North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a ground-breaking ceremony for a new mammoth construction project in Pyongyang on Saturday, state media reported early on Sunday.
The aim is to build another 10,000 homes in a suburb of the capital, Kim said in a speech, “even though the present conditions and circumstances are more difficult than ever before,” according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea’s state television station showed thousands of construction workers gathered to listen to Kim’s speech.
Coordinated explosions sent plumes of earth into the sky after Kim’s speech, marking the start of the project.
North Korea regularly uses its military to manage and lead civilian construction projects. This one, in the Hwasong area of the Pyongyang suburban district of Ryongsong, is the second in two years.
Last March, Kim Jong Un appeared at a similar ground-breaking ceremony for apartment construction in an eastern suburb of Pyongyang.
The North Korean capital has struggled to house its population for many years, and the last congress of the ruling Workers’ Party, in early 2021, pledged to build more apartments, with a goal of 50,000 new homes.
North Korea was the first country to close its borders against COVID-19 in late January 2020, and it still hasn’t reopened them.
International aid agencies are concerned about the impact of this long period of deepened isolation, because for decades the country has not been able to provide enough food and medicine for its people.