North Korea Blocks Windows of Tall Buildings in Pyongyang to Prevent Spying, Reports Say

By Oct. 05, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — 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 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 of top floors of the buildings can literally look down on state buildings where Mr. Kim, the North’s godlike totalitarian leader, and other party elites work.

CreditCreditDanish Siddiqui/Reuters

In July, Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that specializes in North Korea 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 inside North Korea. “Besides, they didn’t want people to look down on the Workers’ Party and other key state facilities.”

On Friday, NK News, another Seoul-based website that specializes in North Korea news, provided photographic evidence that the windows of top-floor rooms in high-rise buildings that face party headquarters were blocked with slats. It included photos of the window screens on the buildings that it said had been taken in August and September.

It is not possible to determine the motives behind installing the window screens. North Korea remains one of the world’s most isolated countries, and its totalitarian government cultivates a personality cult around Mr. Kim and his father and grandfather, who ruled before him. The country allows no independent news media.

But the country is obsessed with sealing off access to outside news. All its news media are controlled by the state. Its newspapers and TV and radio stations carry only propaganda and government-censored news. The country also blocks the global internet to everyone except for a small portion of top elites. Under Mr. Kim, North Korea has intensified its crackdown on outside information smuggled through the border with China by way of USBs and DVDs.

But the country also jealously guards internal information from leaving the country. In July, North Korea deported Alek Sigley, an Australian student, whom it accused of spying against the country by “systematically” collecting information about the isolated country. He denied the accusation.

Mr. Sigley, a graduate student in Korean literature at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang, had been a rare Westerner who embraced life in North Korea, offering glimpses into life in Pyongyang through his frequent posts on Twitter and Facebook, as well as his news media columns, which included images of local cuisine, restaurants and shops.

Daily NK indicated that North Korea had begun installing window screens on high-rise apartments around the time of Mr. Sigley’s arrest.

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