PUST holds second graduation ceremony

November 25th, 2014

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Pictured Above (Google Earth): PUST

On Wednesday 19th November, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) held its second graduation ceremony of 2014, at the campus in the south side of Pyongyang.

100 undergraduate students in science and technology received Bachelor degrees from the co-Presidents of PUST, in the presence of foreigners and diplomats including ambassadors from Europe, Asia and Latin America and UN representatives.

These new graduates are the first year-group of students, who came to PUST in October 2010, when the university began classes in electrical and electronic engineering, computer science; agriculture and life sciences; and finance and management. Some will remain at PUST as graduate students and most others will go to various DPRK state universities for further study. PUST is also active in sending graduate students for both short-term and long-term study abroad, at European and Asian universities, under various partnerships and scholarship schemes.

For more details please see the Press Release (PDF).

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DPRK building new coal-powered plant in Pyongyang

November 25th, 2014

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Pictured above is the new plant. Learn more about it on this new article at 38 North.

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New statues at Security University of the DPRK (MSS University)

November 19th, 2014

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Pictured above: Security University of the DPRK (formerly “University of KPA Unit 10215″) in Mangyongdae District (39.044446°, 125.633676°)

KCNA has announced the unveiling of new statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at the “Security University of the DPRK”. The bases for these new statues can be seen in the satellite imagery, but the statues themselves can be seen in the official photos below:

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According to the article:

Present there were Kim Ki Nam, Choe Thae Bok, Pak To Chun, Kim Won Hong, Jo Yon Jun, and commanding officers of the Ministry of State Security, officials of security organs at various levels and teachers, students and employees of the university and their families and officials and those of meritorious services of units which contributed to erecting the statues.

Kim Jong-il last visited this facility on May 5, 2009. Kim Jong-un has yet to make an official visit.

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Air Koryo timetable

November 17th, 2014

From October 28, 2014-March 28, 2015:

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North Korea shows great interest in micro hydropower

November 13th, 2014

According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

North Korea, which has been focusing its efforts on increasing energy production, is currently paying close attention to micro hydropower systems. Micro hydropower is a type of hydroelectric power system which can effectively harness industrial water and/or hydroelectric resources from water and sewage systems to produce electricity.

A November 2, 2014 article published in the North Korea Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, reported on the advantages and efficiency of micro hydropower, of which it claims North Korea has implemented and is currently using. The harnessing of industrial and sewer system water was once a mere point of interest for North Korea; but according to the newspaper article, a variety of micro hydropower equipment has since been installed and is currently generating up to 100kW of power for the nation.

The newspaper explained, “Industrial waste water used for cooling or cleaning in factories has a fixed height and pressure, and can be used as a water power resource to produce electricity due to its stable quantity and flow rate. . . . In water and sewage systems, catchment areas and sewage purification plants have freefalling water which can be used as a water power resource, and in air conditioning systems, the circulating cooling water can also be potentially utilized.”

The article also praised micro hydropower systems for their low initial investment cost and operation fees.

According to the Rodong Sinmun, construction costs for the levees used in a hydroelectric power plant can account for over fifty percent of the total construction costs of the system. But, because micro hydropower systems can be installed and connected directly to existing pipes, costs are reduced dramatically, and the low-flow, low-pressure nature of the micro hydropower system allows for additional savings on materials such as waterwheels and generators.

The costs of installing a micro hydropower system may be double that of a diesel-powered generator, but when taking the cost of fuel into account, micro hydropower systems are said to be much more economical in the long term.

The newspaper also reported about one micro hydropower facility which even utilizes the piping and freefalling water from their service-water purifier. According to the article, the system produces enough electricity to power the water purification and also net a 55kW energy surplus.

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Bae and Miller released

November 8th, 2014

CNN is reporting that Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller have been released.

More later.

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Tourism opens in North Phyongan Province’s Chongsu Tourist Development Zone

November 7th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The opening ceremony for the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone, an area designated as one of North Korea’s economic development zones (EDZ), took place on October 30, 2014.

According to a report on October 31 by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone is an EDZ which was developed under the July 23, 2014 decree of the Standing Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, and covers nearly 3,800 hectares in various parts of Pangsan-ri and the Chongsong Workers’ District in Sakju County, North Phyongan Province.

It was reported that the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone was opened through cooperation between North Korea’s North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee and China’s Liaoning Province, Dandong City People’s Government, and Dandong Overseas Travel Co. Ltd.

In an interview with the KCNA, Kwak Jin Ho, director of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee’s Department for Economic Zone Development, said about the development prospects of the Chongsu tourist zone: “This area will be developed into a tourist zone equipped with modern tourism and service facilities while also highlighting the distinct characteristics of Korean folklore.”

Director Kwak also stated, “The zone’s infrastructure, public facilities and tourist service facilities will all be built to meet modern standards. Currently there are plans to construct factories for special product manufacturing, as well as areas for livestock, orchards and fisheries. With these targets, there are also plans for a cultural recreation district, Korean folk village, general services area, Korean folk hotel, as well as processing plants for spring water, fruits, wild greens and kimchi.”

