been provided to us for 15 hours each day but this still leaves us without heating for 9 hours.”

The reporting partner continued, “Moreover, there was a power outage for 4 days straight after Kim Jong-un left. Residents say their houses are like freezers and have put mattresses across the floor to help endure the cold. Samjiyon is known as the coldest place in North Korea…”
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