Archive for the ‘Civil society’ Category

Pyongyang Folk Village (UPDATED)

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

UPDATE 4 (2016-11-30): The most recent Google Earth imagery of the Folk Park demolition is posted below (2016-10-4). Three earlier images that were posted to Google Earth have all been deleted.

UPDATE 3 (2016-11-9): Yonhap has posted yet another image of the Folk Park demolition that briefly appeared on Google Earth, but has since been deleted.

UPDATE 2 (2016-6-28): Yonhap has published imagery from Google Earth showing the demolition of the park has begun. You can read the article here (in Korean). For unknown reasons, this imagery was only briefly posted to Google Earth. It has since been deleted.

UPDATE 1 (2016-6-14): Yonhap reports that the Pyongyang Folk Park is being torn down. According to the article:

North Korea’s leader has ordered the dismantling of a folklore theme park in Pyongyang in a bid to erase the remaining legacy of his uncle Jang Song-thaek who was executed in 2013 for treason, a source familiar with the reclusive country’s affairs said Tuesday.

The North’s leader Kim Jong-un is believed to have ordered his officials to close the Pyongyang Folklore Park which opened in April 2012, the observer said. Work on the park began late 2008 under the instruction of the incumbent leader’s late father Kim Jong-il.

Located in the foot of Mount Taesong in the North’s capital, the 2 million square-meter theme park is known to have been set up and spearheaded by Jang, and features propaganda structures as well as a folk village.

“Since early last month, the sound of explosions has been heard inside the park,” the source said. “Rumor has it that the folklore park is being dismantled.”

Another Pyongyang watcher said that the North’s leader is said to have expressed negative views that the park reminds him of the relative he ordered killed.

“The closure of the park appears to reflect Kim’s uneasiness about the possibility that traitors can show up at any time even as he has consolidated power through the reign of terror,” the source added.

In 2013, Kim ordered the execution of his once-powerful uncle Jang, accusing him of treason. The move is seen as a step to reaffirm the leader’s power which he inherited in late 2011 after the sudden death of his father.

The North’s leader has strengthened his reign of terror by purging and executing scores of party and military officials.

My sources tell me that the park is definitely closed, but cannot confirm anything else in the story.

You can read the full story here:
N.K. leader orders theme park closure to erase executed uncle’s legacy: source
Yonhap
2016-6-14

ORIGINAL POST (2011-12-6): Back in April 2010 I wrote about how the DPRK had launched the construction of a “Folk Village” (평양민속공원) at the foot of Mt. Taesong in eastern Pyongyang. In May of 2010 I posted new satellite imagery of the park’s construction.

Last weekend I was discussing this facility with some friends, and today KCNA posted images of the park’s construction (all below)–so I thought it would be time for another update.

Using North Korean television and print images (plus a little common sense) I have been mapping out all of the attractions in the new folk village:

The Google Earth satellite image above is dated 2010-10-6, nearly a year after the project was announced on North Korean television in December of 2009.  Despite the image being taken nearly a year after the park’s construction began, I have identified: The Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang Ice-Skating Rink, Sosan Handball Gymnasium, Mangyongdae Children’s Camp, Monument to the Party Founding, Grand People’s Study House, West Sea Barrage, Arch of Triumph, Tower of the Juche Idea, Chollima Monument, Okryu Monument, Tangun’s Tomb, an ancient dolmen, and a walking path shaped like the Korean Peninsula.  There are still quite a few places to label, so contributions are welcome.

Here is what KCNA recently had to say about the project (2011-12-6):

The construction of the Pyongyang Folklore Park is progressing apace in Korea.

Frame assembling and interior projects have almost been finished in the park construction.

The park, which is being built in a large area at the foot of Mt. Taesong, will showcase the history of the nation and miniatures of historic relics, structures built in recent decades, folk village, folk amusements and Mts. Paektu and Kumgang.

Visual aids showing the 5 000-year-long Korean history will be installed in the quarter of history at the entrance of the park.

