Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

European insurers and LinkedIn nervous about the Swiss

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Over the last few years, the European Union has pursued an engagement policy with North Korea.   MEP Glyn Ford makes regular trips to Pyongyang to facilitate diplomatic progress; the German Freidrich Naumann Foundation runs economic education courses; European donors founded the Pyongyang Business School; and a small group of European ex-pat businessmen formed a de facto chamber of commerce, the European Business Association in Pyongyang.  Although European companies have experienced mixed success in the DPRK they continue to look for new opportunities

This morning, however, Felix Abt, a Swiss director of the PyongSu Pharmaceutical Joint Venture Co. in Pyongyang informs me that his life insurance policy (purchased from a European company) has been cancelled. 

“A European life insurance company cancelled my life insurance because I am a dangerous person living in a dangerous country. Credit card organisations cancel credit cards for such persons in such countries, health insurance companies come up with other reservations and limitations and the latest organisation that has just expelled me is LinkedIn with a very curious explanation.”

I am unsure how the cancellation of life insurance policies could impact other Europen investments in the DPRK, but the marginal effect cannot be positive.  Mr. Abt has been a resident of Pyongyang for years where he manufactures Western-quality pharmaceuticals.  Needless to say, the DPRK is very much in need of his services, so it is a shame that after all this time he is now considered a liability by his insurer.

Mr. Abt also forwarded his rejection from the business networking site LinkedIn, which is posted below:


Apparently LinkedIn‘s legal department considers logging into the server as “receiving goods of US origin” (the software I presume), and so it prohibits account holders, or even logging in, from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria—even if they are Swiss.


“Let’s plant more trees!”

Friday, March 6th, 2009

letsplantmoretrees.JPGAs regular Google Earth users are aware, the DPRK has experienced significant deforestation in recent decades from both private and state actors. The former have cleared land for fuel/heat and private food production. The latter have felled forests to export lumber. However, without private property rights over the lumber and corollary price signals, we have witnessed yet another “tragedy of the commons”–the over extraction of a common-pool resource. 

As can be seen in the image above, official reforestation campaigns have been launched several times.  According to Good Friends, the most recent was announced last September, shortly before the DPRK appointed a new forestry minister, Kim Kwang-yong.  According to the Yonhap article below, however, South Koreans and Europeans have been supporting reforestation projects in the DPRK for nearly ten years:

North Korean workers and students rolled up their sleeves Monday for Tree-planting Day, state-run media said, amid continuing aid from South Korea despite damaged political relations.

North Korea has a high deforestation rate, as residents have cut down trees for fuel. Deforestation is closely linked to the country’s chronic food shortages, as barren mountain slopes leave rice farms prone to severe flooding by summer monsoons, according to aid workers in Seoul.

The North Korean government has banned cutting trees and sought to make its country greener with aid from South Korea and some European governments.

“Covered with trees are mountains and fields of the country from the foot of Mount Paektu, the sacred mountain of the revolution, to the military demarcation line and from the eastern coast to the western coast,” the Korean Central News Agency said in an English-language report titled “Greening and Gardening Campaign Gets Brisk.”

“The tree-planting campaign is being briskly undertaken everywhere in the country … changing the appearance of the country beyond recognition day by day,” it said.

South Korean government and civic groups have been operating sapling fields in the North Korean cities of Kaesong and Pyongyang, as well as near the North’s scenic resort Mount Kumgang, providing seedlings, equipment and technology since 1999. The project has cost South Korea some 9 billion won (US$5.7 million), according to the Ministry of Unification.

Aid workers said the inter-Korean forestry project has continued even though Pyongyang cut off all government-level dialogue in response to Seoul’s hardline policy toward it that began last year.

Ahn Sun-kyong, an aid worker from Green One Korea, an umbrella group of over a dozen non-governmental organizations in Seoul, said it plans to build a seed preservation facility and an apple farm in Pyongyang as new projects this year.

“There may be certain limitations, but this non-governmental exchange project will continue,” Ahn said.

Hwang Jae-sung from the Korean Sharing Movement, which operates the Kaepung sapling field in Kaesong as a member of Green One Korea, said most trees are prematurely cut by residents, who also rake up fallen leaves for fuel.

“Deforestation is directly linked to the food problem,” Hwang, who last visited Kaesong in November, said. “We believe tree planting in North Korea is not only useful for preventing floods, but also can be another means of resolving the food shortages in the North.”

The aid groups say 16-18 percent of North Korean forests, or 1.5-1.6 million hectares out of the North’s 8.9 million hectares of forests, are believed to be deforested. About 80 percent of North Korea is covered by mountains.

