Archive for September, 2012

Russia – DPRK trade

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Following (or perhaps concurrently with) the story on the Russia – DPRK debt forgiveness deal, Andrei Lankov writes about DPRK trade and investment in the Asia Times:

But a brief look at trade statistics makes one suspicious about claims in regard to Russia’s prominence in North Korean issues. It is not widely understood that summits and official rhetoric notwithstanding, actual trade between North Korea and Russia is miniscule, even by the meager standards of North Korea.

In 2011, trade volume between the two countries was merely US$0.12 billion. As inter-state trade goes, this practically means that Russia and North Korea have close to no trade. In the same year, Sino-Korean trade hit the $5.6 billion mark. If you compare this with other East Asian countries this is still peanuts, but it is nonetheless almost fifty times the level of Russo-North Korean trade.

One also might notice that the improvement in political relations between Russia and North Korea had absolutely no impact on Russo-North Korean bilateral trade volumes. If anything, the trade declined when the politicians were smiling and exchanging niceties.

Over the past 15 years, Russo-North Korean trade on an annual basis has fluctuated around the $100-$250 million mark (in a clear downward trend). Throughout the same period, Sino-North Korean trade has increased almost 10-fold.

It is strange that these obvious facts do not attract enough attention among those who like to talk about Russia’s supposed leverage in Pyongyang. These figures are easily obtainable and yet almost entirely overlooked. This seems to be because the figures do not easily fit into preconceived notions about Russo-North Korean relations; the inconvenient truth is that the political rhetoric shared between the two countries is often very shallow and lacking in an economic basis.

To be blunt, Russian businesses have no interest in North Korea.

North Korea is a very poor place that has few comparative advantages in the world market. Nonetheless such advantages do exist. First, North Korea has some mineral resources (iron ore,coal, copper, lead and so forth) which are largely to be found in the northern most part of the country. Second, it has a rather skilled and unbelievably cheap workforce. North Korean workers consider themselves lucky if they are paid $25 a month. But none of these two advantages are of any significance to corporate Russia.

Russian mining companies have all of Siberia at their disposal, and North Korea’s mineral deposits do not look all that impressive by comparison. Things are made even worse by the constant threat of political instability and the gross underdevelopment of transportation and infrastructure in general. Therefore, no major Russian mining firm is willing to invest in North Korea (some have been courted by Pyongyang, have always responded in the negative).

The pull of cheap labor is also not all that attractive to Russian companies. The Russian developmental model does not involve heavy reliance on light industry in general, nor in particular the manufacture of T-shirts and running shoes. There is a moderate need for cheap North Korean labor in Russia itself, and so for many decades North Korean workers have been employed in Russia. But the scale of these operations is quite limited, and likely to remain so (10-20,000 workers at most).

One can of course point at two much discussed projects of economic cooperation between Russia and North Korea – the proposed trans-Korean railway and proposed natural gas pipeline. The pipeline project was discussed during Kim Jong-il’s last trip to Russia in 2011, and as a result still attracts much attention. However, we should remember that the very similar trans-Korean railway was first officially approved in the late 1990s, but still remains on the drawing board and as elusive as ever. There is good reason to believe that a similar fate awaits the pipeline project: for years there will be talks, enthusiastic newspaper articles, even official visits, but not much in terms of actual construction.

Both railway and pipeline projects share one common feature: North Korea is treated as a space to traverse. Had this area been covered with tropical rainforest, or desert, it would have little impact on either of these projects, whose main task is to facilitate interactions between Russia and South Korea.

From a purely commercial view, a short-cut through North Korea makes perfect sense, but there are many political problems which ensure that we will have to wait for many years before any of these projects will begin in earnest.

The major problem is recurrent and perhaps incurable instability which blights the Korean peninsula. Once Russian companies start real construction, they will become hostages of the complex and often unpredictable clashes of power interests in and around the Korean peninsula.

Additional Information
1. Read more about the Rason railway project here.

