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Faulty towers in North Korea and China

Tyrannical regimes don’t collapse because the peasantry are suffering. They collapse when the hitherto supportive inner circle of peasant-minders starts to suffer.

Thus it is that the most politically portentous line in this (thankyou Mick Hartley) about two new buildings in North Korea, one collapsing, the other already collapsed …:

Another apartment building in Pyongyang is reportedly in danger of collapse as fear spreads after a 23-story apartment building collapsed in the North Korean capital early this month, killing hundreds of people.

Both high-risers were built as upmarket homes for the elite.

A government source here on Tuesday cited rumors that an apartment building in Mansudae in downtown Pyongyang has subsided around 10 cm and dozens of cracks have appeared in the walls. “Fearing a collapse, residents are racing to sell their apartments and move out,” the source added.

… is the bit in the middle, about how these collapsing apartments are “homes for the elite”. By the sound of it, no North Korean home that is more than a tiny few stories up in the sky any longer feels safe.

Not so elite now, are they? If peasant houses collapse, screw ’em. But who is going to screw these people? They are screwers.

Not so long ago there was a somewhat similar report concerning badly built towers in China.

One of these weeks, months, years, decades, a really really big skyscraper is going to come crashing down to the ground. Not because someone flew a plane into it. No, of its own accord. Through its own “internal contradictions”, you might say.

When that happens – and I really do think it’s only a matter of when – what’s the betting that the media coverage will imitate art.

13 comments to Faulty towers in North Korea and China

  • jdgalt

    Though it seems like it to Westerners, this would not be a scandal over there even if it got plenty of coverage. Human life is simply less important to Chinese (not sure about the Koreans). They’ll tell you “so what, we’ve still got too many people.”

    This is not a racial joke, but a genuine cultural difference. Ask them.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)


    Well, I don’t suppose the current Chinese regime would disintegrate merely if a skyscraper did.

    But the point about those Korean towers is who is in them. “We’ve still got too many people.” Maybe. But meanwhile the “we” class, the class that has the people, is living in these things. I agree, dead people don’t make a revolution. But scared and grumpy apparatchiks, still very much alive, just might, if not handled a great deal more deftly than was the construction of these towers.

    I seem to recall reading at Mick Hartley’s that the engineers allegedly responsible for these towers were shot dead. But, that the actual responsibility for the problems lies with the Big Boss himself, (“Un”?), who demanded that the buildings be built in double quick time.

  • Mr Ed

    Is this simply a reform, cutting back bureaucracy? After all, it’s so much easier to have a purge by sitting back and waiting for the odd tower block to collapse than organising the round-ups, writing the four hour speeches, inventing the crimes etc.

    The tipping point is when it does not make sense not to rebel, when death for you and your family is assured.

  • Paul Marks

    Interesting (and good) post.

  • Jacob

    All regimes change over time, monarchy, dictatorships and democracy, too. Nothing is eternal.
    The reasons and manner of change cannot be predicted.
    The Soviet regime lasted for 70 years, then collapsed suddenly in a random and unpredictable, inexplicable manner. Now it seems to start a resurgence of some sort.
    The Chinese communism lasted some 40 years, then underwent a radical change “from inside” without a collapse or revolution.
    Many regimes fall or change with the inevitable expiration of the ruler or his dynasty. (see Cuba).
    The NK regime will change too… we cannot tell when or why, only that it is bound to change.

  • Laird

    Fascinating article, Alisa. Thanks.

  • RAB

    Yes I read that one too Alisa. Absolutely no manufactured staged managed propaganda there at all…do you think?

  • Jake Haye

    My impression is that tyrannies are only ever brought down with some kind of help/influence from outside, hence the calls for ‘global governance’ among the parasite class.

  • But, that the actual responsibility for the problems lies with the Big Boss himself, (“Un”?), who demanded that the buildings be built in double quick time.

    Heh! The management of western oil companies slope their shoulders on this issue, why on earth would North Koreans be any different?

  • Julie near Chicago


    Thanks for the article and photos (especially the mountain, and the river through Pyongyang) and comments.

    Interesting indeed. Of course, we all know I have a nasty suspicious streak…. ;>)

  • Julie, someone elsewhere just posted this, on the same subject.