The Oranckay points out that Ryanggang Province, the site of Sept. 9’s large explosion, was not one of Korea’s original eight provinces. As Pete’s post (which is an interesting one I highly encourage people to read) points out, many people in the South have never heard of the place, and much as someone joked (kinda) that war was God’s way of teaching Americans world geography, events like these in North Korea also serve a higher educational purpose:

I’ve actually met people who’d never heard of Ryanggang. Neither new province existed before Liberation and because even the most neutral of factual information about North Korea was suppressed in the South for so long, it’s probable the recent explosion has made some South Koreans notice the name for the first time if they don’t usually pay attention to the news.

Aaron, a commenter on his blog, asked, however:

Yeah, and what’s weirder than the provincial reorganization is the renaming of Huch’ang-gun as Kim Hyongjik-gun (after Kim Il Sung’s father). (See the map at the Marmot.) What a mouthful. I’d known about the eastern coastal city of Kimch’aek (can’t recall the former name) but wasn’t aware of this one. I wonder how many other North Korean geographical names have been meddled with.

Kim Chaek City, formally Seongjin, is an industrial town of about 235,00 souls (1991) on the East Sea coast with a really big steel mill (great English description here) of the type much beloved by Stalinist regimes. Kim Chaek, of course, was a guerrilla buddy of Kim Il-sung during his Manchurian-Soviet days who became a high-ranking member of the Korean Workers Party after his return to Korea and Kim Il-sung’s right-hand man. He was later made commander of North Korea’s front-line troops during the Korean War, which must have had its perks until the Incheon Landing, when someone needed to take the fall for the dramatic change in the course of the war (and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be the Great Leader). He was purged and died in Jan. 1951, supposedly of a heart attack. The Big Man must have felt a little sorry for him, however, because in Feb. 1951, his hometown of Hakseong County was incorporated into Seongjin City to form the newly renamed Kim Chaek City. He also got a big steel mill and and polytechnic university named after him. Somewhere in the big Jucheland in the sky, Kim Chaek smiles.

Kim Chaek isn’t the only place in North Korea named after an individual. Today’s Chosun Ilbo — perhaps having read the comment on Oranckay’s blog — talked of some of the places in North Korea named after family members of Kim Il-sung. Firstly, you have Kim Hyong-jik County, formerly Huchang County, the supposed site of Sept. 9’s Big Bang. As I pointed out in a previous post, Kim Hyong-jik was Kim Il-sung’s father, but what I didn’t know was the name change was relatively recent — October 1988. Immediately to the east of Kim Hyong-jik County, you find Kim Jong-suk Country, formerly Sinpa County, which is named after Kim Il-sung’s first wife and, coincidently, the mother of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Also in lovely Ryanggang Province, you have Kim Hyong-gwon County, formerly Pungsan County, named after Kim Il-sung’s paternal uncle. How nice.

The Chosun also pointed out that Kim Hong-jik County used to be a pretty remote area of primeval forests inhabited by tigers, but was transformed into a major military region with the building of a railway in the late 1980s. In the late 1990s, a munitions factory that apparently blew up in an accident in Kanggye was moved to the county, and of course, there is the Nodong missile base Yongjo-ri (which has been incorporated into Woltan-ni), a base suspected of having Daepodong 1 and 2 missiles in its inventory as well.

BTW, The People’s Korea has a pretty cool map of Ryanggang Province with a very North Korean description of the place — all in English!