2. Read more about the pipeline project here.

3. more economic statistics can be found on my DPRK Economic Statistics page

Read the full story here:
North Korea lacks rich relation in Russia
Andrei Lankov
Asia Times


Yanbian Haihua Group inks Chongjin port deal (and others)

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Pictured above (Google Earth): Chongjin’s two ports and shipyard

The PRC’s Global Times reports that in addition to use of the Rason Port, another Chinese SOE has taken out a lease/investment deal on the Chongjin Port. According to the article:

The official news website of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province reported on Thursday that the Yanbian Haihua Group inked a deal in Pyongyang on September 1 and established with its counterpart a $7.83 million joint venture company.

Under the deal, Haihua Group holds a 60.46 percent stake while the North Korean side owns the rest, to operate the Chongjin port’s No.3 and 4 wharves for 30 years.

The ports will be capable of processing 7 million tons of cargo a year and be put into use this year.

The prefecture’s public relations department and the Yanbian Haihua Group did not comment on the joint venture when contacted by the Global Times yesterday.

Although the Global Times reports a $7.83m price tag, the actual size of the deal appears much larger. According to the Donga Ilbo:

The North Korean regime has received 6.12 million euros ($7.82 million) of rental charges for the 3,180 square-meter (34,229 square-feet) piers and a 4,000 square-meter cargo yard from the Chinese company and paid the money to fund the newly-built joint venture, the newspaper said.

The Chinese company will invest a total of 13 billion won (USD $12m) on developing the port, such as building new equipment and facilities, which accounts for about 60 percent of the entire capital spent on the project.

According to the daily, they have already set up a series of detailed regulations on employment management, profit distribution and the formation of a new board with a goal to raise cargo traffic to one million tons by 2015.

The Yanbian group already spent 60 million yuan ($9.47 million) on manufacturing cranes and building necessary equipment, the newspaper said, and also completed work on stabilizing the 36,000-square meter grounds of the construction site.

They are scheduled to finish manufacturing cranes within the year to begin a full-fledged plan for domestic and international transportation through the port.

Yonhap and the Daily NK reported back in 2010 that this very same Chinese firm had leased the Chongjin Port for exports to South Korea and other parts of China:

The report, citing an anonymous government official from Tumen in China’s far northeast, across the Tumen River from Namyang in North Hamkyung Province, said that the usage rights have been sold to a “Chinese state company, Yanbian Haihua Import-Export Trade Company.”

He predicted, “Yanbian Haihua Import-Export Trade Company will start shipping between Chongjin port and Busan by container ship in September, and will start shipments to southern regions of China soon.”

The anonymous official also revealed that North Korea has agreed to allow the Chinese company to use the railroad between Tumen and Chongjin as part of the deal. The deal, the official said, will “facilitate trade from Tumen,” and added that the Chinese company which inked it is planning to use it to fulfill shipping contracts with three other Chinese companies.

The Chinese company is reportedly investing 10 million Yuan ($1.48 million approx.) in shipping cranes and other construction at Chongjin, and is having 150 freight cars produced to add to 50 already sent.

It would be interesting to know if the fiasco surrounding the Xiyang contract let to a renegotiation of terms of this deal in any way: Either by altering the ownership shares, time horizon, or if greater assurances against ex post expropriation were added. Since the contract is not ever likely to be made public, we may never know.

UPDATE 1 (2012-9-18): The Hankyoreh reports that quite a few ports on the DPRK’s eastern shore are being renovated by the Chinese. According to the article:

North Korea and China will develop 4 or 5 ports in the eastern coastal area of North Korea.
A source in Beijing said on Sept. 17 that it was confirmed through a Chinese government official that “4 to 5 ports in the eastern coastal area of North Korea in locations such as Seon-bong, Rajin, Cheong-jin, Gim-chaek, Dan-cheon, Heung-nam and Won-san are being jointly developed by North Korean and Chinese companies.” The source added that in addition to the two ports that are being developed in Rajin and Chongjin currently, businesses in the two countries are discussing specific conditions for development in the other areas. This is the first time that this information has been confirmed by a Chinese government official.

