About “North Korean Economy Watch”

Launched in January 2006, North Korean Economy Watch (NKeconWatch) is intended as a research resource for business persons, policy makers, academics, journalists and others interested in the North Korean economy (broadly speaking).


Curtis Melvin is a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to 38 North.

Curtis enjoys traveling to developing nations. To date he has visited  over 50 countries including China, Zimbabwe, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Myanmar. Curtis also enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in which he is a purple belt.

Curtis received his BBA in economics from the University of Georgia and his MA in economics from George Mason University. He is ABD in the econ department at Geroge Mason University.


Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Stimson Center, working with the 38 North program and North Korean Economy Watch. He is also a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he researches the history of social control in North Korea. He graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2015 with an MA in international relations and international economics.

Benjamin enjoys reading and writing about totalitarianism and the intersection between political oppression and economics. He previously worked in development politics for the Swedish government. He is an avid listener of the North Korean Army Choir, and a passionate eater of most sorts of kimchi.

The category menu on the right hand side of the web page links to relevant articles listed in order of posting.  The main categories are listed in alphabetical order, but the sub categories are listed under their relevant category heading.

This format might be confusing for new readers, so in instances where this is the case, please use the search box located at the top of the sidebar.

Additionally, confusion can arise over the proper romanization of Korean names.  In most cases, the categories are listed using the North Korean style of romanization (for instance, the editor uses “Kaesong” rather than “Gaeseong”).  However, when referencing another author’s work, the editor will leave in place the original author’s spelling.

Content for this website is a combination of materials from outside sources and the editor’s own writings.  If the editor uses or posts someone else’s work, full credit will be given (and links if possible) so that said material may be verified and referenced by others.

This site focuses primarily on economic and cultural aspects of North Korea. This site does not generally focus on human rights issues or the nuclear issue, though they will come up from time to time. Although these topics are important, they are thoroughly covered in other forums.

First, the views expressed by Curtis Melvin on this web site are his alone and should not be interpreted to to be those of any of his associates.

Secondly, there is a Twitter page for NKeconWatch. While I am appreciative of this page, I have no connection with it. This person is impersonating me.  Contacting or following that web page will not help you reach me. You can reach me at my personal Twitter account here or by email (see below).

If you have specific knowledge which advances one of the topics being discussed in this forum, or you would like to put an item of interest to the readers of North Korean Economy Watch, the editor invites you to:

  1. Post your comments for others to read on the related post. Citations would be much appreciated so others can cite your reference in later work.
  2. Email stories and information directly to the editor of North Korean Economy Watch (as many already have) at: NKeconWatch “at” gmail “dot” com.
  3. If you are interested in guest blogging or making regular contributions, please email the editor of this blog at the above address for more information.

Special projects:

Google Earth North Korea– Compiling public maps, interviews, innovative analysis, and elbow grease, the editor of this site has also created the most comprehensive mapping of North Korea that publicly exists today. You can download it onto Google Earth here. The next installment will be published with 38 North at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS.


42 Responses to “About “North Korean Economy Watch””

  1. Chris Pohl says:

    Great site, Curtis. I’m looking for a charitable organization that serves the N. Korean refugees. Any suggestions? I found LFNKR, but would like to know if there are others. Any help is appreciated!

  2. Yoji Gomi says:

    Thank you. I’m a Japanese journalist.
    Your website is very helpful to me.

  3. mp says:

    Excellent site. I especially am impressed by the Uncovered North Korea Google Earth overlay project here.

  4. Steve Blevins says:

    Thank you for publishing this information. It is very interesting and informative. My Dad served in Korea so I am very interested in this area.

    It is a great example of the power of the Internet-using resources such as Google Earth harnessed with the collaboration of many interested people.

