North Korea raising food quality and quantity

May 21st, 2015

Institute for Far Eatern Studies (IFES)
2015-5-21

“Currently, North Korea is not just addressing the issue of food quantity but is raising food quality as well,” the Chosun Sinbo reported on May 13, 2015 in an editorial entitled ‘The Sepho Plateau Ranches’ (Sepho dungpan mokjang). The Chosun Sinbo editorial made this argument and revealed that due to the food quality issue, “North Korea is pushing forward the development of the Sepho Plateau Ranches until the anniversary of the Party’s founding. These ranches are located throughout Kangwon province, the regional center of animal husbandry that produces North Korea’s edible meat, in the counties of Ichon, Pyonggang and Sepho.”

In reference to the food quantity issue, the editorial said, “The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is reporting that North Korea will be food self-sufficient within three to four years […] When you think about the difficult food situation during the time of the ‘Arduous March,’ one cannot help but be moved.”

Regarding these ranches spread over three counties, the newspaper reported, “The site of Chosun University in Japan is approximately 7 chongbo [about 70,000 m2] in area, while these ranches are over 50,000 chongbo [496 km2], more than 7,000 times more vast […] Last year North Korea and the Mongolian People’s Republic reached an agreement in which the Mongolian People’s Republic will offer North Korea assistance in livestock farming technology as well as 10,000 livestock animals for free.” This agreement will contribute not just to the Sepho Plateau Ranches but to the overall development of North Korea’s livestock industry.

The newspaper also revealed North Korean society’s overall progress. “Although we do not have expertise in satellites, we can easily guess as to the technological significance of a successful satellite launch. In addition, the fishing industry, led by the People’s Army, has also had success in recent years and is filling the people’s tables with food,” the Chosun Sinbo reported.

It recalled the words of Kim Jong Un’s 2015 New Year’s address, in which he vowed to “solve the people’s food issues through the three axes of agriculture, livestock and fisheries and raise the standard of living to the next level.” It also pointed out that Kim Il Sung had said, “Let’s work so that everyone can wear silk clothes and eat meat soup in tile-roofed houses.”

Meanwhile, North Korea plans to cultivate Sepho tableland (the flat and expansive land of Kangwon province’s Sepho, Pyonggang and Ichon counties) and build a large-scale animal husbandry complex, creating hundreds of square kilometers of pastures and vegetable plots, hundreds of cattle sheds, over 20 livestock product processing plants and more than 1,000 employee residences.

As the people’s standard of living improves, North Koreans are also placing greater importance on things like technology, health and environmental-friendliness. At the ‘18th Pyongyang Spring International Product Exhibition,’ which opened on May 11, 2015, health products such as medicine sold better than ever. In addition, high-tech products such as energy-saving products and environmentally-friendly diesel engines exceeded the number of everyday products at the expo. Previously, North Korea primarily exhibited traditional products like ginseng, sea cucumber, and honey; but due to the emphasis on domestic technological development, businesses displaying domestic technological products are becoming more common.

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Development of stem cell cosmetics in North Korea

May 14th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-5-14

The Chosun Sinbo, mouthpiece of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported that North Korea has developed and is now producing cosmetic products that utilize new natural materials and cutting-edge technology, including stem cell technology.

“At the Pyongyang Cosmetic Factory, they are concentrating on developing functional cosmetic products that are natural and low stimulating,” the Chosun Sinbo revealed on April 28.

The biotechnology and light industry divisions of the State Academy of Sciences, as well as scientists, teachers and researchers at the Han Duk Su Pyongyang Light Industry University, are assisting in this work.

According to researchers within the biotechnology division, the product utilizes stem cell technology in regenerating skin, and it is effective in preventing aging, moisturizing skin, and lightening skin.

They said that they developed the cosmetic additive (which has a pine tree scent) at the Pyongyang Natural Perfume Research Center, and that this product matches the characteristics of one’s skin by age and is effective in things like skin lightening and removing wrinkles.

They added that they have also developed a beauty cream that has a moisturizing and whitening effect due to its natural hydrating materials derived from kelp.