The Tanchon Port has been featured prominently in the DPRK media. Learn more about it here.


North Korean emigration numbers

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The Daily NK offers some recent numbers on North Koreans that have arrived in the South:

According to Ministry of Unification statistics, the number of defectors arriving in South Korea is indeed beginning to rise slightly, going from 90 in February to 116 in March, 107 in April, 137 in May, 141 in June and 164 in July.

Hyun continued, “The cost of defection has risen to more than five million won, while there are almost no travel permits being issued and close checks being conducted on accommodations in the region. However, orders from above are only being kept at a low level and, as time goes by, will go slack and the number of defections will once again rise.”

“It is true that the number of defectors arriving in South Korea has fallen compared to last year, but because people cannot survive on state distribution and wages they are going to keep on trying to defect irrespective of the official controls.”

Hyun added that in Hyesan the number of people defecting is beginning to rise because it has become harder to make money from smuggling in the face of increased border security.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Can’t Stop the Defections Forever
Daily NK
Mok Yong Jae


Groundbreaking for HGP EZ management board

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

KCNA reports that a groundbreaking ceremony for a new management board building at the Hwanggumphyong Economic Zone (HGP EZ) took place on 2012-9-15:

Ground-breaking Ceremony for Hwanggumphyong EZ Management Board Building Held

Pyongyang, September 15 (KCNA) — A ground-breaking ceremony for a building of the management board for the Hwanggumphyong Economic Zone to be jointly developed and run by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China, took place on Hwanggumphyong Islet on Saturday.

Present there were Hong Kil Nam, vice-chairman of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee, and officials concerned in the province and Sinuiju City from the DPRK side and Bing Zhigang, vice-governor of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government of China and officials concerned in the province and Dandong City from the Chinese side.

Speeches were made at the ceremony.

The speakers noted that after leader Kim Jong Il and President Hu Jintao reached an agreement on jointly developing and managing the two economic zones, a series of issues have been settled for the development of the Hwanggumphyong Economic Zone, with a substantial progress made.

They stressed that the joint development and operation of the zone would be conducive to furthering the DPRK-China friendly relations sealed in blood and attaining co-prosperity.

A ground-breaking milestone was erected there.

The Daily NK adds the following:

North Korea hopes that the groundbreaking ceremony will mark the beginning of serious SEZ development at Hwanggeumpyong, which remained a sleepy agricultural backwater even after last June’s launching ceremony, a fact that led to rampant speculation about problems related to the legal framework for the development of the area.

However, development began to accelerate once again after Jang Sung Taek, the director of the Chosun Workers’ Party Department of Administration, concluded the establishment of the management committee during his visit to China last month.

Rhetoric emerging from the Chinese side is also more positive than it has been for some time. In a recent media interview, the deputy mayor of Dandong, which borders Shinuiju, commented, “Now that the Hwanggeumpyong Management Committee has been established, construction has begun on basic infrastructure including roads. From the 15th, the business of developing Hwanggeumpyong will formally begin.”

“Both governments have decided to develop Hwanggeumpyong first then go on to discuss the development of Wihwa Island,” he added. “When the construction of the New Yalu River Bridge and bridges to Hwanggeumpyong and Wihwado are complete, China-North Korea trade, culture, travel and other exchanges will become more active and the two countries will grow closer.”

Additional Information:

1. Chinese working to attract investment  (2012-9-14)

2. On Jang Song-thaek’s recent visit to China (2012-8-23)

3. Yalu River Bridge (2011-6-25)

4. HGP Announced (2011-6-14)

5. Laws governing HGP (2012-3-19)

6. Previous posts on Hwanggumphyong Economic Zone


Oh Kil-nam

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Whenever North Koreans make their way to the DC area I do my best to interview them on Google Earth to learn more about the land from which they came.

