SATELLITE images have revealed North Korea’s massive 176,000sq ft underground lair.
The Kanggye General Tractor Plant which is believed to have room for up to 20,000 people is considered the country’s largest underground arms factory.
The site known as Factory No.26, has multiple tunnels that provide access to the interior of a 1.2m-long hill.
Based on analysis by American researcher Jacob Bogle the huge factory is estimated to cover 176,000sq ft and while its exact size is not known, it is estimated it has multiple floors and numerous several-mile-long tunnels.
He told Metro.co.uk: “The average person looking at the factory probably wouldn’t suspect just how large or important it is.
“Outside, in front of the hill that houses the underground portion, there’s about 50 hectares of administrative buildings, warehouses and even a small stadium for employees to play football.
“The factory is somewhat nondescript. But then all you have to do is look at the hill and you can see small buildings extending straight into the rock and at least nine entrance tunnels.
“In fact, it’s a little difficult getting an exact count of just how many tunnels there are.’
The plant is responsible for manufacturing ammunition including self-propelled artillery.
The factory which is located in the Chagang province is also believed to be responsible for the manufacturing of components for short-range ballistic missiles which are later shipped to other facilities for assembly.
It is thought that during the 90s and early 2000s centrifuges used for uranium enrichment were also manufactured and stored at the factory.
Bogle, who is based in Tampa, Florida, has analysed satellite images of underground factories around North Korea.
While most of them have up to three access tunnels, Kanggye includes at least nine.
Staff are said to undergo body searches upon entering the site, with guards on the lookout for anything that could cause a fire such as lighters and matches.
During a visit to the site in 2019, Kim Jong Un was said to have “appreciated the plant for having produced highly efficient machinery and equipment conducive to the national economy and the strengthening of the defense capabilities,” Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported at the time.
Bogle continued: “So, to carry on with the Bond villainy analogy, you have this somewhat normal-looking factory, surrounded by the region’s mountains.
“But then you look more closely and there’s this hidden network of tunnels all producing weapons for one of the largest militaries in the world and that’s headed by a guy who murdered his own brother and uncle.”
The site was established soon after the Korean War as the small-arms factory was split into three, and each part moved to different areas of the country.
The term “tractor” comes from Soviet nomenclature that typically denotes a military factory.
Back in 1991, a major explosion caused by the mishandling of explosive material, reportedly caused the death of at least 1,000 people.
The explosion destroyed an area nearly a kilometer, damaging every above-ground building and blew out windows for miles around.
According to locals, cited in a Daily NK report the official death toll could have reached as many as 6,000 people, including pregnant women.
Among the victims were also workers who were trapped underground as authorities reportedly blocked all exits to prevent an even bigger explosion.
Research showed it took 3-4 years for the site to be cleared and reconstructed, with no new residential buildings facing the factory, although the area does remain populated.
Mr Bogle said: “We know that North Korea is one of the worst offenders when it comes to unsafe working conditions and it has the highest incidence of work-related deaths in the world according to a study published in 2021 by the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization.
“At Kanggye, there are recreational facilities such as a stadium and swimming pool, there’s a medical clinic, and there are other amenities for the workers and their families.
“Work at the factory is likely to be difficult, and there would be no public discussion of injuries or safety failures, but there is no reason to believe that workers are any less safe than at other North Korean arms factories.”