Archive for September, 2009

DPRK-China trade (Q1,Q2 2009)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

According to Yonhap:

Trade volume during the January-June period totaled US$1.1 billion, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier and the first decline since 1999, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said in an emailed release that cited official Chinese data. The drop was in striking contrast with a 41 percent increase during the same period last year and a 16 percent gain in 2007.

North Korea was put under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test in May, barring its weapons trade and strictly limiting cash flows into the country. The sanctions, however, do not appear to have affected North Korea’s trade with China, an official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

Prices of crude oil, which account for a quarter of North Korean imports from China, subsided this year after steep hikes in 2007 and 2008, said Jeon Dong-myeong, a ministry official overseeing North Korean trade.

“It’s not a steep decline. The 3.7 percent decline in trade volume can arise from price differences,” Jeon said.

North Korean imports from China amounted to $750 million, down 8.4 percent, while exports increased by 8.2 percent to $352 million, according to KOTRA.

By item, North Korea’s crude oil imports showed the steepest decline of 54 percent, or $111 million.

Food imports slightly increased to $23 million, and fertilizer imports considerably grew to $11.9 million, close to the amount the North brought in during all of 2008, $12.7 million.

Despite the international sanctions on the country, North Korea’s trade with Germany gained by 46.53 million euros during the first half of this year, according to KOTRA. Citing Germany’s figures, it said trade volume was up 160 percent from the same period last year, and up 30 percent from the total trade volume the two countries registered for last year.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean trade with China falls slightly in first half of 2009

Further information and requests:
1. Here is the PR of China’s Ministry of Commerce database where trade data is published (does not work well with Mozilla). The usual caveats apply.

2. I have given up on the KOTRA web page.  Can someone please send me the KOTRA email mentioned in the Yonhap story?

3.  Here are general stories about North Korea’s trading activities. Here are stories mentioning specific trade statistics.


DPRK harvest to decline

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

According to Yonhap:

The North’s corn crop for this year is estimated to be less than 1.5 million tons, considerably down from the 2.5 million to 3 million tons it usually garners, said Kim Soon-kwon, a leading corn biologist and head of the International Corn Foundation. The forecast yield portends a severe food shortage in the country where corn is believed to make up 40 percent of the total food supply.

“Of all the corn harvests I’ve seen while visiting North Korea over the past 12 years, this year’s crop was the worst,” Kim said over the telephone from China where he was staying after last week’s trip to the North.

During the Sept. 12-16 trip, he surveyed corn farms on the outskirts of Pyongyang and around Mount Myohyang and found a widespread shortage of fertilizer had slowed corn growth. Also, a drought in July — a critical period for the crop — followed by heavy downpours further damaged corn fields, he said.

“Corn needs fertilizer more than any other grain,” Kim explained. “The fact that the fertilizer had not been provided appropriately because of the limbo in inter-Korean relations is a major factor in the bad crop.” said Kim, who spent 17 years in Africa helping develop higher-yield corn seeds and spreading farming technologies.

Since 1999, the South Korean government has provided an average 300,000 tons of fertilizer worth 96 billion won (US$77 million) to the North every year to help ease the country’s chronic food shortages. But the aid was suspended after conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office last year, linking inter-Korean aid to progress in North Korea’s denuclearization.

North Korea’s own fertilizer output is estimated at less than 500,000 tons a year, about a third of the 1.5 million tons the country needs for its grain farming, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Aid activists from World Vision, who visited North Korea last month, said rice paddies were more yellow than green this year due to a fertilizer shortage, which will equate to low yields in the harvest season.

Seoul expects the North will fall more than one million tons short of the 5.48 million tons of food needed to feed its population of 24 million this year.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean corn crop to fall by 40 percent: agronomist


North Korea shuffles cabinet in effort to build a strong and prosperous nation

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Institute for Far Esatern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-22-1

In order to meet the goal of building a ‘Strong and Prosperous Nation’ by the year 2012, North Korean authorities are reshuffling some positions within the Cabinet, which is its ‘Economic Headquarters’. During the first session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) last April, Kim Jong Il launched his third regime, and now less than 6 months later, is restructuring the Cabinet. For example, the National Science and Technology Council, which was merged into the Cabinet Academy of Science (now the National Academy of Science) in 1998, has been re-established.

