4th Rason International Trade Fair (UPDATED)

August 20th, 2014

UPDATE 3 (2014-8-21): KCNA reports on investment forum at the trade fair:

Investment Forum Held in Rason of DPRK

Pyongyang, August 21 (KCNA) — A forum on investment in the Rason economic and trade zone of the DPRK took place on the spot on Aug. 19.

It draws companies from Russia, China, Italy, Thailand and other countries taking part in the 4th Rason International Trade Exhibition.

The participants in the forum viewed a video on the natural and geographical conditions of the zone and its development situation and long-term plan.

They were also briefed on the legal guarantee for the zone development, business establishment and management regulations for foreign investors, the situation of foreign companies which have already invested in the zone, the vitalization of tourism, etc.

Then, speeches were made by businessmen of different companies who are willing to invest in the zone.

UPDATE 2 (2014-8-20): KCNA reports that the fair is going well (surprise!):

4th Rason International Trade Exhibition Draws Attention of Businessmen

Pyongyang, August 20 (KCNA) — The 4th Rason International Trade Exhibition is going on in Rason City, the economic and trade zone in the northeastern part of the DPRK.

In this regard, KCNA had an interview with Kim Hyon Chol, deputy director of the Department of Economic Cooperation of the Rason City People’s Committee.

Kim said:

More than 100 local and foreign companies are taking part in the exhibition. The annual exhibition is intent on achieving the economic development common to the DPRK and other countries.

Through the exhibition, businessmen have been acquainted themselves with the development of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). And they are having discussions on the possibilities of efficient trade while making import and export contracts.

The Rason City has been developed into an international region for relay transport, trade and investment, financial transactions and tourism.

The president of the Rason Noviymir Co. under the Russia-Far-east Investment Co. Ltd, told KCNA:

It is the third time for my company to take part in the exhibition.

I have felt that progress has been made in every exhibition. And it has been well organized.

I hope that the exhibition will boost the cooperation between countries and regions. Especially, I want Russia and the DPRK to further develop the friendly cooperation in the fields of economy and trade.

My company is making investments in producing foodstuffs like sea foods and planning to expand their production and volume of export. I want many more Russians to participate in the exhibition.

Willam Zhao, director of the UNAFORTE Ltd of Italy, said:

It is the first time for my company to attend the exhibition and it feels good.

The DPRK people’s living standard and rate of consumption are high as evidenced by the fact that new goods are popular among them.

I was going to make an investment in the zone from a long ago and have invested in commercial buildings in the city. I hope that the economic trade zone would rapidly develop.

Michael Basset also tweeted a photo of HBOil participating in the fair.

UPDATE 1 (2014-8-18): The trade fair has opened. According to KCNA:

4th Rason International Trade Exhibition Opens

Rason, August 18 (KCNA) — The 4th Rason International Trade Exhibition opened with a due ceremony in Rason City Monday.

The participants in the opening ceremony placed a floral basket before the portraits of smiling President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il displayed in the Rason Exhibition Hall and paid tribute to them.

Attending the ceremony were Jo Jong Ho, chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee who is also chairman of the organizing committee of the exhibition, officials concerned, people in the city, and delegates of different countries, those who displayed products in the exhibition and foreign businessmen active in the Rason economic and trade zone.

An opening address was made at the ceremony to be followed by congratulatory speeches.

Speakers noted that the DPRK is dynamically pushing ahead with economic construction and has already laid an institutional and legal groundwork for developing and revitalizing the zone.

They said that the zone is providing economic bodies and companies of various countries and the region with a favorable environment for conducting transit trade, processing trade and tourism in line with their will and wishes. They noted that the exhibition would offer a good opportunity for promoting the friendship and solidarity among countries and further developing wide-ranging and multi-faceted economy and trade.

At the end of the ceremony, the participants looked round electric and electronic goods, light industrial products, foodstuff, daily necessities, medicines, vehicles, etc. displayed by at least 100 companies from the DPRK, China, Russia, Italy, Thailand and other countries.

