Archive for the ‘Domestic publication’ Category

DPRK economic publication calls for more advertising

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

According to Yonhap:

A North Korean economic quarterly has stressed the importance of commercials to help promote the country’s exports, which rely heavily on China.

“We should promote our economic prowess abroad and decisively increase exports of products by taking advantage of commercials in foreign trade,” North Korean quarterly magazine, Economic Research, reported in its October edition, a copy of which was obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

The publication, which mostly deals with the North’s economic policies, said exports should contribute to achieving the country’s stated goal of ushering in a prosperous nation by this year.

The year 2012 has political significance to North Korea as it marks the centennial of the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

The quarterly also called for high quality commercials to penetrate capitalist markets and increase exports of its products.

The North’s move came more than two years after an earlier short-lived experiment with commercial advertising.

In July 2009, the North’s television aired commercials that showed young women in traditional clothes serving frothy mugs of Taedonggang beer, billed as the “Pride of Pyongyang.”

Other products, including ginseng and quail, soon appeared in television advertisements, fueling speculation the isolated country may start to embrace a capitalist mode of life.

However, the commercials disappeared a month later when then-leader Kim Jong-il sacked his television point man in anger over what he described as aping China’s early reforms.

China has repeatedly pressed the North to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy.

Additional Information:

1. Here is a link to the infamous Taedonggang Beer Commercial and a longer ten-minute infomercial. Here is the ginseng advert. Here is the quail advert. Yonhap reported that Kim Jong-il was unhappy with these ads.

2. The only commercial billboards that appear in Pyongyang are those for the Phyonghwa Motors vehicles produced domestically by a joint venture deal with the Unification Church.  See one of these billboards here.

3. There is apparently a Korea Advertising Company.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea calls for high quality commercials to boost exports


Preciseness emphasized for the tax investigation of special economic zones

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea is continuing to put forward new laws for the special economic zones (SEZs) such as Rajin-Sonbong and Hwangumpyong Island. Recently, North Korea announced special guidelines for the tax investigations of foreign businesses in the zones.

North Korea’s Academy of Social Science Newsletter Volume 4 (published on November 2011) released an article titled, “Suggestions to Improve Tax Investigations in the Special Economic Zone,” which included detailed instructions for the policy improvement for tax investigation for SEZs. Here, particular emphasis was placed on the enhancement of the tax investigation system — to be accurate and rational — for the foreign investment companies.

The article explained, “Based on the principles of equality and reciprocity for the construction of powerful economic state, the tax investigation system in the SEZ must be improved especially at the present time when SEZs are being constructed and expanded to increase economic trade with other nations.”

It also stressed tax officials must be equipped with, “comprehensive knowledge and experience who accurately understand the entire process of business management. They must be capable of creating new tax investigation methods and be able to discern the various forms of tax evasions.”

For the qualifications of the tax officials, the article recommended that the officials be selected based on their knowledge and experience; ability to develop techniques for tax investigation; awareness of rules and regulations of tax laws and bylaws, and regulations of rights and responsibilities of taxpayers; and capability of conducting research on foreign tax investigation policies.

The Academy of Social Science is a government agency of the DPRK, and the recent article on the tax investigation reflects that the government has already begun the process of implementing the tax investigation guidelines and laws in the SEZs.

The article emphasized establishing a tax investigation system acceptable to foreign companies. One can construe this as North Korea’s effort to attract more businesses to the SEZ, which is currently suffering from poor performance.

In addition, North Korea is believed to be placing weight on the tax investigation based on its past experiences with the South Korean companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). In the past, the officials of the Central SpecialDirect General Bureau toured the industrial districts in China and showed keen interests in the tax management.

On December 8, 2011, the KCNA reported that the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) has adopted the Economic Zone Act for Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa Islands. The law was revised and supplemented to include the Free Economic and Trade Act of Rajin-Sonbong. However, the details of these laws were not disclosed and some experts are predicting that these laws are likely identical to the Chinese laws in China’s flourishing SEZs.