North Korean media briefly reported on the 19th that the SPA Standing Committee brought out the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea National Science and Technology Council” through the announcement of Government Ordinance # 301. The press did not follow up with specifics concerning the announcement, but the recent position of North Korean authorities that “without scientific and technological development, there is no independence, no national defense, and no economy,” it appears that the recent cabinet order is related to attempts by the North to strengthen its economy.

The first National Science and Technology Council established in the North was created in 1962, and was intended to support the national defense industries. The Academy of Science, which had been established 10 years prior, was put under the control of the council, and the council was responsible for the creation and implementation of a national science and technology plan, as well as for providing guidance over research activities. However, as the North’s level of science and technology improved, the council, which was not made up of experts on science and technology, was unable to appropriately guide the research carried out by the academy. In 1982, the academy was separated from the council, and its status was boosted to that of an independent entity.

North Korea is currently in its 3rd 5-year plan to “develop new national science and technologies” by 2012. Currently, North Korea is prioritizing the modernization of factories, enterprises and other industries, and Kim Jong Il has stressed modernization and the introduction of vanguard technologies during his on-site inspections of the nation’s economic facilities. Therefore, it appears that the newly established National Science and Technology Council will be responsible for overseeing cooperation between mechanical and chemical industries and the modernization of the industrial sector, while the National Academy of Science will focus purely on research.


Quintermina AG

Monday, September 21st, 2009

*Note, this information was posted in 2009 and is now outdated.

ORIGINAL POST (2009-9-21): Swiss mining company Quintermina AG seems to have a stake in North Korea. According to their web page (Feb 2009):

IT’S ALL HAPPENING in the magnesia supply market. Further to last month’s lead news report on Russian magnesia supply breaking into the European market through a German trader (see IM January ’09, p.6), IM has learned that the considerable magnesite resources of North Korea are to be made available to the global market through Quintermina AG of Switzerland.

Although the company was unable to disclose details at time of press, IM can reveal that the new business is to facilitate supply of North Korean “competitive quality magnesia” for agricultural, industrial, and refractory applications.

The main focus is caustic calcined magnesia (CCM; low iron grade, agricultural grade, including 90200, 92200, 94200), and dead burned magnesia (DBM; including 9003, 9010), and later, perhaps fused magnesia (including 96%, 97% MgO).

Quintermina is headquartered in Chur, Switzerland, and is managed by David Coplet, who is also the Managing Director of Steinbock Minerals Ltd.

Details that are available in the public domain reveal that Quintermina is a joint venture between RHI and Coplet.

It would seem that RHI and Steinbock have formed a joint venture to secure magnesia materials from North Korea.

The magnesite resources of North Korea, an extension of the magnesite-talc belt from Liaoning, China, are considerable, amounting to some 3,000m. tonnes. Current production is in excess of 100,000 tpa DBM.

Sourcing magnesite from North Korea over the last few decades has been tackled by few, and even fewer have succeeded. Key challenges include lack of fuel and power supplies, basic infrastructure for freight, and modern technology, not to mention dealing with a very sensitive government.

However, Steinbock and its associates, notably the logistics company Yasheya Ltd, have a respected pedigree in dealing with North Korean minerals going back many years. Steinbock told IM that it has managed to regularly ship lots of 5-10,000 tonne CCM and DBM on a monthly basis over the last two years.

RHI, a leading refractories producer and consumer of magnesite, has made little secret of its intention to secure and invest in raw material resources worldwide (see IM October’08, p.6).

Outside China, North Korea stands out as the relatively untouched “Eldorado” of magnesite. Last month we reported “North Korea as an alternative [magnesia source] is looking no closer to coming to large scale commercial fruition.” Perhaps we are about to be proved wrong.

IM intends to publish a more detailed report on Quintermina in a forthcoming issue.

David Coplet of Quintermina will be speaking on Supply of magnesite from North Korea and China at MagMin 2009, 10-12 May 2009, Amsterdam – see p2&3. (PDF)

There is more information and pictures published from May 2009 here and here.