KCTV footage of the opening can be seen here:

ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-8): Choson Exchange has posted the marketing flyer for the 4th annual Rason International Trade Fair. I repost a larger scan below

4th-rason-trade-fair-1

  4th-rason-trade-fair-2

The 2014 flyer text is nearly identical to the 2013 flyer. All of the names/contacts/accounts/prices are identical. The only difference that I noticed was that two of the domestic phone numbers for the Rason Exhibition Corp. have changed.   Two more remained unchanged.

Here are the event details:
4th Rason International Trade Fair
Exhibition Period: August 18-21, 2014
Venue: Rason Exhibion House
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00
Application Deadline: July 20th, 2014

Here are posts on previous Rason International Trade Fairs: 2011, 2012, 2013.

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DPRK replaces 5,000 won note

August 18th, 2014

UPDATE 2 (2014-8-18): According to the Daily NK:

Daily NK has learned that the recent 5000 KPW note exchange has prompted an overall apathetic response from residents in North Korea. As Daily NK first reported here on July 31st the North Korean authorities informed residents that the largest denomination monetary unit would be replaced with a new bill.

US Dollars and Chinese Yuan being the currencies of choice in the markets, the recent collection and exchange of the highest denomination bill “doesn’t really affect people’s lives.”

A source in the capital reported to Daily NK on August 14, “A new [5000 KPW] note has been issued, but the exchange of old to new notes hasn’t made much headway.” This is hardly a nuisance to most residents, who are used to adapting, she went on to explain. “People are fairly indifferent about the new 5000 bill, and anyone who expresses concern about it is considered to be a fool by others.”

Production of the new 5000 KPW notes began last year; at the end of July 2014, the Chosun Central Bank announced that residents would have until 2017 to exchange the old bills. “At first, residents didn’t know what the exchange rate would be when they converted to the new bills, so a bit of chaos ensued; once they found out it was a 1:1 exchange rate, things have been pretty quiet of late,” she explained. “The number of residents holding 5000 KPW notes is pretty low so there isn’t an atmosphere of concern surrounding the matter.” The source did add that it cannot be verified at this time if those in rural or farming areas are equally as impervious to the matter.

The source cited two chief factors underpinning this resident indifference: trust in the authorities continues to decline, as does the value of North Korean currency.

The 5000 KPW bill is the largest denomination of bill in North Korean currency, but when compared with foreign currencies like Chinese Yuan or US Dollars, its value is dismal, considered by most to be “wastepaper.” By current exchange rates, 1 USD is equal to 8000 KPW; in other words, the largest note in North Korea [5000 KPW] is less than 1 USD or equal to approximately 5 RMB.

Moreover, at current market prices, 5,000 KPW [6000 KPW per kilo] is insufficient for people to purchase a kilo of rice or a dozen eggs [5000 KPW yields six eggs at present]. “Even when people buy a block of tofu [700 KPW], they use dollars,” the source explained. “Because merchants only do business in US Dollars of Chinese Yuan, people save all their money in these currencies.”

Citing the 2009 currency reforms, she explained the shift in public sentiment on the KPW, “People won’t suffer any losses even if there are 10 more currency reforms. Even those in poorer, rural areas regard North Korean currency as something for ‘use by the state’ and keep their assets in rice and other goods. ”

This shift in attitude of North Korean currency as “means of exchange” to “means of savings” occurred during and after the Arduous March in the 1990s [the North Korean famine if 1994-1998]. After ceasing distribution of regular food rations, starvation quickly became rife. In order to minimize dependency on a broken state system, people sought to build assets by saving as much KPW as possible.

Tragically, those savings were reduced to worthless scraps of paper during the currency reforms in 2009.The goal of the currency redenomination of November 30, 2009 was officially to bring inflation under control and eliminate monetary overhang, but the result of the 100:1 redenomination was catastrophic. This led to a complete transformation in resident commercial activity. The North Korean residents lost complete faith in state-issued banknotes and adopted foreign currencies, namely Chinese Yuan and US Dollars, as the preferred legal tender for business transactions.

“Because KPW is ‘not even worth counting’, there are more and more people who don’t care about the new 5,000 won bill,” she went on. “Instead of curiosity or trepidation as to the motivations behind the exchange, people just feel reassured by holding onto foreign currency.”

