DPRK seeks hike in embassy rent

According to the Joong Ang Daily:

North Korea has unilaterally raised rental fees for offices of foreign embassies and international agencies by 20 percent this year, at the same time that it tightens its grip on communications at the establishments, sources said.

A source privy to North Korean affairs said last week that the North Korean Foreign Ministry sent notices to the foreign offices last October and the increase took effect at the beginning of this year. The source also said commodity prices in markets specifically set up for foreigners have soared.

“Following the currency reform last November, the North may have wanted to earn some foreign currency by raising the rents and commodity prices,” the source said. “As far as I know, diplomats and their families are angry that the North has violated diplomatic protocols.”

Pyongyang has diplomatic offices for 25 nations, plus the office for World Food Program among other the United Nations agencies. Most rent out space in buildings owned by North Korea.

Pyongyang-based diplomats have also been asked to celebrate North Korean holidays by purchasing flowers or writing congratulatory messages.

“On Kim Jong-il’s 68th birthday last month, the North asked the diplomats to buy wreaths, made up of ‘the Kim Jong-il flowers,’ and write messages praying for Kim’s health under the ambassador’s name,” one source explained. The source did not know if the diplomats complied.

North Korea is also cracking down on the flow of information within foreign missions and agencies. The North rejected a request by a UN agency to use the Internet to send documents to UN headquarters. When diplomats make international phone calls, North Korean interpreters are there to listen in on the conversation, sources said.

“The North may want to block any details on Kim Jong-il’s health, disruption after the currency reform or other domestic affairs from reaching the outside world,” a South Korean government official said.

One Western diplomat, asking for anonymity, recently complained to a South Korean government official that diplomats in Pyongyang can’t talk to each other freely for fear of others listening in, and that they only vent their frustration when they’re out of North Korea.

In addition to making money from the foreign embassies in Pyongyang, the DPRK earns revenue from its embassies abroad.  See here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Most Pyongyang embassies (aside from Russia and China) are located in Munsudong (satellite image here). Recent photos of Pyongyang’s diplomatic quater here.

This is a fascinating topic.  What are the rental rates now?  How are they determined?  If anyone has an idea, please let me know.

Read the stories below:
Diplomats in North face price hike
Joong Ang Daily
Lee Young-jong
3/15/2010

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  • Neil (Cogsinister)

    I would have thought that Embassies in the DPRK if they wanted to have internet access they would use satellite based systems that the DPRK can not easily intercept….Embassies have the freedom to communicate with there home bases…

    I can’t see the UN wanting to use a local internet connection to send documents, do the UN not have there own world wide sat comms system to do that ?

  • Ben

    I also find North Korea’s attempt to curb internet usage very strange. When I went to North Korea this past November, I met on the plane a nice Frenchman who’s been working in Pyongyang for the European Union for about a year. He told me the few expats living and working in Pyongyang use Chinese satellite-provided internet, and therefore unrestricted (expect of course for the sites banned in China, such as Facebook, Youtube, and such), as opposed to the very restricted intranet system some North Koreans use.

    Thus, I’m surprised mentions this UN agency having requested internet usage to send documents. I’m guessing it might have been local UN employees, because again, based on what the Frenchman told me, foreigners do have access to internet at their workplace.