North Korea Issues Rare Apology After Large Building Collapses; Death Toll Unknown

The government of North Korea has issued a rare public apology after a "serious accident" occurred, when a 23-story apartment building collapsed last week in Pyongyang, with an unconfirmed number of people killed.

Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday that Minister of People's Security Choe Pu Il "said the responsibility for the accident rests with him as he failed to uphold well the Workers' Party of Korea's policy of love for the people. He repented of himself, saying that he failed to find out factors that can put at risk the lives and properties of the people and to take thorough-going measures, thereby causing an unimaginable accident."

General Officer of the Korean People's Internal Security Forces Sonu Hyong Chol also shouldered the blame for the accident, and said that he was in charge of the construction.

"He expressed heart-felt consolation and sympathy to the victims and the bereaved families and said he was making an apology, his head bent, to other Pyongyang citizens who were greatly shocked by the recent accident," KCNA said of Sonu Hyong Chol.

Although the report shared that there have been casualties, it did not provide a number. The New York Times noted that the apartment building may have housed close to 90 families, while a Ministry of Unification in Seoul anonymously said that "a considerable number of people" might have died. He added that in North Korea, families often move into a building before it has been completed.

Chief Secretary of Phyongchon District Committee of the WPK Ri Yong Sik added that "seeing for himself the victims in the scene of the accident, he felt as if his heart were falling apart and was too shocked to cry. He added that he could not raise his head for his guilty conscience as he failed to protect the precious lives of the people so much valued and loved by the party."

Chairman of the Pyongyang City People's Committee Cha Hui Rim assured that officials will "do their utmost to alleviate even a little the pain of the victims and the bereaved families and bring their living to normal at the earliest possible date and to prevent the recurrence of similar accident."

Kim Jong Un, the country's leader, is said to have "sat up all night, feeling painful after being told about the accident," according to Kim Su Gil, chief secretary of the Pyongyang City Committee of the WPK.

Back in February, the North Korean government was accused of committing "unspeakable atrocities" against its own people by the U.N., with the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK reporting that North Koreans face starvation and extermination, while Kim spends money lavishly on private movie theaters and luxury cars.

Close to 400 pages of linked reports, supporting documents and first-hand testimonies from victims and witnesses are said to reveal "the gravity, scale and nature of these violations" which do not "have any parallel in the contemporary world." Kim's government maintains that such accusations are false, however.

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