More than 130 full or reduced-sized historic relics, including the mausoleums of King Tangun and King Tongmyong and the monument to the great victory in the battle in northern area of Korea, are taking shape in the quarter of historical interest.

The present era quarter will include miniatures of the Tower of the Juche Idea, Party Founding Memorial Tower, West Sea Barrage, Arch of Triumph, Chollima Statue and other monuments and edifices.

The folk village quarter is full of models of palaces, government offices and dwelling houses dating back to Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668), Koryo Kingdom (early 10th century-late 14th century), Palhae Kingdom (698-926) and Ri Dynasty (1392-1910).

Restaurants serving cuisines peculiar to different localities are also being built there.

The visitors will be able to enjoy views of Mts. Paektu and Kumgang and folklore amusements like archery, ssirum (Korean wrestling), seesawing, swinging and yut-game in the park.

Although the above satellite image is dated 2010-10-6, the recent photos from KCNA (2011-12-6) show some progress has been made:

 

 

 

UPDATE: According to a later article published in the Choson Ilbo (2011-12-8), two of the temples in the 5th picture above  are replicas of  Dabotp and Seokgatop in Gyeongju’s Bulguksa Temple.  These are cultural relics of the southern Silla Kingdom, not the northern Koguryo Kingdon to which the DPRK frequently claims to be the cultural inheritor.

There is only one other “Folk Village” in the DPRK of which I am immdeiately aware, and it is in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province. See it in Google Maps here. I “helped” with its construction when I visited the DPRK in 2004. I did not really help, but the photo op for the North Korean media made it look like I did.

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Sinuiju Stadium torn down

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Sinuiju-stadium-2015-3-12 Sinuiju-Stadium-2015-9-2

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Sinuiju Stadium on 2015-3-12, (R) Sinuiju Stadium on 2015-9-2.

The stadium is either being renovated or this will be the location of the North Phongan Sports Village. New imagery will reveal the answer!

More at RFA here (in Korean).

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The economy in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address: what’s there and what isn’t

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The supposed hydrogen bomb test has come to dominate the news on North Korea over the past few days, for obvious reasons. Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address has naturally ended up in the shadow of the nuclear test, but it is worth going back for a closer look. Overall, it is a speech that appears to contain few major announcements or indications. Perhaps more surprising than what themes are there, are the themes that are absent.

Stephan Haggard pretty much sums up how economic matters are treated in the speech, as they often are in North Korean rhetoric on economics: “As usual, the economic components of the speech rely more on exhortation than any clear policy message, confusing results with the means of achieving them.”

That is, in much of the speech, Kim simply talks about what will be achieved but leaves out how to get thereTake the following paragraph, for example (my emphasis added):

The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance. Leading economic officials should fully equip themselves with Party policy, work out plans of the economic work in an innovative way and give a strong push to it on the principle of developing all the sectors at an exponential speed by relying on the inexhaustible creative strength of the working people and by dint of modern science and technology. They should accurately identify the main link in the whole chain of economic development and concentrate efforts on it while revitalizing the overall economy, especially when the conditions are not favourable and many difficulties arise. They should be proactive in organizing and launching the work of establishing on a full scale our style of economic management method which embodies the Juche idea, thus giving full play to its advantages and vitality.

And:

All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality.

Those who are more savvy at reading between the lines and interpreting rhetorical symbolisms can perhaps draw out meaningful signals from quotes such as these. But at face-value, they seem to give little indication of policy changes. Or of any policy at all, for that matter.

What are the areas that Kim hold up as economic priorities, then? Stephan Haggard points out heavy industry as one such theme. It is also the one mentioned first in the speech. Infrastructure and power supply also features fairly prominently (and is mentioned early on), with specific references to several power station construction projects. Kim also mentions IT and the “knowledge-driven economy” (emphasis added):

Our working class, scientists and technicians, true to the instructions of the great leaders, made a big stride in making the metallurgical industry Juche-based, built model, standard factories of the era of the knowledge-driven economy in various parts of the country and put production lines on a modern and IT footing, thus opening a new road of advance for developing the overall economy and improving the people’s standard of living.