Last week, Dr. Oh Kil-nam (featured in the video above) was gracious enough to speak with me for a few minutes to tell me about his life in Pyongyang. Although many defectors are hesitant about the details of their lives being made public, Dr. Oh gave me permission to post the information here. Because he only spent a year in Pyongyang, and had never really looked at satellite imagery before, he did not have much to share. What he did say, however, I post below for historical purposes:

Dr. Oh lived on Changgwang Street in Central Pyongyang in the building just south of the Koryo Hotel:

Dr. Oh worked at a radio station that broadcast propaganda into South Korea. Although his English was rough, I believe he stated the radio station is now closed. We were unable to locate the specific building, but he told me it was in hungbu-dong, Moranbong-guyok (Pictured in red below):

(UPDATE) In an interview with Kim Song-min of Free Radio North Korea, I was told that the Korean Workers’ Party Operational Department (6th Div.) 314 /128 Liaison Office is also located in this area. This organization performs communication jamming, radio disturbance and monitoring, decodement of overseas information agencies, and hacking into leading countries’ government websites.

Finally Dr. Oh mentioned that his daughters attended the Tonghung People’s School.  He was not sure of the exact building, but since I already knew the names of most buildings in in Tonghung-dong (동흥동: just NW of the Koryo Hotel),  I am 99% sure this is the place:

Equipment storage or worker housing for the Koryo Hotel convention center (underway now) seems to have been constructed on the school’s front lawn sometime after May 27, 2011.

Here is a recent media story following Dr. Oh’s visit to DC.


Taedonggang Fruit Processing Factory Railway Line

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Pictured above (Google Earth): The new Taedonggang Fruit Processing Factory Railway Line (in yellow). I previously blogged about this railway line here.

On August 31, KCNA announced “Railway line of Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory goes operational” and that the opening ceremony was attended by staff from the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) and Korean People’s Internal Security Forces (KPISF). The KPISF is part of the MPS.

The presence of so many security personnel might seem odd for the opening of a railway line that is intended to provide fruit products to North Korean consumers. However, because this very same railway line connects the Kim family compound in Kangdong with the city of Phyongsong by rail (See above map), the heavy security presence seems understandable.  This railway line will be heavily watched.

The interesting (and speculative) takeaway is that it might be the case that security for the Kim family is now under the portfolio of the KPISF and not the State Security Department (SSD, Ministry of State Security, anjon-bowibu), KPA, or Military Security Command.

To learn more about the North Korean security services, check out: Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State by Ken E. Gause.

Below is the complete report featured in KCNA:

Railway Line of Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory Goes Operational

Pyongyang, August 31 (KCNA) — A new railway line branching into the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory went operational with due ceremony on Friday.

The operation of the railway line helps satisfactorily carry fruits and processed goods produced by the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm and factories in this area and materials necessary for their management and operation.

Present at the ceremony were officials of the Ministry of People’s Security, servicepersons of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, officials concerned, builders and employees of the factory.

At the end of the ceremony the first train carrying fruits to be supplied to Pyongyang citizens left the factory.


Promotion of Foreign Investments into Hwanggumpyong and Other Special Economic Zones

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies

North Korea is exerting efforts in pulling Chinese investments into its special economic zones (SEZs).

On September 7, the 8th Jilin, China-Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo was held in Changchun, China as well as the 6th high-level forum for Northeast Asian economic and trade joint venture to promote the joint investment projects of Rason and Hwanggumpyong special economic zones.

At the event, North Korean officials focused on explaining the advantages and favorable conditions for foreign investors, including the joint management committee to be operated by both countries and laws and regulations installed for investment protection.

In the past, North Korea mainly focused on Rason SEZ but this time around, the spotlight was turned to Hwanggumpyong. Chinese officials went on to explain the details of 14.4 square-kilometer Hwanggumpyong SEZ, where five major industries – textiles, modern agriculture, electronics and communications, culture and industrial and trade services – with industry, culture, and service serving as the three major functions of Hwanggumpyong.