However, on January 11, 2012, Yonhap News Agency of South Korea reported that China rejected the new Special Economic Zone Act of the DPRK because it is “not business-friendly.” The news reported, “China said the law was not business-friendly, telling North Korea that the law had some problemsregarding taxes, accounting, remittance of profits and stability of investment.” It is reported that North Korea is working on the revision of these laws and likely for a new special zone act to be passed by the Standing Committee of the DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA).


Enlarged plenary meeting of Cabinet held

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Pictured above (Google Earth) is Changsong Town in North Pyongan Province. This town is the home of the Changsong Joint Conference which was held in August 1962.  This meeting was referenced in the DPRK’s most recent Cabinet plenary meeting on the DPRK economy.

According to KCNA (2012-1-22):

An enlarged Cabinet plenary meeting was held.

Present there were Premier Choe Yong Rim and cabinet members.

Attending the meeting as observers were senior officials of the organizations under direct control of the Cabinet, directors of management bureaus, chairpersons of provincial, city and county people’s committees, chairpersons of provincial rural economy committees, chairpersons of provincial planning committees, directors of provincial foodstuff and daily necessities management bureaus and managers of major factories and enterprises.

Prior to the meeting, the participants paid silent tribute to the memory of leader Kim Jong Il.

The meeting reviewed the fulfillment of last year’s national economic plan and discussed how to implement the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, joint calls of the WPK Central Committee and the Central Military Commission and the militant task put forward in the joint New Year editorial.

Vice-Premier Ro Tu Chol made a report to be followed by speeches.

The enlarged meeting set it as a priority task for this year to direct efforts into developing light industry and agriculture to improve the people’s livelihood and successfully carrying out the WPK’s prosperity-oriented strategy in the pilot domains and basic industries of the national economy upholding the flames of South Hamgyong Province. It also indicated the tasks and ways for it.

Also discussed was an issue of raising higher the flames of great innovation of South Hamgyong Province in the light industrial and agricultural fields.

The meeting mentioned the need to produce quality consumer goods favored by the people in the field of light industry and effect a decisive turn in development of local industry this year marking the 50th anniversary of the historic Changsong joint conference.

It also stressed the need for ministries and national institutions to help Changsong County in its industrial development.

Also discussed at the meeting were such issues as fulfilling the assignments for grain production for 2012 both in lowland and mountainous areas, making the best use of modern stockbreeding and poultry bases and large fruit and fish farms as well as the tasks for ministries and national institutions to preferentially supply materials, equipment and electricity to farming processes.

The meeting drew attention to the tasks for the industrial fields of electric power, coal, metal, railways and machine and construction and building materials, etc.

The meeting tabled the tasks for all ministries, national institutions and provincial people’s committees to lay their own scientific and technological foundations for stepping up the work for turning the economy into one based on technology in a forward-looking manner as required by the industrial revolution in the new century.

It also discussed the tasks for the fields of education, literature and art, public health, sports, capital construction, land management and urban management.

The meeting stressed the need for all economic officials to preserve the socialist principle and ensure profitability in economic management, operate and manage the economic work on the basis of detailed calculation and science as well as the need for ministries, national institutions and industrial establishments to set up strict order regarding planning, financial dealings and administration.

Relevant decisions were made at the meeting.

As premier of the Cabinet Choe Yong-rim has made quite a few prominent appearances in the DPRK media in the last two years which highlight his official efforts to improve the North Korean economy. His most recent public appearance (January 12) is reported to have been at the Jenam Coal Mine.

Kim Jong-un, however, is not a member of the Cabinet, so he did not attend the meeting. To date his legitimacy is being established through his relationship to Kim Jong-il/Kim Il-sung and as a leader of the KPA—rather than as a leader in the government or even the party (at least so far).