Presumably, this is what North Korean media mean when they talk about the H-bomb test as an economic boost: that such capabilities show North Korea’s strength as a knowledge-based economy.

Domestic production capabilities are highlighted all the way through. This theme isn’t new. Kim Jong-un has often emphasized the importance of goods diversity and local production. This lies well in line with the basic economic tenets of the Juche doctrine. Here is one example of how domestic production capacity is highlighted in the speech (emphasis added):

The flames of the campaign to implement the Party’s ideas and defend its policies have unfolded a proud reality of our indigenous plane flying in the sky and our indigenous subway train running under the ground, and rich fish and fruit harvests were gathered, their socialist flavour bringing pleasure to the people.

One theme that features relatively prominently is construction. In one paragraph, Kim even states that “Construction is a yardstick and visual evidence for the strength of a country and the quality of its civilization”, and continues to urge the country to build more:

The construction sector should launch a general offensive to implement the Party’s construction policy and grand plan. By doing so, it should build important production facilities, educational and cultural institutions and dwelling houses on the highest possible level and at the fastest possible speed, so that they serve as standards and models of the times. In this way it can make sure that the great heyday of construction continues without letup.

Perhaps this is an indication that the building boom in Pyongyang of the past few years will continue. Priorities such as this one primarily benefit those political classes that live in Pyongyang. With few exceptions, as far as I’m aware, most other cities have seen little of the construction boom that the capital city has experienced.

There is also a reference to the coal mining industry. On the one hand, it may be interesting because North Korea’s main export destination for coal is China, and these trade flows have been volatile over the years, and there have been signs that North Korea isn’t getting a good deal in this trade. But on the other hand, this may be reading too much into one small reference in the speech (emphasis added):

In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive.

Later, coal mining appears only in reference to the domestic power supply (emphasis added):

All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it. The sector of coal-mining industry should raise the fierce flames of an upsurge in production to ensure enough supply of coal for the thermal power stations and several sectors of the national economy.

There are two themes that are surprisingly absent. One is agriculture. Agricultural policy is barely present, and when it is, management methods aren’t mentioned. For example:

The agricultural sector should actively adopt superior strains and scientific farming methods, speed up the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy and take strict measures for each farming process, so as to carry out the cereals production plan without fail.

This is a little surprising, because regime sources have claimed that agricultural production has been boosted during the year, and management reforms with greater incentives for farmers have been touted as the reason. (A close look at the numbers indicates that agricultural production has declined slightly during 2015, moving it towards the average of the 2000s.) If agricultural reforms have indeed been a central tenet of Kim Jong-un’s economic policies, one could at least have expected a reference to these reforms in the speech.

The second theme that is strangely absent is forestry policy. It is only mentioned in one sentence:

The whole Party, the entire army and all the people should buckle down to the campaign to restore the forests of the country.

During the past year, Kim Jong-un has highlighted forestry policy as a key area. He has talked openly and frankly about the role of tree felling in causing floods and subsequent food shortages, and promoted reforestation, albeit not in a way that is likely to work very well. North Korean media has singled out tree nurseries for not doing their job properly. In sum, forestry has been relatively high on the agenda, but the topic still barely made it into the speech.

All in all, from an economic policy standpoint, this year’s New Year’s Address did not contain any major bombshells. The fact that economic issues appear right after the section on the upcoming party congress may be a hint that such issues will be high on the agenda, but then again, it might not mean much at all. Moreover, it is unclear how much can really read into the New Year’s Address for hints about regime policies and priorities. After all, the speech contained virtually no allusions to the H-bomb test that was to come only days later.

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Kim Jong Un’s new year message focuses on building an economic powerhouse

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

In his 2016 New Year Speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced plans to build an economic powerhouse.