Goldman Sachs on Korean Unification

Monday, September 21st, 2009

UPDATE: Some interesting follow up from a member of Phoenix Commercial Ventures at the Gerson Lehrman Group web page:

My colleagues and I are directors of a number of businesses (Phoenix Commercial Ventures) that have been based in the DPRK (aka North Korea) for a number of years. Goldman Sachs is correct to highlight the upside of business opportunities with the DPRK.

The DPRK (North Korea) represents one of the last “green field” economies in the world with exceptional investment opportunities. As such it provides an unparalleled opportunity for business professionals who know and understand the risks, the people and the country. As estate agents are fond of saying, it is a case of “location, location, location”.

1 Physical Location
The DPRK (North Korea) physically borders Russia, China and ROK; as such it is in a prime location in this most important of trade routes. Additionally, its location in Asia Pacific gives it access to one of the world’s wealthiest and most vibrant regions.

2 Resource Location

The DPRK has abundant mineral resources including; coal, gold, magnesium, nickel, copper, graphite, nephelite, zinc etc. The total value of which is estimated at being around $2.5 Trillion (IHT 21 Dec 2007).

The DPRK has a well educated (99-100% literacy), intelligent, hard working population whose wage rates are highly competitive.

The DPRK has a forward looking environmental policy that offers green investors opportunities to generate environmentally friendly power for supply locally and export elsewhere.

3 Historical Location
The recent improvements in geopolitical issues demonstrates that the time is right, in terms of historical context, for progress to be made with regard to the DPRK entering the world financial community and to benefit from world trade.

It is not difficult to set up shop, if you approach the DPRK with a well thought through serious business proposal/well researched business plan and are a professional with reputable/professional local contacts.

It should be emphasised that businesses in the DPRK are no more fond of having their time wasted than businesses anywhere else in the world, local businesses having had their time wasted tend to prefer to deal with professionals that they trust.

When setting up a business within the DPRK remember that you cannot manage solely by email and need people on the ground, as is the case with Phoenix Commercial Ventures. Organisations that do not have people on the ground in DPRK will fail.

One of the major challenges facing a newcomer to the local market is a very practical one – how to find a way to balance the need for pre-start-up feasibility studies requiring possibly large amounts of information from the local Korean partner, against the need to demonstrate to the local authorities that the investor is serious.

There have been many cases over the years of potential foreign investors making promises they cannot fulfil, and the Koreans have consequently become somewhat sceptical. It is therefore essential to promise only what you know you can deliver, and to deliver within the timeframe agreed.

The DPRK Government is actively encouraging foreign investment in areas such as mining, energy, agriculture and IT.

Investors in the DPRK are accorded generous tax concessions:

1. A reduced rate of tax of 10% (standard rate – 25%)
2. An additional tax exemption – whereby the investor is fully exempt from paying tax from the year of investment for 3 years, and 50% exempt for the subsequent 2 years
3. Any tax paid will be returned, if a subsequent investment is made

The DPRK is also undertaking small experiments with free market economy principles that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago. There are now 24-hour stores operating in Pyongyang, several places providing computer access and a series of adverts on the TV.

Kim Yong-sul, DPRK Vice Minister for Trade, is quoted as saying at a Pyongyang meeting of overseas ethnic Korean businessmen October 25 2004:

“In the past, we only allowed foreign companies entry into specialized economic zones, but now, we will allow them to set up in other places around the DPRK.”

There are a number of misconceptions harboured by some in the West about doing business in the DPRK. The one that we most frequently encounter is that people do not believe that it is possible, as a Westerner, to set up and run a company in the DPRK. This is patently untrue, the DPRK allows Western companies to set up and run joint ventures (JV’s) with a majority shareholding, with local partners and to remit profits;  the government encourages foreign investment.

One of our (Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd) aims is to demystify the business environment, demonstrate that people can make successful and ethical joint ventures in the DPRK that provide a decent return, employ local people, engage with local professionals; thereby encouraging others of good repute to come and do the same.

Another misconception is that communications from outside the DPRK with people working in the DPRK are impossible. This is untrue. I can call via phone and email my colleagues directly from London.

Starting and running a JV in the DPRK requires the same approach as it would in any other country – it is the fact that it is a JV that is important, not that it is in the DPRK.

That means you have to have the good judgement to size up and choose a good partner with whom you are going to work well together, but then you have to do just that – work well together, with emphasis on each of those words.