As a result, Kim Jong-un’s guidance visits have consisted almost exclusively of visits to KPA units.  In this month alone, he has visited the 105 Tank Brigade, KPA Unit 169, KPA Unit 3870, KPA Unit 354, KPA Unit 671, and the KPA soldiers constructing the Pyongyang Folk Village on the outskirts of Pyongyang. Uriminzokkiri has also credited him with spearheading the DPRK’s nuclear tests.

UPDATE: Here is Yonhap coverage of the meeting.

“Changsong Joint Conference”
The KCNA article prompted me to look into the “Changsong Joint Conference”, a term that did not ring a bell. The most recent reference I can find to it is this blurb from a March 2011 article in Korea Magazine:

The Changsong Joint Conference of Local Party and Economic Officials was held in August 1962.

The conference marked the beginning of developing the local industry throughout the country.

In recent years the county has made strenuous efforts to carry out the plan of the Workers’ Party of Korea for the building of a thriving nation and achieved many successes.

Hundreds of hectares of forests of raw materials and timber forests including pine-nut, wild-walnut and larch forests have been newly created.

The Changsong Foodstuff Factory gathers in scores of kinds of wild fruits including acorns, wild grapes, fruits of Actinidia arguta and Crataegus pinnatifida every year in mountains.

Recently its officials and workers have modernized all production processes including wild fruit drinks and wines as required in the IT age to produce foodstuffs in time.

Wines made from the fermented juice of wild grapes, fruits of Actinidia arguta and other wild fruits, Crataegus pinnatifida, Rubus crataegifolius, carbonated Actinidia arguta and other fruit juices, dried bracken and sliced bracken and other wild vegetables preserved in soy sauce are in great demand for their peculiar flavour.

The Changsong Textile Mill which started operation with six housewives has been turned into a modern fabric producer. As a treasure mill, it makes a great contribution to the improvement of the people’s standard of living. It produces quality fabrics, woolen knitted goods and quilts and blankets with local raw materials.

The Changsong Paper Mill produces paper from ground pulp. It has streamlined the equipment to improve the qualities of goods.

Looking round the local-industry factories in Changsong County in November last year, Kim Jong Il kindled the flame of developing the local industry throughout the country after the model of Changsong.

Changsong County stands at the head of development of local industry. Now its people work harder to change further the looks of their home village.

Another blogger seems to have located a single page of a book on the Changsong Joint Conference. Fortunately, he typed out the introduction:

The great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung had made a farsighted plan for bridging the gap between town and country and between regions and raising equally the living standards of all the working people. For this Changsong County had been taken as a model.

The great leader who had long pushed preparations for rapid improvement in the livelihood of the mountain peasants, studied deeply the state of affairs in this part of the country, and through his several on-the-spot guidances, paved the shortest cut to establish a socialist paradise.

In August 1962, in order to spread the example of Changsong across the land he convened the historic Changsong Joint Conference of Local Party and Economic Functionaries. There he put forward a new policy and overall ways and means to enhance the role of the county and develop local industry and agriculture, so as to improve radically the people’s living conditions.

In 1974, our people erected in Changsong the historic monument to the on-the-spot guidance of the respected and beloved leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, out of their wish to retell throughout generations the profound care of the fatherly leader who had shown the bright future of mountain villages and transformed that area into a people’s paradise fine to live in.

Kim Jong-il last visited Changsong in November 2010 where he visited the Changsong Foodstuff Factory, Changsong Textile Mill, and Changsong House of Culture. The first two locations are the shining examples of the success of the Changsong Joint Conference.  The Changsong House of Culture is where the meeting was officially held in 1962.

But if the goal of the conference is to reduce the disparity in the DPRK’s living standards, Changsong is probably not the best place to start. Changsong is home to one of the North Korean leadership’s most well-known luxury retreats.  This is because it was was extensively photographed by Kenji Fujimoto while he was working as Kim Jong-il’s personal chef.   See a satellite image and Mr. Fujimoto’s pictures of the compound here. You can see the Taegwan leadership train station Kim used to visit the compound here.


