Orphan Information: Pyongyang Bio-Technical Institute

I have a lot of information laying around that I intend to use in publications, but sometimes that information doesn’t make it out the door where it can do other researchers any good. To help fix this I have put together a three-part “Orphan Information” series to remedy the problem.

This is part 1, and it features additional information on the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute run by Korean People’s Army Unit 810 which was the subject of an article in 38 North by Melissa Hanham in July 2015. The information below helps to clarify the history of the facility and offers more hints as to its uses.

The facility has gone by two previous names in North Korea (of which I am aware): First it was known as the Patriotic Complex Microbial Center, then it was changed to the Vitamin C Factory at the Pyongyang Biotechnology Center. The current name is probably the third (in English).

Patriotic Complex Microbial Center (애국복합미생물센터) (Date Range: June 1997 – December 2010 [appx])

Aeguk-microbioal-2010-10-6

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Patriotic Complex Microbial Center (2010-10-6)

I have uploaded to YouTube two videos of the facility that were broadcast on North Korean Television.

This video was broadcast on 2010-6-8:

This video was broadcast on 2010-12-29:

I have not had either video translated, so if you speak Korean and think there is anything interesting in these videos, please let me know.

The NTI web page has the most complete description of the facility of which I am aware:

The Aeguk Compound Microbe Center was founded in June 1997 pursuant to Kim Jong Il’s orders for the creation of microbial fertilizers suitable for North Korea’s geographical conditions. Any connections to the North Korean program are unclear, but the center was built with assistance from Choch’ongnyŏn (Chosen Soren), the pro-North Korea General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. Almost all facilities with the designation “Aeguk (애국)” have been established with assistance from overseas pro-North Korean residents. The facility was expanded in April 1999 when the Compound Microbe Technical Research Station was established. The Aeguk Compound Microbe Center produces microbial stock (원균) in a liquid solution, and supplies the stock to compound microbial fertilizer factories throughout the country, which in turn produce microbial-based fertilizer supplements. According to the Pyongyang Times, the Aeguk Compound Microbe Center also assists farms in applying compound fertilizer produced at these factories. There are reportedly over 120 compound microbial fertilizer factories (복합미생물비료공장) in North Korea including the following:

  • Chŏngju Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (정주애국복합미생물비료공장): Chŏngju (정주시), North P’yŏng’an Province (평안남도)
  • Hamhŭng Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (합흥애국복합미생물비료공장): Hamhŭng (함훙시), South Hamgyŏng Province (함경남도)
  • Hamju Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (함주애국복합미생물비료공장): Hamju-kun (함주군), South Hamgyŏng Province (함경남도)
  • Kae’p’ung Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (개풍애국복합미생물비료공장): Kae’p’ung-kun (개풍군), Kaesŏng (개성시)
  • Kwaksan Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (곽산애국복합미생물비료공장): Kwaksan-kun (곽산국), North P’yong’an Province (평안북도)
  • P’anmun Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (판문애국복합미생물비료공장): P’anmun-kun (판문군), Kaesŏng (개성시)
  • Man’gyŏngdae Aeguk Compound Microbial Fertilizer Factory (만경대애국복합미생물비료공장): Man’gyŏngdae-kuyŏk (만경대구역), Pyongyang (평양시)

As of 2000, the chief of the Aeguk Compound Microbe Center was Kim Ung Ho, who was also chairman of the DPRK Invention Committee.

Vitamin C Factory (비타민C공장)

In early 2011 construction began around the Patriotic Complex Microbial Center. When construction was completed, North Korea announced the Vitamin C Factory.

Vitamin-C-2013-12-1

Pictured Above (Google Earth: 2013-12-1): “Vitamin C Factory”

As you can see from comparing the images of the Patriotic Factory and the Vitamin C Factory, there was a substantial amount of work completed; however, the original building was not torn down, though its exterior (and probably interior) have been altered.

KCNA noted that the plant opened on August 9:

Pyongyang, August 9 (KCNA) — The Vitamin C Factory has been commenced with due ceremony on Friday. It was built on the bank of the River Taedong in Pyongyang.

The vitamin C producing base has the latest production processes that use bioengineering methods.

The factory helps make another achievement in carrying out the behests of leader Kim Jong Il, who worked heart and soul to improve the standard of people’s living, and will greatly contributing to promoting health of the people.

Present at the ceremony were Pak Pong Ju, Choe Thae Bok and officials concerned, officials of different units, builders, youth shock brigade members and officials and employees of the factory.

Pak Sun Chol, general director of the Korean Taeyang General Company, made an address.

At the end of the ceremony the participants went round the factory.

Here is the KCNA video that accompanied the story above:

KCTV evening news featured the opening of the plant on 2013-8-11 (start at the 3:03 mark) to view:

On August 16, 2013 construction of the factory was touted as a successful fulfillment of Kim Jong-un’s new year address:

Pyongyang, August 16 (KCNA) — Marshal Kim Jong Un, in the 2013 New Year Address, set the building of a strong economy as a key issue in accomplishing the cause of building a thriving socialist nation.

In response to his New Year Address, the people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have made fresh upsurge in all economic sectors in the spirit of the “Masikryong Speed”.

Readjustment of the West Sea Barrage-Sinchon-Kangryong and Ongjin waterways was finished in ten days, while more than 1,000 hectares of fruit field has come into being in Pukchong County, South Hamgyong Province.

The Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory and the Phyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory have become streamlined and the Vitamin C Factory and the Turf Research Center of the State Academy of Science were newly built on a modern basis.

On August 20, 2013, KCNA for the first time published the name of the “Pyongyang Biotechnology Center” (평양생물기술연구원) as the name of the complex of which the Vitamin C Factory was a component:

Pyongyang Biotechnology Center

Pyongyang, August 20 (KCNA) — The Vitamin C Factory was modernly built at the Pyongyang Biotechnology Center located on the bank of the River Taedong.

With the operation of the factory, the center has developed into a comprehensive microbe fermentation researcher base and producer vital to developing agriculture, light industry and public health.

The center has turned out agrochemicals, anti-oxidation drinks EM-X, microbe fermentation accelerants, water purifier, digestive, etc.

All of those products are highly appreciated at home and abroad.

The center also has a biotechnology institute, compound microbiological fertilizer factory and experimental factory.

Neither the “Vitamin C Factory” nor the “Pyongyang Biotechnology Center” are ever mentioned again in the English-language state media.

The Korean name of the “Pyongyang Biotechnology Center” (평양생물기술연구원) appears in this Naenara article dated 2015-6-24.

Finally, the facility re-branded in the English-language state media when Kim Jong-un visits the “Bio-Technical Institute Under KPA Unit 810” in July 2015. The Korean name is virtually unchanged, though “under KPA Unit 810 is added”: 조선인민군 제810군부대산하 평양생물기술연구원

And now you know….the rest of the story.

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