Although the support offered by these groups is necessary to restore ecological health and productive power of the DPRK’s agricultural lands, an unfortunate consequence will likely be growing restrictions on private food production which will necessarily require the North Korean people to once again rely on the state for food distribution.

Read previous posts on forestry and environmental protection here.

Read the Yonhap story here:
N. Koreans work to make country green on Tree-planting Day: report
Kim Hyun


Doing Business with North-Korea Seminar

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Wednesday 4 March, 14:00 – 17:30
KVK The Hague, Randstadzaal
Koningskade 30, 2596 AA  Den Haag

This event is sponsored by GPI Consultancy (see previous posts here).

Speakers include:

Willem Lobbes, boardmember of the Dutch Korean Tradeclub, Director of Lobbes Insurance Consultants

Representative of the DPRK Embassy in Bern, Switzerland

Egbert Wissink, CEO of NovolinQ BV

Professor Evert Jacobsen, University of Wageningen

Kees van Galen, CEO VNC Asia Travel
Paul Tjia, Director of GPI Consultancy

The AGENDA can be found here (PDF).

The REGISTRATION FORM can be downloaded here.


North Korean party delegation visits Britain amid hopes for restart of dialogue

Friday, January 30th, 2009

By Michael Rank


Pictured above on the left: Pak Kyong Son, Vice Department Director of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee.  Pictured on the right: Glyn Ford, Member of the European Parliament.
Photo by Irina kalashnikova, [email protected]

LONDON – Britain is hosting the first ever delegation from the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) amid hopes that this will help to restart a dialogue between Pyongyang and the European Union on human rights, denuclearisation and other issues and lead to transfers of renewable energy technology to North Korea.

Labour Party member of the European Parliament (MEP) Glyn Ford, one of Europe’s top North Korea experts who has visited Pyongyang a dozen times, told NKEW that he was pressing the delegation to agree to reopen the dialogue that was broken off in 2005 after the EU sponsored a resolution at the United Nations in Geneva that was highly critical of North Korea’s human rights record.

He said it was hard to tell whether the four-member delegation would recommend reopening of the dialogue to decision-makers in Pyongyang. “It’s not the style of North Korea to make decisions on the spot,” Ford noted. He said he personally had opposed the resolution, which was supported by the US and Japan, because it was almost certain to result in suspension of the highly sensitive dialogue which had only just begun.

The four-man delegation is visiting Britain for a week and they are also going to Bristol and Cambridge. Ford accompanied the group to Bristol as this west of England city lies in his Euro-parliamentary constituency, and it is close to the possible site of a giant barrage across the river Severn which is currently being considered as a source of generating green electricity.

He said a deal on the nuclear issue and on reviving the human rights dialogue could result in the EU agreeing to provide wind, tidal and other renewable technology to North Korea, just as the EU has provided €500 million ($640 million) in humanitarian aid over the last eight years.

The delegation includes a scientist with a background in renewable energy, added Ford who has an MSc in marine earth science. He said the west coast of Korea has a tidal range of 11 metres (36 feet), which could make it highly suitable for an electricity-generating barrage. The Severn has a tidal range of 14 metres, the second highest in the world.

Tidal barrages are an attractive means of generating electricity because tides, unlike wind, are highly predictable, but the environmental cost of building a barrage over the Severn, up to 10 miles long, could be huge and there is considerable public opposition to the plan. But such factors are likely to loom less large in North Korea.

Ford said he had met three of the four-man delegation on previous visits to Pyongyang, and that he knew two of them fairly well. He is hoping to visit Pyongyang again with a European Socialist delegation at the end of March.

The group have already had a meeting with Foreign Office officials, who Ford said had presumably also pressed the North Koreans on human rights and the nuclear issue.

Apart from the North Korean visit to the UK, Britain’s Lord Alton, a veteran campaigner for human rights in North Korea, is due to visit Pyongyang early next month. Alton, a devout Catholic, is scheduled  to meet the chairman of Korean Religion Association and visit the Russian Orthodox church and the Jangchung Catholic church in Pyongyang. He will be one of the first Western visitors to the Russian Orthodox church, which opened in 2006 amid considerable official fanfare.

The WPK delegation’s visit to Britain has received little if any media attention so far. In fact hardly anyone would have known about it if the generally extraordinarily uninformative North Korean news agency KCNA had not announced on January 27 that “A delegation of the Workers’ Party of Korea led by Pak Kyong Son, vice department director of its Central Committee, left here today to visit the UK.”


Dresnok predicts McCain win

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Joseph Dresnok, the last of the DPRK’s four US defectors, sat down with Mark Seddon to give his first interview since the 2006 release of Crossing the Line.