Associated Press in Pyongyang

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

UPDATE 5 (2012-1-17): The Associated Press is opening a Bureau in Pyongyang. Martyn Williams reports:

The Associated Press has opened a news bureau in Pyongyang making it the first western news agency to have a reporter and photographer based in the North Korean capital.

The bureau represents a coup for the AP over the competition, but its close cooperation with the state-run Korean Central News Agency, necessitated to realize the deal, brings with it questions over editorial independence.

AP President Tom Curley and KCNA President Kim Pyong Ho officially opened the bureau in Pyongyang on Monday. It came six months after the two met in New York and signed a basic agreement towards the office.

The bureau will be housed inside KCNA’s headquarters and will be permanently staffed by two North Koreans: reporter Pak Won Il and photographer Kim Kwang Hyon.

AP didn’t provide details of the background of the two and declined to say if they were on the payroll of AP or KCNA.

Regardless of their employment status, they were almost certainly trained in the North Korean media-slash-propaganda machine with books such as “The Great Teacher of Journalists” — a heavy tome filled with advice to journalists by Kim Jong Il. Their appointment would have been approved by North Korean authorities.

The two have already contributed to AP’s coverage over the last few weeks on the death of Kim Jong Il.

Pak was credited as providing details for several AP stories on the funeral, including “Thousands Gather In Snow To Mourn Kim Jong Il.” Kim Kwang Hyon is believed to be the photographer responsible for several unattributed photographs issued by AP of the funeral.

Video footage of the office released by KCNA shows pictures of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall above some desks. A TV hangs on the wall and there also appears to be a refrigerator and microwave oven.

It’s this closeness with KCNA that has AP walking a delicate editorial line.

AP is based on a traditional of independent reporting, and KCNA is anything but independent. Its Japan-based website describes the agency as speaking “for the Workers’ Party of Korea and the DPRK government,” and its daily output is heavy with glorification of its leader and threats against South Korea and the U.S.

But when it comes to North Korea, KCNA is the only game in town.

North Korea has remained one of the few places in the world that has remained almost totally impenetrable to foreign journalists. Visits are strictly supervised and controlled, and information flow in and out of the country is just a trickle. This was demonstrated vividly in December when governments and media organizations were apparently unaware that anything was amiss in the days before the death of Kim Jong Il was announced.

Getting coverage from Pyongyang, albeit with assistance from the government’s news agency, is probably better than nothing.

The real payoff will come in the regular reporting trips by AP staffers that form part of the deal. Korea Bureau Chief Jean Lee and Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder will oversee the bureau and are likely to continue visiting the country.

It also gives AP a leg up on competitors such as Reuters and AFP when major news breaks in Pyongyang, such as the recent death of Kim Jong Il.

UPDATE 4 (2011-9-29): The Associated Press has signed a deal for HD video from the DPRK. According to themselves (notice it is a new story not a press release!):

Associated Press President and Chief Executive Tom Curley said Thursday the agency has signed an exclusive deal to provide high definition news video from North Korea to broadcasters worldwide.

In a speech in Tokyo, Curley unveiled the three-year agreement with North Korean state broadcaster KRT and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

“Today’s announcement means that AP will be the only news agency to transmit broadcast quality HD video of key events in North Korea,” he said at the Japan National Press Club.

Associated Press Television News will also have exclusive rights to deliver HD video feeds for individual broadcasters wishing to transmit their own reports from North Korea.

The infrastructure will be established ahead of 2012, when the so-called Hermit Kingdom celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late leader Kim Il Sung.

The deal extends AP’s recent push into North Korea to a level unmatched by any other Western news organization.

AP announced in June that it had also signed a series of agreements with the Korea Central News Agency, including one for the opening of a comprehensive news bureau in Pyongyang.

