Has Camp 18 been reopened or merged with Camp 14?

September 30th, 2016

The consensus among North Korea watchers (myself included) was that Camp 18 had been closed sometime in the late 2000s (between 2006 and 2011). The coal mine located inside the camp, the Pongchang District Coal Mine (봉창지구탄광), was even featured on North Korean television on 2011-1-3,  2012-2-27, and 2012-10-20.

Recent satellite imagery of the camp featured on Google Earth (2016-3-30), however, indicates that a new prison camp has been opened on the site of the former prison sometime between 2013 and 2015. If a new prison camp has been been opened, it’s name and administrative classification remain a mystery, though I post some evidence and speculation below for your consideration….

New Security Perimeter
A new security perimeter has been built around the former Camp 18, and it is not built along the same path as the old Camp 18 security perimeter.

new-camp-18-security-perimeter-2016-3-30

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The outlines of the new prison camp security perimeter (in yellow) and various historical security perimeters associated with Camp 18 (in black)

The difference between the security perimeter of the old Camp 18 and the new prison camp can be most clearly seen along the eastern and norther edges of the camp. Camp 18 had a security perimeter along the norther border, and remnants of it still remain, but the new prison camp does not yet appear to have a northern border (other than the Taedong River).

The new security perimeter appears to be composed of two barbed-wire fences held up by concrete posts.

new-camp-barbed-fense-2016-3-30

The new security perimeter has five new guard posts along the mountain ridge and two new security checkpoints, one at each of the two transit points. The eastern security checkpoint appears to be the main entrance. The southern mountainous checkpoint appears to be for delivery of coal to the “famous” 2.8 Jikdong Youth Coal Mine Mine (2.8직동 청년 탄광) located outside the security perimeter.

guard-post-2016-3-30

Pictured Above (Google Earth: 2016-3-30): Security perimeter of prison camp (yellow line), five guard posts (yellow points), two transit checkpoints (red points), roads in/out of the camp (blue lines)

Here is a closeup of the new guard post at  39.546986°, 126.018297°. It was built between 2013-10-1 and 2015-4-4. You can also see the barbed wire perimeter running next to it.

new-guard-post

There is also a guard post on the bridge that links the area with Camp 14, but this checkpoint appears to be a remnant of the former Camp 18.

camp-18-rail-guard-post-2016-3-30

New Guard Barracks?

There also appears to be five new facilities that could serve as guard barracks scattered around the camp.

guard-facilities-2016-3-30

The guard facilities/barracks are located here: 1.  39.536004°, 126.051207° 2.  39.521812°, 126.079342° 3.  39.579655°, 126.080485° 4.  39.593158°, 126.115249° 5.  39.576379°, 126.131835°

The five facilities are very similar in construction. Here is a closeup of the facility that lies at the main entrance to the new prison camp:

main-checkpoint-18-2016-3-30

Housing Razed

A substantial amount of housing was razed in the camp between 2013 and 2016, which would support the idea that “innocent” people were moved out of the camp perimeter (possibly to eastern neighboring Myonghak Coal Mine (명학탄광) or Tukjang Youth Coal Mine (득장청년탄관) which have both seen substantial housing growth starting in 2011). It is possible that once the “innocents” were moved to the neighboring coal mines,  the Pongchang Coal Mine in the former Camp 18 could return to the exclusive use of prison labor.

housing-razed-camp-18-2016-3-30

In image above areas where houses were destroyed are outlined in red.

Below are images from neighboring Myonghak Coal Mine (명학탄광) which saw a housing boom starting in 2011. Were these people being removed from former Camp 18?

myonghak-coal-mine-2011

By 2014, this new housing construction appeared to be complete.

myonghak-mine-2014-2016

Immortality Tower Removed

The “immortality tower” that is present in the vast majority of villages, factory complexes, and mining complexes has been removed.

 

immortality-tower-removed-before

immmortality-tower-removed-after

The monument was torn down sometime after 2013-10-1. By contrast, the immortality towers were added when Camp 22 was closed in Hoeryong.

It is possible that the nearby Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il monuments are also being torn down, but I need more imagery to confirm.

Did Camp 18 merge with Camp 14?

