According to RFA:
North Korea has once again increased the number of secondary schools for gifted students, making the institutions less selective and reducing their role as guaranteed shortcuts to elite universities in Pyongyang, sources in the country said.
Until recently, North Korea’s nine provinces and the capital Pyongyang each had just one advanced-track senior middle school, a type of combined middle and high school which runs on a more intensive curriculum than a regular secondary school.
Some provinces now run more than one senior middle school reserved for top-notch students, sources said.
“There are multiple gifted senior middle schools operating now in cities such as Chongjin and Hamhung,” one source told RFA’s Korean Service, referring to the capitals of North and South Hamgyong provinces respectively.
Students at such schools are groomed for university education, where they are exempted from military service and welcomed into the country’s elite.
Before 2008, provinces had operated many of the advanced-track schools, but that year authorities returned to the original system of having one per province.
Now that there are more schools for gifted students, it has gotten easier for most students to gain admission to one, the same source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The difficulty of getting admission to these gifted schools has eased somewhat,” the source said.
However, for less privileged students, attending the schools has become even more difficult because some have gotten rid of their dormitories, he added.
No more guarantees
With more students on the advanced track, the schools are no longer a surefire way into university and out of military service, another source said.
“The schools for gifted students are given the highest admittance quotas from the prestigious universities in Pyongyang, as well as other provinces’ four-year universities. Thus attendance at a gifted school has been a shortcut to getting accepted to prestigious colleges.”
“Since the number of schools for gifted students has increased recently, students attending those schools are no longer guaranteed to be admitted to the prestigious four-year colleges,” the source said.
Getting exempted from military service upon admission to university used to be “one of the greatest perks” of attending a school for gifted students, he added.
North Korea first introduced the schools for gifted students in 1983, establishing one in each of the country’s nine provinces and in the capital.
By 1999, the number was greatly expanded to some 200 gifted students’ schools.
But in 2008, authorities returned to the original system of having just one school for gifted students in Pyongyang and each province, turning the others into regular schools.
Read the full story here:
North Korea Opens More Secondary Schools for Gifted Students
According to Yonhap:
China has launched the second train service to North Korea, state media reported Monday, a move expected to boost travel between the two nations.
The Sunday opening of regular rail services from China’s northeastern city of Jian to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang makes Jian the second city offering such service after another Chinese border city of Dandong, Xinhua news agency reported.
North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive and isolated nations, but Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to attract foreign tourists since last year by offering more international and domestic flights.
In Jian, Chinese tourists can apply for a one-day round trip, which is available once every four days, to North Korea for US$480 per person, the report said.
Zang Wanghong, director of the Jian Tourist Board, said the tour agency will begin selling the tour package to the North’s western port city of Manpo before May 1, according to the report.
According to Xinhua:
A group of 32 Chinese tourists on Sunday took a train from Ji’an City in northeast China’s Jilin Province for five-day trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The opening of the train route makes Ji’an, the second city after Dandong in neighboring Liaoning Province with service to DPRK.
The train from Ji’an can take tourists to Pyongyang, Kaesong and Panmunjom in DPRK, according to Liu Jun, deputy manager of the Ji’an International Travel Agency.
Both Ji’an and Dandong face DPRK across the Yalu River. The distance between Ji’an and DPRK’s capital of Pyongyang is 400 km, while that between Dandong and Pyongyang is about 200 km.
Chinese visitors with ID cards and passports can apply for the 2,980 yuan(480 U.S. dollar) visit in Ji’an. The trip is organized every four days.
Zang Wanghong, director of the Ji’an Tourist Board, said Ji’an will open a one-day tour to Manpo, a port city on the western coast of DPRK before May 1.
Ji’an which boasts a UNESCO world heritage site of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom hopes to develop tourism based on its own resources and its adjacency to DPRK, said Zang.
Read the full story here:
China starts 2nd rail travel service to N. Korea
Another Chinese city opens train travel to Pyongyang
According to KCNA:
Kim Jong Un Sends Educational Aid Fund and Stipends to Children of Koreans in Japan
Pyongyang, April 11 (KCNA) — Supreme leader Kim Jong Un sent educational aid fund and stipends amounting to 207.8 million yen to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan for the democratic national education of children of Koreans in Japan on the occasion of the 102nd birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.
