Archive for the ‘UN Security Council’ Category

The 2015 UNSC Panel of Experts report published

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

The report is dated February 23, 2015 and you can download the PDF here.

Andrea Berger commented on the report in this article at 38 North.

Media coverage of the report has focused on two aspects: 1. North Korea has changed the name of the ships in its commercial fleet to avoid sanctions enforcement. 2. North Korean spies managed to infiltrate the UN World Food Program and UNESCO.

Here is Reuters on the report:

Exclusive: Sanctioned North Korea shipping firm still active, renamed ships – U.N. panel

A U.N.-blacklisted North Korean shipping company has renamed most of its vessels in a bid to disguise their origin and continues its illicit shipments in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a U.N. experts report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

The U.N. Security Council’s Panel of Experts on North Korea, which monitors implementation of sanctions on Pyongyang, also said in the 76-page report that North Korea “continued to defy Security Council resolutions by persisting with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

North Korea is under United Nations sanctions because of its nuclear tests and missile launches. In addition to arms, Pyongyang is banned from importing and exporting nuclear and missile technology and is not allowed to import luxury goods.

The experts’ report also said the sanctions have not curbed food or humanitarian aid to the impoverished hermit state, but it recommended that the U.N. spell out which items for such use are exempt.

The council last July blacklisted shipping company Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM) for arranging an illegal shipment on the Chong Chon Gang ship, which was seized in Panama and found to be carrying arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, hidden under thousands of tonnes of Cuban sugar.

“Following the designation of OMM … (North) Korea acted in order to evade sanctions by changing the registration and ownership of vessels controlled by the company,” the report said.

“Thus far, 13 of the 14 vessels controlled by OMM have been renamed, their ownership transferred to other single ship owner companies (with names derived from the ship’s new names) and vessel management transferred to two main companies,” it added.

The report said OMM worked with individuals and entities based in countries such as Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.

The panel recommended that the council’s sanctions committee blacklist 34 OMM entities (shell companies), including Chongchongang Shipping Co, Amnokgang Shipping and Biryugang Shipping. It also recommended sanctioning OMM Vice President Choe Chol Ho, Chongchongang Shipping President Kim Ryong Chol and three Chongchongang directors.

It said that North Korean diplomats, officials and trade representatives played key roles in illegal weapons and missile deals. They often were involved in illegal funds transfers.

The panel also said North Korean intelligence agents aided the movement of money believed to be linked to weapons transactions.

The report said agents of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), North Korea’s main intelligence agency, had worked at international organizations and were using those positions to support activities aimed at skirting sanctions.

It cited as an example the French government’s decision to freeze assets of Kim Yong Nam, an RGB officer working under cover as an employee at UNESCO, the U.N. cultural and scientific organization in Paris, and his son and daughter. His son Kim Su Gwang, also an RGB officer, was working at the U.N. World Food Program.

The panel said Kim Young Nam’s daughter, Kim Su Gyong of the Korean United Development Bank, “was engaged in financial activities under false pretences in order to conceal the involvement of her country.”

The panel also opened its first inquiry into the use of drones. Between October 2013 and March 2014, South Korea found wreckage of three drones it determined were from North Korea and had been spying on military facilities.

The Security Council has banned the supply, sale or transfer of complete armed or surveillance drones with a range of at least 300 km (186 miles). The panel said it was unclear if the recovered drones were acquired abroad or made in North Korea.


The experts found “no incidents where bans imposed by the (U.N.) resolutions directly resulted in shortages of foodstuffs or other humanitarian aid.”

“National legislative or procedural steps taken by (U.N.) member states or private sector industry have been reported as prohibiting or delaying the passage of certain goods to (North Korea),” the report said. “It is sometimes difficult to distinguish these measures from United Nations sanctions.”

The U.N. Security Council says the sanctions are not intended to harm North Korean civilians, but there is no exemption mechanism. For that reason, the experts recommended that exemptions be proposed “provided that such items are confirmed to be solely for food, agricultural, medical or other humanitarian purposes.”