Furthermore, the tariff, tax and other benefits will be provided to various industries. The processing trade industry will be exempt from tariffs, and those companies operating for more than ten years will be granted tax exemptions, while those companies contributing to the infrastructure construction, tourism and hotels will be given priority and other favorable conditions. Last year, North Korea only centered its attention to Rason SEZ, with no mentioning of Hwanggumpyong.

Out of the thirty companies that participated at the North Korean exhibit, were from Rason SEZ. These companies represent the successful cases of Rason, recognized for abundant seafood, processed foods, and textile production.

One company from Rason stated, “repair and expansion project for the road connecting Hunchun with Rason will be completed by the end of this year, which will stabilize power supply that can attract more foreign investment from China.” According to a North Korean businessperson, there are 216 companies currently operating in Rason and over 80 percent are joint venture through foreign capital.

Since January 2010, the city of Rason received the designation as the metropolitan city and has improved the business conditions. Foreign companies inviting their business partners from home to Rason became easier, where visas were processed efficiently, as quickly as a day.

There are plans of more briefing sessions for North Korean SEZs to be held in Beijing, later this month. It is planned to be held from September 26 to 27 with over 30 state managed companies and over 100 representatives participating to explain 50 new investment projects.

The invitation of this event reiterated, the purpose of this briefing session was to attract Chinese investment for North Korean companies, for the contribution of economic development and improvement of people’s lives in North Korea.”


DPRK mining investment woes (Musan)

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

UPDATE 2 (2013-1-17):  The latest issue of Digital Globe’s World View magazine contains information on the Musan Mine (page 7):

[…]In a New Year’s message, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, urged North Korea to become an economic powerhouse by improving productivity. He specifically mentioned the Musan Mine, as it is one of the largest iron ore mines in the region with a reserve of approximately three billion tonnes of ore.  This announcement comes after a Chinese investment firm, Tianchi Industry and Trade, pulled out of the mine in the early fall of 2012.  North Korea demanded a price increase of 20%, on top of the 50-year lease that had been in place since 2005.  With the price increase, Tianchi did not feel the location could remain profitable, and North Korea refused to renegotiate.  As a result, the associated smelter in China was shut down in September 2012.  The presents a loss for the Jilin provincial government in China, which had extended a rail line 42 kilometers to the border to transport ore north after it was processed at the smelter.  With the departure of the Chinese investment firm, the Musan Iron Ore Mine is currently operated by North Korea’s Ministry of Mines. The mine has the potential to produce 1.5 million tonnes of ore a year if the North Koreans can operate it at its former capacity under Tainchi.

UPDATE 1 (2012-10-17):  The Choson Ilbo has picked up on this story first reported in the Hankyoreh last month, yet they have a different English name for the Chinese company. According to the  article:

The Chinese apparently baulked at a price increase of more than 20 percent demanded by the North, although international iron ore prices are plummeting in the wake of the global recession. They won 50-year extraction rights for the mine in 2005.

A smelter in the Chinese province of Jilin near the border with North Korea and operated by Tianchi Industry and Trade, the Chinese partner to the Musan Mine, closed down in September, according to a source in Yanbian on Tuesday. The smelter used to process iron ore extracted at the mine.

The source added, “There’s been no progress in the implementation of plans to lay a railway line and a slurry pipeline between Nanping and Musan.”

Tianchi Industry and Trade turned down the North’s demand, saying it makes hardly any profit as is given wages for North Korean workers and transportation costs.

Tianchi, a private trading company based in Yanbian, has served as a conduit for iron ore produced at the Musan Mine to the Chinese market since the early 1990s. It obtained the extraction rights to the mine in 2005 after concluding a trilateral joint-venture contract with Tonghua Iron and Steel, a Chinese state-run iron and steel mill, and [North] Korea Ferrous Metals Export and Import Corporation.

Tianchi hired North Korean workers and extracted 1 to 1.5 million tons of iron ore at Musan every year, which it supplied to Tonghua and other companies.