Pictured below is the ferry that goes between Camp 14 and former Camp 18.  It was built sometime between 2007 and 2011 (sorry, not much imagery here). Coordinates:   39.589340°, 126.077555°.

camp-14-ferry

The fact that a ferry appears to be operational between the two prison camps, coupled with the observation that the new camp has no northern perimeter (and that they have always been connected by railway and temporary road), supports the hypothesis that the Camp 18 area may have been taken over by Camp 14. The history of the relationship between Camp 14 and Camp 18 is complicated, but there is also some historical precedent.

Wrapping up

If this is a new prison camp, and I believe the evidence shows this is plausible, it will be the second in the Kim Jong-un era. I spotted the first new prison facility of the Kim Jong-un era in January 2013 on the north west side of Camp 14. Its official name and administrative classification remain a mystery.

Let the debate begin…

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Camp 14 updates (2016-3-30)

September 29th, 2016

camp-14-overview-2016-9-29

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Kwanliso 14  (Camp 14) outlined in the center and in the upper left a smaller prison camp area I was the first to discover in January 2013.

Google Earth has uploaded new imagery of Camp 14 and an auxiliary prison camp on its northwest border (first noticed in January 2013) whose formal name remains a mystery. The new imagery is dated 2016-3-30 and it shows a number of facility upgrades in the prison camp. These upgrades suggest the camp continues to serve a necessary role for the North Korean government and will probably not be closed for the foreseeable future.

Below I list some of the changes Camp 14. Some of them I have already reported in Radio Free Asia.

New Firing Ranges Constructed/Renovated

 camp-14-firing-range-2016-3-30

Pictured above is a new firing range constructed between 2013-10-1 and 2016-3-30. It is approximately 240m from the firing position to the bulls-eye in the painted hill-side target in the upper left. This firing range has been built near the camp headquarters (coordinates:  39.574979°, 126.047860°). Two other smaller firing ranges have been built/renovated along the western perimeter. One is near the camp entrance at  39.559300°, 126.013005°. The third firing range is not new, but is being renovated at  39.629702°, 126.035436°.

Fish Farms Renovated/Modernized

camp-14-fish-farm-before-2013

camp-14-fish-farm-after-2016

Pictured above is a small fish farm in Camp 14 (Coordinates:  39.606592°, 126.098545°). In the top photo, dated 2013-10-1, we can see the fish farm before renovation. In the lower photo, dated 2016-3-30, we can see it after renovation. Fish farms at  39.600450°, 126.072176° and  39.601567°, 126.051970° have been similarly renovated.

I suspect that fish produced at these farms could be intended as a food source inside the camp for guards and administrators (maybe prisoners?), but they are more likely used as a source of funding to support the camp operations. In this case they would be sold domestically to the official wholesale distribution system and/or to other quasi-private vendors, or sold internationally through a trade company controlled by the Ministry of State Security.

Camp Facilities Upgrades

The headquarters area of the Camp (administered by the Ministry of State Security) has been renovated.

camp-14-mss-hq-2013

camp-14-mss-hq-2016

New Housing Completed and New Facility Under Construction

housing-2011

housing-new-facility-2016

In the area next to Camp 14, near Tongrim-ri in Kaechon City, we can see a few interesting developments.

tongrim-ri-camp-overview-2016

Pictured above (Google Earth): Tongrim-ri Prison Area (Official name unknown)

New Mining Activity

tongrim-ri-camp-2014

tongrim-ri-camp-2016

In the south east corner of the camp area, a road has been built from the Mujindae Youth Coal Mine (무진대청년탄광) inside the camp security perimeter (yellow line) to promote coal mining. The road allows coal mined inside the camp perimeter to be loaded onto the railway network for domestic or international shipment. 

New Graves

tongrim-graves-2014-4-7

tongrim-new-graves-2016

In the satellite imagery we can see the emergence of some new graves over time. This is unusual. In most North Korean prison camps, identifying graves is not this easy, and rarely are there any traditional Korean graves like these on the hillsides (there are none in Camp 14 as far as I am aware).

What this means about the prison area is an interesting topic of discussion.

Finally, recent satellite imagery of Camp 18, which is believed to have been closed by 2011, indicates that the prison camp may have been relaunched! You can read about it in Radio Free Asia now, and I will post more on that tomorrow (Friday).

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North Korean food prices after the floods

September 28th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

A recent report by Radio Free Asia/Asia Press (and recapped below by Yonhap) claimed that food prices had doubled in northern North Korea as a result of the floods last month:

Food prices in North Korea’s northeastern region, which has been hit by devastating floods, have doubled due to the slow pace of recovery and poor distribution networks, U.S.-based media Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Thursday.