  5. Chiho Lew says:

    Let me join other commenters in appreciating your excellent site, its originality. Your site, for your information, is introduced today quite in detail on the front page of one of the largest circulating newspapers, called the DongA Ilbo, the daily circulation of which is estimated at over one million. So, by now, your site must have been known in South Korea.
    The article by Mr. S.H Chun under the titile of “‘Internet Spies’ Liet the Beil of North(Korea)’ and a photographic illustration showing teh waterslike of the Kimg Joing Il’s villa.

  6. Alf Erickson says:

    I made two trips to North Korea in the early 1990s. Here are some photos that my daughter (Annie) took.


  7. Philip Ng says:

    To: The Editor

    The site contains reference to:

    McAskill seeking investors for Chosun Fund
    Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
    Bradley Martin writes in Bloomberg this morning:

    A U.K. businessman is seeking to raise $50 million to invest in North Korea, reviving a 2005 plan after the U.S. government removed the communist regime from its list of countries that support terrorism.

    ChosunFund Pte. Ltd. will join with North Korean partners for mining and energy projects, Colin McAskill, founder of the Singapore-incorporated fund, said in an interview.

    I am writing this mail on behalf of my brother, Victor Ng, who was a former director of ChosunFund Pte Ltd. Colin McAskill is now the director.

    Monetary Authority of Singapore is contemplating legal action against ChosunFund Pte Ltd as it has not secured the necessary approvals to operate the fund out of Singapore. Please delete all references to ChosunFund in all the websites related to ChosunFund Pte Ltd. You may wish to send this message to Colin McAskill and warn him of the legal action which will be taken against him as he is now the director of ChosunFund Pte Ltd. The penalties are hefty fines and jail sentence.

  8. Kim says:

    I would like to know the source of all this information, especially what one would consider sensitive and a secret like the location of Kim Jong Il home. It doesn’t seem reliable to me.

  9. NKeconWatch says:

    Dear Kim,

    A lot of work by many dedicted people has gone into verifying the information added to the Google Earth project. Recently, this project has received a lot of scrutiny in the media, but the information has been confirmed again and again: particularly information related to the homes of the elite and the burial mounds.

    This project has been continuously improved over the last two+ years and we are now working on version 19! If you believe something to be incorrect, offer evidence of you claim and we will update it as we have been doing for years.

    Best of luck,

  10. Nigel Kershaw says:

    To every buddhist at Pohyonsa Temple in side of North Korea,

    A Question of History?
    I, Born Nigel Andrew Kershaw (21/08/1972) and made High Priest of Nichiren Sho Shu by Nittatsu Shonin in 1973, as Dai Ni Chi Shonin Ge Amida Bu Tsu.
    The Amitayus Buddha,
    put to you the people that JAPAN has tryed to change the history of Buddhism.

    I can prove it to.

    It is stated through out Nichiren Sho Shu in the past that Nichiren is/ was the Eternal Buddha, a Dai Ni Chi Buddha, The Buddha from the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
    The Dai Gohonzon is first.
    The SGI say that Dai Saku Ilkeda is the re incarnation of the Shakyamuni Buddha, who is Nichiren.
    Dai Saku Ilkeda’s picture is placed before there “gohonzon”, putting him before everything else.
    While Nichiren Shu state that Nichiren was a Saint and call him “Saint Nichiren” (not the Buddha, but a Saint/ Bodhisattva), who is Bodhisattva Jōgyō, and that we must take comfort in Shakyamuni Buddha. Putting the Shakyamuni Buddha before the Gohonzon.
    Slightkly giving the SGI the uper hand in relation to the SGI claiming that Nichiren was/ Shakyamuni Buddha and Daisaku Ilkeda is his/ there re incarnation.

    I say that Nichiren never said that he was Bodhisattva Jogyo. Nothing he wrote states this to be fact and if it does, it is a fake.
    He/ I am the Amitayus Buddha. It offened Japan that Nichiren said he was Ni Chi Ge. So they changed it. They changed it back then. I Know North Korea can help me prove this. A land that has been cut off from the world so many times.
    A Pure land.
    I say between 1592 and 1598 Monks helped because they found out Japan had changed Nichiren’s life to suit them self. They changed it because he offened them when he stated he was Ni Chi Ge.