In March 2015, First Secretary Kim Jong Un inspected the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory. During his inspection he cited world-renowned cosmetics brands like Lancome, Chanel, Christian Dior and Shiseido and encouraged the factory to “continually raise the quality of its products so that we can compete with such foreign cosmetic products.”

In particular, Kim noted that “the eyeliner and mascara made by foreign countries retain their shape when exposed to water, whereas the mascara and eyeliner produced domestically create ‘raccoon eyes’ when the wearer only yawns.”

The Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory was established in April 1962 and is North Korea’s representative cosmetics factory, producing all sorts of cosmetic goods such as the ‘Unhasu’ brand. It also produces over 60 types of functional cosmetics including soap, shampoo, beauty cream and skin lotion.

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North Korea to attract foreign capital through foreign media

May 7th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-5-7

As North Korea struggles to attract foreign investment due to international sanctions, an argument is growing in North Korea that it needs to launch an investment charm offensive targeting foreign media.

Already skilled in socialist propaganda, North Korea appears intent on fully employing those skills in the attraction of investment, the essence of management in capitalism.

In the January 20th issue of the monthly Kim Il Sung University newspaper (vol. 1, 2015), an editorial was published entitled, “The Importance of Proactively Using Various Means to Attract Investment.” This editorial emphasized the importance of using the media in order to attract investment.

It argued that if the government invited esteemed members of the media when publicizing developments like a new investment environment or policy and the media reported on these events to their respective news agencies, it “could promote these developments widely at home and abroad through such special reports.”

Following this, the editorial advised that authorities select widely-circulated newspapers and magazines commonly read by investors and companies and submit to these publications news regarding things such as the progress of talks, the signing of contracts and agreements, the scale of businesses and related events.

It also suggested that authorities advertise in TV commercials during peak-viewing time. In the case of newspapers, it advised that they pay attention to their selling price, political inclination and religious nature when considering the daily, morning and evening papers.

While stating that maintaining relations with media outlets is important, the editorial also entreated that the government invite members of the press to investment-related events or inform them at the proper time regarding news of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Furthermore, it argued that in order to effectively publicize investment opportunities, economic development zones themselves need to create homepages and make employees proficient in how to use the Internet and search for information that investors request in a timely manner.

At the same time, because “decadent and reactionary ideas and cultures can infiltrate, and information regarding investment targets can be carried away” through the Internet, the editorial did not forget to suggest that authorities only enable selected institutions and interested parties will be permitted to use the Internet.

In addition, in order to facilitate the exchange of information with investors, the editorial encouraged the government to introduce detailed procedures and methods for maintaining email accounts and to use programs like Excel for managing data and documents.

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New Satellite Control Center

May 4th, 2015

On May 4, 2015, Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim Jong-un visited the “Newly-built General Satellite Control Centre”.

Imagery release on KCTV helped me identify the facility on commercial satellite imagery:

new-satellite-control-center

Side-view

GE-Satellite-Control-Center

This is one of several large construction projects in Pyongyang that I have had my eye on for some time (I thought it was a new theater or stadium).

The new satellite control center is located in the Pothonggang District of Pyongyang. The size of the mission control room is approximately 570 square meters. Other facilities in the building, according to the DPRK media, include a revolutionary history room, auxiliary display and control room, and optical observation room, E-library, lounge, conference room, offices, dining room and bedrooms.

Based on commercial satellite imagery, construction began sometime between 2014-4-13 and 2014-7-3, meaning that if completed, construction took nearly one year.

Pothonggang-control-center-before

 Pothonggang-control-center-after

This new control center may also be the administrative home of the National Aerospace Development Administration. Construction of the new satellite control center began shortly after NADA was publicly announced last year.

If completed, this new facility raises a question about the status of the older satellite control center in Ryongsong District at the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

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Construction of new Wonsan Airport continued through winter

May 1st, 2015

New Google Earth imagery shows continued development of the new civilian airport in Wonsan. The airport is presumably intended to support the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

2015-3-26 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-3-26

2015-2-10 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-2-10

2014-12-25 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2014-12-25

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North Korea Spurring Development of Various Special Tourist Zones

April 30th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-4-30

North Korea is expediting the development of various ‘Special Tourist Zones’. North Korea is diversifying its tour packages, and have designated Mt. Kumgang (Kumgangsan) and Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) as International Special Tourist Zones. A Special Tourist Zone on the riverside near the Amrok (Yalu) River Bridge is also under construction. This zone is designed to attract foreign tourists including Chinese tourists.