Citing a report by Japanese media outlet Asia Press, the RFA said the country’s northern cities of Hoeryong and Namyang are experiencing a spike in rice and corn prices which soared to 8,000 won (US$7.24) and 2,000 won per kilogram, respectively, from 4,300 won and 1,000 won before the worst-ever floods in decades. The flooding caused severe property damage with many people being reported dead or missing.

The Japanese media said there is a likelihood that other commodity prices will likely soar following rice.

Jiro Ishimaru, who heads the Osaka office of Japan’s Asia Press, told the RFA that rice prices rose rapidly as the transportation situation in the flood-damaged area is very serious, with the railroads and overland routes being almost blocked. The official said the lack of transportation means is leading to poor distribution of food and commodities.

Ishimaru, in addition, warned that water shortage and sanitary problems will also follow due to a shortage of personnel equipment needed to speed up recovery.

Full article here:
Food prices in N. Korea’s flood damaged area doubles: report
Yonhap News
2016-09-22

According to DailyNK, the government has therefore started implementing price controls to keep the market prices for food from skyrocketing:

북한 당국이 ‘60년 만의 대재앙’ 수해 피해를 입은 함경북도 지역의 물가 안정을 위해 총력을 기울이고 있는 것으로 전해졌다. 인민보안성(경찰) 인력을 동원해 쌀 사재기와 가격 인상을 통제하면서 내부 안정화를 꾀하고 있다고 소식통이 알려왔다.

함경북도 소식통은 27일 데일리NK와의 통화에서 “현재 쌀 가격 등이 큰물 피해 이전과 거의 차이가 없다”면서 “보안원과 순찰대가 출동해서 쌀 사재기 및 가격을 올리는 행위 등을 강력하게 막았다”고 전했다.

소식통은 이어 “(수해가 일어나고 얼마 되지 않아) 어떤 장사꾼은 1킬로(kg)에 5000원, 5300원하던 쌀을 8000원에 팔려고 하기도 했다”면서 “하지만 보안원들의 통제 때문에 눈치만 보다가 그렇게 하지 못했다”고 설명했다.

그러면서 소식통은 “회령시의 경우 한때는 쌀 가격이 6000원까지 폭등하기는 했으나 지금은 5000원 대로 하락했다”면서 “돼지고기 가격도 1kg에 13000원 등 원래 가격과 같다. 물가가 전반적으로 차분하다(안정돼 있다)”고 덧붙였다.

Full article:
North Korea making efforts for price stability in flood damaged areas…”Don’t raise rice prices”
Kang Mi-jin
Daily NK
2016-09-29

Yonhap offers a summary of the article in English:

North Korea is going all out in blocking the cornering and the skyrocketing of rice prices in its flood-devastated northeastern areas, a Seoul-based news outlet specializing in the North reported Wednesday.

This summer, six areas in North Hamkyong Province in the North were devastated by heavy rains accompanied by Typhoon Lionrock, with the United Nations having estimated that 138 North Koreans were killed and 400 others are missing by the floods, with about 20,000 houses destroyed.

“Security agents and patrolmen are strongly cracking down on activities of cornering rice and raising rice prices (in flooded areas),” the Daily NK quoted a source from the North’s North Hamkyong Province as saying.

Therefore, there’s no big difference in rice price before and after the worst-ever flood hit the region, the source said.

“A merchant was trying to sell 1 kilogram of rice at 8,000 won shortly after heavy rains flooded the area, but was unable to do so due to strict control by security agents,” the source said.

Rice price once soared to 6,000 won from 5,000 won per kilogram before the floods, and now remains at the 5,000 won level, according to the source, adding that pork prices also showed no noticeable change, selling at 13,000 won per kilogram as before.

“Prices in the deluged areas are stable, in general,” the source said.

Full article:
N.K. strongly controls prices in flood-stricken areas
Yonhap News
2016-09-28

Several things are worth noting here. First, historically, it is common for food prices to rise as a result of seasonal flooding in North Korea. After the severe floods in 2012, rice prices shot up from 4866 won/kg in July to 6533 won/kg in late September. Second, the rise in prices reported by RFA/Asia Press might have been a temporary shock. The DailyNK price graph, last updated in early September, shows very moderate increases in prices after the floods hit in late August. Perhaps prices stabilized quickly as supply did (i.e., deliveries coming in from other areas; this is only speculative though). Third, price controls are difficult to maintain under pressure. Had there been a massive pressure for prices to go up due to drastically decreased supply, it is hard to see that the government would have been able to effectively keep market prices at a certain level across the board. I will try to keep this post continuously updated as market price information gets updated.

