[Before: Christmas Day, 2008. What were you doing that day?]
Andy speculates, reasonably I think, that the expansion is a barracks. You can see that the perimeter wall and guard towers were also expanded around the new buildings.
If it is a barracks, it probably couldn’t hold more than a few hundred prisoners. This isn’t the answer to the question of what happened to the 30,000 prisoners of Camp 22. It is, however, consistent with reports of other camps being expanded recently — at Camp 14, Camp 16, and Camp 25.
Kim Jong Un’s brutal purge means that we should expect to see more camps expanded, and possibly new camps built. I can’t scan all of North Korea on Google Earth by myself, but if we crowdsource this, we should be able to spot these changes as new imagery becomes available. If you see something of interest, kindly drop a comment. This is information the world needs to know.
As for Andy, he earns the biggest hat tip of the year. So far.
Update: Reader Lou notes in the comments that he’d emailed me imagery pointing out these changes (and more) earlier this month. I apologize to Lou for the oversight, and tip my hat to him as well. Thanks to both Lou and Andy for keeping watch on this place.
Lou noted a few small barracks huts that were torn down, but also caught something more interesting in what I’m guessing is the “old” main barracks building. Look at this image from May of 2013, and compare it to the April 2013 image. It shows evidence of recent construction work. The north side of building has been torn down, and new footings have been dug.
Although there is no imagery available between December 2008 and April 2013, Lou’s find suggests that the construction work at Cheongo-ri is relatively recent. It may still be ongoing.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they need stronger footings to build the building taller and sturdier. One thing satellite imagery isn’t very good at is measuring height. If new stories are being added to buildings, that would certainly increase their capacity — potentially by a few thousand, if you include all the new construction.
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* A pseudonym.