Windows of Pyongyang high-rises blocked to stop spying by residents

Residents living on the top floors of some high-rise apartment buildings in central Pyongyang overlook government buildings where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other party elites work, a news report said.
Residents living on the top floors of some high-rise apartment buildings in central Pyongyang overlook government buildings where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other party elites work, a news report said.ST FILE PHOTO

SEOUL • North Korea has blocked the windows of high-rise apartments in Pyongyang - its showcase capital city - to prevent residents from looking down, or spying, on the party and government buildings where its top leader Kim Jong Un conducts business, a news report said on Friday.

Under Mr Kim, North Korea has engineered a building boom in Pyongyang, raising a slew of high-rise apartment buildings and doling out the housing to nuclear and missile scientists and other elites.

But the building boom appears to have created a problem: Residents living on top floors can literally look down on state buildings where Mr Kim and other party elites work.

In July, Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that specialises in North Korean news, reported that officials from the Ministry of State Security, the North's secret police, had visited top-floor apartments commanding a view of key government facilities in central Pyongyang, and installed concrete and other fixed screens blocking the windows.

"The measures were designed to stop people from taking pictures of key state facilities from top-floor apartments and sending them outside North Korea," Daily NK said, quoting anonymous sources.

"Besides, they didn't want people to look down on the Workers' Party and other key state facilities."

NK News, another Seoul-based website, on Friday provided photographic evidence that the windows of top-floor rooms that face the party headquarters were blocked with slats, including photos it said had been taken in August and last month. It is not possible to determine the motives behind installing the window screens.

North Korea remains one of the most isolated countries, and its totalitarian government cultivates a personality cult around Mr Kim.

SPYING WORRIES

The measures were designed to stop people from taking pictures of key state facilities from top-floor apartments and sending them outside North Korea.

DAILY NK, a Seoul-based website that specialises in North Korean news, quoting anonymous sources.

The country is obsessed with sealing off access to outside news. All its news media outlets are controlled by the state. Its newspapers and TV and radio stations carry only propaganda and government-censored news.

North Korea also blocks the global Internet to everyone except for a small portion of elites and has, under Mr Kim, intensified its crackdown on outside information smuggled through the border with China.

It also jealously guards internal information from leaving the country. In July, it deported Australian student Alek Sigley who offered glimpses into life in Pyongyang through his posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as columns. Daily NK indicated that the installation of window screens began around the time of Mr Sigley's arrest.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 06, 2019, with the headline 'Windows of Pyongyang high-rises blocked to stop spying by residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe