Jeffrey LewisMachine Plant managed by Ho Chol Yong

We spend a lot of time reading North Korean propaganda. One interesting thing the North Koreans do is try to obscure the location and purpose of certain facilities. There are a small number of facilities in DPRK propaganda that are identified by the name of the plant manager only. These have always interested me. What is so sensitive about them?

Machine Plant Managed by … Dates Location Coordinates Identification
Ho Chol Yong 2012-2016 near Taegwan 40.055, 125.221 Possible tank chassis production
Ri Jong Ok 2008 Jagang
Jon Tong Ryol 2014-2015 39.923, 125.209 Probably Panghyon Aircraft Plant
Kang Thae Ho 2013-2014
Ri Chol Ho 2016 Probably identical to Kang Thae Ho

I’ve been working on a little list for a while now, and happily can cross one off. I think the “machine plant managed by Ho Chol Yong” is involved with the manufacture of tanks or armored vehicles.

The main clue to identifying the Ho Chol Yong plant was location. The facility is probably in North P’yo’ngan province, because the local party hack was invited to come along on the most recent visit. And Kim Jong Un previously visited the “machine plant” on the same day he visited the Taegwan Glass Factory. DPRK propaganda has a certain vernacular, if you pay attention. It is a safe bet that the “machine plant managed by Ho Chol Yong” is within driving distance of Taegwan. It certainly is the best place to start looking. That limits the search to three or four unidentified factories.

Further good news, the last visit included lots of external images and even some video! There are three sets of useful images: One showing the exterior of “a science and technology research room,” a shot of the entrance, and some footage of a facility under construction.

“E-libraries” and “sci-tech rooms” are a thing in DPRK propaganda. That’s a useful thing to know. The building housing the science and technology research room is pretty distinctive.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 1.06.41 PM

Google Earth has a nice shot of the two buildings during renovation and construction. (This area has gotten a couple of facelifts over the years. Lucky, Google Earth had a recent image.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 1.08.22 PM

Two other external shots help out a lot. The first frame shows the entrance to the facility. That’s a nice match although not quite as unique as I’d like.


And here is what is really nice. Kim visits a building under construction.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 1.42.19 PM

While the high-resolution images in GoogleEarth are useful for identifying buildings, what we really want is a super recent image that would show whether a huge building is under construction and is the right stage of construction. Planet has one. Actually, Planet has seven. Seven from the March-May period alone, including one taken within a few days of Kim’s visit. The best one, though, is from April 29 and it shows the shell of a building Kim Jong Un tours in more or less the same state of construction.


Nice huh?

All in all, I would say this is our facility. So what does it make? Well, those look like tanks or armored vehicles to me, in various states of assembly. Lots of them, lined up.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 1.46.42 PM


  1. ben reuter (History)

    what fun do have by cutting the coordinates from the google images? Want to keep your “secret”? So why posting it?

    • Jeffrey Lewis (History)

      The coordinates are posted in the table.

  2. Curtis Sessoms Melvin III (History)

    Yeah, in declassified documents “Ho Chol Yong” is called “Kusong Tank Plant”. “Jon Tong Ryol” is definitely Pangyon Aircraft Factory. “Kang Thae Ho” and “Ri Chol Ho” are definitely the same place.