North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has built a new mansion for himself as his people suffer in poverty.
High resolution satellite imagery analysed by NK News, a Seoul-based North Korea watchdog platform, shows that the despot leader ordered upgrades to his lakeside mansion in South Pyongan province as recently last month.
The images show buildings popping up alongside the multi-storey tower near Lake Yonphung in the northwest region of the country.
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It depicts the tower developing, alongside a camp for constructions workers, perhaps indicating Kim is set to order them to work throughout winter.
Reports suggest that the initial project began in May 2021, but work started on another 2,600 square metre additional mansion earliy last month.
The area is a traditional favourite of the Kim dynasty. Kim’s father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather Kim Il-sung both had luxury mansions on the shores of Lake Yonphung and Kim himself has visited the lake more and more in recent years.
Kim, who also owns a fleet of five supersize yachts, had a new helicopter pad built near the lake between 2014 and 2016 to make it easier for him to get away for short breaks by the lake.
Meanwhile in the capital Pyongyang, work began a group of new villas just opposite Kim Jong Un’s main office in the WPK Central Committee building in September 2021.
But as Kim’s luxury developments are springing up, defectors who have escaped to South Korea are telling of devastating famine in the North.
"Problems such as more orphan children on the streets and death by starvation are continuously being reported," said Lee Sang Yong last year, editor in chief of Seoul-based news outlet the Daily NK.
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"The lower classes in North Korea are suffering more and more," as food shortages are worse than expected, Lee said.
It comes as Kim himself urges citizens to make sacrifices to survive a severe economic crisis. And last year, he even warned of a famine akin to the 1990s crisis that decimated the nation.
State media reporting of a June 2021 Worker’s Party Central Committee meeting quoted him as saying: "The people’s food situation is now getting tense."
And with people's income suffering amid global food prices soaring, the picture could be bleak for normal North Koreans, especially with winter looming and crops possibly failing.
Even still, the Kim family enjoys as many as 30 luxury villages and several private islands, according to Bruce Songhak Chung, deputy director of the Geo Satellite Information Research Institute at Kyungpook National University in South Korea.
Kim reportedly owns 17 palaces around North Korea, including one with its own 500m airstrip in Wonsan.
His main residence, Central Luxury Mansion, is in the country's capital, Pyongyang.
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