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Increase in DPRK companies involved in Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair

September 23rd, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (FES)

Despite the tough sanctions of the international community, Pyongyang’s Autumn International Trade Fair has opened. A standout in this year’s proceedings is that, unlike previous years, there are now more North Korean companies participating than foreign companies.

According to reports in Chosun Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper published in Japan, the trade fair was held from September 5th to 8th in Pyongyang’s Three Revolutions Exhibition Hall. A total of 15 national and 280 regional companies in fields as diverse as electronics, machinery, metals, construction materials, transport, medicine, agriculture, light industry and foodstuffs participated.

The newspaper’s reporting highlighted “the release of many processed products for export using domestically produced materials as a result of cutting-edge science and technology introduced into our country’s [North Korea] factories and workplaces, upholding the value of autonomy and self-strengthening, which is a feature of this, the 12th Pyongyang Autumn Trade Fair.”

In addition, the newspaper added that “in the recent few years, the fair has seen a rising number of domestic (North Korean) companies participate, and this time around too, there were more domestic than foreign companies involved. . . . As with previous years, domestic companies have bravely displayed many light industrial products, with the number of products from the electrical sector rising every year being particularly noteworthy.”

The newspaper especially pointed out “in recent years, research and development, and production of a variety of electrical and electronic products with our branding has been actively proceeding in [North] Korean factories. . . . There are now more than 30 brands of electrical products being produced including ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘Morning’, with 10 such brands being on display at this year’s autumn trade fair.”

These companies exhibited up-to-date consumer electronics including tablet computers, desktops, laptops and LCTVs.

Ri Gyong Sim (36), an employee of the Rakwon General Trade Company (participating for the second time in the trade fair) stated that “of late, demand has been rising amongst the people for electrical goods with our brand name. . . . this is because, first of all, our credibility is guaranteed by production units, and direct sales points also do repairs, so the consumer’s demands for convenience are satisfied.”

Ri also said that coming to the fair allowed him to check what was good about competitors’ products and this would help his company improve their offering. He also said that “there is a multiplier effect in quality terms with the products on display at the trade fair as domestic companies compete with the same products.”

What’s more, there were many participants from the Fareast including China and Mongolia, and Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Russian, German, and Italian participants were also present.

The newspaper pointed especially to the fact that “since last year, Singaporean companies, food companies in particular, have shown an active interest in trading with [North] Korea.”

This includes a Singaporean trade company called Gold Kili, a manufacturer and seller of drinks including coffee and a variety of teas. It is a famous food company in Singapore, which exports its products to 30 countries.

The company’s head, Chu Wai (44) said that of the products on display at the Trade Fair, the Korean people purchased much coffee in particular, and that he was satisfied with having a number of discussions about commercial transactions.

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A hole in the sanctions, big enough to drive missile equipment through?

September 22nd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Says Daily NK (with my emphasis):

