According to reports published in mid-August 1998, some 15,000 North Koreans are working on a large-scale tunneling and digging operation into the mountainside about 25 miles northeast of the former nuclear research center at Yongbyon. Some US intelligence analysts believe that the construction is either a nuclear reactor or a reprocessing plant, though the site is two to six years years from completion, and as of August 1998 workers had not begun pouring cement for the foundation of the facility. The administration first briefed a few of Members of Congress on intelligence reports that some type of large-scale digging had begun at the site in the Spring of 1998.
European diplomatic sources and some US executive branch officials expressed doubts concerning these reports.Building a nuclear reactor underground is an enormously difficult technical task for any country. Nonproliferation officials in three key US agencies who track clandestine foreign nuclear programs were not apprised of such a development, and one senior US nonproliferation official said that routine intelligence data shows the DPRK is
" ... building thousands of tunnels all over the country at any one time, for all kinds of projects, it is possible that somebody in Washington is spin-doctoring information about this kind of activity to project it as a serious nuclear threat."
The reports concerning this project coincide with the inability of the Clinton Administration to win congressional approval of a request for $35 million to continue providing heavy fuel oil to Pyongyang. The shipments are part of the 1994 Agreed Framework under which north Korea are to be supplied with two modern nuclear reactors to produce electricity, in exchange for halting its own nuclear program. Before Congress recessed, the Senate had approved the administration's request, but the House, where there is opposition to the deal, had not acted.
The Great Leader Kim Il Sung is said to have loved the Myohyang Mountains (mountains of singular fragrance), and the area is is famed as a summer resort. The tallest peak in the Myohyang Mountains is Piro Peak, some 1,909 meters high. The most inportant facility on Mt. Myohyang is the International Friendship Exhibition (IFE), a six-story Korean-style building, which opened in August 1978. The Center contains displays of the more than 2 million gifts which presented to great leader President Kim Il Sung and the respected General Kim Jong Il from party and state leaders, prominent public figures and progressive people of the world. General Secretary Kim Jong Il gave his first on-the-spot guidance to the International Friendship Exhibition on Augsut 25, 1979 and visited it several times later. In October 1996 a two story building dedicated to the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and the presents given to him was added to the complex.
Until recently only a few foreign tourist came to the Myohyang Mountains, but on 10 October 1997 the highway from Pyongyang was completed, improving access to the Myohyang Hotel, which is restricted to use by foreigners.