Recent DPRK trade and aid stories…

1. Dutch import DPRK clothing and machinery (via Yonhap):

Dutch companies gave purchase orders to clothing and machinery firms in North Korea following their visit there organized by the Chamber of Commerce of the Netherlands in September, said the Japan-based Choson Sinbo in a dispatch from Pyongyang.

“Exchange and cooperation projects that were agreed to in meetings between the Dutch business delegation and the DPRK Commercial Office are entering the stage of implementation,” the report said. DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Production by the (North) Korean clothing and machinery trade firms is underway according to the agreements,” it added.

Dutch businesses along with firms from 14 other countries participated in the Pyongyang Autumn International Fair held Sept. 21 to 24. North Korea holds a trade fair twice a year to draw foreign investment and boost technology exchanges.

The Choson Sinbo said the Dutch firms then showed interest in the information technology area, machinery parts and clothing goods and held talks with pertinent North Korean companies, such as the Joson Computer Center and Unha Clothing Company.

After returning home, the Dutch produced a report on North Korea’s international economic relations for distribution at home and in other Western European countries, the newspaper said.

2. Seoul sets DPRK official assistance budget.  According to Yonhap:

According to its 2010 budget plan submitted to the National Assembly unification, foreign affairs and trade committee, the Unification Ministry allocated 1.18 trillion won (US$1.02 billion), about the same as the earmarked budget for this year, for inter-Korean relations and exchanges.

“The ministry has reflected the government’s policy to continue to proceed with humanitarian projects despite the strained phase in inter-Korean relations,” the ministry proposal said.

Broken down to specifics, 616 billion won has been set aside for the possible resumption of rice and fertilizer aid that was suspended after President Lee Myung-bak took office last year. The sum is slightly less than the 718 billion won for this year but remains mostly untouched. The ministry cited the fall of grain prices as the reason for adjustment.

The amount will be worth 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer that had been annually provided to the North over the past decade. But Seoul officials have said they there is no immediate plan yet to resume the rice and fertilizer aid.

The ministry also set aside 18 billion won and 25 billion won to assist North Korea through non-governmental organizations or international agencies like the World Food Program.

For economic projects, including a joint industrial park in the North’s border town of Kaesong, the proposed budget earmarks 144.8 billion won, up 17 percent from the previous year.

“Massive economic cooperation projects were considered in preparation for the possibility of progress in the North Korean nuclear issue,” the ministry said.

It should be pointed out that Seoul has hardly touched its current inter-Korean assistance budget (here and here).  These sorts of policy moves are intended to offer Pyongyang a highly visible carrot.

3. Pyongyang’s 2009 Kaesong antics have unfortunately scared away more foreign direct investment from the Kaesong Zone, despite significant South Korean subsidies.  According to Yonhap:

Romanson Co., a South Korean watchmaker, said Thursday it has no intention to further invest in an inter-Korean industrial complex because of the political risks.

Romanson operates a plant in the industrial park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, which turns out 40,000 watches per month. In 2005, the company invested 6.1 billion won (US$5.3 million) to build the factory.

4. And the first shipment of NOKO Jeans have arrived in Europe!  Learn more at their Facebook Page.  Here is a photo of the shipment on Flickr.

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