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Sinuiju is the home of North Korea's most utilized road and railway trade arteries, yet the city's transportation infrastructure has not been a high priority for government investment. The road from Sinuiju to Anju (half the distance to Pyongyang) is still an unpaved dirt road. Additionally, the World War II-era China-DPRK Friendship Bridge used to facilitate trade with China, North Korea's largest trading partner, consists of just a single traffic lane and railway crossing and it is frequently closed for maintenance.

National and local leaders have on multiple occasions sought foreign investment to improve infrastructure in Sinuiju through the establishment of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). However, there has been little real progress. China built a new four-lane suspension bridge to Sinuiju at a cost of nearly $350 million to serve as an alternate transportation corridor, but North Korea has not allowed the new bridge to become operational since being largely completed in 2014. A Chinese company has also constructed a tourist resort on the Yalu/Amnok river to serve Chinese tourists, however, its utilization appears to be far below capacity, and its impact on local infrastructure is negligible. (See exemplar image below).

The Amnok River Tourist Area is the only noticeable economic project that has been completed in Sinuiju involving a foreign investor, the Dandong International Travel Agency. Satellite imagery suggests under-utilization and minimal activity. Copyright 2018 Digital Globe
The Amnok River Tourist Area is the only noticeable economic project that has been completed in Sinuiju involving a foreign investor. Copyright 2018 DigitalGlobe.

Despite the economic benefit that could accrue to North Korea from improved transportation and trade infrastructure in Sinuiju, construction in the Kim Jong-un era has been largely mobilized to carry out economic and entertainment projects aimed at showing "Kim Jong-un's love for the people"--in other words defining and securing the leadership of Kim Jong-un. The kinds of projects being undertaken in Sinuiju, such as a new stadium, a new theater, school renovations, and new park construction are nearly identical to construction taking place in other provincial capitals, making it representative point of observation for signature projects of the Kim Jong-un era. However, it remains unclear just how popular and effective these centrally-driven projects are at meeting local demand for entertainment and generating political goodwill towards Pyongyang. (See exemplar image below).

Bottom = skate park; right = 3D Rhythmic Cinema; top = traffic school.
Bottom = skate park; right = 3D Rhythmic Cinema; top = traffic school. Copyright 2018 DigitalGlobe.

Sinuiju's legal and illegal (but tolerated) market economies, however, have seen significant growth in the Kim Jong-un era. Most of the large legal markets have been expanded or renovated, offering newer facilities and more stalls for vendors. This is a win-win for North Korean consumers as well as local tax authorities. Additionally, North Korea's burgeoning real estate market, which appears to remain technically illegal, has been growing to meet the demand for new and higher quality housing by North Korea's burgeoning capitalists. (See exemplar images below).

New market construction giving more space to vendors and presumably generating more local tax revenue.
New market construction giving more space to vendors and presumably generating more local tax revenue. Copyright 2018 DigitalGlobe.
apt_housing
These high-rises are perhaps the most significant economic development in the city. Copyright 2018 DigitalGlobe.

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Kim's Showcase and Local Economic Need Projects

Source: Original Content - Curtis Melvin