Chinese authorities are said to be questioning the head of a local trade company in Liaoning Province for allegedly smuggling materials used for nuclear and missile development into North Korea. The owner and founder of Hongxiang Industrial Development based in the border city of Dandong, Ma Xiaohong, was arrested and has been under investigation for a number of weeks,  Daily NK has learned.
“Ma was arrested by Shenyang law enforcement earlier this month and is currently being questioned on suspicions of disguising military goods and equipment banned under global sanctions and smuggling them into North Korea,” a source close to North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK. “Despite the more stringent screening procedures at the customs office that were introduced from March, Ma’s company continued to smuggle banned metal and tank battery components, hiding them in shipments of apple boxes [wherein some boxes contained apples and others contraband].”
The source reported that Ma’s company also sold weapons manufacturing tools, selling dozens at a price of 10 million RMB (1.5 million USD) per piece to North Korean military contacts. By aggressively exploiting the UN sanctions for its own benefit, the firm was able to rake in huge sums of money, the source asserted.
“The profits that Ma accumulated from trading with North Korean defense companies were actually smuggling payments,” the source said. “By providing sanctioned items, Ma made so much money that she even gave Toyotas and imported cars as gifts to some North Korean cadres and Chinese traders.”
The investigation comes at a time when Beijing has come under greater scrutiny for its cross-border interactions with the North after Pyongyang defied strong UN sanctions passed in March and conducted a fifth nuclear test on September 9. Due to the recent nuclear test, some believe that the Chinese government is now moving quickly to conclude the investigation and make the results public, holding Ma’s company accountable for UN sanctions violations.
“Dozens of cadres working for Dandong’s government agencies have been instigated during Ma’s testimony, so it doesn’t look like this will have a simple conclusion,” said an additional source in China with knowledge of the incident. “Seven 5,000-ton ships operated by this company have been impounded and are moored at Donggang Port, while all of the companies that were doing business with Hongxiang are also under investigation.”
In addition, the customs office in Dandong is expected to undergo an extensive reshuffle after failing to stop banned goods on the sanctions list flowing into the North. Some 30 individuals are under investigation in relation to the case, with the central government keeping close tabs on how the events are unfolding, reported the source.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. and Chinese officials are targeting Hongxiang Industrial Development for its suspected involvement in criminal activities while aiding the North. It reported that prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Beijing last month to inform Chinese authorities of the case, citing evidence that Ma and her company had helped Pyongyang in its nuclear development and in circumventing global sanctions.
One might wonder why the Dandong customs office would only undergo such a reshuffling now. Reports of lax sanctions enforcement have been forthcoming fairly continuously since sanctions were adopted after the 4th nuclear test — perhaps the 5th changed matters, at least for the time being.
Full article:
Hongxiang Industrial Development circumvented sanctions using apple boxes
Seol Song Ah
Daily NK
2016-09-21
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Book review recommendation: Philip Park’s Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy

September 20th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

It is unfortunate that books published in South Korea are often difficult for reader’s in the United States and Europe to get a hold of without waiting out the very long waiting times for online purchases or library orders. Readers of this blog may well be familiar with Kyungnam University professor Philip H. Park’s work on the institutional side of the North Korean economy. One of professor Park’s books on the North Korean economy was recently translated into English and published under the name of Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy. Sadly I have not yet personally been able to read the book for reasons stated at the beginning of this post, but a review in Daily NK summarizes some of the core arguments:

“Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy” is a detailed history of the evolution of North Korea’s economic institutions. It is a newly published English translation of the original Korean work. The author is a professor of political science and diplomacy at Kyungnam University. The book details how a series of crises stimulated a procession of changes in North Korea’s economic strategy. Each new strategy reacted to and attempted to amend the problems created by its predecessor. However, each policy also sowed the seeds for future crisis by creating new inefficiencies.

The Argument
Phillip Park’s central contribution is to correct a common misconception about marketization and the decentralization of North Korea’s economy. Park argues that North Korea did not begin its process of marketization with the July 1st Measures in 2002 – as is commonly believed. Instead, he presents evidence that North Korea actually started spinning the gears of this process much earlier, most significantly with the adoption of the Ryonhapkiopso System (Complex Industrial System) in 1986. In theory, this economic approach allowed limited market mechanisms and practical planning to replace more ideological economic initiatives. The system’s implementation was largely a response to stagnated growth and the impending collapse of one of North Korea’s key sponsor states, the Soviet Union. Aside from inefficiency, North Korea’s principal economic problem has always been striking a balance between sectors while also pursuing self-sufficiency. The Complex Industrial System aimed to address that problem.
The author uses North Korean economic journals as his primary sources. He admits that separating the useful information from the propaganda was a laborious task. So, while the information does need to be taken with a grain of salt, we can still learn a lot about the state of North Korea’s economy by observing how academic discussions and policy recommendations have evolved over time. The book does a good job contrasting policy dialogues with the results of subsequent implementations (or lack thereof). The book’s sources help dispel the myth that North Korea’s political economy is purely monolithic. Indeed, through the book, we witness key players – academics and officials alike – arguing over milestone policies.
One note of caution: Park dives headfirst into the North Korean understanding of economics. Yes, this means a heavy dose of Marxist concepts and five-syllable jargon. But those with a rudimentary understanding of socialist politics know that seemingly obscure theoretical points are sometimes used to justify sweeping changes. In particular, changes to North Korea’s economic institutions are often motivated by theoretical assumptions about how to best transition to a fully communist state. This is actually one of the book’s major charms. After we digest the dense vocabulary, we are presented with a reasonable framework for understanding the decision making of one of the world’s most opaque and incomprehensible dynasties. That in itself is a laudable achievement.
Let’s address a few downsides. Considering that the original Korean work was published a few years ago, it would have been nice to get an expanded forward with some new observations on Kim Jong Un’s performance as an economic manager. Also, abbreviations and technical jargon are used thoroughly in the book. A glossary of terms would have been a handy reference.
Although Park’s main argument may seem technical at first glance, the repercussions of this work are vast. The most immediate and profound impact is that it forces us to reconsider the history, nature, and trajectory of North Korea’s economic transformation. Marketization is typically described as a bottom-up process of slowly expanding black market activity. But Park gives us a reason to think that the picture is slightly more nuanced. It gives us a view into the thinking of North Korean economic planners. Readers are prompted to think more deeply about how institutions shape incentives in North Korea, and how these institutions have changed over time.
Full article here:
Light and shadow: A review of ‘Rebuilding North Korea’s Economy’
Daily NK
2016-09-20
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DPRK railway repairs following N. Hamgyong flooding