North Korea has said the sanctions are illegal and aimed at toppling the country’s reclusive government. A U.N. inquiry last year reported systematic torture, starvation and killings by the country’s leaders that are comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

In the Associated Press:

UN: North Korean company renames ships to evade sanctions

A North Korean shipping company that famously tried to hide fighter jets under a cargo of sugar later sought to evade U.N. sanctions by renaming most of its vessels, a new report says.

The effort by Pyongyang-headquartered Ocean Maritime Management Company, Ltd. is detailed in the report by a panel of experts that monitors sanctions on North Korea. The report, obtained by The Associated Press, makes clear the challenge of keeping banned arms and luxury goods from a nuclear-armed country with a history of using front companies to duck detection.

The U.N. Security Council holds consultations Thursday on the report, which also says North Korea’s government persists with its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of council resolutions.

North Korea’s mission to the U.N. did not respond to a request for comment.

The council last year imposed sanctions on OMM after Panama in 2013 seized a ship it operated that carried undeclared military equipment from Cuba. Panamanian authorities found two Cuban fighter jets, missiles and live munitions beneath the Chong Chon Gang’s cargo of sugar.

The council’s sanctions committee said that violated a U.N. arms embargo imposed in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said that imposing a global asset freeze on OMM meant that the company would no longer be able to operate internationally.

But the new report says that in the months after the sanctions were imposed, 13 of the 14 ships controlled by OMM changed their owners and managers, “effectively erasing” the company from a database kept by the International Maritime Organization. Twelve of the ships “reportedly stayed, visited or were sighted near ports in foreign countries,” and none were frozen by member states as the panel of experts recommends.

The new report explores the shipping company’s global reach, using people and entities operating in at least 10 countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Russia, Singapore and Thailand. The report recommends updating the sanctions list with 34 OMM entities and says all 14 vessels should be subject to sanctions.

No interdictions of the kind that Panama made in 2013 were reported in the period between Feb. 8 of last year and Feb. 5 of this year. But the new report warns that the panel of experts sees no evidence that North Korea “intends to cease prohibited activities.”

The report also says diplomats, officials and trade representatives of North Korea continue to “play key roles in facilitating the trade of prohibited items, including arms and related materiel and ballistic missile-related items.”

The panel of experts warns that some U.N. member states still are not implementing the council resolutions that are meant to keep North Korea from further violations.

North Korea also faces an embargo on luxury goods, but the report found that it managed to bring in luxury goods from multiple countries, including with the help of its diplomatic missions. Some items were for the country’s Masik Pass luxury ski report, which opened in 2013. China told the panel of experts that the ski lift equipment it provided was acceptable because “skiing is a popular sport for people” and that ski items are not specifically prohibited.

In another case, a yacht seen alongside leader Kim Jong Un in 2013 was sourced by the panel of experts to a British manufacturer, Princess Yachts International, which the panel said did not reply to a request for more information.

The panel also said it has opened its first investigation into a case involving North Korean drones after the wreckage of three drones was found in South Korea in late 2013 and 2014. The report says the drones had been used for reconnaissance over South Korean military facilities and that the drones contained components “sourced from at least six foreign countries.”

North Korea protests that the U.N. sanctions are harmful to its citizens, but the report says it has found no incidents where they “directly resulted in shortages of … humanitarian aid.” It does recommend that the sanctions committee propose exemptions for purely food, medical or other humanitarian needs.

Here is more in the Telegraph.


Loopholes in UN sanctions against North Korea

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

A new article in 38 North by Hugh Griffiths and Lawrence Dermody.

Here is the introduction:

The latest United Nations report on North Korean sanctions has once again highlighted the role of foreign companies in cases of UN sanctions evasion. TheMarch 2014 report by the independent Panel of Experts assigned to monitor sanctions against the DPRK on behalf of the UN noted the widespread involvement of foreign companies.

A new SIPRI study backs up the UN report and goes further, showing that foreign company involvement in North Korean sanctions violations is not new and is more than just a trend-foreign companies and individuals travelling on foreign passports constitute an overwhelming majority of those identified as involved in the violation of both multilateral and unilateral sanctions dating as far back as 2004.While the majority of companies and individuals identified as involved in sanctions violations are either registered abroad or hold foreign passports, the international community continues to overwhelmingly target companies and individuals registered in North Korea. This targeting takes the form of “designations” by which the United Nations and the European Union together with countries such as Australia, Japan and the US order asset freezes on particular companies, as well as trade bans, and slap travel bans on named individuals traveling on North Korean passports.