The educational aid fund and stipends sent by Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and Marshal Kim Jong Un in 160 installments total 47,331,150,390 yen.
Since the Mangyongbong-92 is no longer traveling the East Sea/Sea of Japan, I wonder how the funds will be transferred.
The Chongryun have seen bad financial news lately:
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper, reported on April 2, 2014 that since March of last year all production facilities across North Korea have begun to take measures that will allow them to operate more autonomously. The article is currently garnering attention due to its explanation of the changes and improvements to economic management and by introducing factories where these measures have been successful.
The news also reported that North Korean factories have to diverge from the national economic plan and produce and sell products at their own discretion. Furthermore, workers’ compensation and benefits packages are being adjusted according to each individual factory’s economic situation.
One year after the implementation of the economic management improvement measures, the concept of “business know-how” has begun to settle in each factory. Factories that have been achieving successful results all share similar developments in worker enthusiasm, sense of responsibility, originality and creativity. Promoting the growth of these qualities in factory workers became the key to the successful economic management and growth during this period.
Specifically, the newspaper reported that the North Korean factory workers are seeing returns on their increased profits, and that their enthusiasm is the driving force of the nation’s economic growth.
In the article, Pyongyang Electric Cable Factory 326 was introduced as the first factory to be labeled as a “leading unit” and is considered as an ideal factory workplace for many job seekers in Pyongyang.
At this factory, monthly wages have steadily risen in increments that allow workers to meet the rising costs of living and maintain healthy lives. Workers at Pyongyang Electric Cable Factory 326 are now earning dozens of times more than the national average every month, and the highest record for wages soaring to over 100 times the average was observed this past year.
Alongside slogans and posters that inspire the workers’ will to work, competition charts are also posted at various locations around the factory. This has created a sort of “Socialist production competition.” Factories that submit detailed reports of their business performance receive gifts, and the unit that receives first place is rewarded with a special congratulatory dinner.
Another reason why job seekers are choosing this factory as their ideal workplace is because of housing security. Factory 326 solves its workers’ housing problems by constructing residence complex for the employees and workers become eligible to receive housing after working three to four years.
According to the article, the recent measures taken to improve economic management have been effective in creating a sense of attachment between worker and factory and increasing workers’ desire to succeed. This, combined with the introduction of new scientific technology has allowed factories across North Korea to attain a 10 percent increase in production over the last year. While overall production has in fact increased, it can be concluded that the boost to worker morale is the biggest and most important part of the changes seen in the economy since the implementation of the management improvement measures.
On March 31 of last year, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea held a plenary meeting where the “Byungjin line” or parallel policy that supports both economic and nuclear development, was adopted, and where Pak Pong Ju was elected to the Politburo — and later Premier (formerly First Deputy Director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party) — in an unprecedented move. From this point forward, North Korea began to officially advance its plans for economic management measures.
UPDATE 2 (2014-4-17): 3th Supreme People’s Assembly Holds First Session, Few Changes in Pak Pong Ju’s Cabinet
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The first session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) held by the Kim Jong Un regime concluded on April 9, 2014 showing no major personnel changes within the Cabinet. The existing regime will continue to lead the North Korean economy, and their recent economic reform measures are expected to gain momentum.
At this session, it was decided that North Korea will retain Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju as leader of the Cabinet, and that many of the other high-level officials will maintain their positions in economic affairs.
It is therefore expected that the Kim Jong Un regime’s economic reform measures, such as the expansion of farmers’ authority (through the Subworkteam Management System), the construction of economic development zones (EDZs), and the system promoting the independent economic management of factories (and all other production facilities), will be implemented smoothly and stably.
It is also expected that North Korea will ramp up the implementation of its economic management improvement measures due to their recent success, which exceeded the state’s expectations. This directly coincides with the decision to retain Pak Pong Ju as Premier, and is an effort to secure the stability, continuity and longevity of North Korean economic policy.
Only three high-level officials in the economic department were replaced at this first session of the SPA: Han Yong Guk replaced Kim Kwang Yong as the forestry minister, Kim Chon Gyun replaced Paek Ryong Chon as the President of the Central Bank, and Ri Je Son was appointed as the Minister of Atomic Energy Industry.
The Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is presumed to be an expanded and reformed version of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy (GBAE), which previously operated as an entity under the Cabinet. Established in 2013 at the 7th session of the 12th SPA, the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program, nuclear policy, and the “byungjin line”, a policy that emphasizes the parallel development of economy and nuclear weaponry.
In 2013, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the establishment of the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, saying it will “both modernize and systemize the nation’s atomic energy industry.” In the announcement, the KCNA also said, “because [the Ministry] has been founded on a firm base of cutting-edge technology, both the production and quality of nuclear materials will increase, and development will be made in self-sustaining nuclear powered industries.”
The newly appointed Ri Je Son has served as the General Director of the GBAE since 1997, and was the target of United Nations Security Council sanctions after North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009.
Han Yong Guk has risen up through the ranks in the forestry sector, and Kim Chon Gyun has previously served as both director and vice-president of the Central Bank of the DPRK.
These small changes in Cabinet personnel do in fact signify efforts to maintain the stability of the nation’s economic policy, but the fact that these changes are so few in number also signifies that, after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, “re-shuffling” of personnel within the Cabinet had already taken place to some degree.
Before his execution, Jang Song Thaek had influences on many ministries within the Cabinet, including the ministries of commerce, metal and coal industries, and the Cabinet’s Extractive Industries. Since his execution, North Korea has replaced the head of these ministries.
UPDATE 1 [1st session of SPA] (2014-4-9): KCNA has posted many articles on the first session of the SPA. I have archived the important ones below:
Story 1: 1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK Held (KCNA) (PDF). Notes: Kim Jong-un elected as First Chairman of the NDC. State posts determined. One interesting agenda item was not elaborated on: “2. Election of the State Guidance Organ of the DPRK”.
Story 2: DPRK National Defence Commission Elected (KCNA):
Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The following National Defence Commission was elected at the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK:
First chairman of the NDC of the DPRK Kim Jong Un
Vice-chairmen of the NDC Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Yong Mu and O Kuk Ryol
Members of the NDC Jang Jong Nam, Pak To Chun, Kim Won Hong, Choe Pu Il and Jo Chun Ryong.
Yonhap reports on Choe Ryong-hae:
Choe Ryong-hae, a top military official, has become a truly influential figure second to only North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 9 when the newly launched North Korean parliament elected him as new vice chairman of the communist country’s most powerful body, National Defense Commission (NDC), during its first session.
Choe, the director of the North Korean army’s General Political Bureau, took up the mighty post that had been kept vacant since Jang Song-thaek, a powerful uncle of the North Korean leader, was executed on treason charges in December.
With his NDC appointment, Choe has grabbed all of the No. 2 positions of the North’s three core power bodies, the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and the party’s Central Military Commission.
Story 3: Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Elected (KCNA):
Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The following Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK was elected at the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly:
President of the Presidium of the SPA of the DPRK Kim Yong Nam
Its Vice-Presidents Yang Hyong Sop and Kim Yong Dae
Its Honorary Vice-Presidents Kim Yong Ju and Choe Yong Rim
Its Secretary General Hong Son Ok
Its Members Kim Yang Gon, Thae Jong Su, Jon Yong Nam, Hyon Sang Ju, Ri Myong Gil, Kim Jong Sun, Kim Wan Su, Ryu Mi Yong, Kang Myong Chol, Kang Su Rin and Jon Kyong Nam.
Meanwhile, the North apparently opted for stability by making no dramatic changes in a Cabinet shakeup, which the parliament rubber-stamped during its session.
The North’s octogenarian titular head of state, Kim Yong-nam, retained his position as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, with Premier Pak Pong-ju also keeping his job.
What is notable is that the North replaced its foreign minister. Ri Su-yong, a former ambassador to Switzerland, was named to replace Pak Ui-chun as the top diplomat of the communist country.
Ri is known to have served as a guardian of leader Kim and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong when they studied at an international school in Switzerland in the 1990s.