Once the privilege of traders and Party officials working abroad, accessibility to these foreign currencies has trickled down to market vendors and young students. Daily NK has recently learned that markets in all major cities in the North even provide small change back to customers in US Dollars and Chinese Renminbi.

Read the full story here:
Residents Indifferent to 5000 KPW Swap
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-8-18

UPDATE 1 (2014-8-12): Chris Green has more at NK News here.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-8-11): According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea’s new 5,000 banknotes no longer feature a picture of nation founder and demigod Kim Il-sung. But the new note shows Kim’s childhood home in Mangyongdae.

The new bills feature the house prominently on the front and on the back a museum in Pyongyang that displays gifts Kim and his son Jong-il received from foreign leaders*.

During a botched currency reform in 2009, Kim Il-sung was also dropped from the 2,000 and 1,000 won bills.

The 5,000 won note is North Korea’s largest denomination and nominally worth around US$50, though its actual market value is nearer $1. Workers in the North Korean state economy are paid some W3,000 a month on average, making it vital for most to seek other forms of income.

A North Korean source said when the new notes were officially announced on July 25, they sparked fears of yet another misguided currency reform, triggering a certain amount of chaos as food prices surged temporarily and some people began stockpiling food.

* Presumably the Choson Ilbo is referring to the International Friendship Exhibition at Myohyangsan. This is not in Pyongyang (Though it used to be!).

Read the full story here:
N.Korea Drops Kim Il-sung from New Banknotes
Choson Ilbo
2014-8-11

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KCTV updates news introduction

August 18th, 2014

Click above to watch the news introduction (Youtube)

On August 14 North Korea’s KCTV launched a new video introduction for its evening news broadcast.

The introduction begins with a global map that zooms in on the Korean peninsula followed by scrolling news clips and ending with “보도” (News).

The appearance of the evening news was last changed in 2012.

Thanks to Martyn Williams for technical help with this post!

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ROK aid to the DPRK in 2014

August 11th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Monday it will provide North Korea with US$13.3 million in humanitarian aid, in another show of its resolve to separate inter-Korean military tensions from efforts to help the needy in the North.

The South has decided to offer $7 million worth of nutritional assistance to mother and child health services in the communist nation via the World Food Program (WFP), according to the unification ministry.

Seoul will also deliver $6.3 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for its projects to ship essential medicine to the North, improve clinics and train related manpower there, it added.

“The government plans to tap the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund for the aid,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.

It is the first time that South Korea has offered assistance to North Korea through the WFP since 2007, he said. Last year, the South used $6 million to support the WHO’s project in North Korea.

Seoul’s new aid program is apparently to follow up on President Park’s ambitious “Dresden Declaration” in March.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to offer US$13 mln in aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-8-11

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Electricity consumption in the summer

August 8th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

“The authorities began to provide us with about five hours of electricity per day when the rainy season came; but they also began to take usage charges on it,” a source in the region told Daily NK on August 7th. “It resulted in verbal clashes between residents and the officers dispatched by the Urban Management Office to gather the fees.”

According to sources inside North Korea, the summer rainy season usually brings improved electricity provision: from 1-2hrs per day up to as much as 4-5hrs, as the country’s key hydroelectric turbines are able to operate at a higher capacity. Consumption is charged at a subsidized sum, approximately 80-100 KPW per month; although families with television sets, VCRs or DVD players, fans, rice cookers, etc. pay a surcharge of 100 KPW per device.

Though pleased with the boost in supply, residents are resentful at calls from the revenue collectors. The “we gave it to you, and now you should pay” approach of the authorities is annoying for people who are accustomed to getting by without power the majority of the time.

At the same time, electricity supplies to enterprises and households in North Korea often depend upon bribery; one must give to the local department that oversees the supply in order to get more of the power. The homes of key Party officials are themselves bribed into overlooking this with an unrestricted supply.

Moreover, even in periods where electricity is not going to residential homes, it is possible to bribe the Land Management Office or local enterprises for power, but this is something that only private businesspersons and affluent families are likely to do. A middleman system has emerged, where residents who are able may pay third parties to get a larger share.