These dynamics–identified for the first time in the SIPRI study–may have implications for policy-makers seeking to apply new rounds of sanctions on North Korea in response to any fourth nuclear test.

Most firms designated by the UN and the EU as well as Australia, Japan and the United States are North Korean-registered trading companies while virtually no North Korean transportation companies have been designated. In conREAD MOREtrast to trading companies which have few fixed assets and can easily switch name and other forms of corporate identity, transportation companies that utilize aircraft and ships are easier to monitor and track despite name-changes. Given the key role that transportation plays in the logistics of sanctions evasion, the SIPRI study provides a number of recommendations in support of these and other findings….


New UN Panel of Experts report on DPRK released

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

You can downlod all three of their reports here.

Marcus Noland comments here.

Lots more information at the Economic Statistics Page.


UNSC Resolution 2094: Response to DPRK’s third nuclear test

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

UPDATE 6 (2013-3-11): Here is the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs response to the UNSC Resolution 2094. As you can imagine, they do not approve.

UPDATE 5 (2013-3-8): The full official resolution can be read here.  Here is the DPRK response to 2094. Here is some information on the Chinese response. Here is some more analysis/commentary from Scott Snyder in The Diplomat. Choson Ilbo reports that large North Korean bank accounts exempt from sanctions.

UPDATE 4 (2013-3-7): The resolution has passed 15-0.  Read more at the BBC, Washington Post, New York Times. Marcus Noland commentary here and here. Victor Cha hereNK Leadership Watch has more on the events in Pyongyang

UPDATE 3 (2013-3-7): Once made public, the resolution will be posted here. Steve Herman (via Adam Cathcart) tweeted a link to the draft resolution which has been uploaded to Scribed. It is dated yesterday (2013-3-6).

UPDATE 2 (2012-3-7): Here is a Press Release from the US mission to the UNSC that went out this morning on the new sanctions (Resolution 2094). Thanks to Aidan Foster-Carter.

For reasons of brevity, I have put the entire document into this PDF for download.

UPDATE 1 (2013-3-7): Yonhap offers details on the unpublished sanctions proposal put forth by the US and China:

The three North Korean arms dealers are: Yon Chong-nam, the chief representative for the Korea Mining Developing Trading Corp (KOMID); Ko Chol-chae, the deputy chief representative for the KOMID; and Mun Chong-chol, an official at Tanchon Central Bank, the resolution showed.

KOMID is described by the resolution as North Korea’s “primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons,” while the North Korean bank is the “main DPRK (North Korea) financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and goods related to the assembly and manufacturing of such weapons.”

The two North Korean entities are the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, which is responsible for research and development of the North’s advanced weapons systems, including “missiles and probably nuclear weapons,” and the Korea Complex Equipment Import Corp. linked to the North’s “military-related sales,” according to the draft.

The Security Council is set to vote on the draft resolution on Thursday in New York.

The new sanctions will also focus on the DPRKs shipping, air, and “financial” industries:

The Security Council “decides that all states shall inspect all cargo within or transiting through their territory that has originated in the DPRK, or that is destined for the DPRK,” the draft said.

It also “calls upon states to deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their territory, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft contains items” banned by previous U.N. resolutions, the document said.

It also makes it difficult for North Korea to move in and out “bulk cash,” in an effort to squeeze the North Korean elite’s access to hard currency.

The Security Council also calls on all states to “exercise enhanced vigilance over DPRK diplomatic personnel so as to prevent such individuals from contributing to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs,” it said.

The U.N.’s powerful body “expresses its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test,” the draft warned.

The DPRK’s Uranium enrichment program also gets a mention:

Apparently mindful of the North’s uranium concerns, the draft resolution includes Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program for the first time, condemning “all the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear activities, including its “uranium enrichment.”