Kim frequently used expressions such as, ‘priority to self-development,’ ‘concentration of efforts,’ ‘whole Party’, and the ‘whole state’ that placed great emphasis on economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood.

Kim said “The principle of giving priority to self-development should be maintained in building a thriving socialist country [. . .] We should concentrate all our efforts on building an economic giant to bring about a fresh turn in developing the country’s economy and improving the people’s standard of living.”

Kim also stated that “In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive.” Compared to the 2015 New Year speech, this can be seen as a relative increase in the emphasis placed on the industrial sector.

In particular, he emphasized resolving the power shortages, stating that “The problem of electricity should be resolved as an undertaking involving the whole Party and the whole state.” North Korea suffers from chronic power shortages, especially fuel, as well as decline in the hydroelectric power plant operations. In 2015, interrupted power supply was exacerbated by severe drought. Kim also said that “All sectors and all units should wage a vigorous campaign to economize on electricity and make effective use of it.”

In regards to improving agriculture, livestock, and fisheries sectors, he said that “The crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors should make innovations to effect a radical change in improving the people’s standard of living. The agricultural sector should actively adopt superior strains and scientific farming methods, speed up the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy and take strict measures for each farming process, so as to carry out the cereals production plan without fail. The animal husbandry and fishing sectors, which are waging an all-out struggle in response to the Party’s call, should ramp up production as soon as possible and see to it that the fish farms, vegetable greenhouses and mushroom production bases built across the country pay off. Thus they can contribute to enriching the people’s diet.”

Kim has made several onsite inspections to facilities in the light industry sector including cosmetics and shoes factories to encourage improvement in quality and domestic made goods. According to Kim, “The light industry sector should put its factories and enterprises on a highly modern footing, provide them with plenty of raw and other materials to keep their production going full steam and increase the number of world-famous products and commodities with a competitive edge.”

He stressed that “All the sectors of the national economy should set ambitious goals and maintain regular production by tapping every possible internal reserve and potentiality. They should also take it as an important policy-oriented requirement to improve product quality, ensure domestic production of equipment and rely on locally available raw and other materials, and make strenuous efforts to this end.”

He also encouraged the launch of the work to establish full-scale the ‘our style of economic management method’: “The Cabinet and other state and economic organs should decisively improve their economic planning and guidance, . . . [and] they should be proactive in organizing and launching the work of establishing on a full scale our style of economic management method which embodies the Juche idea, thus giving full play to its advantages and vitality.”

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North Korea heightens promotion of domestic light industry goods

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korean media is actively promoting the superiority of its light industry products, likening Pyongyang’s department stores to product exhibition halls.

North Korea’s external propaganda site, DPRK Today, posted an article on November 26, 2015 entitled, ‘Come Visit the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1, which is Gaining Popularity for its Domestically-Produced Goods.’ According to the article, “The display stands are so full of domestic products that the department store looks like a light industry product exhibition.”

Opened in 1982 after reconstructing Pyongyang’s former Hwashin Department Store, Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 is located in Pyongyang’s Jung-guyok and is North Korea’s largest department store. With nine floors above ground and one below, it sells numerous domestic goods as well as goods produced in China and other countries. Its most popular items are female beauty products.

According to the article, North Korea’s domestic goods enjoy great popularity with the North Korean people. The Cosmos brand hairpin and Bomhyanggi and Unhasu high-end cosmetics brands (manufactured by the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory) are reportedly well-received by women. Also said to be selling well are the Choltchuk socks produced by the Pyongyang Hosiery Factory, shoes manufactured by the Ryuwon Shoes Factory, and light-weight dishes made by Kyongsong Ceramic Factory. The article goes on to boast that people who purchase domestic brands like Rungna, Bombit Bread, Taedong River Bottled Beer, Pyongyang Soju, Raengchon Cider, and Kangso Mineral Water all say, “Our things are the best.”