Expected to launch early next year, the office would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital. It would build upon the AP’s existing video news bureau, which opened in Pyongyang in 2006.

In addition, the agencies signed a contract designating the AP as the exclusive international distributor of contemporary and historical video from KCNA’s archive. The agencies also plan a joint photo exhibition in New York next year. They already had an agreement between them to distribute KCNA photo archives to the global market, signed earlier this year.

“This is a historic and watershed development,” Curley said. “For AP, it extends further and deeper our global reach and shows the trust that is at the core of AP reporting. For the world, it means opening the door to a better understanding between the DPRK and the rest of the world.”

The latest deal also highlights AP’s broader digital transformation efforts in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

AP, which sees video as a critical part of its future, is investing at least $30 million into its video business. Under an 18-month plan, the agency is upgrading all infrastructure to eventually provide HD video that “will fit easily into digital platforms of any media customer anywhere.”

Curley told the group of Japanese journalists that while the U.S. is “ground zero” for the digital media shift, “the movement of information consumption to online platforms and devices is here to stay, and it will inevitably upend traditional forms of media everywhere in the world.”

Founded in 1846, the AP maintains bureaus in some 100 countries around the world and is the oldest and largest of the world’s major news agencies.

UPDATE 3 (2011-7-12): Reuters is also establishing a presence in the DPRK.

UPDATE 2 (2011-7-1): The AP is opening a bureau in Pyongyang.  According to

The Associated Press is to open a bureau in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, following an agreement with state news agency KCNA.

The new bureau will be the first permanent text and photo office operated by a Western news organisation in the North Korean capital. It follows the opening of an AP television office in the city five years ago.

Run by a notoriously secretive regime, North Korea also has a poor press freedom record. It is ranked 177 out of 178 countries on the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Under the new agreement, AP will have exclusive global distribution of video content from the KCNA archive. The agreement has been negotiated over the past few months, with KCNA president Kim leading a delegation of executives to AP’s New York headquarters.

In March, chief executive Tom Curley and executive editor Kathleen Carroll were part of a delegation that traveled to Pyongyang.

Curley heralded the agreement as “historic and significant”.

“AP is once again being trusted to open a door to better understanding between a nation and the world. We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to providing coverage for AP’s global audience in our usually reliable and insightful way.”

UPDATE 1 (2011-3-10): According to Yonhap, the AP is once again asking to open a bureau in Pyongyang:

Thee Associated Press (AP), one of the main news agencies in the U.S., has asked North Korean authorities to help it open a bureau in Pyongyang, a news report claimed Thursday.

Itar-Tass, a Russian news agency, reported from the North Korean capital that a delegation for AP, headed by its president and CEO Thomas Curley, made the request during its ongoing visit to Pyongyang.

Citing an informed Korean source, Itar-Tass reported that the AP delegation said opening a Pyongyang bureau “would make it possible to create in the United States an objective and truthful picture of events” taking place in the communist regime.

“However, there is no clarity so far on the issue of opening of the AP office,” the source was quoted as saying.

North Korea’s state media reported briefly on Tuesday of the arrival of the AP delegation, but didn’t elaborate on why AP was visiting and how long its delegation would stay.

A source in Seoul had earlier told Yonhap News Agency that Curley is scheduled to stay in Pyongyang until Friday and his visit may be aimed at trying to set up a news bureau in the reclusive state.

Among foreign news agencies, only Itar-Tass and China’s Xinhua have bureaus in Pyongyang, while a journalist from the People’s Daily newspaper of China is also based there.

Itar-Tass on Thursday said officials from Reuters, the London-based news agency, also visited Pyongyang earlier with a similar request.

AP Television News, the international video division of AP, opened a full-time office in Pyongyang in 2006, making it the first Western news organization to establish a permanent presence in North Korea. The Pyongyang office of APTN currently provides only video images.

Below is a report I posted in 2006 on the opening of the APTV office in Pyongyang.

