It happened on September 25, 1980 when preparations were stepped up for building a smeltery in Sinhung County, South Hamgyong Province.
A senior official of the province received a call from Kim Jong Il.
To his surprise, the General asked how far it was from Hamhung to Sinhung.
Still confused, the official answered the question.
After repeating the distance to himself, Kim Jong Il asked in a serious voice whether the construction project in Sinhung would not have any impact on the supply of drinking water for the citizens in Hamhung.
Now the official understood why he was asking about the distance and said: Sinhung is in the upper reaches of the Songchon River, so if a smeltery is built there, the river will be polluted by refuse from the factory. This will jeopardize the safety of drinking water for Hamhung residents.
After listening to his explanation the General said that he was telephoning him because some days previously officials had proposed building the smeltery in Sinhung and he was concerned about the drinking water for Hamhung residents. Then he said in a resolute voice that the site of the smeltery must be moved.
The official was deeply touched by his close concern for the people.
He had heard that some officials, obsessed with economic profits, were pushing for the construction of the smeltery in disregard of the local conditions. So he had tried his best to have the construction plan shelved. To his disappointment, no one had lent an ear to his opinion.
As if reading his mind, Kim Jong Il asked if there was a suitable location for the smeltery.
Elated by this question, the official told him about the site he had chosen before.
The General said with satisfaction that if he had chosen the site of the smeltery where there was enough supply of electric power and water and it was convenient for transportation, he would immediately dispatch officials concerned to the province.
He emphasized that he should fix the site through careful consultation with them, before hanging up the phone.
Later, he was reported that a suitable site had been fixed for the construction of the smeltery.
Pleased at the news, he stressed that provision of raw materials, transportation and other factors should be taken into account when selecting the site of a factory, but it was most important to carefully consider the impact it would have on the people’s living conditions.
Then he continued, “We must never give a green light for the project that would have a detrimental effect on the people’s living condition, however great its economic benefit may be.”