In addition, Director Kwak said in the interview, “The hillsides will be transformed into orchards to create a tourist destination filled with scarlet and white peaches and other high quality fruit trees.” With regards to visiting the area, Director Kwak stated, “Due to the geographical location of the tourist zone being along the border, tours are generally half-day or one-day trips.”

It was also noted that the Chongsu and Youlgol Revolutionary Historic Sites will be included among visitor destinations, and that there are plans to include the Chongsong Bridge, which was used in the Korean War, and other Pangsan-ri locations as tourist destinations.

With regards to the tourist development zone, the KCNA expressed its anticipation, saying, “When it begins, tourism will attract many tourists to this zone and will therefore form an international tourism link between Chongsu and Dandong, China.”

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“Securing economic profit,” fundamental to economic management

October 31st, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea recently announced that the legitimacy and vitality of the “Economic Management in Our Style” policy has been clearly proven at many factories and business, and that ‘socialist principles’ and the ‘securing economic profit’ based on objective economic laws are the fundamental demands which must be adhered to in economic management.

On October 22, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun published an independently written article entitled, “The Fundamental Demands of Establishing Economic Management in Our Style,” which stated, “In a socialist society where the means of production are socially owned and where the economy develops according to the guiding plans of the country, the problem of how the economy is lead and managed carries an especially important meaning.”

The article first mentions, “With relation to means of production, socialist ownership is the foundation of a socialist economy, and a socialist economy is developed through collective labor.” The article continues, emphasizing, “Adhering to socialist principles in an economic enterprise means to support and hold fast to socialist ownership and to thoroughly realize the principles of collectivism.”

More specifically, the article stated, “In terms of economic leadership and management, we must adhere to and support socialist ownership, put national and societal gains above all else while also securing as much profit as possible for producers.” It continues, “The entire process of production and management must become one which fosters the spirit of collectivism in workers and laborers and which elevates the public’s willpower and creativity so that they may fulfill their roles and feel ownership responsibility.”

The article also mentioned, “Economic guidance and management must coincide with objective economic laws and scientific logic in order to guarantee the highest amount of real economic profit.” This was pointed out as another one of the fundamental demands of the “Economic Management in Our Style” policy.

With regards to economic law, the article says, “Objective economic laws affect a socialist economy, and the process of satisfying those demands is equal to ‘economic construction’ or an ‘economic development process’.” The article continues, “In order to guarantee real economic profits, economic laws and related economic spaces must be put to use effectively. Such economic laws include the law of value, the law of distribution through labor, and the law of planned, balanced development of the people’s economy through economic leadership, management, production and economic activities.

Moreover, the article specifically emphasized production relations with scientific technology. “In terms of economic guidance and company management, efforts first must be made to advance scientific technology, and all processes and factors relating to production and management must be made scientific. All businesses should actively pursue research and development in new technology and progress towards becoming a company where scientific technology and production are integrated – a technology-intensive business.” It also argues that today’s rapid economic development spurs further development in scientific technology, which occurs through the processes of wide acceptance in production and the active realization of technological guidance in production.

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New satellite imagery of Pyongyang (2014-9-21)

October 31st, 2014

Google has offered some beautiful new satellite imagery of the Pyongyang area dated September 21, 2014. The imagery shows the Pyongyang region remains an area undergoing tremendous transformation that has taken place over the last decade. Below I have highlighted some of the more interesting changes that have appeared in the last few months.

1. The nearly completed Wisong (Satellite) Scientist Street (위성과학자거리) in Unjong District, Pyongyang: 39.231244°, 125.870377°

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The Satellite Scientist Street is in Unjong District next to the State Academy of Sciences and inside the newly-announced Unjong Cutting-Edge Technological Development Zone. The area is approximately 900m x 360m and consists of 24 residential blocks (each seven stories, appx 13m x 80m) of alternating green and yellow. There are also approximately eight parks (of one kind or another), nursery, kindergarten, primary school, junior secondary school, standard North Korean retail outlets, hospital, polyclinic, health complex, greenhouses and vegetable gardens. Also constructed nearby is the new Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences and a new Paesomjon train station.

After being out of public view for over a month this fall, Kim Jong-un made a notable appearance here on October 14. It was completed and opened on the 17th. Officially the compound is for scientists at the State Academy of Sciences.

2. Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage (평양육아원,애육원): 39.042442°, 125.794987°

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This new orphanage in Pyongyang is by far the country’s largest and nicest. It sits on a plot of land approximately 110m x 250m. Kim Jong-un visited the completed facility on October 27.

During the construction, many visitors to Pyongyang were unaware of the location of this project (I know because I asked). This is because it lies secluded behind exclusive leadership residencies (Undok Housing Complex and and United Front Department Housing) in northern Taedonggang District.

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3. New luxury restaurant boat on Taedong River: 39.014252°, 125.755015°

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A large restaurant boat is under construction on the banks of the Taedong River in central Pyongyang. Not much is known about this boat yet, but it is approximately 118 meters long–nearly twice the length of the largest restaurant boat in the DPRK, the Taedonggang Restaurant Boat. The investors in this project must have high expectations. It will be interesting to see if these boats will all be managed by the same organization, and whether the Pyongyang consumer economy can support two such operations.