ORIGINAL POST (2006-5-23): The Assoicated Press Television News is opening an office in Pyongyang. According to the Joong Ang Daily :

AP Television News, a British-based agency, opened a full-time office in North Korea yesterday, with three North Koreans to be on the permanent staff, said Toby Hartwell, marketing director of APTN in London.

With the bureau, the television service becomes the first Western news organization to provide regular coverage from the reclusive country.

The bureau’s staff will be recruited from the North’s state-run media. International staff from APTN will have frequent access to the country and work with them, Mr. Hartwell said.

Mr. Hartwell said APTN has been given access to the country, and he believes that will continue.

APTN is the international video division of the Associated Press. It delivers video content of breaking global news to broadcasters around the world.


The DPRK’s “Lady Liberty”

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Kwang On-yoo sent me an email about Noonbit Publishing’s reprinting of Chris Marker’s book, Coréennes (1959). I just ordered a copy here (it appears to be unavailable on Amazon).

The book contains  over 120 black-and-white photos of North Korea with illustrations from maps, comic books, street posters and paintings. Among the photos is what appears to be a North Korean copy of the French panting Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple) by Eugène Delacroix.

Judge for yourself:


I will post a larger version of the image and provide additional information when the book arrives in the mail.

I previously discovered that the DPRK copied a Russian painting as well.  See here.


2012 Joint Editorial

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Some thought it was possible that Kim Jong-un might deliver a new year’s address (as Kim Il-sung always did), but instead the leadership has chosen to follow the practice of the Kim Jong-il era by issuing a “joint editorial” by Rodong Sinmun, Joson Inmingun, and Chongnyon Jonwi.

Since I am writing this post well after the joint editorial has already been published, numerous commentators have already weighed in: Choson Exchange, Daily NK, Washington Post, CNN, Business Week, Hankyoreh, IFES, Xinhua.

Below is the full text of the Joint New Year Editorial c/o North East Asia Matters. My hat off to anyone who actually reads the whole thing:



Celebrate the socialist way!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities are currently employing various means to encourage frugality, an idea which has recently come to include ‘kwanhonsangje’ (the four ceremonial occasions; coming of age, marriage, funeral and ancestral rites).

In recent years there has been official criticism of the fact that engagement ceremonies, wedding gift exchanges between families and even the table for ancestral rites have become occasions full of over-spending, empty formalities and vanity.

Recently, Daily NK obtained a copy of the October issue of monthly magazine ‘Socialist Cultural Life’, to which social studies scholar Jang Seong Nam submitted a piece, ‘Let’s Perform Kwanhonsangje the Socialist Way’, in which he declared, “kwanhonsangje should be performed according to the demands of the Party and social development.”

The article emphasized, “We are taking the lead, seeing kwanhonsangje performed in the socialist way as a valid and unavoidable problem in the establishment of the new military-first socialist life.”

“Because old, feudalist, superstitious, empty formalities and bizarre foreign customs are not disappearing, we are strongly demanding action on this problem,” it went on, adding, “Rejecting bizarre foreign customs crushes the Imperialists’ policy of ethnic extermination under the banner of ‘globalization’.”

The article also looked in more detail at problem issues surrounding kwanhonsangjae.

“A sufficient engagement,” it proclaimed, “has two people and their parents meeting to confirm the marriage, and wedding ceremonies should be a gathering at someone’s home.”

Regarding funeral arrangements and ancestral rites, it recommended, “Commemorate a death by placing a medal or honorary certificate before an image of the deceased along with flowers, while the various commemorative services on the 3rd day or the birthday of the deceased should be eliminated.”

Getting into minutae, it added of a groom’s suit color, “Discard the convention of wearing a black or dark blue suit; men should wear bright colors according to season.”

In these ways, the article asserted, kwanhonsangjae becomes an aesthetic and modern set of customs with a uniquely Chosun ethnic color.