The source explained that it all means you can easily pick out the districts where Chosun Workers’ Party officials reside, as they are the ones with well-lit apartments. “The annoyance you feel when you’ve gone through your life without much electricity and you watch them use it late into the night is indescribable,” she said.

“We have no use for electricity in the middle of the night, either, and find it irksome when the lights suddenly come on,” she also added.  “They don’t think about the people who are having a hard time surviving, and while they are trading the nation’s electricity supply, only the wealth of officials and the donju is growing; and only they can use it,” the source pointed out.

And yet, “The paradox is that without this system, the nation would probably be devoid of any kind of electricity provision at all,” she concluded. “Transformers are on sale in the market [at 150,000 KPW average, with larger models costing up to 1,500,000 KPW] but even the cheapest ones are beyond the lower classes.”

Read the full story here:
More Electricity Leads to Growing Aggravation
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-8-8

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DPRK defectors in the USA

August 6th, 2014

According to Voice of America:

The U.S. Department of State, in its monthly Refugee Admissions Report, says a total of eight North Koreans have now sought asylum in the U.S. in 2014.

Cheol Park, president of the Association of the Free North Korean American, said in a telephone interview with the VOA Korean service that the refugees came to America via Thailand. “We received information through various activities [that we do],” explained Park.

The association is an organization consisting of North Korean refugees who have settled in the U.S..

North Korean defectors can attain refugee status in the U.S. based on the 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act. However, they are not eligible if they have already settled in South Korea, which gives automatic citizenship to North Koreans and is the preferred destination by the vast majority of those fleeing the communist country.

Park said the refugees in the U.S. receive about $200 in cash, health insurance and food stamps from their respective state government for several months. They are also provided with English education and job offers.

After about a year of living in the U.S., the defectors will be granted permanent residency and are eligible to apply for citizenship five years into their life in America.

The first group of North Koreans, nine in total, entered the United States back in 2006. Since then, 171 North Koreans have entered the U.S. as refugees.

Read the full story here:
Four More North Korean Defectors Arrived in US in July
Voice of America
Yeon Cheol Lee
2014-8-6

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8.3 movement evolves in DPRK

August 5th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

The meaning of August 3rd has changed since the creation of the 8.3 Movement in the 1980s, taking on connotations of areas of previously unavailable liberty, at least in the workplace.

“The term ’8.3′ used to just mean products that were not manufactured in factories,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on August 4th. “Say it now, though, and a lot of people will interpret it as a sign of market influence.”

The 8.3 Movement was a state-led attempt to increase provision of consumer goods by having factories and enterprises source their own inputs, and production facilities produce commodities beyond the remit of central planners. The movement was named after the date Kim Jong Il ordered it, August 3rd, and goods manufactured under its rubric came to be known as “8.3 consumer goods.”

Consumers could not purchase 8.3 consumer goods in subsidised state shops; rather, they were sold directly at market prices. As the movement grew in scale and state-run enterprises pushed to increase productivity, so 8.3 Workers and even 8.3 Work Units were formed.

As factory production slumped in the 1990s, a situation that persisted into the 2000s, workers took to dodging their work duties and mass mobilization orders so as to engage in cottage industries: making their own goods to sell. A portion of their income went back to the state, a de facto tax, and this became known as 8.3 Money.

“As recently as a few years ago, the 8.3 Work Unit in a cement factory in South Pyongan Province would produce roof tiles and slates and sell them to construction firms at market prices,” the source said. “But now, doing private business to make 8.3 Money is getting to be more popular than working in the designated 8.3 Work Unit.”

According to the source, payments of 8.3 Money can be as little as 20,000 KPW per calendar month all the way up to 200,000 KPW, the equivalent of paying for 40kg of rice in a public market.

“8.3 Money sucks up about 5-10% of the earnings of a person working that way,” the source explained. “This means they could be earning up to 2,000,000 KPW per month.” People in this upper earnings bracket do things like trade bicycles or motorcycles, or sell hand-crafted furniture, she said.

