Satellite photos reveal North Korea’s sprawling 176,000 square foot underground lair with room for 20,000 Kim Jong-un cronies

SATELLITE images have revealed North Korea’s massive 176,000 square foot underground lair.

The Kanggye General Tractor Factory, which could accommodate up to 20,000 people, is considered the largest underground armament factory in the country.

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Satellite Images of Kanggye General Tractor Plant in Chagang ProvinceCredit: Google Earth
Kim Jong Un during a factory visit in 2019

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Kim Jong Un during a factory visit in 2019Credit: AFP
Kim said the moment he "appreciated the factory for producing highly efficient machinery and equipment"

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Kim said at the time that he “appreciated the factory for producing very efficient machinery and equipment”Credit: AFP

The site, known as Factory No. 26, has several tunnels that provide access inside a 1.2m long hill.

Based on an analysis by American researcher Jacob Bogle, the huge factory is estimated at 176,000 square feet and although its exact size is not known, it is believed to have several floors and numerous tunnels of several kilometers long.

He told Metro.co.uk: “The average person looking at the plant probably wouldn’t suspect how big or how important it is.

“Outside, in front of the hill that houses the underground part, there are about 50 hectares of administrative buildings, warehouses and even a small stadium for employees to play football.

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“The factory is somewhat indescribable. But all you have to do is look up the hill and you can see small buildings extending straight into the rock and at least nine entrance tunnels.

“It’s actually a bit difficult to get an exact count of how many tunnels there are.”

The factory is responsible for manufacturing ammunition, including self-propelled artillery.

The factory located in Chagang province would also be responsible for manufacturing components for short-range ballistic missiles which are then shipped to other facilities for assembly.

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It is believed that in the 1990s and early 2000s centrifuges used for uranium enrichment were also manufactured and stored at the plant.

Bogle, who is based in Tampa, Florida, analyzed satellite images of underground factories around North Korea.

While most of them have up to three access tunnels, Kanggye has at least nine.

Staff would be strip-searched upon entering the site, with guards on the lookout for anything that could cause a fire, such as lighters and matches.

During a visit to the site in 2019, Kim Jong Un is said to have “appreciated the factory for producing highly efficient machinery and equipment that is conducive to the national economy and the strengthening of defense capabilities”, the agency reported. Korean Central Press (KCNA). at the time.

Bogle continued: “So to continue with the Bond villainy analogy, you have this somewhat normal looking factory, surrounded by the mountains of the area.

“But then you look closer and there’s this hidden network of tunnels all producing weapons for one of the biggest armies in the world and run by a guy who murdered his own brother and uncle. “

The site was created shortly after the Korean War, as the small arms factory was split into three and each part was moved to different parts of the country.

The term “tractor” comes from the Soviet nomenclature which generally designates a military factory.

In 1991, a major explosion caused by the mishandling of explosive materials reportedly killed at least 1,000 people.

The explosion destroyed an area of ​​almost a kilometer, damaging all surface buildings and blowing out windows for miles around.

According to residents, quoted in a report by the Daily NK, the official death toll could have reached up to 6,000 people, including pregnant women.

Among the victims were also workers trapped underground as authorities reportedly blocked all exits to prevent an even larger explosion.

Research has shown that it took 3-4 years for the site to be cleared and rebuilt, with no new residential buildings facing the factory, although the area remains populated.

Mr Bogle said: “We know that North Korea is one of the worst offenders of unsafe working conditions and has the highest incidence of work-related deaths in the world according to a published study. in 2021 by the World Health Organization and International Labor Organization.

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“In Kanggye, there are recreational facilities like a stadium and a swimming pool, there is a medical clinic and there are other amenities for workers and their families.

“The work at the factory will likely be difficult, and there will be no public discussion of injuries or safety issues, but there is no reason to believe that workers are any less safe than in other places. other North Korean arms factories.”

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North Korean leader meets troops who participated in military parade marking 90th anniversary of founding of Korean People’s Revolutionary ArmyCredit: Reuters

Bonny J. Streater