If you start a joint venture where you are always suspicious of the joint venture partner, then you shouldn’t have started the JV in the first place, it will never succeed – that is exactly the same in any country.

It is absolutely essential to have resident foreign management, a joint venture cannot be run remotely from abroad. The quality of, and relationship with, the local staff is essential; as is that of the foreign management. The aim of the JV should be to bond the personnel into an independent unit, who are striving for the success of the JV, and to remove entirely any idea of ‘our side’ and ‘their side’ within the JV.

The Barclays Report
Goldman Sachs are not alone in viewing the future positively. In 2004 Barclays Capital Research issued an upbeat report about the DPRK:

“The North Korean economy does not seem about to collapse” (contrary to what many might think).

1. As time goes by we are likely to see “the development of an uneasy coexistence with the US”.
2. There are some signs of improvement in the North Korea’s economy, thanks to recent reforms. The growth will remain very slow, but the regime has built in “coping mechanisms” that will prevent collapse.
3. “A slow income growth could be supportive of political stability, because it would make it easier for the regime to control popular expectations.”
4.What the Chinese would call peaceful evolution is possible:

“Political and economic stability would, over the longer term, see the completion of the transition from a planned to a market economy and greater integration of North Korea into the global economy. This in turn, could support a long-term normalisation of North Korea’s diplomatic relations with the external world.”

Plus Ca Change
When we were exhibiting at the Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair in May 2008, our CEO was at our stand and was approached by a young Korean lad who in perfect English said “Excuse me, am I disturbing you?”

It turned out that he wanted his photo taken.

The above may not seem much of an anecdote to those who have little understanding of the DPRK. However, those who do will realise the significance of that.

We are also attending the current four day international trade fair which opened this Monday in Pyongyang, with 120 companies from the DPRK and 14 other economies taking part.

The DPRK offers an unparalleled opportunity for business professionals who know and understand the risks, the people and the country.

ORIGINAL POST: (Thanks to a reader: Paper link at the bottom) A new paper by Goohoo Kwon at Goldman Sachs argues that the economy of a reunified Korea could be larger than France and Germany by the middle of this century.  The paper is not available on line yet, but according to to an article about the GS paper in the Wall Street Journal:

Since the reunification of West and East Germany 20 years ago, South Korean leaders and economists have convinced many people here that reuniting with North Korea will be costly and disruptive. In the latest gloomy forecast, a government think tank last month said that the tax burden ratio, or proportion of tax revenue to gross domestic product, would need to rise by two percentage points and stay that way for 60 years to pay for reunification.

In the study released Monday, Goldman Sachs economist Kwon Goo-hoon says the risks of reunification need to be re-evaluated, particularly in the wake of the rapid development of countries like Vietnam and Mongolia that also had state-run economies like North Korea’s.

His study contains North Korean data that he acknowledges may not be accurate and assumptions about future behavior that may not pan out. Even so, its tone is more optimistic than previous studies that contributed to South Koreans’ ambivalence about unification.

In an interview, Mr. Kwon said he believed for a long time that unification would be too costly for the South. He based that view largely on what happened with the newly united Germany, where the currencies were quickly equalized, the border opened and huge transfer payments made from the former West to the former East Germany.

“People always look at Germany when they discuss unification of the Koreas, but if you look at China and Hong Kong, or more properly Eastern Europe, Mongolia or Vietnam, you see there are better ways of doing this,” Mr. Kwon said. “I think it’s a matter of education and dialogue.”

In March, the Bank of Korea published a report that said Hong Kong’s gradual integration with China beginning in 1997 and France’s handling of its former colonies after World War II were better models. Both that study and Mr. Kwon’s suggest the two Koreas maintain separate currencies and restrict crossings at the inter-Korean border, perhaps for decades as North Korea’s currency appreciates and its people grow wealthier.

Mr. Kwon’s study goes several steps further by suggesting that the huge growth potential of North Korea could help offset the slowing growth of South Korea, which is burdened by limited natural resources and a fast-aging population. By contrast, North Korea has huge mineral deposits and a population that is younger and growing twice as quickly as South Korea.

Using long-term growth forecasts Goldman Sachs has previously published for industrialized countries, Mr. Kwon concluded that the gross domestic product of a united Korea would be the world’s eighth-largest in 2050 at $6 trillion, surpassing France around 2040 and Germany and Japan later that decade.