NK News reports on other changes:
Mun Myong Hak replaced Ri Yong Yong as Minister of Coal Industry
Kim Yong Gwang replaced Han Hyo Yon as Minister of Metallurgical Industry
Ri Hak Chol replaced Kang Min Chol as Minister of Mining Industry
Han Ryong Guk replaced Kim Kwang Yong as Minister of Forestry
Kim Kyong Nam replaced Ri Song Ho as Minister of Commerce
Pak Chun Nam replaced Hong Kwang Sun as Minister of Culture
Kim Chon Gyun replaced Paek Ryong Chon as President of the Central Bank
Pak Myong Chol replaced Kim Pyong Ryul as President of the Supreme Court (not a cabinet position)
Story 5: Director of Supreme Public Prosecutors Office Appointed, President of Supreme Court Elected (KCNA)
Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The 1st Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK appointed Jang Pyong Gyu as director of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and elected Pak Myong Chol as president of the Supreme Court.
Story 6: Panel Committees of SPA of DPRK Elected (KCNA)
The following Legislation Committee and Budget Committee, panel committees of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, were elected at the 1st Session of the 13th SPA of the DPRK:
Legislation Committee of the SPA of the DPRK
Chairman Choe Pu Il
Members Jang Pyong Gyu, Pak Myong Chol, Pak Thae Dok, Thae Hyong Chol, Cha Hui Rim and Pak Myong Guk.
Budget Committee of the SPA of the DPRK
Chairman O Su Yong
Members Pak Yong Ho, Kye Yong Sam, Hong So Hon, Kim Hui Suk, Choe Yong Il and Pak Hyong Ryol.
Story 7: Statistics on the SPA members (KCNA)
The elected deputies to the SPA are the genuine people’s representatives who are devoting themselves to strengthening the DPRK government and accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche, remaining loyal to the idea and guidance of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.
Among the SPA deputies are anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters who participated in the anti-Japanese armed struggle led by President Kim Il Sung and veterans of the Fatherland Liberation War.
17.2 percent of the deputies are service personnel who are performing shining feats at posts to defend the country and worksites to build a rich and powerful country, true to the Songun revolutionary leadership of Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un.
Workers account for 12. 7 percent, cooperative farmers 11.1 percent and women 16.3 percent. They are bringing about shining labor innovations in the van of the heroic advance to build a thriving socialist nation.
Also among the deputies are officials of the party and power bodies, administrative and economic organs and working people’s organizations, those in the fields of science, education, public health, literature and arts and media and various other sectors and those of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and organizations under it.
Winners of Order of Kim Il Sung, Kim Il Sung Prize, Order of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il Prize account for 30.2 percent, recipients of the titles of the DPRK hero and labor hero 14. 6 percent and recipients of academic degrees and titles including professors and doctors and scientists, technicians and experts 91.7 percent.
3.9 percent of the deputies are aged below 39, 66.9 percent 40-59, 29.2 percent above 60 and 94.2 percent of them graduated from universities or received similar level of education.
16% of the total expenditure was spent for national defence, thus contributing to smashing the enemies’ reckless moves to ignite a nuclear war and the anti-DPRK confrontation racket and powerfully demonstrating the dignity and might of the DPRK.
45.2% of the total expenditure went to the field of economic construction to consolidate the foundation of the self-supporting economy, bring a surge in the production in various fields of the national economy including agriculture and usher in a heyday in construction.
38.8% of the total expenditure was spent for the field of cultural construction including education, healthcare, sports and music and arts, contributing to the enforcement of popular policies and the building of a highly-civilized socialist nation.
This year’s state budgetary revenue and expenditure have been shaped in such a manner as to meet the financial needs for realizing the Party’s plan to build a thriving nation as early as possible and carrying out the national economy plan.
The state budgetary revenue is expected to grow 4.3% over last year. Out of this, transaction revenue is expected to swell 4.5%, the revenue from the profits of state enterprises 7.9%, that from the profits of cooperative organizations 4.8%, that from real estate rent 9.5%, that from social insurance 5.1%, that from sale of properties and price differential 2.4%, other revenues 1.7% and the revenue from economic and trade zone 5.1%.
This year’s state budget envisages that provinces, cities and counties will ensure the expenditure with their own incomes and deliver revenue to the national budget for their fulfillment of the plan for local budgetary revenue and expenditure.