    He who proclaimed the Dai Gohonzon, he who proclaimed the true law of the buddha “Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, Nam-u Myo Ren Ge Kyo”.

    As it is stated in the Amitayus Sutra, he would proclaim the true Law of the Buddha.
    As it is stated in the Lotus Sutra.

    Nam-u Amida Bu Tsu, Nam Myoho Ren Ge Kyo.
    Nam-u Myoho Ren Ge Kyo.
    Who has found the truth.
    Daisaku Ilkeda and SGI Australia think they can buy my soul, and treat me as there soul slave. For ever, because I know of this matter.
    If you do not belive me, PROVE ME WRONG!!!
    I also ask Kim Jong-il, as he is the head of your land for “political asylum” from Australia. As I feel I have no rights here to live. This land that has let the SGI try and kill the real High Priest of Nichiren ShoShu.
    I have three email adresses,
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

    Help me.
    Dai Ni Chi Shonin Ge Amida Bu Tsu, as proclaimed by Nittatsu Shonin in 1973,
    Living in Melbourne Australia.

  11. Jeffrey Ward says:

    Curtis – what’s the official US State Dept policy on travel for US citizens to the DPRK?

    Thanks and regards, Jeff (who loves your blog)

  12. NKeconWatch says:

    Dear Mr. Ward.

    There are no restrictions by the US governemtn on citizens visiting North Korea. Check out the “Economic Interaction with the United States ” section of this web page: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2792.htm

  13. American DPRK Tourist says:

    Hi – just got back from DPRK. Interesting trip and your website is great. Cheers!

  14. Patrick says:

    Hi, Curtis,

    Thank you for your updated fastfood development in Pyongyang.

    In fact , I have just came back from NK for the QC inspection with

    my investors.

    They are well organise and maintain the standdard of the fast food

    operation trained by Waffletown. they really want to do

    something to improve their life,I really salute to them…

    ,After Waffletown landed there, I suppose

    the relationship with the world is improving, just read the

    recent news..I really wish thr this fastfood venture in Nk,will bring

    everybody in peace! Hopefully, Waffletown is the peace maker!:)

    Great thanks again.


  15. Arne Krueger says:

    Great site, enjoyed reading it very much !

    Will we hope that we will never again experience such drastic social downturns as in the 1930s. But unfortunatly policy makers around the world do not seem to have understood economic history properly – the implications may be worse than expected.

    Again great informations,

    Thanks a lot,

    Arne Krueger, Dresden, Germany

  16. Stephan Haggard says:

    Happy new year, and thanks for the good work on this site.

    Stephan Haggard

  17. Stephan Haggard says:


    Do you have a consolidated list of the precise coordinates of the known North Korean prison camps, or know the easiest way to extract it from the various iterations of the (great) North Korea Uncovered project?


    Steph Haggard

  18. John 0'Neil says:

    Hi Steph:

    I’m writing to let you know that a link to your website has been included in a resource list we have compiled for our Topic page on North Korea. These lists are compiled by reporters, editors and researchers here at the Times, with some suggestions from outside experts.


    I am writing to suggest that you include a link to the page on your site. We think the pages can be a great source of authoritative online information for readers and researchers. And to be candid, we want to see the effect on search rank of adding what are called “external links,’’ which are a particularly powerful factor in search algorithms.

    I’d also be glad to hear any suggestions you might have for additional resources on this page.

    John O’Neil
    Editor, Times Topics

  19. Z Du Lac says:

    Given a lot of sensationalist news about the North out there (both from the popular US press on one side and the KCNA on the other), it is great to have a place where you can find “real” balanced news about this closed society. I have been a reader for the last year or so now, and want to thank you for taking the time to do this. An awesome read.

  20. Gary Simpson says:

    Hello Curtis-

    Just had to wonder if you might have some advice on how to make contact with someone in North Korea who could participate in my art project by collecting soil from that country. Please go to http://www.commonground191.com for details. DPRK is the last remaining state in the UN for the collection phase of the project.
    I have been approved for the collection by the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control, USDA and DHL for the shipment.