Between January and February 2015, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Pyongyang’s cosmetics and shoes factories, where he directly mentioned famous overseas brands and repeatedly called for the production of world-class products. In early November 2015 North Korean media released a flurry of reports boasting about the improvement in the quality of its cosmetics.

On another note, Kim Jong Un is also reportedly visiting military-affiliated fisheries and urging an increase in production. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on November 25, 2015 that Kim gave field guidance to the No. 15 Fisheries Office, which is affiliated with the 549th Unit of the Korean People’s Army and is pushing forward a “massive fish harvest.”

To encourage the workers, Kim reportedly said, “I hope the laborers and warriors of the fishery offices do as the Party intends and welcome the 7th Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party by fixing and modernizing the offices magnificently and achieving more excellent fishing results. . . . The fishery offices must build on the results this year and set magnanimous goals in order to rapidly increase the yearly fish output in a short period of time.”

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Mansudae ODG building Angkor e-museum

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Angkor-emueum-3

Pictured Above (Google Earth, 2012-10-26): An image of the Angkor E-Museum under construction in Siem Reap Cambodia

UPDATE 7 (2016-2-1): The Guardian publishes more information on the museum.

UPDATE 6 (2015-12-6): The museum opens! According to the Khmer Times:

After five years of building and delays, the $24 million Angkor Panorama Museum in Siem Reap was opened on Friday by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, cementing growing ties between the Kingdom and North Korea, especially in Siem Reap.

Mr. Sok An said the 6,000 square meter building reinforced both cultural and economic ties.

The project was signed in 2011, under which North Korea’s Mansudea Overseas Project Group will run the museum with the government under a build-operate-and-transfer operation for 10 years until it is handed over to the Apsara Authority.

In the meantime, profits will be split evenly.

“We did not sell this land. We have a joint committee and we studied the investment project on all fronts before the government approved it. We treat foreign investment equally,” said Mr. Sok An.

“We need more tourist products such as this to attract visitors to Cambodia. The museum… is another tourism attraction that features, through the painting [mural] inside the museum, how our Khmer ancestors went about their daily activities during Angkorian time,” he said at the opening ceremony attended by an estimated 1,000 people, including South and North Koreans.

The project caused concern with South Korea, fearing it could be used for propaganda in the province, which is the country’s biggest tourist attraction. The Angkor Wat temple complex was listed for protection by the UN cultural organization UNESCO in 1992.

The new museumincludes work from 63 North Korean artists.

North Korean ambassador Hong Ki Chol told the crowd: “It was well built in a picturesque place, surrounded by Angkor temples – the pride of Khmers. We are proud that this museum was built to show Cambodian culture in the prestigious era of Angkor.”

“I am confident the museum will make a positive contribution to giving a comprehensive understanding of ideas about all the Angkor temples and promote tourism,” he said.

Cambodia received 4.5 million tourists last year, a 20 percent increase on the previous year and accounting for about 16 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The Kingdom is targeting 8 million tourists by 2020.

“We want to see tourists stay longer in Cambodia,” said Mr. Sok An, who is also chairman of the Apsara Authority. ”The longer they stay, the more it benefits our people and the economy.”

UPDATE 5 (2014-6-14): The museum is still not open. According to an article in the Phnom Penh Post:

Siem Reap is home to North Korea’s first overseas museum, a $15 million tribute to Angkor set in a Khmer-style building which is not yet open to the public.

Although construction began in August 2011, the doors have still not opened and the car park has not been built.

The operations manager, who gave his name only as Kim, said the museum would open in three or four months, and blamed the delay on the unfinished car park and ticketing booth.

But sources within the South Korean community say the slow progress is due to the plan to build an information centre about the temples, which has caused a rift with the Apsara authority, which manages the complex.