September 15th, 2016

I have been busy with a number of projects, so I have not kept up with the flooding as I would have liked to. But here is a quick data visualization project I was able to quickly put together this morning.

KCNA reported the following:

Railroad Restoration Pushed forward

Pyongyang, September 13 (KCNA) — The restoration of railroads progresses apace in the flood-hit northern areas of North Hamgyong Province, the DPRK.

As of Sept. 10, over 35 400 cubic meters of mud was removed from 30-odd sections with railroad beds restored in 20 sections.

Railway tracks were reconnected between Komusan and Musan and between Komusan and Haksong, and railway service reopened between Paekam and Kulsong, Komusan and Sophungsan, Komusan and Hakpho and Haksong and Namyang.

Here is a quick map of the affected areas:

railway-repairs-flooding-2016-9

The areas that the DPRK claims to have cleared are in yellow. The original railway line is in blue. The stations are labeled so you can see where the DPRK claims to have resumed service.

You can see KCTV footage of the repairs here:

There is still no high-resolution satellite imagery for sale of the affected area.

Here is a map of the affected areas.

2016-flooded-areas

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Financial complex and upscale hotel construction presses ahead in Wonsan

September 7th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

To develop the ‘Wonsan-Mount Kumgang International Tourist Zone’, plans have been put in place to build a General Financial Complex and five-star hotel in Wonsan.

Naenara (My Country), a North Korean propaganda website that targets an international audience, indicated that the goal of ‘Wonsan’s Chungdong General Land Development’ Investment Proposal released September 1, 2016 was to “develop Wonsan into a commercial and cultural exchange center, as well as a center for trade and financial transactions.”

According to the proposal, the target of investment is the Chungdong district and parts of the Sangdong district of Wonsan (Kangwon province) with a total area of 300,000 square kilometers. The total amount to be invested was set at USD 196,560,000.

In addition, the proposal sets out plans to first construct ten separate buildings, including 10 units of rental housing, a three-star hotel, an international finance complex, a department store, an indoor gym, and a restaurant for world cuisine.

The proposal adds: “in the surrounding area (of the center), world-class facilities including an ultra-luxurious five-star hotel called the Wonsan Hotel, a General Financial Complex, a General Office Complex, an International Exhibit, and a library are to be constructed.”

It also makes clear that existing housing, commercial facilities, offices and factories in the area will be demolished.

With respect to international investors, the proposals envisage that development will utilize the BOT (Built-Operate-Transfer) method. BOT is a method of funding infrastructure projects in which a contractor is given the right to operate a set of facilities for a prescribed period in order to recover both the initial investment and a profit, before control of the facilities reverts to the contracting party.

The website states that “the Committee to Promote the Development of the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang International Tourism Zone was chosen for the spill-over effects for both the Wonsan area and the zone as a whole.”

Moreover, the separate ‘General Finance Center Proposal’ was also released via Naenara on the same day– the building is set to be 15 stories high, with additional two basement floors.

The complex has a total area of 1,500 square meters, the actual building area of 800 square meters, and total floor of 12,000 square meters. The building will play host to banks, office space and restaurants.

The proposal emphasized that “the development of the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang Tourist Zone into a world-class tourist site reflects the firm will of our party and government . . . . The future tourist zone will radiate the light as the ‘East’s Pearl’ transformed into a renowned tourist destination both in East Asia and more broadly the entire world.”

