Archive for August, 2004

North Korea’s environment crisis

Friday, August 27th, 2004

Alex Kirby

[NKeconWatch: Here is the report-  DPRK_SOE_Report.pdf]

The UN and officials in Pyongyang have agreed the first-ever assessment of the state of the North Korean environment.

The report was written by North Korea’s national co-ordinating council for the environment, together with the UN’s Development and Environment Programmes.

The head of Unep said Pyongyang had shown its readiness to work with the world community to safeguard nature.

The report lists a catalogue of neglect and over-exploitation of resources, and says time is short to put things right.

The report, DPR Korea: State Of The Environment 2003, was produced by officials from 20 government and academic agencies, with training and guidance from the two UN programmes.

Future collaboration

It was compiled as a result of a visit to Pyongyang in 2000 by Unep’s executive director, Dr Klaus Toepfer.

He and Dr Ri Jung Sik, secretary-general of the national co-ordinating council, have now signed a framework agreement on joint activities to improve environmental protection.

The report covers five areas: forests, water, air, land and biodiversity. It says the most urgent priority is the degradation of forest resources.

Forests cover 74% of North Korea, but almost all are on steep slopes. In the last decade the forests have declined in extent and quality.

The report says this is because of timber production, a doubling of firewood consumption, wild fires, insect attacks associated with drought, and conversion of forest to farmland.

On water it says demand is rising “with economic development and the improvement in standards of living”, and calls for urgent investment in domestic sewage and industrial water treatment.

It notes that large quantities of untreated wastewater and sewage are discharged into rivers, and says some diseases related to water use “are surging”.

Air quality, the report says, “is deteriorating, especially in urban and industrial areas”. Energy consumption is expected to double over 30 years, from almost 48m tonnes of oil equivalent in 1990 to 96 million tonnes in 2020.

North Korea’s use of coal is projected to increase five times from 2005 to 2020, underlining, the report says, “the urgent need for clean coal combustion and exhaust gas purification technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy alternatives.”

On land use, the report says self-sufficiency in food production has been a national policy aim in North Korea.

Changed priorities

But it continues: “Major crop yields fell by almost two thirds during the 1990s due to land degradation caused by loss of forest, droughts, floods and tidal waves, acidification due to over-use of chemicals, as well as shortages of fertiliser, farm machinery and oil.

“Vulnerable soils require an expansion of restorative policies and practices such as flood protection works, tree planting, terracing and use of organic fertilisers.
“Recognising such issues, [the country] adjusted its legal and administrative framework, designating environmental protection as a priority over all productive practices and identifying it as a prerequisite for sustainable development.”

North Korea is home to several critically endangered species, among them the Amur leopard, the Asiatic black bear and the Siberian tiger.

Squaring the circle

It has signed up to international environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, though the report notes a continuing “contradiction between protection and development”, which it says is being overcome.

In a wider context, the report says: “The conflict between socio-economic progress and a path of truly sustainable development is likely to be further aggravated unless emerging issues can be settled in time.”

It says environmental laws and regulations need to be formulated or upgraded, management mechanisms improved, financial investment encouraged, and research focused on priorities.

Dr Toepfer said North Korea “has shown its willingness to engage with the global community to safeguard its environmental resources, and we must respond so it can meet development goals in a sustainable manner.”


DPRK’s “Morning” firm produces Pentium IV chips

Thursday, August 26th, 2004

From Asia Times:

North Korea has mass-produced computers with Pentium IV processors since 2002, a Russian journalist says in a new book. The confirmation came at a time when the United States and North Korea are in a war of nerves over US and international export control regulations that would ban 15 South Korean firms selected to operate in an industrial complex in the North’s city of Kaesong from bringing in “strategic materials,” including computers.

The South Korean companies said they must be permitted to bring computers with at least Pentium IV chips, which are essential for normal office work, citing earlier unconfirmed reports that the North already began to produce those kinds of computers.

“North Korea has produced computers with Pentium IV processors since 2002, which I saw during my visit to an electric appliance factory in Pyongyang,” Olga PMaltseva, a Vladivostok-based journalist, said in her new book about the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il.

The Korean translation of the book, titled “A Waltz with Kim Jong Il” was published here on Monday.

“Seven hundred workers and technicians made 14,000 Pentium IV computers in 2002,” she said.

“The factory has produced tens of thousands of computers since 1986 and half of them were exported to Germany.”

There was a similar report by the Choson Sinbo, organ of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, in May last year.

The newspaper reported at the time that a North Korean electronic appliance developer has been selling computers with Pentium IV processors in a joint venture with China’s Nanjing Panda Electronics Co since September 2002.

South Korea’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) confirmed the report in August last year, citing data from its North Korean counterpart, the International Trade Promotion Committee.

The KOTRA said the North’s electronics firm “Achim (Morning)” and China’s Nanjing Panda have produced three types of Pentium IV computers.

The Russian author is believed to have visited the joint venture factory.

North Korea is classified as a “dangerous country” under the Wassenaar Arrangement, which replaced the Cold War era’s Coordinating Committee for Export Control to Communist Areas in 1996, and thus signatory countries cannot export items classified as “strategic materials” to the communist state.

The items include computers, various metal machinery, laser equipment, high-tech materials and electronic appliances with US-produced parts.

South Korea is among the 33 signatory nations.

An earlier report said the South Korean government is studying ways for the 15 domestic companies to use production equipment, materials and office supplies in Kaesong without conflicts with the U.S.

The Kaesong industrial complex, being built by the Korea Land Corp and Hyundai Asan Corp, a South Korea firm, is one of the most prominent symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation set in motion by the first-ever summit of the leaders of the two countries in 2000.

The developers are scheduled to open Kaesong’s main complex to hundreds of South Korean manufacturers in the first half of next year.