UPDATE 4 (2104-1-20): It is January 2014, and the Museum still has not opened. A recent visitor, however, offers images of the museum and some details. According to the article:

The Grand Panorama Museum is a gift to cement the “glorious friendship between Korea and Cambodia”, says a young translator from Pyongyang, capital of the hermit state.

The building site is still strictly off-limits as I visit but, despite the secrecy, the man in charge relents and provides a short tour.

The museum is right next to the new ticket booths for the temple complex. The avowed aim is to take visitors back to the heyday of Khmer culture, which flourished in Angkor between the 12th and 15th centuries.

The museum’s interpretation is not so much scholarly as glitzy, with otherworldly music and coloured lights. It also showcases the North Korean style of ultra-realist painting. A huge face of the Buddha looms at the entrance.

“A true-scale copy of the stone-hewn figures at the Bayon Temple,” says the building chief. The giant painting looks remarkably like a photograph. “Exactly,” beams the official. “But it’s not a photograph – it’s Korean art.”

The big Buddha is a product of the Mansudae art factory in Pyongyang, which employs a thousand artists turning out paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolours in the “social realist” style. Abstraction is not allowed.

The panorama is viewed from a platform in the centre of a circular room. The entire wall is a single vast picture, 13 metres tall and 130 long. It depicts the many temples and everyday scenes from the 12th-century Khmer era – or at least daily life as imagined by North Korean artists.

The official word is that all the scenes were painted “following consultations with Cambodian historians”, the site supervisor is anxious to point out. The finished product is strong on battles, with lots of bloodshed.

“We have a panoramic museum like this in Pyongyang too,” says the supervisor. Is it about ancient Korean history? “No, it’s about the Americans’ war.”

The illusion of being at the centre of the Khmer empire is extended by all manner of fake walls, cannons and plastic trees between the raised platform and the panorama wall. The models carefully match the objects visible in the painted panorama.

“We will have wind and fog-making machines so that the trees will rustle,” says the young translator.

The museum also offers scale models of the sprawling temple complex and a 3D theatre where films depicting temple construction will be screened.

North Korean art is on sale in the foyer, along with cute souvenir dolls dressed in what the North Koreans say is the authentic Khmer national costume.

One huge oil painting in the shop is definitely not for sale. It depicts a snow-covered landscape in Korea’s mountains with a little hut in the foreground highlighted by a shaft of sunlight.

“That is the birthplace of our Great Leader,” the supervisor says reverently. “The picture is here on loan.” The late North Korean founding father Kim Il-sung is revered like a god.

The article offers some pictures as well:

Angkor-emuseum-1

Angkor-emuseum-2

UPDATE 3 (2013-1-8): NK News explains some of the features the museum will contain and reports that it will open in April 2013.

UPDATE 2 (2011-11-26): Accoridng to AKP (Cambodia):

Cambodia has allowed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to build a cultural information centre (or welcome centre) in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor, as part of the government’s effort to attract more tourists, according to the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers.

In a meeting on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Dr. Sok An told the North Korean Ambassador H.E. Ri In Sok that Cambodia’s Apsara Authority is working with North Korean experts to build the centre, which will serve as a welcome centre for tourists who want information about Cambodia’s Angkorian history.

Officials of the Apsara Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap are working with 60 Korean experts and concerned institutions to ensure that the building design will feature the cultural values of both Cambodia and Korea.

The building, 70 metres in diameter and 124 metres in height, will be decorated with artistic works and drawings. Korean officials say that the world’s biggest artistic drawing will be displayed at the centre.

Dr. Sok An, who is also Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, told the ambassador that the centre will represent not only the image of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea but also the good bilateral relations of the two Asian nations.

The outgoing North Korean Ambassador Ri In Sok, who is leaving Cambodia on Nov. 26 after a four-year term, told Dr. Sok An that North Korea wants unification with South Korea as soon as possible.

The ambassador was grateful to the deputy prime minister and the Royal Government of Cambodia as a whole for facilitating his diplomatic mission in Cambodia.