Today, South Korea’s GDP is about $800 billion and North Korea’s is believed to be around $20 billion, though no data has been collected inside the North since the 1960s. Some economists believe its economic output is considerably less, while others note that most estimates tend to leave out the North’s well-known illicit activities such as narcotics production and currency counterfeiting.

Nearly all previous economic reports on Korean unification focused on the costs that South Koreans will face and ignore or play down investment and business opportunities that may also occur. Mr. Kwon said the tone of the discussion will change as economic and demographic pressures grow in the South and he wanted to produce an analytical framework ahead of that.

Further information:
Goldman Sachs Has a Different View of Korean Unification
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad

Global Economics Paper No. 188: A United Korea? Reassessing North Korea Risks
Goldman Sachs Slobal ECS Asia research
Goohoon Kwon, CFA
September 2009

Lots of North Korean economic info here.


DPRK government goes after informal lenders

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

PSA Cracks Down on Loan Sharks
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho

North Korea’s police, the People’s Safety Agency (PSA), have launched a special investigation into the behavior of loan sharks, or “usurers,” in light of the high numbers of people taking out high interest loans but being unable to keep up repayments and ending up as “kotjebi.”

A source from Shinuiju told Daily NK on Friday, “A decree declaring all-out war against predatory usurers has been handed down to the provincial People’s Safety Agency. They are investigating Korean-Chinese traders and North Koreans repatriated from Japan.”

Loan sharks in North Korea are generally Korean-Chinese with relatives in China or those who have returned from Japan but whose relatives remain there.

The story was confirmed by a source from Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province. The source explained to Daily NK on Thursday, “The People’s Safety Agency issued a decree exposing the usury, and conveyed it to every office of the provincial and municipal National Security Agency (NSA) and the PSA. Thereafter, NSA officials attended People’s Unit meetings and gave lectures about harshly sanctioning the practice of earning money through high interest loans.”

According to the Hoiryeong source, the decree, “Map out measures to uproot usury,” was delivered to all NSA officials on September 2.

The decree apparently says, “Although national measures have been adopted to root out usury, this social phenomenon has not been eradicated.”

The Shinuiju source said that the authorities’ new hard-line has come about because the numbers of people who are being turned into “kotjebi” by these predatory loans is increasing.

He noted, “Since 2000, new kotjebi have been people who have gone to ruin and lost their homes to loan sharks. These days their numbers are drastically increasing, so the authorities cannot stand by indifferently.”

According to one source, a Korean-Chinese loan shark called Cho Jung Cheol was recently caught by the PSA on suspicion of taking a total of seven houses from defaulters.

North Korean people usually offer their house as security on a loan. Cho lent money at 30% interest for two weeks to a month, and used gangsters to take houses from those who couldn’t pay.

Those who lose their houses in this way roam the streets with their family members, the family splits up, or sometimes they escape from North Korea. After 2005, this became a common social phenomenon.

The loan sharks have other unethical ways to turn a profit, “Some of these loan sharks hoard up food during the harvest season and earn undue profits from selling it in the difficult spring season,” the source explained.

Sources all agreed that the people unanimously welcome the authorities’ measures.


Friday Fun: North Korean comics

Friday, September 18th, 2009


Read more at Oikono.


The closing of the Pyongsong Market

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
(NK Brief No. 09-18-1)

(Here is the location of the Pyongsong Market)

The Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (Nknet) reported that previous wholesale market near in Pyongsong Plaza and the provincial committee building has completely closed its doors in mid-Jun. Currently, there are two markets being operated in a reduced form in two separate districts.

The newly formed jangmadang in two districts are extension of previous alley markets and it is reported to be under construction but still operating. The size of the new market is said to encompass between seven to eight thousand seats compared to thirty to forty thousand seats of the former Pyongsong Wholesale Market.

The reported reason behind the closure of the wholesale market was, “triggered by the North Hwanghae Provincial Secretary’s proposal to close down Pyongsong jangmadang. He stated that ‘there is no use for such market although it is the most profitable market in North Korea. Since the profits are embezzled by individuals and not utilized towards the beautification of the city, it serves no benefit to society.’”

