As of today, we know a little more about North Korea and the headquarters of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the ruling party in the country led by Kim Jong-un. And we also know something more about where the North Korean leader lives, news of which is often contradictory and fragmented. Thanks to Google Earth satellite images. The US big tech program clearly marks the office, residence and other key facilities of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The American Voice of America (VOA) studied images of key places frequented by leader Kim.
What Google Earth images tell us about North Korea
The government complex would be made up of three interconnected buildings, known as Building No. 1 of the North Korean Workers’ Party: it would be the office of the North Korean leader. To access the complex, you have to pass three positions of the security forces present on a path of about 600 meters.
Images from Google Earth
This building caught the attention of the VOA. The American broadcaster, by analyzing satellite images from Google Earth – but which today did not have the opportunity to verify independently – found that the headquarters of what is building number 1 of the Party of workers from North Korea in 2017 was uninhabited. and homeless, which will only be completed in 2018.
In the same period, the extension works of the structure continued: another building was added to the two corridors that connect the main building and the west building. According to the images, we note the presence of an important element: a tunnel, located near the south building, above which is a garden.
Images from Google Earth
On the other side of the garden, towards the south, would be – according to VOA – what should be the residence of Kim Jong-un, better known as the ‘official residence n.15’.
The importance of images
Why are these images so important? North Korea is engaged in a program of deterrence against what it sees as a threat to its survival from the United States and its allies. Earlier this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an “exponential increase” in his country’s nuclear arsenal, including the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for a “counter- rapid nuclear attack”.
The announcement comes at a crucial time for North Korean threats, boosted by a record of around seventy missile launches, including eight ICBMs, in the year 2022. Kim aims to develop new ICBMs for face what has been called the “hostility” of the United States. and South Korea.
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The nuclear threat from North Korea worries the South Koreans, who take shelter. And they do so by addressing Pyongyang’s historic enemy, the United States. In response to pressure from North Korean missiles, Seoul and Washington are discussing the possibility of holding joint exercises involving US nuclear assets.
This isn’t the first time Google Earth has shown insight into North Korea’s political life. In January 2013, American big tech posted satellite images online that gave an idea of the changes in the country that the North Korean authorities want to keep secret, particularly in the area where the prison camps were built, in the provinces of Pyongan. and Hamkyung. In addition to criminals and political opponents, prison camps also include anyone trying to leave the country and reach South Korea. It is therefore not surprising to note Pyonyang’s attention to the phenomenon of deserters trying to cross the border.
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Another survey confirms how attentive the regime is to movements along the borders. Last November, an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch (HRW) showed that the North Korean authorities had increased “excessive and unnecessary” border controls since January 2020.
The measures were tightened following the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in China, which saw North Korea completely barricade its borders. A political choice that has brought the North Korean economy to its knees, to the point of hearing the North Korean leader recognize that his people are subject to economic sacrifices.
However, China remains North Korea’s main trading partner. In 2022, Beijing’s exports to Pyongyang tripled, worth $894 million. The data, which comes from Chinese authorities, shows how Chinese exports of soybean oil, rubber tires, granulated sugar, tobacco and medicines mainly boosted trade flow, which increased by 247.5% on an annual basis. But there is also a lot of medical equipment: North Korea bought 2.27 million masks, 12,000 thermometers and 40,000 pairs of latex medical gloves from China last December. And this despite the fact that Pyongyang declared last August that it had defeated Covid-19.