“I am pleased with the bilateral cooperation. I am pleased with the tremendous progress made by Cambodia over the past years,” said Ambassador Ri In Sok in the meeting.

The ambassador said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues its good relations with the Royal Government of Cambodia thanks to the diplomatic legacy of the relations between His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, now retired, and the late Kim Il-Sung, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Additional information:

1. Voice of America also picked up this story

2. NK Leadership Watch also covered the story.

3. The Mansudae Overseas Development Group (MODG) is also building/has already built an e-museum in Siem REap. Learn more here.

4. Here are previous posts on the DPRK and Cambodia.

UPDATE 1 (2011-8-3): Construction is underway on the project.  According to the Global Post:

A wall of royal blue sheet metal obscures the North Koreans’ operation from public view. When I approached the entrance, a man in a fedora and a tank top rushed over to slam the gate shut. A furtive look inside revealed fewer than a dozen scrawny workers and a scrub grass field still void of much construction.

Though local reports vary, North Korea will be paid between $10 and $17 million for some sort of monument or museum near the temples. The head of Cambodia’s culture ministry, Khem Sarith, confirmed construction of an “e-museum” but could not confirm the cost.

Nor could he explain why a country that offers its citizens scant electricity should win an “electronic museum” contract, especially after its monuments abroad have drawn both condemnation and ridicule.

The full story is well worth reading here:
North Korea propaganda unit builds monuments abroad
Global Post
Patrick Winn
2011-8-3

ORIGINAL POST (2010-4-27): According to the AFP (Via the Straits Times in Singapore):

A controlversial North Korean construction company is in talks to build an ‘e-museum’ of Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples, a senior official said on Monday.

Mansudae Overseas Projects wants to build a museum close to the temple complex that will feature a computer-generated simulation of the ancient monuments, Cambodian Culture Ministry secretary of state Khem Sarith told AFP.

‘They have plans to build an electronic museum detailing the history of Angkor Wat temples,’ he said, adding he supported the plans after discussions last week with a company delegation and North Korean ambassador Ri In Sok.

Previous work by the North Korean company building major monuments in African countries has been criticised for lack of transparency. Its 49-metre bronze Monument for the African Renaissance has caused outrage in Senegal over the sale of government land to finance the project and the president’s plan to keep 35 per cent of any profit it generates.

Mr Khem Sarith said the so-called e-museum would be ‘good for tourists to view the temples and then select the one that they want to see’. Studies and more discussion were still needed before construction could start on the digitally-rendered overview, Khem Sarith said. He said he would meet again with officials from the company in June to discuss the project further.

The 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex is Cambodia’s main tourist attraction. It is located in the northwestern province of Siem Reap, where the ancient Khmer empire built some 1,000 temples spread over 160 square kilometres.

I have pretty extensive list of Mansudae Overseas Development Group projects from across the planet.  If you are aware of a North Korean built project in your country, please let me know.

(Thanks to a reader)

Read the full story here:
‘e-museum’ of Angkor temples
AFP (Straits Times)
4/26/2010
John Cosgrove

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Kim Il-sung University newspaper calls for more company autonomy

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

According to Yonhap:

It is important to clarify the authority and roles given to the Cabinet and companies, as giving more autonomy to workers can boost labor efficiency, according to a North Korean college newspaper on Monday.

North Korea’s Cabinet mainly handles the implementation of the North’s economic policies within the state-controlled rationing system.

Companies and workers can take the initiative and show creativity when the authority and role of the Cabinet and companies are clarified, according to an article in the newspaper issued by Kim Il Sung University, a prestigious institution named after the country’s founder.

How well the economy performs depends on how extensively businesses and workers are able to play their roles, the newspaper added.

The article came amid the growth of marketplaces, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to give autonomy to companies in the North’s special economic zone to some degree, in a bid to prop up the feeble economy.

Last week, North Korea unveiled detailed plans to upgrade its special economic zone in the border city of Rason in a bid to lure foreign investment amid an economic slowdown and a series of U.N. sanctions.