The North claims its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy development, but outside experts believe that it would give the country a new source of fission material to make atomic bombs, in addition to its widely known plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

The DPRK, has of course, issued a response

In response to the proposed U.N. sanctions and ongoing Seoul-Washington joint military drills, the North’s military threatened to scrap the Korean War cease-fire.

Kim Yong-chol, a hard-line North Korean general suspected of involvement in a series of provocations against the South, read the statement on state TV, saying the North “will completely declare invalid” the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North also said it will cut off a military phone line at the truce village of Panmunjom.

South Korea’s military responded to the North’s bellicose threats with a verbal salvo, warning it would strike back at the North and destroy its “command leadership,” if provoked by Pyongyang.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-3-5): According to the New York Times:

The United Nations Security Council moved closer on Tuesday to expanding sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile activities. The United States and China introduced a resolution that would target North Korean bankers and overseas cash couriers, tighten inspections of suspect ship and air cargo, and subject the country’s diplomats to invasive scrutiny and increased risk of expulsion.

Passage of the measure, drafted in response to the third North Korean underground nuclear test three weeks ago, seemed all but assured, in part because China — North Korea’s major benefactor — participated in drafting the language. It would be the fourth Security Council sanctions resolution on North Korea, which has defied the previous measures with increasing belligerence. A vote was expected on Thursday.

Infuriated, North Korea vowed to scrap the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War and threatened to attack the United States with what the North Korean government news agency called an arsenal of diverse “lighter and smaller nukes.”

American officials played down the North Korean warning, which echoed bombastic admonitions that have become part of the standard fare from the North. Still, the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack seemed all the more provocative, coming two days after North Korea conveyed a message of friendship to a visiting American group that included Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star.

Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, who introduced the resolution in a closed session of the 15-member Security Council, told reporters afterward that it “builds upon, strengthens and significantly expands the scope of the strong U.N. sanctions already in place.”

For the first time, she said, the resolution would target “the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, illicit transfers of bulk cash and new travel restrictions.” In the past, North Korea has been accused of running extensive counterfeiting and illegal drug enterprises, to raise much-needed hard currency.

Ms. Rice declined to predict whether the North would respond with another nuclear test or other retaliation. “All I can tell you is that the international community is united and very firm in its opposition to North Korea’s illicit nuclear and missile programs,” she said. “And the more provocations that occur, the more isolated and impoverished, sadly, North Korea will become.”

The Americans did not publicly release the resolution text. But a Security Council diplomat familiar with the measure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the language may still be subject to revision, said it broke new ground with restrictions and prohibitions on North Korean banking transactions, new travel restrictions and increased monitoring of North Korean ship and air cargo.

The diplomat also said that the resolution added a special lubricant and valve, needed for uranium enrichment, to items that North Korea cannot import.

The resolution would also place greater scrutiny on North Korean diplomatic personnel who are suspected of carrying proscribed goods and cash under the guise of official business, exposing them to possible deportation. “We know there are diplomats out there cooking up deals and moving funds around,” the Security Council diplomat said.

Among the other provisions, the diplomat said the resolution also included new language aimed at enforcement that had been absent from the earlier resolutions. It requires, for example, that if a North Korean cargo vessel crew refuses a host country’s request for inspection, the host is under a legal obligation to deny the vessel port access.

If a cargo plane is suspected of carrying prohibited goods to or from North Korea, the resolution would urge, but not require, that it be denied permission to fly over any other country — a new provision that could affect China, which routinely permits North Korean flights over its territory.

Previous rounds of sanctions have blacklisted trading and financial firms believed to be directly involved with nuclear and missile work. The sanctions have also restricted the importation of luxury goods, an effort directed at the country’s ruling elite.

American officials said privately that the latest resolution did not go as far as they would have liked, reflecting China’s insistence that the punitive measures remain focused on discouraging North Korea’s nuclear and missile behavior and avoid actions that could destabilize the country and lead to an economic collapse.

But the text was stronger than what some North Korean experts had anticipated, particularly the measures that could slow or frustrate the country’s banking activities and extensive dependence on cash payments in its trade with other countries.