The piece appears to show both the state’s desire to restrain consumption but also to reassert ‘socialist’ attitudes and encourage nationalist attitudes, thus pushing back against the impact of foreign ideas coming in via overseas media, South Korean dramas and so on.

‘Socialist Cultural Life’ is distributed monthly to all official organs and enterprises. Its publisher, Labor Group Publishing House, publishes various other magazines including ‘Chosun Women’, ‘Worker’ and ‘Agricultural Worker’. As a part of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department, its various publications are among the state’s most ubiquitous propaganda weapons after the daily Workers’ Party mouthpiece, ‘Rodong Shinmun’.

Read the full story here:
Celebrate the Socialist Way!
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


Friday Fun: Tourism, winter, and stamps

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Tourism: Koryo Tours issued a newsletter this week promoting their tours to the DPRK during the celebrations of Kim Il-sung’s 100th year:

April 15th 2012 marks North Korea’s biggest celebration in decades – the 100th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, who, despite his death in 1994 is still the country’s ‘Great Leader’ and ‘Eternal President’.

This historic day will see epic events and the completion of large-scale national programmes, all furthering what North Korean media calls the creation of a ‘strong and prosperous country’ – however flexible that concept may be. We invite you to come with us to experience this once in a lifetime occasion on the ground in Pyongyang

At present, the exact nature of the celebrations and corresponding tourist access is shrouded in the usual mystery – no one knows what visitors can see and do, but as always Koryo Tours will be first in line. Birthday travellers should be ready for sudden changes in itinerary and hotels – all part of the excitement of the country’s biggest holiday period ever!

We have several tours going on over this holiday, including one brand new one we just added to our website; all of them are open for application now.

In brief they are:

Kim Il Sung Birthday Short Tour
– Ideal for anyone wanting to see North Korea’s capital Pyongyang on this massive occasion. We’ll see all the city’s highlights and be there for the nation’s biggest occasion in history.

Kim Il Sung Birthday Long Tour
– In addition to capital sightseeing and anniversary events, this trip goes to the west coast city of Nampo – and for the first time, the surrounding industrial areas which Koryo Tours opened to tourism only this year. Finally, we’ll take in ancient city of Kaesong (buy your famous ginseng here) as well as the notorious DMZ, the concrete barrier that has divided
the peninsula for six decades.

Kim Il Sung Birthday Ultimate Tour
– The Big One! If you’ve ever wanted to (almost) fully explore the world’s most mysterious country in one trip, then sign up today. The tour’s complete version runs two weeks; those on tight schedules can book for first or second halves alone. Week one (Option A) takes us around Pyongyang, Kaesong and the DMZ, Mt. Myohyang and the giant gift halls to North Korea’s leaders, the west coast city of Nampo and much more. Choose week two (Option B), and you’ll see the rarely-visited east coast cities of Wonsan and Hamhung, North Korea’s second largest city, which Koryo Tours opened to tourists in 2010. From there we’ll see the stunning Mt. Kumgang area and the country’s most remote area open to travellers.

In its history, Pujon County has only seen one tour group (run by Koryo Tours); if you’re looking for a unique area of a unique country, you won’t do better than this. Option A is nearly closed so book today; Option B is still open for booking, and ideal for those
who have seen the main sites and want a second trip.

Option A is filling up fast so we do need to ask for early applications for this tour, Option B is still open for booking, and ideal for those who have seen the main sites and want a second trip. There are 15 places left for the Option A or Ultimate Option!

NEW!! – Kim Il Sung Birthday Week Tour
– Due to high demand we have added another week-long tour, so you can take in the country’s most fascinating sites and still catch the Big Event.

Check out our amazing programme and sign up now to be on the ground for the biggest birthday party of 2012!

