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(2nd LD) N.K. opens new housing area in Pyongyang ahead of key anniversary

All News 19:36 April 13, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead to highlight N.K. report; ADDS photo, more info throughout)

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday opened a new high-end residential area in Pyongyang as it is set to celebrate the 105th anniversary of the late founder's birth, Pyongyang's state-run TV broadcaster reported.

Leader Kim Jong-un, flanked by senior officials, cut a red ribbon at the ceremony to mark the completion of the construction of Ryomyong Street lined with skyscrapers, according to footage released by the Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station.

Kim had ordered the country to finish the project before April 15, the birthday of Kim Il-sung, known as the Day of the Sun in North Korea.

At a speech, Premier Pak Pong-ju hailed the opening of the residential zone, saying that the feat is greater than a nuclear weapon detonation.

Ryomyong Street will include about 4,800 households and about 60 public buildings as well as some 30 support facilities for residents in about a 900,000-square-meter area, according to South Korea's unification ministry.

The footage showed images of newly built high-end apartments and support facilities, highlighting that the complex is the product of cutting-edge architectural technology and science.

This image captured from footage of North Korea's state-run TV broadcaster on April 13, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attending a ceremony to mark the completion of the construction of Ryomyong Street. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korea invited about 200 foreign journalists this week in an apparent bid to promote its housing project.

The country had been pushing for the project to show that tough international sanctions do not work.

The North's leader stressed that its construction proves again that "neither sanctions nor pressure can ever check the victorious advance" of the army and North Koreans, the state news agency reported on Jan. 26.

The ceremony came amid speculation that North Korea could conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch missiles to celebrate its key anniversaries in April. Pyongyang will mark the 85th anniversary of the military's creation on April 25.

It is not known what North Korea will do to celebrate the birthday anniversary amid speculation that it may unveil an intercontinental ballistic missile in a parade.

"Ryomyong Street is an accomplishment that the North wants to promote in the economic front," a ministry official said. "The North may hope to show something to display its nuclear and missile capabilities."

The project started in April last year with North Korea's leader originally setting the deadline to finish building Ryomyong Street for the end of 2016.

But massive floods that hit the country's northeastern areas last year drained resources that were originally set aside for the construction, causing delays.

Seoul's unification ministry earlier said North Korea's "show-off" project targets the privileged class in Pyongyang, not ordinary North Koreans.

Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to Seoul last year, said that international sanctions put a severe strain on Kim Jong-un's policy enforcement, including the construction of Ryomyong Street.

This photo published by North Korea's news agency on March 16, 2017, shows the construction site of Ryomyong Street, a new skyscraper-lined residential area in Pyongyang. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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