Even organs of citizen control and regulation are influenced by 8.3 Money. The Korean Democratic Women’s Union [KDWU] is one such example. An organization dealing with family matters, the organization technically demands that all women over 30 be members; however, participation can be waived in exchange for a share of 8.3 Money.

“There are three tiers of 8.3 money contributors, dependent on their financial capabilities,” the source explained. “The ones that have complete freedom and are exempt from all duties pay the most. Then there are some who only participate in monthly studies and others who are only exempt from mobilization.”

This complete freedom comes at a price ranging from 240,000-480,000 KPW per quarter, but is seen as a worthwhile outlay. In effect, 8.3 Money marks out a certain type of class stratification.

“Workers who pay a lot of 8.3 money receive protection from [the Party] despite skipping mandatory self-criticism meetings. Those who don’t pay much have to attend all study sessions and mandatory meetings,” the source said.

“Factories are in competition to get the greatest amount of funds possible from workers, but workers want to move to factories where they have to pay the least 8.3 Money,” he added.

A North Korean friend once told me an 8.3 joke. If someone was “low-quality” they were personally referred to as “August 3rd” person. I wonder if 8.3 goods are still perceived as low-quality.

Read the full story here:
Culture of August 3rd Changing with the Times
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-8-5

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Yanji-Rason tour project launched

August 4th, 2014

According to Xinhua:

The Chinese border city of Yanji in northeastern Jilin Province has opened a direct bus tour service to the neighboring Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), tourism authorities said Monday.

A total of 48 Chinese tourists and two Chinese guides ended their two-day tour to the city of Rason on Sunday completing the first batch of bus tours in Yanji, said Wang Yanbo, deputy chief of Yanji tourism bureau.

The group visited Rajin Port, greenhouses housing Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia, both flower species named after the late DPRK leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the Korean Ethnic Cultural Park and the beachside of Pipa Island, said Lian Qinghua, general manager of Yanbian Northeast Asia Passenger Transport Group Co,. Ltd travel agency, operator of the tour.

The journey to the DPRK takes around four hours and will operate from Tuesday to Saturday, Lian said.P Compared with other travel methods to Rason, the nonstop trip avoids transfer processing at the China-DPRK border, he said.

Travel figures show about 10,000 Chinese tourists visit the DPRK annually.

Yonhap report here.

Read the full story here:
Chinese border city opens bus tour to DPRK
Xinhua
2014-8-4

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DPRK -china trade dips slightly in H1 2014

August 4th, 2014

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

North Korea’s trade with its economic lifeline China fell 2.1 percent on year to US$2.89 billion in the first six months of this year, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday, in another sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.

During the six-month period, North Korea’s exports to China declined 3.9 percent to $1.31 billion and imports slipped 0.6 percent to $1.58 billion, according to the data provided by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).

There were no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea from January to June, the data showed.

“Despite the six-month absence of oil shipments, the scale of North Korea’s decline in imports is minimal,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s exports of rare earth to China jumped 153.7 percent on year during the January-June period, the data showed, without providing the value of the exports.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China falls 2.1 pct in H1
Korea Herald (Yonhap)
2014-08-04

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Pyongyang is estimated to hold 3m people

August 2nd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

More than 3 million people are estimated to be living in North Korea’s capital city of Pyongyang, a research report said Saturday.

A total of 3.06 million people are living in the capital city as of this year, an increase of 7 percent from two years ago, the U.S.-based consulting firm, Demographia, said in its report on the world’s urban areas published in May.

According to the firm’s 2012 report, Pyongyang was home to 2.86 million people. It is unclear whether this is the first time that the city’s population has surpassed 3 million.

Pyongyang’s land area measures 176 square kilometers and the capital has a population density of 17,400 people per square kilometer, ranking it 142nd out of the world’s 863 cities in terms of population scale and 34th in density, according to the report.

The eastern city of Hamhung was found to be the communist country’s second-largest city in terms of population with 750,000 people and the northeastern city of Chongjin came in third with 650,000.

The full report can be found here.

Read the full story here:
N.K. capital of Pyongyang has over 3 mln people: research
Yonhap
2014-8-2

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