Click on image below to see the interview on YouTube:


Pictured Above: Dresnok with Glyn Ford, EU parliamentarian and author of North Korea on the Brink

The interview was also written up in The Guardian.  Much of the material is covered in Crossing the Line, with a couple of notable exceptions:

Dresnok describes himself as a citizen of Pyongyang. “I call it my country because I have been here for 46 years. My life is here. Enough? The government will take care of me until my dying breath.” So would he like to return to the US? “I tell you, yes; I must be honest to you. I would like to see the place. But how can I go there and dance in front of the American government, when they are arming South Korea?” Dresnok knows that he would be arrested on arrival, as was Jenkins, when he returned to the west in 2004. There is no love lost between Dresnok and Jenkins, who recanted on his return just over three years ago, denounced Dresnok and was granted clemency after only 30 days in the clink. Were he ever to leave North Korea, Dresnok is unlikely to get off so lightly, having been painted as the ringleader by Jenkins. Abshier and Parrish both died in North Korea, where their families remain.

And with that Comrade Joe prepares to return to his apartment, where his wife and children are waiting. It is illegal to listen to foreign broadcasts, but as he gets up Dresnok offers his opinion on the US election: “I’m told McCain will get it.”

(Hat tip to Gag Halfrunt for the story)


Uranium enrichment verification in the DPRK

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

According to an article in the Associated Press today (reprinted in the Washington Post):

The U.S. has recently stepped back from its demand for a detailed declaration addressing North Korea’s alleged secret uranium enrichment program and nuclear cooperation with Syria; North Korea has denied those allegations. Washington now says it wants North Korea to simply acknowledge the concerns and set up a system to verify that the country does not conduct such activities in the future.

How can any uranium enrichment verification plan be implemented in the DPRK?  One solution was proposed to me by Glyn Ford, a member of the European Parliament, when I met him in Beijing last March.  His idea was this: Any uranium enrichment program would require a colossal amount of electricity delivered at a consistent voltage.  So one way the west could monitor if such a program was taking place would be to keep tabs on the North Korean power grid for suspicious spikes in activity or to build voltage fluctuations into the power supply.

Read the full article here:
US official to travel to NKorea
Associated Press (Printed in the Washington Post)
Foster Klug


Glyn Ford’s nuclear solution…

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

(Posted from Shanghai, China – I am on vacation, so this is just a quick note)

While in Beijing a few days ago, I ran into Glyn Ford giving a talk in conjunction with the release of his new book, North Korea on the Brink.

Mr. Ford was on his way to Pyongyang to pitch an idea he believes could resolve the HEU (Highly-Enriched Uranium) impasse, which is bogging down implementation of the most recent version of the Agreed Framework.

His idea is this:

Even if the North Koreans have an HEU program it would require a colossal amount of electricity delivered in a consistent fashion.  So one way the west could monitor if such a program was taking place would be to keep tabs on the North Korean power grid for suspicious activity, or to build in fluctuations to the power supply so that the machinery which does the enriching is not able to function.

If both sides can know that there is currently no HEU program underway, then maybe they can avoid the politicalty trecherous waters of determining whether such a program once existed–allowing us all to move on to the next phases of the agreement.


DPRK 2007 trade statistics from KIEP

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

The Daily NK covers the release of KIEP’s analysis of North Korea’s external trade in 2007.  I cannot find the report in English, so I have to take the Daily NK’s word for it–insert caveat here.

Here are the highlights:

  • The estimated total value of North Korea’s foreign trade decreased from US$2.996 billion 2006 to US$2.7 billion in 2007.

  • China occupies 70% of the trade volume, up from 56.7 in 2006 (a startling increase).

  • Trade with Japan fell to US$900,000, a decrease of 92% from 2006 (so it appears that some Chinese are getting rich from international trade restrictions).

  • Trade with Thailand fell 42.4% since the nuclear test.

  • Trade with the EU fell by 53.2% since the nuclear test.

To be honest I do not trust these numbers, so if someone comes across the KIEP report in English, please send it to me.

According to the Daily NK, the KIEP report is called: “Economic Prospect of North Korea in 2008” by Cho Myung Chul and Hong Ihk Pyo

The full story can be read here:
North Korea’s Economic Prospect for 2008
Daily NK
Yang Jung A


N. Korea Eager for Economic Modernization

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki

North Korea has a keen interest in economic modernization program aimed at luring foreign investment through business cooperation projects with other countries, a member of the European Parliament said Monday.

In a press conference in Seoul, Hubert Pirker, an Austrian member of the European Parliament, said the North clearly understands the fact that without economic modernization, it will not be able to attract foreign investment into the country.

Pirker and two other EU representatives _ Jas Gawronsky of Italy and Glyn Ford of Britain _ visited North Korea from Oct. 20-27 and met the North’s Prime Minister Kim Yong-il. They also held an economic forum with North Korean officials.