In addition, North Korea and China are pushing forward with the ‘Onsong-Tumen Border Culture and Tourism Cooperation Zone.’ This is intended to be a cooperation zone that integrates tourism, cultural performances, duty-free shopping and serves as a distribution center of tourism products for both countries.

North Korea has also revealed outlines of its plans for the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Tourist Region and is pushing ahead with an on-site briefing session scheduled for May 2015. While North Korea repairs and expands the existing road network connecting each tourist site (focusing first on Wonsan), authorities have decided to construct a transportation network by establishing a high-speed railroad between Pyongyang and Wonsan, as well as opening passenger routes between Wonsan Harbor and Rason, and Wonsan Harbor and Vladivostok. They also plan to introduce a series of measures for attracting tourists, including a no-visa system, currently under consideration.

In addition, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has announced an era of full-fledged international tourism in Mt. Paektu. On April 23, 2015, KCNA revealed that the Mubong International Special Tourist Zone will be built in part of Samjiyon County’s Mubong Workers’ District near Mt. Paektu. The Mubong Workers’ District is 35km away from Mt. Paektu, 60km away from Samjiyon, and 70km away from Taehongdan. Thus, it is considered eligible for designation as a special district.

This location is considered to be relatively well-equipped with tourism infrastructure compared to other regions, and expected to perform favorably in attracting outside investment. KCNA reported that this region has a number of amenities and attractions as a Special Tourist Zone.

For example, two decades ago North Korea prepared to host the 1995 Asian Winter Games in Samjiyon until those preparations came to a halt. However, construction resumed in the 2000s, and since then North Korea has constructed a large-scale winter athlete’s village equipped with facilities such as a ski resort and ice rink. Also, Mubong lies in the middle of Samjiyon, Mt. Paektu, and Taehongdan. From Mubong one can go climb Mt. Paektu and view the entire Samjiyon area, or go to Taehongdan and see the large potato-growing districts.

Since the Kim Jong Il era, potato fields were planted in Taehongdan as a tourist attraction. In Mubong, North Korea built large-scale blueberry production complexes, which have become well-known for their blueberry wine. There are also customs offices in Ssangdubong, making the entry process for foreigners presumably less difficult.

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DPRK – China Trade in 2015

April 26th, 2015

Yonhap reports that DPRK – China trade has fallen in the first quarter of 2015:

Trade between North Korea and China, its economic lifeline, slipped 13.4 percent on-year in the first three months of this year amid frayed bilateral ties, data showed Sunday.

Bilateral trade volume fell to US$1.1 billion in the January-March period, compared with $1.27 billion for the same period last year, the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said, citing Chinese customs data.

China is North Korea’s top economic benefactor, but its political ties with Pyongyang have been strained since the North’s third nuclear test in February 2013.

No crude oil was officially sent to North Korea from China for all of last year.

China’s shipments of crude oil to North Korea were also absent during the first quarter of this year.

South Korean diplomatic sources in Beijing, however, have cautioned against reading too much into the official Chinese trade figures because China has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid in the past and such shipments were not recorded on paper.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China dips 13.4 pct in Q1
Yonhap
2015-4-26

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China tries to involve DPRK in Silk Road Initiative

April 24th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

China has asked North Korea to join its ambitious Silk Road project to revive the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.

Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, made the request on Tuesday when he held a meeting with North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Ryong-nam in Pyongyang, according to a statement posted on the website for the Chinese Embassy in North Korea.

With a US$40 billion fund, China has aggressively pushed the so-called “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at building ports, expressways, railways and other infrastructure with its neighboring countries.

“Ambassador Li introduced the concept and vision of ‘One Belt, One Road’ and hopes the two sides will work together to seize the opportunity to promote China-North Korea economic and trade cooperation,” the statement said.

Li said, “Developing friendly and cooperative relations with North Korea is the unswerving policy of the party and the government of China. China is ready to work together with North Korea.”

The statement did not say how the North Korean minister responded.

