North Korea has apologised to bereaved families after an
apartment building collapsed in Pyongyang last week, possibly
killing hundreds, the official KCNA news agency said, a rare
admission of fallibility from the reclusive state.
Pyongyang's expression of "profound consolation and apology"
was the first official news of the disaster, which happened
in the Phyongchon district of the North Korean capital on
"The construction of an apartment house was not done properly
and officials supervised and controlled it in an
irresponsible manner," said the statement from KCNA, which is
better known for its strident attacks against South Korea and
the United States.
The KCNA statement also said the collapse of the apartment
building "claimed casualties" but did not give any indication
of how many may have been killed or injured. It said a rescue
operation ended on Saturday.
An official from South Korea's unification ministry yesterday
confirmed that a 23-storey apartment building had collapsed
in Pyongyang on Tuesday, although he would not say from where
the information had been obtained.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the
building was presumed to have held 92 households, or
families, and that it was common for North Koreans to move
into new buildings before construction was completed.
"Hundreds are presumed to be dead, assuming that each family
has an average of four members," he said.
A spokeswoman for the unification ministry said it was
presumed there were four households on each storey but she
also said it was not known exactly how many were in the
building at the time.
The KCNA statement said North Korean authorities put
emergency measures into place to rescue people from the
collapsed building and to treat the injured.
It said that Choe Pu Il, North Korea's Minister of People's
Security, had "repented", saying he had failed to supervise
the project adequately, "thereby causing an unimaginable
The rare apology from the North came while South Korean
President Park Geun-hye's administration faces criticism for
its handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300
people, many of them schoolchildren, last month.
The North launched vitriolic criticism of Park in the wake of
On Saturday night, tens of thousands people attended a
candlelight vigil in Seoul for victims of the ferry disaster.
Some marched to the presidential palace demanding Park
resign, with police arresting 115 of the protesters.