Excerpts from the book
Official propaganda blasts this street's construction as a "criminal" sabotage. How could a street be a crime against the state?
The story begins with the 1955 unveiling of what was originally called "Potongmun Street." Kim Il Sung's scribes link the street to his political rivals, the Soviet-oriented "factionalists."
Kim found fault with the street's three-story brick apartment houses. He condemned them as "not agreeable to the sentiments and customs of the Korean people," particularly because of the heating (the buildings probably lacked ondol, traditional heated floors). Even after this problem was fixed, Kim ordered that the buildings be torn down as soon as the economic situation allowed.
However, as time passed, everyone forgot about Kim's order - everyone except for his dutiful son. Kim Jong Il "wanted to obliterate even the last vestige of the factionalists' harm to construction and turn the street into an ideal one which would please the great leader." And so in 1979 the subversive street was demolished.
So goes the official explanation. In fact, the apartment houses were designed not by factionalists but by Hungarian architects. Did Kim's opponents really play a role, or were they simply scapegoated? And what accounts for the bitterness of the condemnation leveled at these buildings?