Pyonghwa Motors repatriates profit…wow.

According to Yonhap:

A South Korean automaker operating in North Korea said Wednesday it has posted its first net profit and remitted part of it home, the first southbound money transfer by an inter-Korean venture.

Pyeonghwa Motors Corp. made a net profit of US$700,000 for the fiscal year ending in February and sent $500,000 to its headquarters in Seoul via a bank account in Hong Kong, its spokesman Roh Byoung-chun said.

The automaker began production in 2002 as a joint venture between North Korea and the Unification Church of South Korean Rev. Moon Sun-myung, who was born in the North. Its plant in Pyongyang produces sedans and small buses with some 340 employees, and its customers are mostly local businesses.

Roh said it took a while for North Korea to approve the remittance, which was made through a South Korean lender, Woori Bank, in Hong Kong in late May.

“For North Korea, $500,000 is a large sum of money. It is not used to the capitalist idea of making investments and retrieving profits. We believe they pondered deeply before giving approval,” he said.

Pyeonghwa sold 652 units last year, while North Korea took $200,000 for its 30 percent share in the venture, he said. The company says profits are picking up, with this year’s sales already surpassing 740.

North Korea’s own automaker, Sungri Motor, was established in 1958 and mostly produces cargo trucks.

Pyeonghwa’s production is not influenced by political tensions or South Korea’s ban on cross-border shipments, he said, as raw materials and parts are imported from Europe and China. The ban was enforced after North’s rocket launch in April, with the exception of goods going to a joint industrial complex in the North’s border town of Kaesong, where 109 South Korean small firms operate.

“The remittance is symbolic. They are having a hard time in Kaesong, and many went bankrupt in Mount Kumgang (the North Korean tourist resort),” Roh said. “We hope this can bring hope to people doing business in North Korea that anyone can go there and can bring back profits.”

Officials from the South Korean Unification Ministry said inbound money transfers from North Korea are not restricted, although outbound remittances are strictly monitored and prohibited in some cases. It is the first time a South Korean company has sent profits from sales in North Korea, they said. Other businesses investing in North Korea, including those operating in the Kaesong park, sell their goods in South Korea and elsewhere.

South Korea has put three North Korean firms, including a bank, on its blacklist under a U.N. resolution that bans financial transactions with North Korean entities suspected of aiding the country’s nuclear and missile development.

Read the full artilce below:
S. Korean automaker in Pyongyang sends first business profit home
Yonhap
Kim Hyun
7/15/2009

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The Pyeonghwa spokesman didn’t disclose revenue figures but said last year’s vehicle sales were just over twice the 2007 level. The company has already sold more cars this year, 742, and expects to sell more than 1,500 for the full year, the spokesman said.

The performance is the culmination of an 18-year effort that began when church founder Rev. Moon Sun-myung met North Korea’s then-ruler Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang to propose several business ventures. In 1999, the church spent $55 million to build the auto factory in the port city of Nampo, on North Korea’s west coast. The Unification Church, based in South Korea, has a number of investments in tourism, construction and trade.

Since completing the factory in 2002, Pyeonghwa has imported partially built cars, in a form called knockdown kits, from manufacturers such as Italy’s Fiat SpA and China’s Brilliance Automotive Holdings Ltd.

Pyeonghwa completes the cars and puts its own nameplate and brand names on them. In 2003, its first full year of operation, the company sold 316 cars.

North Korea’s government is a partner in the company and took about 30% of the profit.

When it first started production, the company touted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il’s role in naming several cars. One sport-utility vehicle, built from the design of Fiat’s Doblo model, was named by Mr. Kim as the Ppeokkugi, or Cuckoo.

Pyeonghwa, like other companies that do business in North Korea, faced enormous difficulty moving its money out of the country. Many Chinese businesses resort to buying commodities in North Korea with their profits, then exporting them to China to be sold for Chinese currency.

The motor company worked from February to May to move its money from North Korea, seeking permission from the North’s central bank, the spokesman said.

Read the full article below:
Pyeonghwa Sells in North Korea
Wall Street Journal
Sungha Park
7/16/2009

Read other Pyonghwa stories here.

Here is the location of Pyonghwa’s factory near Nampo.

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