Here is the text from the Naenara article (PDF).

 

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(Updated) Severe flooding in northeastern North Korea: pictures (summer 2016 floods)

September 2nd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Larger-than-usual seasonal rains has caused flooding in several cities along the Sino-Korean border. Emergency evacuations have been issued in Tumen and Hunchun on the Chinese side. On the North Korean side, Namyang, a small town in Onsong county, has been struck by unusual flooding. DailyNK explains:

Flooding in North Korea typically occurs near the West Sea, not near Namyang, which is located in Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province. In areas like Sinuiju, downpours during the rainy season coupled with high tide in the West Sea are known to drive up the water levels of Amnok (Yalu) River and lead to flooding; however, such an occurrence is rare in areas adjacent to the Tumen River, particularly in the hillside city of Namyang.

As is usually the case in North Korea, flooding impacts are exacerbated by environmental factors related to the economy and food production:

It is therefore believed that unusually heavy rain, which battered the greater northeast region, contributed to the flooding, and was likely exacerbated by the use of embankments as small plots to grow produce by local residents, whose livelihoods depend on doing so. Weeding and digging around this area in order to plant beans and other crops is thought to have compromised the strength of the river banks, yet no preventative measures were put forth by the authorities.

DailyNK has a few pictures of Namyang taken from the Chinese side, showing flooding and destruction.

Full article in DailyNK:
Severe flooding sweeps across Namyang
Kim Ga Young
DailyNK
2016-09-02

For reference and comparison, the following pictures I took earlier this summer show Namyang in ordinary times (click for larger pictures):

Namyang1

Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Namyang2

Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

Namyang, Onsong county. You can see the train station to the right in the picture. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

Namyang, Onsong county. You can see the train station to the right in the picture. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namyang4

Namyang city, Onsong county. Photo: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Update 2016-09-04): At least ten people have died in North Hamgyong province as a result of the floods, Voice of America reports (in Korean):

국제적십자사 IFRC가 큰물 피해를 입은 함경북도 지역에 긴급구조팀을 파견해 구조활동을 펼치고 있다고 유엔이 밝혔습니다.

타판 미슈라 주 북한 유엔 상주 조정자 겸 유엔개발계획(UNDP) 상주대표는3일 북한 내 유엔 기구들과 비정부기구 관계자들에게 보낸 이메일에서, 태풍으로 인한 북한 홍수 피해가 예상보다 훨씬 심각한 것으로 파악되고 있다며 이같이 밝혔습니다.

‘VOA’가 3일 단독으로 입수한 이 이메일에 따르면 이번 폭우로 함경북도 지역이 가장 큰 피해를 입었으며, 특히 회령시과 문산군, 연사군, 청진시, 김책시, 경송군, 길주군, 라선시 일대에 큰 피해가 발생했습니다. Summary in English (by NKEconwatch): according to Tapan Misura, UNDP country representative in North Korea, North Hamgyong province has been struck by flooding in the past few days, to a much worse degree than expected. Especially Hoeryong, Musan, Yeonsan, Chongjin, Kimchaek, Kyeongseong, Kilju and Rason have taken strong hits.

또 홍수로 10여 명이 사망하고 1만 여 가구가 피해를 입었으며, 6천7백여 가구가 파괴되고 7천가구가 파손된 것으로 알려졌다고 미슈라 상주대표는 밝혔습니다. Summary in English: As a result of the flooding, ten people have died, about 10,000 homes have been damaged, 6,700 homes have been destroyed and another 7,000 homes have been broken/damaged.

[…]

특히 함경북도 회령시의 피해가 심해 가옥 2천개 이상이 물에 잠기고 1천개 이상의 집이 완전히 파괴됐다고 밝혔습니다. 또 적어도 2만6천여 가구가 식수도 없이 고립된 상황이라고 밝혔습니다. Summary in English: destruction has been particularly heavy in Hoeryong in North Hamgyong, where 2,000 houses have been submerged in water, and over 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed. Moreover, at least 26,000 households now lack access to drinking water.

미슈라 상주대표는 함경북도 일대에 지금도 계속 비가 내리고 있고 앞으로 며칠 간 비가 예보돼 있어 피해가 더 늘어날 것으로 보인다고 말했습니다. Summary in English: According to Misura, rain is continuing to fall in North Hamgyong, and will do so over the next few days, so the destruction is expected to grow.