The North said that profits and other proceeds generated in the zone can be repatriated outside North Korea “without restriction,” in what is seen as investment incentives to foreign investors. It also hinted at assuring autonomous operations for firms in the zone.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea needs to split roles of Cabinet, firms: newspaper
Yonhap
2015-11-23

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North Korea boasts of ‘world-class cosmetics’

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

As reports in North Korea continue to pour out boasting about the improvement in the quality of its cosmetics, it appears that Kim Jong Un’s instructions to raise the quality of cosmetics suited to the tastes of consumers have achieved some results.

On November 5, 2015, the North Korean external propaganda site ‘DPRK Today’ posted an article about the 26th National Exhibition of Consumer Products, which was held in Pyongyang from October 26-30. The website reported, “The Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory submitted more than 80 types of cosmetics and hundreds of products to the exhibition, which felt like the site of a fierce technology competition.”

‘DPRK Today’ cited products on display such as soap, beauty cream, shampoo, and conditioner. “The brands were very distinctive, and the packaging has also changed. There were also many new eye-catching products,” the website reported.

The article also referenced the cosmetic industry’s slogan, ‘World-Class Cosmetic Products—More, Better, Faster,’ and emphasized that the “goals and rate of progress of our cosmetics industry have changed. Those dreams were placed on many products displayed at the exhibit.” In order to achieve these goals, the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory as well as the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory are “constantly shortening the technology renewal cycle by modernizing the production process and better managing technological capabilities,” the website explained.

Back in May 2015, the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, reported that the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory was producing functional cosmetics with ‘natural’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ qualities. It mentioned the ‘Unhasu’ brand and stated that products such as beauty cream, lotion, and foundation had already been developed.

The newspaper also claimed that the biotechnology division of the State Academy of Sciences had used stem cells to develop cosmetics with anti-aging, moisturizing, and whitening effects.

Prior to this Kim Jong Un had visited the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in February 2015, where he issued instructions to raise the quality of cosmetics. “We need to make it so that our people prefer Unhasu products to foreign-made cosmetics, and further, so that Unhasu cosmetics become the talk of the global market,” he exhorted factory employees.

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Naenara reports on Wonsan SEZs

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Naenara carried an interview with Choe Yong Dok, Director of the Economic Zone Development of Kangwon Provincial People’s Committee.

In the interview, Director Choe commented on the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone and the Hyondong Industrial Development Zone.

I tried copying the text here, but was not successful. Here is the PDF.

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North Korean state media still not pleased with forest restoration

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

A new brief from IFES recaps the content of yet another North Korean TV broadcast detailing problems arising as the new forestry policies are being implemented:

On August 26, 2015, Korean Central Television (KCTV) aired a program entitled, Let’s Go Forward in Patriotism and Strength in the Forest Restoration Battle. The broadcast criticized several Forest Management Centers, including one in North Hwanghae Province’s Songnim. “They set up sun shades carelessly and then do not even water saplings properly. As a result saplings have become withered and yellow,” the program alleged.

The broadcast went on to a scathing critique of the tree nursery’s poor management: “The spraying equipment also does not properly work […] No more than 30% of the trees are alive […] The soil is overgrown with weeds […] One of the trees still has not sprouted.”

It also condemned the management of the Kangdong County tree nursery. “Because they do not properly conduct fertilizer management and also do not follow water guarantee measures, the saplings turn yellow and wither away. In the vegetable gardens there is so much seaweed that it is difficult to tell whether they are fields of saplings or meadows.”

“The fact that saplings can not grow properly is not due to unfavorable climate conditions but the defeatist and ‘non-owner’ work attitudes of the Forest Management Center workers and tree nursery work groups, who half-heartedly do their work and quit,” the broadcast added.

Read the full article:

IFES NK Brief

North Korean Broadcast Criticizes Forest Restoration Results

03-09-2015

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