NK News was the first to report on this boat back on September 11. You can see a photo of the ship here.

4. Progress made on Mansudae Underground Convenience Store (만수대 지하편의상점): 39.026505°, 125.749284°

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A Koryo Tours delegation in March of 2013 was the first to report that the Hakdanggol Fountain Park had been torn down to make way for a new facility in the heart of the central district.  The DPRK has yet to announce much information related to the project, but tourist photos indicate it will be an underground shopping center below a park.

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5. Progress made on high-rise shopping center near Tongil Market: 38.982815°, 125.733247°

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Situated just north of Pyongyang’s most popular market (for foreigners), the Tongil Street Market, and just south of the failed investment project KKG Avenue, this large high-rise construction project continues to make progress. The building appears to have an “H” shaped base approximately 110m x 70m. This project is likely being supported by foreign investors, however we do not know who they are or anything substantive about this project.

6.  Progress made on East Pyongyang Shopping Mall (동평양지구 상업거리): 39.030246°, 125.775913°

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The groundbreaking ceremony for this project was held on January 16th, 2014, but little substantive work had been done as late as April. The construction site is approximately 270m x 110m and was unoccupied as far back as 2000. When launched, this shopping center was under the auspices of the State Economic Development Commission (SEDC–the same organization responsible for the nation’s new economic development zones) and a Chinese consortium named “Great China International Group”. Since the launch, the  SEDC, Ministry of Foreign Trade, and the Joint Venture Investment Corporation (JVIC) have been merged into the Ministry of External Economic Affairs (Not to be confused with the External Economic Affairs Commission which was dissolved in the late 1990s).

7. Closure of east Pyongyang tram depot and removal of tracks

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According to new satellite imagery, one of Pyongyang’s tram lines has been removed. The tracks, which were inlaid into the road, seem to have been completely pulled up and the roads repaved. The tram depot remains in eastern Pyongyang, but it can be easily be re-purposed to serve as storage or manufacturing needs in the future.

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It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on the Sadong Market which lies directly next to the former tram depot. It would have been relatively easy for customer to travel to the market with such convenient public transport, but will people make the effort when the commute becomes more complicated?

UPDATE: Reader Gag Halfrunt sent in the following helpful information:

Judging by this map from Transphoto.ru the closed tram line is the eastern portion of line 1. Line 1 has another depot at the western terminus in Mangyongdae, which is still open in the latest Google satellite photo.s.

Indeed there’s a note on Transphoto.ru saying the line will be converted to a trolleybus line. Translated by Google, it says:

Tram line 1 of route to the east of the city Songsin and depot at the end of the line are closed. The tram is expected to be replaced by trolley. This line was the only one in the city where the tram followed by the middle of the carriageway and not along the roadside, which is not the North Korean standards. Previously the line had already been shortened to Sintra area-Dong, before the bridge, on the east bank of the river Tedogan, before you reach the town center . Tram Pyongyang also begins to experience significant deficits with operational rolling stock.

 

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North Korean “Superman” robs Fort Knox

October 29th, 2014

I received a strange email from an anonymous source (so of course I opened it) containing the following information:

This is a piece of exciting news that has been leaked from an anonymous source in North Korea and it might be of your interest: some images from the storyboard of the latest film production by the Korean Feature Film Studio, based in the capital of the country, Pyongyang.

The images that we have received show a scene of what appears to be the North Korean version of a Marvel superhero story. He is less muscled than his American counterparts; his clothes are not so tight or shiny but recall the military apparel. He carries a hammer, a sickle and a brush, representing the Korean workers and uses a torch as a weapon. And he is not alone: he has a winged horse as his sidekick.

Apparently, the objective of this superhero is to destroy the capitalist system. In the images we can see him attacking Fort Knox, which holds the largest US official gold reserves, and then flying away with the money and throwing it into the ocean.

I have no idea if this is “real” or where it came from, but it is certainly interesting and entertaining. The people who sent this to me do not seem to know much about North Korea, or they would have easily recognized the Chollima Horse –if not the more obscure “Ranam Torch.” So given how little they appear to know about the DPRK, how would they have access to this information? It is also worth noting that the drawing of the bullion depository at Fort Knox is a very accurate representation of the actual building, but so far no Fort Knox set can be seen at Pyongyang Film Studio.

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The story line is not too original–it is the plot of Goldfinger (or Die Hard 3), except of course “Goldfinger” has been replaced by a North Korean Superman, and he is the protagonist. For what it is worth, Kim Jong-il was also rumored to be a big fan of James Bond films.

Of course the US (and everyone else) went off what was left of the international gold standard (Bretton Woods) on August 15, 1971, so the economic implications of the plot are negligible nowadays (Fort Knox gold is an insignificant part of the US economy–it’s actually a drain on the US Treasury until the gold is sold off). Additionally, Fort Knox did not play a role in international gold clearing. That was done by the Federal Reserve. I doubt that these crucial bits of information will make it past the North Korean producers (if there are any).

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