Full article here:
유엔 ‘북한 함경북도 등 홍수로 큰 피해…10여명 사망’
Kim Hyeon-jin
Voice of America
2016-09-04

Korean Central News Agency reports some estimated figures on the destruction:

It rained heavily with strong wind in North Hamgyong Province and other parts of the DPRK from August 29 to September 2, affected by a combination of typhoon-10 and low pressure field formed in the northwest.
According to data available at the State Hydro-meteorological Administration, the rainfall reached 320 mm and 290 mm in Kyonghung and Puryong counties of North Hamgyong Province from 00:00 Monday to 12:00 Friday.
And over 150 mm of rain fell in Onsong, Kyongsong, Kyongwon, Yonsa and Hwadae counties of the province as well as some parts of Ryanggang Province including Taehongdan County.
The River Tuman flooded some areas of Hoeryong and Rason cities, Musan, Onsong, Kyongwon, Kyonghung and Yonsa counties, causing big damage.
Especially, flood heavily hit Hoeryong City, Musan and Yonsa counties, claiming 15 people missing in Hoeryong.
17 180 houses were partially or completely destroyed with at least 44 000 people homeless in North Hamgyong Province.
Damage investigation goes on there.
And a campaign to help victims and heal the damage is being conducted in the flood-stricken areas.

Full article:
North Hamgyong Province of DPRK Suffered from Flood Damage
Korean Central News Agency
2016-09-03

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Pyongyang under UN Sanctions

August 30th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

There has been much interest in Kyodo’s (a Japanese wire service) reports on the atmosphere in Pyongyang following the imposition of sanctions on North Korea back in March by the UN Security Council. According to Kyodo’s ‘current report’ on the subject from August 21, ‘200 Day Speed Battles’ and ‘Mallima Speed Creation’ slogans can be seen in many of Pyongyang’s streets.

While surprisingly Pyongyang appears unchanged following UN sanctions, the entire nation is subject to a general labor mobilization. The 200 day speed battle began in June and aims to raise food production. Mallima Speed Creation is a slogan created to inspire workers to engage in productive activities at the same speed as a horse that can cover 10,000 li (around 3,927 km) in a day.

Construction of the frame for a 70-storey apartment block on Ryomyong Street, which began after the announcement that the block would henceforth be a site to house educators, has almost been completed. There are large tour groups to be seen at the Nature Museum and Central Zoo (the construction of both was completed last month). The Nature Museum, with its models of dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, is particularly popular, with a member of staff reportedly saying “there is a daily limit of 6,000 on the number of visitors admitted, and we have to turn people away every day.”

The Mirae Shop, a department store refurbished and reopened in April, has a tidy display of imported cosmetics and electrical appliances, but is largely devoid of visitors. A member of staff explained that “because people are busy with the 200 day speed battle, there are not many customers.” The Kyodo report thus argues that the effect of sanctions on Pyongyang is as yet limited.

The Kyodo report also includes an interview with Kim Cheol (43), the head of the Economic Research Centre in North Korea’s Academy of Social Sciences. In the interview, Kim Cheol asserts that “the North has hewed to a line of constructing a self-sufficient economy, and therefore the [UN and other] sanctions have very little impact.” Kim offered an optimistic vision: “struggles to increase the proportion of facilities and raw materials sourced domestically continue. . . . With or without sanctions, with our energy and technology we shall construct an economy with a high degree of self-sufficiency.”

With respect to last year’s food production figures, he said that “though they have not been released, the price of rice remains the same as last year, while other cereals are around 65~70% the price they were last year. . . . Given price fluctuations, it is estimated that food production has increased.”

Regarding the supply of and demand for electricity, he stated that “while we cannot fully satisfy demand, the development and introduction of coal additives in coal-fired power stations has dramatically increased production. . . . Many hydroelectric power stations making use of rich hydropower resources have been constructed.” Hence it can be inferred that while electricity supplies remain insufficient, they continue to increase.

Moreover, with respect to effect of coal export bans, Kim said that “the development of the economy is on an upward trajectory, so actually coal resources are needed more inside the country. . . . Improvements are aimed at raising the proportion of domestic production [in all areas] thus raising the proportion of resources used within the country.” At the same time though, he acknowledged that “because of a reliance on imported oil products like kerosene and airplane fuel, there certainly has been some impact.”

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