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Pyongyang's construction drive said to kill hundreds of college students

All Headlines 14:00 November 29, 2011

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- North Korean college students have reportedly died in a spate of accidents at construction sites amid intense efforts by Pyongyang to prepare for a milestone political event next year, a source familiar with the issue said Tuesday.

The alleged accidents sparked rumors that an estimated 200 college students have died at various construction sites in the North's showcase capital city of Pyongyang, the source said. He did not elaborate on the alleged deaths and asked not to be identified, citing the issue's sensitivity.

The development comes as the communist country is struggling to achieve its stated goal of building a prosperous nation by next year, the centennial of the birth of the country's late founder, Kim Il-sung, the father of current leader Kim Jong-il.

North Korea has mobilized its college students to help shorten the time needed to complete massive construction projects in an apparent attempt to show off its achievements next year.

Still, the North has permitted some students of wealthy families to not participate, the source said.

The impoverished country is also making desperate efforts to confiscate foreign currency of its 24 million people to help prepare for the centennial anniversary.

North Korea plans to partially open the 105-story Ryukyong Hotel and is stepping up its efforts to quickly build apartment buildings in Pyongyang, the source said.

The cash-strapped country has been working on the hotel's interior, which has stood unfinished in downtown Pyongyang for nearly 20 years due to a lack of capital.

In 2008, the North resumed construction of the skyscraper with financing from Egypt's Orascom Telecom, the operator of a mobile phone network in the isolated communist country.

The North has completed the framework of the apartment buildings in just about four months, causing public concerns that the buildings could collapse. The concerns have made residents reluctant to move into the buildings, the source said.


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