Archive for October, 2012

Corn prices falling

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The price of rice apppears to be stabilizing in North Korea as the end of the autumn harvest brings corn to market. However, this year’s corn crop is known to have been below average, suggesting that the current improvement might not last.

According to a source from Shinuiju in North Pyongan Province, “The price has been falling steadily of late, and is currently 5,500won per kilo.” Corn is currently 2,000won/kg, the same source added. Meanwhile, a source in Hyesan reported that the price of a kilo of rice in the jangmadang there is currently 6000won.

The news means that prices have declined by between 200 and 600won since October 23rd in the two cities surveyed. This is the first rice price decline of more than 500won anywhere in North Korea since the start of the year. Indeed, the trend was inexorably upward for much of 2012; rising from 3,500won in January to 7,000won by October.

The Shinuiju source went on to explain the reason for the change, saying, “Corn, which is a substitute for rice, has entered the market, easing prices and improving people’s food supply. This has meant that rice prices stabilized. With all this talk of reform and opening measures there has been a lot of anxiety and prices everywhere were up around 7,000won at one point. This caused a lot of resentment, but some of that has been relieved now.”

The clearest sign that the current price decline is down to the arrival of domestic corn is that the Chinese Yuan to North Korean Won exchange rate has not moved even as the price of rice has fallen. As the Shinuiju source noted, “This current situation is not really sustainable, so the money changers have not moved at all. They are not going to release more Yuan into the market.”

Read the full story here:
Corn Crashes Rice Price Party at Last
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong


DPRK improving short wave radio broadcast qualtiy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

According to the Northeast Asian Broadcasting Institute (NABI), the authorities made their first move in March this year, replacing the shortwave transmission equipment at Kanggye Transmission Station in Jagang Province with modern equipment made by Beijing BBEF Electronics Group Co. Kanggye Transmission Station is one of three high output shortwave transmission facilities in North Korea, with the other two being at Pyongyang and in Gujang County, North Pyongan Province.

The measures come pursuant to a June 2011 agreement signed between the North Korean Ministry of Communications and BBEF, under which the latter is required to provide North Korea with modern radio and television transmission equipment and training in its use.

North Korea has two shortwave broadcasters; Chosun Central 1st Broadcast and Pyongyang Broadcast. The first is for the domestic and international audience while the latter serves the international audience only, leading to the assumption that North Korea is replacing its existing transmitters in order to improve its broadcasts targeting South Korea. With the sort of modern equipment arriving from BBEF, North Korean broadcasts will be receivable anywhere in South Korea, no matter where in the North they are broadcast from.

According to NABI, North Korea’s shortwave broadcasting capacity was previously very weak due to worn out and broken equipment. Signal strength was particularly weak, meaning that listeners tended to receive a different channel even when tuned directly to the intended broadcast frequency. According to one defector from Pyongyang who arrived in South Korea in June 2011, the signal strength of Chosun Central 1st Broadcast was so weak at times that it was even unlistenable in most regions of North Korea.

However, the quality has recently improved dramatically, as Park Sung Moon of NABI explained to Daily NK, saying, “Recent analysis of North Korea’s shortwave Chosun Central 1st Broadcast and Pyongyang Broadcast reveal that they are being broadcast clearly and consistently, without interference or signal shifting.”

“In particular, Pyongyang Broadcast is much better than it used to be, but the overall broadcast situation has gotten a lot better,” Park added, going on, “It looks like they have imported the Chinese transmission equipment to improve their South Korea broadcasting.”

Professor Choi Hyung Jin of Sungkyungwan University Information and Communications Department agreed, adding, “If a transmitter is old and worn out then it either takes excessive power to function or the signal strength weakens. Either way, the effect of the broadcast system itself is detrimentally affected. Notably, listeners often cannot hear the broadcast. If you want people to listen, you have to improve your transmitters.”

The other side of the coin is that improved shortwave transmission strength stops incoming signals from reaching listeners.

According to one defector who used to be a part of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department, “They know that when the Chosun Central 1st Broadcast signal strength is weak, it regularly arrives with outside broadcasts mixed in. I think they want to stop this happening.”

Though I have located many communications towers on satellite imagery of the DPRK, I have yet to definitively identify any of the DPRK’s short wave radio broadcast towers (Pyongyang, Kujang, Kanggye). If you have any information on them, please let me know.

I have located this massive broadcast center in Myohyangsan, but its purpose is unknown to me.

Read the full story here:
North Korean Shortwave Getting Stronger
Daily NK
Mok Yong Jae


UNICEF: DPRK Preliminary Report of the National Nutrition Survey 2012

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Download the full report (PDF) here.

I have also added it to my “DPRK Economic Statistics Page”.

Here is the Executive Summary:

The last nationwide survey including nutrition indicators was the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) carried out in 2009. It showed that 32.4% of children

The present survey was therefore needed to update the indicators for the population nutritional status. All 10 provinces have been included. Data collection was done from September 17th to October 17th 2012.

The methodology is based on SMART and MICS surveys. It is a clustered, stratified by provinces, two-stage sampling survey. The target population includes children under 5 and their mothers. The sample size per province is 400 children in Pyongyang municipality and 812 children in all other provinces for most indicators.

Chronic malnutrition, despite a modest drop since MICS 2009 (from 32.3% to 27.9% at national level) remains in the ranges labelled ‟medium‟. Stunting has irreversible impact on the development of children as a result on the Country development. The prevention of stunting in early life (starting during or even before pregnancy) as well as the prevention of anaemia in mothers and their children (mainly those under 2 years old) through different multi-sectoral interventions combining nutrition, health, WASH, social protection, food security and agriculture requires more efforts and resources.

The survey also shows a picture of the acute nutritional status of children modestly improved since 2009. The situation is not critical and does not suggest emergency operations. However, attentions need to be paid to such factors as essential medicines, WASH situation and food security which affect the vulnerable children. The presence of acute malnutrition in women is also of concern. Programmes like the management of acute malnutrition at hospital and community levels (CMAM) need to be continued and expanded. Provision of nutritious food for children at institutions should also continue. On-going monitoring of the nutritional situation is important to identify the trends and changes in the situation and bring support as soon as possible when the situation is negatively changing.

In reference to the MDG 1, the achievement in decreasing underweight over time (from 60.6% in 1998 (MICS1 to 15.5% in the actual survey), as well as chronic and acute malnutrition, are primarily due to concerted efforts between the Government, the UN Agencies and others partners in DPRK in addressing the different causes of malnutrition. But malnutrition still remains and requires continued and strengthened interventions on chronic and acute malnutrition in order to have more impact on the underweight prevalence and to ensure a more optimal growth to the children.


DPRK imports Swiss firearms

Friday, October 26th, 2012

According to Yonhap:

North Korea imported US$170,000 worth of firearms from Switzerland in the first half of this year, Seoul’s trade agency said Friday.

The communist country brought in about $100,000 of guns such as shotguns, air and gas rifles, and revolvers while importing around $70,000 worth of firearm components, according to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, or KOTRA.

The state-run agency said the North had no record of firearm imports from Switzerland since 2009 until last year when it started to ship them in the first half.

Some experts said the new trend may be due to the fact that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spent his adolescence in the country.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea imports US$170,000 of firearms from Switzerland


Companies in Kaesong Industrial Complex receive unannounced tax notices

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies

Recently, eight companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) informed that they received tax collection notices, a unilateral decision made by the North Koreans.

The Ministry of Unification and KIC reported that out of the 123 companies, 8 companies were informed by the North Korean authorities to pay about 160,000 USD in total in taxes.

Two companies out of the eight notified companies already paid close to 20,000 USD to the North Korean tax authorities.

On top of taxation, 21 companies were notified to submit additional tax documents. This may be to collect additional information for future tax collection purposes.

The tax authorities are also requiring companies to submit documents related to show proof of purchase of raw materials, and submit cost analysis documents and a copy of bank statements showing the history transactions.

Last August, the Central Special Direct General Bureau (CSDGB) notified the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee of new tax bylaws, which enforces a fine up to 200 times the amount of accounting manipulation and abolish the retroactive taxation system while increasing the number of documents for submission. Furthermore, the North is threatening to restrict access to the KIC, if companies fail to pay owed taxes or do not submit requested documents.

In addition to imposing fines for tax frauds, new tax bylaws demanded by the CSDGB included enforcement of additional taxes in the name of corporate income tax, sales tax, and other taxes.

The unilateral decision by the CSDGB to amend bylaws is a violation of Kaesong Industrial District Law, which requires any revision of the laws must be negotiated between the North and the South. Another problematic issue is that tax imposed on the companies is based on North Korea’s own estimation rather than tax reports submitted by the companies of the KIC.

For the first time last year, tenant companies in the KIC recorded an average operating profit of 56 million KRW, finally operating in the black after years in deficit.


Camp 22 update

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Although this site does not focus on human rights issues, I wanted to quickly point out a recent publication that is the result of a collaboration between Joseph Bermudez (Digital Globe and author of The Armed Forces of North Korea and KPA Jounrnal) and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK). It offers new satellite imagery and analysis of the DPRK’s camp 22.

You can read the report and press release here.

You can see the imagery here.


Cabinet meeting discusses economic performance

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

UPDATE (2012-11-1): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies issues a summary of the Cabinet meeting:

North Korean Cabinet Standing Committee Meeting Held, Results for Third Quarter People’s Economy Announced

North Korea announced the results of the people’s economy plan for the third quarter and named construction as its major accomplishment. In particular, many monumental edifices of the Songun era were built and recognized to have strengthened the material and technical foundation of its national economy.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on October 22 that such economy achievement was reported at the extended meeting for the Cabinet Standing Committee.

According to the KCNA, evaluation of the major sectors of people’s economy was made at the Cabinet meeting, commending the construction of thousands of new factories and companies.

In particular, construction of various new buildings were introduced including the new National Gift Hall, along with Pyongyang Folk Village, Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground, Rungna Dolphinarium, Sunrise Restaurant, and other modern cultural and service facilities. In addition, new buildings were built in campuses of Kim Hyong Jik University of Education and Koryo Songgyungwan University as well as other monumental edifices and major light industry factories. Such constructions are attributed to the improvement of consumer goods production and accredited to be advancing the modernization of people’s economy.

Additionally at the meeting, power and coal production was reported to have improved and production for major industrial products such as air compressors, transformers, jack hammers, coal wagons, power cables, cement and salt were also specified to have increased, contributing to the development of local industries.

Specific cases from Changsong County and Hoeryong City were presented to emphasize the improvement of local industries. The industrial production volume was claimed to have exceeded by 107 percent for the local industrial development plan for the quarter and adding strength to the modernization process for the local industries.

In the agricultural sector, considerable damage was reported for the third quarter as the North experienced floods and typhoon but asserted repair efforts for the damages took place appropriately.

The national budget income plan for the third quarter was recorded at 109.6 percent while local budget income plan was explained to have exceeded by 113.4 percent.

Following the meeting, major tasks for the economy for the fourth quarter were discussed. They included elevating the cities and counties to serve as regional bases, early response system to repair damages caused by natural disasters, and preparation to promptly carry out the 12-year compulsory education plan.

The law for the 12-year compulsory general education was recently adopted by the cabinet at the Supreme People’s Assembly meeting on September 25.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-10-22): The world was watching the most recent Supreme Peoples’ Assembly meeting for announcements of changes to the DPRK’s economic policies. However, little of substance was publicly announced.

According to Yonhap, the DPRK also held a recent cabinet meeting–date unknown. A cabinet meeting is where we would expect more serious deliberation of economic policies taking place. According to the article, however, the meeting featured rather standard agenda items (as best I can tell):

North Korea has held a cabinet meeting to discuss the country’s economic issues, a Chinese state media said Monday, as the communist regime reportedly makes efforts to reform its sickly economy.

The People’s Daily reported on its Chinese-language Web site that North Korea’s cabinet members recently gathered to review the country’s third-quarter economic performance and discuss targets to be achieved in the fourth quarter.

The meeting was presided over by North Korean Prime Minister Choi Yong-rim, the report said, citing the cabinet’s mouthpiece “Democratic (North) Korea”.

The report did not disclose when the meeting was held.

In the third quarter, North Korea saw a substantial increase on-year in its output of electricity and coal, the report said.

It also boosted production of air compressors, transformers, mining machines, wire, cement and other industrial products in the July-September.

Accordingly, the local industry has achieved an output level 7 percent higher than its original plan, while local budget revenues were 13.4 percent higher than original estimates, the Chinese newspaper said.

The North Korean cabinet members shared the view that the fourth quarter will be an important period for the regime to achieve its annual economic target for this year.

In a bid to achieve this year’s target, the country will continue to focus on producing electricity and coal, the report said.

The cabinet also agreed to fully implement universal 12-year compulsory education, promulgated at the Supreme People’s Assembly last month.

Speculation has recently risen that the secretive regime will take legal steps to start economic reforms as new leader Kim Jong-un is seen to be seeking to consolidate his power partly through fixing the broken economy.

Last month, a seminar aimed at attracting foreign investment in North Korea was held in a Beijing hotel.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea holds cabinet meeting to discuss economy
Kim Young-gyo


DPRK replaces three ministers

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

News of a cabinet reshuffle being slowly and indirectly revealed by the North Korean state media is generating interest in analytical circles.

On the 17th, Chosun Central News Agency, in the process of unveiling the newly completed Tongil Street Fitness Center, revealed that the Minister of Sport has been removed, with Ri Jong Moo being cited instead of former incumbent Park Myung Cheol.

This is the third such change revealed in recent days. On October 4th, former Minister of Agriculture Ri Kyung Sik was revealed to have been replaced by Hwang Min, while on the 15th it was Kim Jae Seong’s turn to replace former Minister for the Electronics Industry Han Gwang Bok.

All three of the incumbents had been in-post for a number of years, adding intrigue to the news. 71-year old Park was made Minister of Sport in 1998, while 66-year old Han had been covering the electronics industry brief since 2009. 64-year old Ri, meanwhile, was made Minister of Agriculture in 2003, relieved of his duties in 2009 and then returned to post in 2011.

Read the full story here:
Cabinet Reshuffle as 3 Ministers Replaced
Daily NK
Park Seong Guk


Pyongyang targets Kaesong Zone for more revenues

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

UPDATE 2 (2012-10-18): Yonhap and the Korean Times pass along details of the tax increases in the Kaesong Zone:

North Korea has unilaterally imposed hefty taxes on South Korean firms operating in the joint Gaeseong inter-Korean industrial complex in the North while employees there are demanding the firms provide more severance pay, a Seoul government official said Thursday.

“The North imposed the taxes including corporate income and business taxes on some of the companies operating in the Gaeseong complex in accordance with a new tax enforcement regulation (enacted) and delivered by the North last August,” the official said.

The imposed taxes were unilaterally drawn based on the North’s estimation of business activities by the South Korean firms, according to the official. About 10-20 firms out of the total 123 South Korean firms operating in the complex located in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong were reportedly slapped with the heavy taxes.

The amount of taxes imposed and whether the firms paid them are not clearly known, but some of the companies are said to have paid the taxes amid increasing pressure from the North.

The North unilaterally issued the new tax regulations in August, which also allow the country to levy heavy fines if a South Korean firm is found to have accounting irregularities. The regulations allow fines as heavy as 200 times the amount involved in potential accounting fraud by South Korean firms.

As part of efforts to extract taxes, the North is reportedly threatening a ban on the movement of goods and people in and out of the complex if the taxes are not paid, other sources said.

South Korean firms there are protesting the levies, saying “they may thwart normal corporate activities,” but the North may not budge on the decision, they said.

In addition, North Korean employees at the Gaeseong complex are demanding that South Korean firms provide severance pay even if employees voluntarily quit.

Under the current labor terms in Kaesong, South Korean firms are required to offer severance pay only when North Korean employees are involuntarily laid off after at least one full year of employment.

As of end-August, a total of 52,881 North Korean workers were employed by South Korean firms operating in the Gaeseong complex. About 500 to 1,000 employees leave South Korean employers every year, citing health reasons or marriage.

Meanwhile, the South Korean firms continued to register an annual net loss from their operations in the Kaesong complex, the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean issues said. The combined net loss of 119 firms out of the total 123 stood at 14 million won ($12,681) in 2011, decreasing from net losses of 134 million won and 272 million recorded in 2010 and 2009, respectively, according to the ministry.

Nearly 37 percent of the 119 firms surveyed by the ministry said they feel the North’s interference with their corporate activities is severe, the ministry said. Inability in hiring or firing North Korean workers is the most frequently cited complaint among the 119 firms polled, followed by difficulties in Internet connection and a shortage of North Korean labor.

Read previous posts on this topic below.



Kim Han-sol compandium

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

UPDATE 4 (2013-8-27): Kim Han Sol is attending university in France. According to the Daily NK:

A spokesperson for the prestigious French university Sciences Po has confirmed that Kim Han Sol, son of Kim Jong Il’s eldest son Kim Jong Nam, will begin classes at the Le Havre campus of the university this September, according to the French media.

Officially known as the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Sciences Po is one of Europe’s elite social sciences institutes.

18-year old Kim, who previously attended a branch of the British-based United World Colleges located in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, will join the university’s three-year Europe-Asia undergraduate program, which is taught in English.

Kim Han Sol was primarily educated in Macau and speaks excellent English. He shot to fame in October 2012 when he gave a televised interview with Finnish politician Elisabeth Rehn, in which he shared some modest details about his upbringing and his hopes for peace on the peninsula. However, since then he has largely disappeared from public view once again.

UPDATE 3 (2013-5-31): Kim Han-sol has graduated from high school. According to the Choson Ilbo:

Kim Han-sol, the grandson of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, attended his graduation ceremony at an international school in Bosnia on Tuesday, the Serbian daily Novosti reported.

UPDATE 2 (2012-10-17): Kim Han-sol has gone missing. According to NK News:

Kim Han Sol, the grandson of the late Kim Jong Il and a student at the Mostar-based branch of the United World College (UWC) has not been seen for days, a Bosnian newspaper said on the 19th.

“He doesn’t to go North Korea at all, he lives here [in Mostar], he has his circle of friends and he’s an excellent learner,” Bosnian newspaper Glas Srpske reported the UWC Mostar headmistress Valentina Mindoljević as saying to Croatian daily Slobodna Dalmacija. Local media reports suggest Kim Han Sol may only have left Mostar temporarily.

A journalist reportedly went to Mostar to question students about Kim Han Sol’s whereabouts for the Bosnian daily, but was unable to track him down. One student, however, confirmed that Kim Han Sol had been absent from classes for some days, and a local newspaper vendor confirmed he had not been seen recently.

UPDATE 1 (2012-10-17): A big thanks to to Eric T. for sending this along. Here is a description of the interview offered on YouTube:

Kim Han Sol interviewed by Elisabeth Rehn for Finnish television.

Kim Han Sol is the grandson of Kim Jong Il. He never met his grandfather. At the time of this interview in 2012, he was studying at an UN sponsored college in Mostar, Bosnia and Hertzegovina.

After watching the interview, Mr. Kim seems like a mature and astute individual. He offers quite a bit of personal information and politely hedges his political opinions to avoid saying anything too controversial.

Here is the full interview (conducted on Mr. Kim’s part in nearly-perfect American-English):

ORIGINAL POST (2011-10-20): I do not have much interest in writing about Kim Han-sol, but for archival purposes I have posted a bunch of recent links about him below.  Personally I think we should leave him alone and let him get on with his schooling.

Kim Jong-il Family’s Facebook Pages Revealed (2011-10-3)

Kim Han-Sol’s Internet footprint (2011-10-3)

Kim Jong-il’s Grandson Feels Sorry for Starving Compatriots (2011-10-4)

Man believed to be Kim Jong-il’s grandson offers apology to N. Korean people (2011-10-3)

Kim Jong-il grandson’s Facebook page shows gulf in North Korea ruling family (2011-10-4)

Web Postings Stir Interest in Teenager’s Relation to North Korean Leader (2011-10-6)

Kim Han-sol: harbinger of NK change? (2011-10-11)

N. Korean leader’s grandson enrols at Bosnia college (2011-10-14)

Grandson of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il draws attention in Bosnia (2011-10-16)

Kim Jong-il’s Grandson Briefly Breaks Silence (2011-11-22)

N. Korean leader’s grandson draws international attention in Bosnian school (2011-10-20)