February 11, 2011 13:18
North Korea has started preparing for a possible eruption of Mt. Baekdu, Radio Free Asia reported Wednesday. Quoting sources in Ryanggang Province, North Korea, the station said two geography professors of Kim Jung-suk University of Education involved in a Mt. Baekdu expedition team have recently been to Pyongyang to attend a seminar on Mt. Baekdu volcanic activity.
They said there were two evacuation drills in Samjiyon, Taehongdan and Pochon, Ryanggang Province since last fall.
The radio station said fears of an eruption were also behind the sudden suspension of the Mt. Baekdu tourism railroad project, slated for completion by 2012, and that of a mammoth tourism and athletics facility for winter sports nearby, to be completed the same year.
"Concerned about a possible eruption of Mt. Baekdu, the North Korean regime is pushing ahead with negotiations with China on the development of underground resources and urban buildings in Ryanggang and North Hamgyong Provinces," RFA said quoting a research institute official in Ryanggang Province. "The North apparently plans to secure Chinese help in reconstruction in case Mt. Baekdu erupts."
The mountain is sacred in North Korea, which claims its founder Kim Il-sung and his family were born there. In a bid to support the claim, Pyongyang has rechristened Mt. Baekdu's Jangsu Peak as "Jong-il Peak," after current leader Kim Jong-il. And his son and heir Kim Jong-un is often described as continuing "the Mt. Baekdu lineage." In fact Kim Il-sung was born in North Jeolla Province, now South Korea.
"The regime has publicized Mt. Baekdu as the symbol of the Kim Il-sung dynasty, so they are keeping quiet about a possible eruption," RFA said. "That could mean the damage will be much greater if the volcano does erupt."
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