    Gary Simpson

  21. Lukja2000 says:

    hiwos 4 time in pyonyang
    looket my reportage

  22. Peter Kim says:

    I’ve tried to post a short remark about the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology as I came across a flickr image http://www.flickr.com/photos/felix_abt/5195118190/ talking about its vision but comments are closed.

  23. Afg2 says:

    This is the truth about Christian Koreans.

    The Most Extreme Christians In The World.

    Please, watch these videos about them carefully.



  24. Vince Lockyer says:

    Thought you needed to know the RSS feed doesn’t seem to be working at the moment.

  25. Christopher Jeong says:

    thank you for doing this. please keep up the good work!!

  26. Malia Evere says:

    Pyongyang Expohttp://youtu.be/T9Pp6WhY7rEhttp://youtu.be/CNBVgUOjlVwhttp://youtu.be/Va6IKcy28AY

  27. Indrid Thanatos says:

    Hey Curtis I saw you in the Friends of Kim documentary and just had to say how unbelievably smug and ignorant you came off. Yeah, nothing political about going to DPRK with a bunch of ignorant
    sycophantic manchildren in support of their broken society. Just there to
    visit, nothing political about it, just a tourist! Seriously, screw you. Did you just go for bragging rights? Those people are dying of starvation and you’re having dinners
    on their dime as a tourist just for the hell of it? You refused to take a position the entire movie because you were terrified of revealing what a fool you are. At least Alejandro had a position as crazy as it was. You’re just a deflective chump.

  28. B-moore says:

    Curtis, Barb has your phone! Call her  or check your gmu email

  29. Kyoung Rhee says:

    Online petition for NK defectors gains global support

  30. Kim says:

    You must do a compilation of photos about the new buildings have been build: Restaurants, stores, companies main buildings, theatres, and others.

  31. Young says:

    Thanks for the good info.

  32. Kim says:

    A good documentary about North Korean workers y labor camps situated in Russia:
    Kim Jong Il’s Foreign Adventure – North Korea


  33. Shady says:

     I have read your articles on Mass Games in north Korea and at the first glance, i could see that you haven’t watched it yet because you wouldn’t dare to say or post those kind of articles if you had seen it. Out of millions, only 1 or 2 complain and you’re accepting it as the general sentiment of north koreans. and one valuable advice, don’t listen to what defectors are saying! do you think their opinions are objective while saying about the country they had left? The foremost priority of news should be objectivity. it should not be tilted on one side as all of your articles are!!! please Keep in mind and write some objective articles!

  34. Bert Kuipers says:

    hot to contribute to the google-earth overlay project? Found some new things….

  35. LenkUm says:

    I spotted a mistake in the “uncovered” kmz. The “chinese nuclear power plant”, situated near Hunchun,  actually seems to be coal-fired. You can see that clearly on Google Earths pics of 3/9/2009. There are some coal heaps in the north-east and conveyors leading to the plants power house.
    Nevertheless, impressive work!

  36. Gary says:

    While watching the car advertisement video I noticed that at
    5:57 you see two factory workers performing an alignment. I believe they are using
    equipment from Hunter Engineering Technology, a US company headquartered in


  37. Jacob Bogle says:

    I found what looks to be a secret underground naval base on the North Korean island of Taehwa-do. There are multiple vessels, a small military unit attached and an AA site on the islands interior. Even Google Earth’s community place marks/KMZ files only list a lighthouse, nothing else. Did an internet search and likewise found nothing. It can be found at 39 26’02.51 N 124 37’03.83 E. Figured you’d be interested in it.

  38. Yuli says:

    Another “expert” based upon US private universiti’s and non-neutral information made by USA goverment and bussinesman obviously adepts to mcccarthism dogmatism. Is justo mor anticommunism and pro-capitalist puppet