But the first cracks in the deal appeared in 2009, and iron ore production had been intermittent since then and stopped completely this year.

The Jilin provincial government has also been hit because it already laid a 41.68 km railway line leading to the border town of Nanping since November last year.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-9-13): We have already heard about Xiyang. Today the Hankyoreh tells us about problems with the Musan Mine…

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Musan Mine

According to the article:

However, not all business between North Korea and China is rosy. An iron-smelting factory in Helong City, Jilin, that was visited on Sept. 5, had to close its doors. It used to be a place where iron from across the Yalu River was brought from North Korea‘s Musan iron mine and processed. A railroad was expected to run from the two cities by October of last year in order to increase the amount of iron brought into China. But the construction was never completed. A Chinese company called the Yanbian Cheon-ji Industry Trading Company had rights to the Musan mine for fifty years starting in 2005.

There are many guesses as to why this happened: “North Korea was asking for a price increase of 20% while the price of iron has declined in the rest of the world;” “There was trouble between the Chinese government and the new Kim Jong-un regime on negotiating development rights;” “There was a downfall of development due to differences with foreign investors about investing in electrical power.” No one knows clearly what the reason was, and there are still busy trying to figure out what is the real situation.

Here is the original story:
China adjusts to influx of cheap North Korean labor
Song Kyung-hwa


North Koreans working in China

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The Hankyoreh posted another interesting story on North Korean workers in China:

In Dandong, where the inflow of North Korean labor is most active, there is a factory operated by a Singaporean company. The company makes men’s suits for export to Europe and used to operate a factory in Pyongyang. Due to problems with the electricity supply, they moved the factory to China where the situation is more stable. In this factory in Dandong, 400 factory workers in their 20s and 30s are North Korean. They work in the factory and live in a nearby company dormitory.

A Taiwanese businessman who used to operate a factory in Shanghai also has plans to move his operations to Dandong. His company has completed construction of facilities and plans to hire around 100 North Korean workers.

Another factory that produces sports apparel for export which used to be in Shandong province moved to a city close to the North Korea-China border. The factory was set up in Tumen and North Korean workers were dispatched for the first time last May. There are 300 North Korean women who work in this factory. A vinyl production factory about a kilometer away also employs North Korean women.

The activities of these North Korean workers are restricted. They live in dormitories or facilities provided by the factories. For lunch, they have been seen going in groups of 20 or 30 from the dormitory to the cafeteria, a 3-minute walk. Mr. Wang, a Han Chinese, 59, who works in a factory nearby said, “About two months ago, I began to notice young North Korean women in their 20s going to get water in groups of two or more. I only know which factory they are in, but I know nothing about their private lives. And the other companies or factories don’t know about them either.”

Some workers have come on one-month or three-month short-term training visas to set up under an official contract between the city and the North Korean government and extend their stay. They are dispatched with a male supervisor who is in charge of keeping an eye on them. It is said that the North Korean government would like to send more supervisors to watch over the female workers, but the factories have refused to allow them, which has been a source of some conflict.

The supply and demand of North Korean labor follows market fluctuations. It depends on the region, but the average wage of a Chinese factory worker is around 2000 to 3000 Yuan a month (between 355,000 and 535,000 won or US$315 to US$475). Meanwhile, the average wage of a North Korean worker is around 1500 Yuan a month (around 267,000 won or US$234). Because North Korean workers do not have the freedom to change workplaces, there is no reason to worry about a sudden outflow of labor.

North Koreans take the opportunity to work in China because wages are higher there than at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the industrial complex set up by South Korea just north of the DMZ. The average minimum wage set at Kaesong last month is US$67 (about 76,000 won) and last year the monthly wage of a North Korean worker there was around US$110 (around 124,000 won)

Not all of that money goes to the factory workers. There are differences among regions and factories, but on average, the individual worker receives around 150 to 200 Yuan at the end of the month. On average, around 600 Yuan is provided for the individual worker. There are factories where this is then pooled together and redistributed to senior and ordinary workers. The rest of the money goes to the North Korean government. At times the money is used for insurance or a fund for common expenses.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 North Korean women are working in textile or food processing factories in the North Korea-China border region. There are also some North Korean workers who are in more skilled fields like IT or animation. Counting the undocumented workers, the number is much larger. An official from KOTRA’s (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) Shenyang office said on Sept. 12 that it has been confirmed recently that since Kim Jong-un took power, North Korea has agreed with the different Chinese border cities to dispatch 120 thousand workers, the largest number ever.

Chinese businessmen are watching closely the next move by North Korea as more and more young Chinese workers seek white-collar work instead of physical labor. Securing a work force that is secure and well managed is a great advantage. It costs between 400 and 500 Yuan to cover the expense of one worker including accommodation and meals. But the cheap labor makes up for this. And it is for this reason, more and more Chinese businesses prefer to hire North Korean workers.

A person involved in the export of North Korean labor said that at first the salary was given directly to the individual workers. “But when asked next morning, they all said that they were left with only 150 Yuan. After hearing this, we just gave the lump sum to the manager to be distributed to workers.” Even with this deductions, the money that North Koreans earn is far more than what they could make back home. Thus there is much competition and the selection process is quite thorough. The agent said, “They do a thorough investigation of three generations and if there is any problem, that person is excluded. And only one person per family can come.”

Read the full story here:
North Korean workers come to China as part of broad economic cooperation between two countries
Song Kyung-hwa


The Unification Church in the DPRK

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born between what is now Wonbong-ri and Osong-ri in Jongju City (정주시).


Pictured above (R) is a satellite image of the exact building the DPRK and the Unification Church claim was the birthplace of Rev. Moon. I first blogged about this  in 2009. The Google Earth coordinates are  39.683728°, 125.291145°, and you can see a ground level photo of the site here (taken by Unification Church delegation).

The Rev. Moon’s Church, the Unification Church, has made substantial investments in the DPRK.

The Unification Church built the Pothonggang Hotel and Pyongyang Peace Embassy (Google Earth:  39.020134°, 125.717641°) in Phyongchon-guyok, Pyongyang:

See photos of the Pothonggang Hotel and Peace Embassy on the Pyeonghwa Motors web page.

The Unification Church also launched Pyeonghwa Motors in the DPRK.

Pyeonghwa Motors was the first firm allowed to put up billboard advertisements in the DPRK. Here are links to images of most of the billboards: Link 1 (Images also say where they are located), Link 2Link 3Link 4Link 5.

Pyeonghwa Motors has several assets in the DPRK, the status of which remains a bit unknown:

There is of course the Pyeonghwa Motors Assembly Factory in Nampho, which I first identified on Google Earth years ago. It has seen some minor expansion between 2009 and 2011:


You can see a Pyeonghwa Motors advert here which features the factory:

Pyeonghwa Motors also built a gas/petrol station in Pyongyang:

The Google Earth coordinates are  38.996068°, 125.712410°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa Motors Petrol Station here.

Pyeonghwa Motors also has a showroom on Kwangbok Street in Mangyongdae-guyok:

The Google Earth coordinates are  39.026709°, 125.682252°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa showroom here.

The Pyeonghwa Motors web page also advertises an accessory shop in Pyongyang:


The Google Earth coordinates for this shop are  39.039590°, 125.743704°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa Motors Accessories Shop here.

Although this facility is listed as operational on the Pyeonghwa Motors web page, recent tourist video shows that at some point before April 2012 this building has become a humble flower shop (꽃상점):

The shop’s entrance can be seen at the 2:00 mark.

However, according to this photo taken on June 6, 2012, the Peonghwa Motors logo still appears on the top of the building. So I am unsure of the actual status of this facility.

It is unclear if the accessory shop has moved or if it has permanently closed down.

Previous posts on Pyeonghwa Motors here.

If there are any Unification Church assets that I have not mentioned in this post, please let me know.

Read more on the history of the Unification Church in the DPRK here.