A large number of merchants from the previous Pyongsong Wholesale Market are reported to be secretly selling their goods from the market at home. Complaints are arising over the surveillance and inspection from the police in which once detected, all the items are confiscated with no compensation.

There are continuous rumors circulating surrounding the conversion into agricultural market except for two markets in Haesan. However, there are no concrete changes and only talks of starting a possible transition to agricultural market from next year. Also food distribution is rumored to start from next year along with the conversion into agricultural market.

Although some believe the food distribution is a result from the consideration from Kim Jong Il, such rumors are regarded to have no real effect on the residents of jangmadang. It is also reported many people have no faith that conversion into agricultural market will actually go into effect and believe it is only reemphasizing the previous dead letter measure of allowing only those older than 45 years old to participate in the market activity.


Juche and North Korea’s Global Aspirations

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

NKIDP Working paper #1
Charles K. Armstrong

(Download the PDF here)

In his latest publication, Armstrong details the DPRK’s short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to establish a global presence in the 1970s. These efforts included attempts at economic engagement with advanced capitalist countries and a diplomatic offensive in the Third World.

According to Armstrong, the ultimate failure of North Korea’s pursuit of what later came to be termed “globalization,” can be attributed to the contradiction between the stated policy of juche, or self-reliance, and the “necessary requirements for engagement in the international system, particularly the global economy.”


DPRK tourism upgrade

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Tour Company Remote Lands has launched a luxury travel package to North Korea that is private jet optional.  According to Reuters:

“We love learning first-hand about the cultures of the world`s most remote places,” said Catherine Heald, Co-Founder & CEO of Remote Lands. “We do not engage in politics of any kind; we simply believe that tourism can promote peace and understanding between peoples at a grassroots level. North Korea is one of the most mind-blowing places I have ever been, and visiting the country is an incredibly stimulating and enlightening experience that I can`t recommend highly enough to our most intrepid clients.”

Remote Lands ( will design customized itineraries that originate at a five-star hotel in Beijing, and clients can fly either privately or commercially into the capital city of Pyongyang. They can travel all over North Korea from the gorgeous mountains in the north, where they can hike to remote Buddhist temples, to the lovely beaches of the east to the DMZ on the southern border with South Korea. They will visit awe-inspiring architecture and monuments, and attend the dazzling Mass Games extravaganza with 100,000 synchronized performers/dancers/gymnasts, held every August and September. They can also go off the beaten track and visit schools, hospitals, orphanages, farms and factories and spend time with some of DPRK`s many warm and friendly people.

Accommodations are arranged in the best hotels available, with suites specially enhanced by Remote Lands with European linens, feather pillows and duvets and other exceptional amenities. Fine food and wine will be brought in, and the best chefs will be on hand to create the most delicious Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Continental cuisine. North Korea is not for everyone, but for those adventurous few who have been almost everywhere else in the world, it is the last frontier and a real eye-opener to witness in person.

Prices for a Remote Lands luxury bespoke holiday in North Korea/China start at $1,000 per person per day.

According to their web page:

Catherine Heald just returned from a reconnaissance to North Korea that she describes as mind-blowing. She found it quite different from what she expected – much more beautiful and many of the people were very warm and friendly (although others were clearly just baffled that a blond American woman was there in their midst, for example going for a morning run with them along the lovely riverside in Pyongyang). She drove all around the country and saw villages, farms, schools, hospitals and even an orphanage. She saw the Mass Games, a dance/gymnastics extravaganza, which was a truly dazzling performance. She visited the DMZ border with South Korea, the War Museum and the USS Pueblo ship and learned a lot about the Korean War. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the ultimate remote land, and Catherine found it to be one of the most fascinating places she has ever been.

Also Koryo Tours has sent out a newsletter with the following:

Insider information from Pyongyang tells us that the mass games – originally scheduled to finish on Sep 30th – will now be running to October 17th. This is the only time of year that Americans are able to visit the DPRK and the mass games is an event that no-one should miss! We are therefore offering our popular mini-break a third time round (3 days, 850 Euros). This is an amazing opportunity to experience the Arirang Mass Games as well as the highlights of the capital city of Pyongyang. We guarantee this will be an experience you will never forget. Koryo Tours has been running trips to North Korea for over 16 years now and is the only expert in the field.