While all tours are still open, we strongly suggest that you book sooner rather than later due to high holiday demand. Tours may need to be closed early, so don’t miss out; book now! (early bookings also apply to independent tours)

Winter: Today KCNA published photos of Pyongyang’s first winter 2011/12 snowfall :

Stamps: Today Joshua Pollack ( posted some new stamps from the DPRK:


Click images to see larger version from the source. I have an interesting book of North Korean stamps, but have not posted it. Here are some recent DPRK stamps highlighting Chinese/DPRK friendship. Here are some CNC stamps. Here is a stamp issued to raise awareness of bird flu.

Finally, this week’s issue of the Pyongyang Times, claims that the DPRK stamps below won the “best stamp award” at the 10th China Annual Best Foreign Stamp Poll on November 24:

UPDATE 1: A reader sent me a link to some additional DPRK stamps on the North Korean web page, Naenara.  See them here, here, here, and here!

UPDATE 2: Thanks again to the same reader sending this stamp commemorating the sinking of the General Sherman:


Koreas push to use same spelling of place names

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

According to Yonhap:

South and North Korean linguistic experts have agreed to push to use the same spelling of place names, together with their Chinese counterparts, a Chinese scholar said Thursday.

The project is designed to promote better communication among South and North Koreans as well as ethnic Koreans in China.

The divided Koreas use the same alphabet known as “hangeul,” though decades of division following the 1950-53 Korean War resulted in dialectical differences and deviations in word meaning.

The two Koreas also spell differently in hangeul when naming places and countries, a phenomenon that often causes trouble in communication between South and North Koreans.

Most of the about 2 million ethnic Koreans in China can speak Korean, though they also use different dialects and spell the names of locations differently than Koreans.

North Korean linguistic experts have proposed unifying the spelling of place names on the Korean Peninsula and China, said Liu Yinzhong, a professor of Zhejiang Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages in China.

Liu, an ethnic Korean who studied at Kim Il-sung University in North Korea, said the project could help contribute to boosting mutual confidence and cooperation.

Chin Yong-ohk, an emeritus professor of Kyunghee University who is involved in the project, said Liu would visit South and North Korea to exchange ideas on the project.

South Korea has banned its citizens from visiting North Korea as part of sanctions on the North in retaliation for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010. The North has denied involvement in the sinking that killed 46 sailors.

South Korea has selectively allowed religious and private aid groups to visit the North as part of humanitarian projects.

Last month, the two Koreas held discussions in the North’s border city of Kaesong on resuming a separate project to publish a joint dictionary covering their different dialects.

The project, launched in 2005, was suspended last year after the North’s sinking of the South Korean warship.

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Koreas push to use same spelling of place names


Koryolink offers mobile access to “Rodong Sinmun”

Monday, November 28th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

North Korean cell phone users are now reportedly able to read the news and views of the Chosun Workers’ Party on the move.

Chosun Shinbo, a publication run from Japan by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), announced the news on Saturday, saying, “Koryolink, Chosun’s 3G cell phone service provider, has begun a service allowing the reading of Rodong Shinmun, one of the major newspapers, on cell phones.”

Chosun Shinbo also announced its own plans to set up a mobile service in the near future.

The Rodong Shinmun cell phone application is just the latest in a long line of interesting developments in the Koryolink story. Last January the company introduced a multimedia messaging service (MMS). Later in the year it also introduced a video call service, which received a positive reaction from younger users.

As expected, Chosun Shinbo claimed that many North Korean citizens are enjoying the new service on the way to work. One Pyongyang man was quoted by the paper as saying, “It’s very convenient being able to read the news every morning on my mobile phone. You can also go back and read all the news from a few months ago, too, which is great.”

Another resident of the North Korean capital reportedly commented that reading the news on their phone is the first and most important thing they do in the morning.

Interestingly, Chosun Central TV ran a program on November 7th including content teaching mobile phone users of the social etiquette they needed to follow, telling them to avoid bothering people nearby by lowering the ringtone or setting the device to vibrate mode, and to avoid speaking too loudly.

The Wall Street Journal also covered this development.

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Rodong Shinmun on the Move
Daily NK
Cho Jong-ik