Despite sanctions and isolation, Pyongyang skyline grows

Thu May 5, 2016 10:14am EDT
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By James Pearson and Damir Sagolj

PYONGYANG (Reuters) - The Pyongyang skyline is rising - and not just with the trophy structures that represent the North Korean state. Despite its political and economic isolation, the capital is in the midst of a building boom.

In a comparison of photos taken by Reuters this week and on a visit to Pyongyang last October, several new high-rises of 20 or more stories have appeared in the capital, some appearing near completion.

The construction, mostly of what look to be apartments, is despite tightened U.N. sanctions against isolated North Korea for pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

It is further evidence of the rising role of a market economy that has yet to be fully recognized by the government but is changing the landscape and improving the lives of people, at least in some parts of a country that remains mostly poor.

More than a dozen workers secured by harnesses on suspended platforms could be seen this week applying tile to the rough-looking concrete exterior of a low-rise building, as the capital prepared for its first ruling party congress in 36 years.

North Korea has invited foreign journalists to cover the event, but government guides restrict their movements or whom they can speak with.

Large yellow cranes could be seen jutting from the tops of taller, unfinished blocks. Red flags mark top floors.

The skyline is also getting brighter.   Continued...

The 170-metre (558-feet) tall Juche Tower is reflected in Taedong River as morning fog blankets Pyongyang, North Korea May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj