North Korea expanding cooperation with Mongolia in IT, distribution, and livestock industries

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Economic cooperation between North Korea and Mongolia is increasing. In July 2013 alone, Mongolian authorities made two trips to North Korea, actively displaying exchanges between the two states. According to North Korean media, on July 3, 2013 a Mongolian delegation representing information and technology, postal, and communication industries signed an agreement with North Korea to promote exchanges and cooperation in the IT sector.

On July 15, Lundeg Purevsuren, national security and foreign policy advisor to the Mongolian president, and Avia Baatarhuyag, director general of the Mongolian News Agency, visited North Korea. Last month, Mongolian oil trading and refining company HB Oil JSC acquired a 20 percent stake in the North Korean state-run entity operating North Korea’s Sungri Refinery, representing the first purchase by a Mongolian-listed company of a foreign asset.

In particular, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s focal projects is the development of the Sepho tableland (in Gangwon Province) into a large-scale stockbreeding base. North Korea is reportedly cooperating with Mongolian experts in the livestock industry in this regard.

North Korea and Mongolia are strengthening economic cooperation as national interests of the two states overlap in many areas. As Mongolia is a landlocked country, Ulaanbaatar wants to take advantage of North Korea’s Rajin Port as a conduit to export Mongolia’s natural resources to foreign countries since access to the East Sea via use of the port can significantly reduce transportation costs.

In November 2012, when North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman Choe Tae Bok visited Ulaanbaatar, Chairman of the Mongolian Parliament Zandaakhuu Enkhbold expressed interest in cooperating with North Korea in trade, IT, and people-to-people exchanges and affirmed Mongolia’s interest in use of the harbor. In response, Chairman Choe also conveyed North Korea’s interest in leasing the harbor, as well as in cooperating with Mongolia in the coal and mining industries. North Korea is promoting the development of Rajin Port as an international harbor to attract foreign investment, including Mongolian investment.

In addition, as a means of earning foreign currency, North Korea sends a large number of workers to Mongolia to work at construction sites. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on July 3 that there were 1,749 North Korean workers dispatched to Mongolia as of April — the second largest group of foreign laborers in Mongolia (second only to the Chinese at 5,976 workers), which has a total of 12,064 workers from 103 countries.

North Korea and Mongolia established diplomatic relations in 1948. Pyongyang closed its embassy in Ulaanbaatar in August 1999 for economic reasons, but re-opened it in August 2004.


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