The state budgetary expenditure is expected to increase 6.5% over last year. Out of this, spending for the fields of agriculture, stockbreeding and fishery is expected to go up 5.1%, that for capital construction 4.3%, that for science and technology 3.6%, that for the vanguard sector of the national economy and the fields of basic industry and light industry 5.2%, that for education 5.6%, that for healthcare 2.2%, that for social insurance and social security 1.4%, that for sports 17.1% and that for culture 1.3%.
15.9% of the total state budgetary expenditure is expected to be spent for national defence this year and a huge amount of educational aid fund and stipends is to be sent to the children of Koreans in Japan.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time:
The last publicly available figure for Pyongyang’s annual budget, in 2008, was 451.3 billion North Korean won. Based on the latest available market rate, that would be roughly equivalent to $61.8 million. Using that figure to calculate spending on national defense would give a figure of around $8.65 million.
Here are the pictured from Rodong Sinmun:
ORIGINAL POST [Politburo] (2014-4-9): KCNA reports on the meeting of the Political Bureau of the Worker’s Party:
Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un
Pyongyang, April 8 (KCNA) — A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, on April 8.
It was attended by members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK, and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK.
Vice-premiers of the Cabinet and some department directors, first vice-department directors and vice-department directors of the C.C., the WPK were present at the meeting as observers.
The meeting discussed the issue of reinforcing the organization for increasing the leadership role and function of the Party as required by the developing revolution.
It discussed a proposal for forming the state leadership body to be submitted to the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly.
It also discussed an organizational matter.
Decisions on the relevant agenda items were unanimously adopted at the meeting.
Kim Jong Un at the meeting set forth important tasks to be fulfilled to further strengthen the WPK to be an invincible revolutionary party, firmly protect the dignity and sovereignty of the country and dynamically accelerate the work to improve the standard of the people’s living and the building of a rich and powerful country.
The meeting held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un marks a historic occasion that encouraged the service personnel and people in the struggle to dynamically advance along the road of independence, Songun and socialism under the uplifted banner of great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and provided an important milestone in bringing earlier the building of a thriving nation and a great revolutionary event of national reunification.
Here are photos from Rodong Sinmun:
Read the full story here:
Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un
A new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report is out on foreign assistance to North Korea. The authors are Mark Manyin and Mary Beth Nikitin.
Here is the summary:
Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly remote. As of March 2014, barring an unexpected breakthrough, there appears little likelihood the Obama Administration will provide large-scale assistance of any type to North Korea in the near future. Members of Congress have a number of tools they could use to influence the development and implementation of aid programs with North Korea.
Food Aid. Large swathes of North Korea’s population have suffered from chronic malnutrition since the mid-1990s. Food aid—largely from China, South Korea, and the United States—has been essential in filling the gap between North Korea’s supply and demand, though since 2009 donations from all countries except China have dwindled to a minimal amount. Observers and activists attribute the North Korea’s malnutrition and occasional starvation problems to food shortages—which at times have been massive—and more fundamentally to the unequal distribution of food caused in large measure by the North Korean government’s deliberate decisions and policies. In 2013, an improved harvest appeared to reduce North Korea’s chronic grain shortfall to some of the lowest levels since the 1990s. Yet outside food groups reported continued malnutrition among vulnerable sectors of the population, especially children. In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights conditions found that the North Korean government’s “act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation” amounted to crimes against humanity.
Providing food to North Korea poses a number of dilemmas. Pyongyang has resisted reforms that would allow the equitable distribution of food and help pay for food imports. The North Korean government restricts the ability of donors to operate in the country. Additionally, multiple sources have asserted that some of the food assistance is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. However, it is likely that food aid has helped feed millions of North Koreans, at times possibly staving off a repeat of the famine conditions that existed in North Korea in the mid-late 1990s, when 5%-10% of the population died. South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government has indicated that it would be willing to offer North Korea food aid as part of her plan to foster a “new era” in inter-Korean relations. In 2013, the South Korean government donated around $12 million to United Nations humanitarian organizations that supply humanitarian aid, including some food, in North Korea.
Energy Assistance. Between 1995 and 2009, the United States provided around $600 million in energy assistance to North Korea. The aid was given over two time periods—1995-2003 and 2007-2009—in exchange for North Korea freezing its plutonium-related nuclear facilities. In 2008 and 2009, North Korea also took steps to disable these facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided since 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the Six-Party Talks—involving North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia—over North Korea’s nuclear program. The move followed condemnation and sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea’s April 2009 launch of a suspected long-range missile and May 2009 test of a nuclear device.
Denuclearization Assistance. In 2007 and 2008, the United States gave technical assistance to North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for supplemental funds to use in case of a return to denuclearization. Since then, Congress has not approved and the administration has not requested any funds for denuclearization since North Korea has not agreed to return to the nuclear disarmament process.
Pictured Above (Google Earth): A December 2013 satellite image of the Russian Pier in Rason Port
UPDATE 1 (2014-4-14): This Russian-language source has different information.
ORIGINAL POST (2014-4-8): According to the Moscow Times:
Russian Railways has put to use the North Korean port it helped to upgrade recently.
The state-owned railway operator said Tuesday it had started carrying Siberian coal to the port of Rajin, in what may be the first attempt to utilize the harbor after it reopened in September.
“The company has started to provide a full suite of services to ship coal through Rajin to Asia-Pacific countries,” said a statement from Russian Railways logistics subsidiary, RZhD Logistika.
A joint venture between Russian Railways and the North Korean Ministry of Railways has rebuilt one of the port’s wharfs and a rail link connecting it to Russia in a rare example of foreign involvement in the economy of the isolated dictator state. The joint venture, RasonKonTrans, where Russia holds 70 percent, sought to relieve the congestion at Russia’s Pacific ports.
Coal miner and steelmaker Mechel is the sender of the coal consignments, according to Nadezhda Malysheva, chief editor of port industry portal PortNews.
Both Mechel and RzhD Logistica spokespersons declined to comment.
Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin traveled to Rajin for a grand opening of the rail service and the wharf in September. The company invested 9 billion rubles ($250 million) to upgrade both. Russian engineers supervised the work, while Koreans largely contributed with unskilled labor.
The Russian terminal at Rajin, Asia’s most northerly all-year ice-free port, will at first handle just coal freight from Russia to ship it further to China’s eastern and southeastern provinces. Further plans are to equip it to be able to provide container services.
RZhD Logistika loaded a total of 9,000 metric tons of coal on two freight trains of 130 cars each to carry to Rajin at the end of last month, it said in the statement. The cargo will next go to China’s ports of Shanghai, Lianyungang and Guangzhou.
Current load capacity of port Rajin is 4 million tons of coal a year.
Russia’s biggest coal export port, Vostochny, which sits on the Pacific coast, has the capacity to handle 18 million tons a year, Malysheva said. It and the other key coal port of Vanino operate at the top of their capacity, as exports of the fuel to Asia have increased, she said.
Coal remains the principal fuel for electricity generation at power plants in China. But its coal price declined 10 percent last year because of strong rivalry among Russian suppliers and competition from Australia, the RZhD Logistika statement said.
Even so, the government last week backed a plan to boost development of the coal-mining industry in the country’s Far East to cater to Asian markets. The idea is to have a shorter transportation leg for the shipments, compared with the distance that the coal travels from Siberia.
Read the full story here:
First Russian Coal Heads to North Korean Port
According to Yonhap:
A total of 360 North Koreans fled their home and arrived in South Korea in the first quarter of this year, registering a slight increase from a year earlier, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
According to the data compiled by the ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, 153 North Koreans settled in the South in January, 111 in February and 96 in March.
The figure for the quarter was slightly higher than the 319 entrants for the same period in 2013 and the 352 people in 2012, the data showed.
“The 2014 tally was slightly higher than that of the previous two years, but it remains to be seen until the end of this year if it indicates any significant changes,” a ministry official said.
Last year, a total of 1,516 North Koreans settled in the South, up slightly from 2012 when 1,502 people crossed the border, according to ministry data. South Korea is now home to 26,124 North Koreans.
Read the full story here:
360 N. Korean defectors arrive in South in Q1