Political ties between North Korea and China remain strained due to the North’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons, but China is the North’s economic lifeline and diplomatic backer at the United Nations.

Read the full story here:
China seeks N. Korea’s cooperation in Silk Road initiative
Yonhap
2015-4-24

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DPRK announces Mubong Special Zone for International Tour [sic]

April 23rd, 2015

Mubong-special-zone-google-earth

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): Mubong Special Zone for International Tour

According to KCNA:

The Mubong Special Zone for International Tour will be established in the DPRK.

A relevant decree was promulgated by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK on Wednesday.

According to the decree, the special zone for international tour will cover some areas of the Mubong Workers’ District in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province.

The sovereignty of the DPRK will be exercised in the zone to which the DPRK Law on Economic Development Parks and its regulations concerning foreign investment will be applied.

Here is coverage in Xinhua.

Here is coverage in Yonhap:

North Korea said Thursday it has decided to establish a special tourist zone in a district near the peninsula’s highest peak, a move seen as intended to earn hard currency.

North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly on Wednesday promulgated a decree designating some areas of the Mubong workers’ district near Mount Baekdu as the Mubong Special Zone for International Tour, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The district, located in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, is well positioned for a tourist zone as there are already lodging houses and other facilities located there. A military airport is also located near the county, raising accessibility to the district.

North Korea’s sovereignty will be exercised in the special tourist zone where the North’s laws and regulations on economic development zones and foreign investment will also apply, according to the KCNA.

The Mubong zone will be the second special zone for international tour in the North, along with a special zone at Mt. Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast.

Experts said that the latest move is aimed at luring the dollar from foreign tourists by boosting tourism at Mt. Baekdu at a time when inter-Korean exchanges have been suspended since 2010 following a deadly warship sinking.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea creates special tour zone near Mt. Baekdu
Yonhap
2015-4-23

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‘High-temperature air-combustion technology’ developed

April 23rd, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

At the Third Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) held on April 9, Premier Pak Pong Ju of the DPRK Cabinet delivered a progress report on the Cabinet’s performance for the previous year and goals for this year. He said, “High-temperature air-combustion technology and other technologies that do not require the use of heavy oil should be introduced into various fields of the national economy.” As North Korea is a non-oil producing country, such technology would be beneficial. But whether this technology is possible requires careful consideration.

According to various state media reports, “high-temperature air-combustion technology” maintains the internal temperature of the furnace by combusting gas or liquid raw material into the air by heating it to high temperature, wherein high temperature needed at the time is acquired through the gasification of anthracite. Respectively, this technology is also called the high-temperature, air-combustion technology by the gasification of anthracite.

This technique is known as energy-saving advanced technology that manages the thermal efficiency which greatly lowers the heat loss that occurs from the used gas discharge. This technology is characterized by its wide range of application that includes heating of the metal factory that uses heavy oil as fuel, as well as glass melting furnace, furnace refractories (or kilns), pottery baking furnace, and heat treatment furnace.

For the production or heating of rolled steels, application of this technology allows for effective production without the use of heavy fuel oil.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Metal Industry has begun to implement projects with major metal industry enterprises such as Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex, Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, and Chollima Steel Complex. This technology is being introduced into various enterprises including all steel production process and refractories that use heavy oil.

In 2011, North Korea emphasized “vanguard technological breakthroughs” and constructed heating furnace equipped with high-temperature air combustion technology at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex for the commemoration of Kim Il Sung’s 100th birthday. It was widely publicized that introduction of this technology has put an end to the steel billets production system that uses heavy fuel oil.

In this regard, Rodong Sinmun reported on January 11 that Kaesong Insulator Factory in North Hamgyong Province succeeded in the complete domestic production of high-speed transfer switch and thermal mass which is the core of the high-temperature air-combustion technology. It also drew particular attention as the news touted that this was the first successful introduction of “large-scale continuous furnace.”

The newspaper boasted that, “the introduction of the high-temperature air combustion technology was introduced with a small investment into the heating furnace and kilns in each sector of the people’s economy,” and evaluated this as a result of “our capabilities and technology that proceeded in accordance with the principles of ‘our-style’ modernization.”

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