During the forum, North Koreans’ attitudes “were not closed or hostile,” said Pirker.

“We visited the railway station, for example, and also parks and restaurants. I could say we could see more modern-style restaurants and more cars than ever before,” the European lawmaker was quoted by Yonhap News Agency as saying.

The European lawmakers discussed ways of modernizing North Korea’s agriculture, light industry, information technology and finance sectors with officials there, Pirker said.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun expressed his wish to visit Europe next year, as Pyongyang seeks to send its young officials and industrial trainees there to learn information technology and other advanced knowledge from European nations, he said.

Pirker said the delegates had advised the North Koreans that upgrading the level of communications and finance systems in the North to global standards was essential to securing foreign investments in a stable manner.

Progress at the six-party talks aimed at scrapping Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and expanding inter-Korea economic cooperation would help the North achieve its goal of inviting foreign capital, the legislator added.

The European Union has so far sent about 50 million euros worth of aid to North Korea, he said.

The impoverished North has recently shown strong interest in the economic reform programs of other countries.

Reports said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed intentions last week copying Vietanam’s economic reform and openness policy, called “Doi Moi,” during a meeting with Nong Duc Manh, the secretary-general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, in Pyongyang.

The ongoing visit to Hanoi by the North Korean premier appears to have something to do with Kim’s remarks, they said. The reclusive leader is reportedly planning to visit Vietnam in the near future.

North Korean officials expressed firm commitment to denuclearization under the Feb. 13 nuclear deal, according to Pirker.

Under the pact signed by the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, Pyongyang pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of this year in return for economic assistance and political concessions.

North Korea has received 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea and an equal amount from China for closing five of its nuclear facilities in July. The regime is to receive an additional 900,000 tons of oil or equivalent energy aid if it goes through the second stage of denuclearization.

The EU delegates are scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and hold meetings with South Korean business leaders including Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo before leaving South Korea on Nov. 2.


EU Rejects Inter-Korean Industrial Zone

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Korea Times

The European Union shunned South Korea’s request to include goods made in an inter-Korean industrial park in North Korea in a potential free trade agreement between the two sides, Seoul’s chief negotiator said.

South Korea launched free trade talks with the 27-country economic bloc in Seoul in May, only a month after it successfully concluded similar trade talks with the United States. A second round of South Korea-EU free trade talks began in Brussels on Monday.

“The EU side told us that it’s difficult for trade negotiators to deal with the Gaeseong issue because it’s complex legally and politically,” Deputy Trade Minister Kim Han-soo told reporters on the third day of the five-day negotiations this week, referring to the South Korean-built industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong.

But the EU left open the possibility of a compromise, depending on the progress both sides will make in upcoming meetings, Kim said.

Before the second round began, Kim had expressed optimism over the Gaeseong issue.

“The Gaeseong issue is one of our top priorities. So we will keep pushing the EU to accept our request,” he said.

South Korea considers the industrial park, located just north of the world’s most heavily fortified border, to be a model for inter-Korean economic cooperation. About 15,000 North Korean workers are employed by 23 South Korean companies, producing garments, kitchenware and a number of other goods.

The industrial park is one of the prominent symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation efforts following a landmark summit in 2000 between then South Korean president Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The Gaeseong matter was one of thorniest issues during the 10 months of tough negotiations between South Korea and the U.S., but the two sides made an artful compromise, allowing them to discuss the issue later, depending on progress in international efforts to dismantle the North’s nuclear weapons program.

Kim and his European counterpart, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, director of bilateral trade relations at the European Commission, are leading the negotiations to move a deal forward between South Korea and the EU.

This week’s talks were centered on the pace of tariff reductions on automobiles. The EU asked South Korea to phase out its 8 percent tariff on auto imports within three years, instead of the seven years suggested by Seoul. according to a South Korean delegate who asked not to be named.

Other potential sticking points in the negotiations are South Korea’s protective pharmaceuticals and cosmetics markets. In addition, the EU wants better access to South Korea’s services market, particularly for law firms and hospitals, Kim said earlier.

Some progress has been reported, as the EU agreed to soften its anti-dumping rules for South Korean goods.

“So far, talks have been underway at a pace that we expected,” Kim told reporters. However, he admitted this week’s negotiations were aimed at clarifying each side’s positions, rather than bargaining.

No discussion was held on the agriculture sector. South Korea initially offered to exclude some 250 agricultural products such as rice, pork and chicken.

Officials at the EU delegation were unavailable for comment.

The EU is the second-largest trading partner of South Korea, with US$79 billion in bilateral trade in 2006. Unofficial studies suggest a deal would boost the figure by as much as 40 percent.

A third round of talks was scheduled for September in Brussels.