“Going after the banking system in a broad brush way is arguably the strongest thing on this list,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former State Department specialist in East Asian and Pacific affairs, and now senior director at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a Washington-based consulting company. “It does begin to eat into the ability of North Korea to finance many things.”

Mr. Revere attributed North Korea’s reaction on Tuesday to an accumulation of perceived affronts: China’s cooperation in drafting the sanctions, the annual military exercises under way between the United States and South Korea, and a hardened attitude by the South’s newly elected president, Park Geun-hye.

“This is North Korea’s way of saying, ‘We know you guys are doing several things, and here is our response,’ ” Mr. Revere said.

Here is coverage in The Guardian.

Here is coverage in the Washington Post.

Here is coverage of the DPRK’s response in CNN.

Here is my archive post on the DPRK’s third nuclear test.

Here is a statement (in Korean) by the North Korean military.

Read the full story here:
U.N. Resolution to Aim at North Korean Banks and Diplomats
New York Times
Rick Gladstone


UNSC sanctions on the DPRK

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

On January 22, 2013, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2087–new sanctions on the DPRK. Here is the press release:

The Security Council, condemning the launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 12 December 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of the sanctions imposed on it, today demanded that the country not proceed with any further such activities and expressed its “determination to take significant action” in the event it did so.

In that connection, the Council demanded, through the unanimous adoption of resolution 2087 (2013), immediate compliance by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with its obligations under resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009), including that it abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes completely, verifiably and irreversibly.

It deplored the country’s violations of the measures imposed on it in 2006, and strengthened in 2009, including the use of bulk cash to evade sanctions, and underscored its concern over the supply, sale or transfer to or from that country or through States’ territories of any item that could contribute to the activities banned by those resolutions.

The Council recalled that States may seize and dispose of items consistent with its previous resolutions, and clarified that the methods for disposal included, but were not limited to, destruction, rendering inoperable, storage or transferring to another States other than the originating or destination States for disposal.

It further clarified that the sanctions banned the transfer of any items if a State involved in the transaction has reasonable grounds to believe that a designated individual or entity, under the previous resolutions, is the originator, intended recipient or facilitator of the item’s transfer.

In a related provision, the Council called for enhanced vigilance by Member States and directed the relevant sanctions Committee to issue an Implementation Assistance Notice in the event a vessel refused to allow an inspection authorized by its Flag State or if any vessel flagged by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refused to be inspected, in line with its obligations.

Reaffirming its support for the six-party talks, the Council called for their resumption and urged all participants to intensify efforts to fully and expeditiously implement the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement issued by China.

The meeting was called to order at 3:08 p.m. and adjourned at 3:10 p.m.

You can see the full resolution here (PDF).

Here is the response from the US State Department:

Designation Of DPRK Entities Pursuant To Executive Order 13382 In Response To UN Security Council Resolution 2087

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 24, 2013

The United States welcomes the UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption on January 22 of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2087, condemning North Korea’s launch of December 12, 2012, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874. Once again, the international community has sent a clear, united signal that North Korean provocations that undermine international security and the global nonproliferation regime, like the December 2012 launch, will not be tolerated.

To implement our obligations pursuant to UNSCR 2087 and to impede the DPRK’s illicit WMD and ballistic missile programs, the Departments of State and the Treasury on January 24, 2013, designated several entities and individuals directly tied to North Korea’s proliferation activities. The Department of State designated one entity and two individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters. These include the Korean Committee for Space Technology (KCST), KCST senior official Paek Chang-Ho, and General Manager of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station Chang Myong-Chin.

Information on the Department of the Treasury’s concurrent actions may be viewed at:

The Korean Committee for Space Technology orchestrated the launches of the Taepo-Dong 2 via the satellite control center and Sohae launch area. The technology used to launch a satellite is virtually identical to and interchangeable with that used in an intercontinental ballistic missile. KCST has contributed directly to the DPRK’s long-range ballistic missile development efforts.

Paek Chang-Ho is a senior official and head of the satellite control center of KCST.

Chang Myong-Chin is the head of the launch center at which the launches took place.

These actions aim to disrupt North Korea’s continued WMD proliferation and procurement efforts that are in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea will continue to face isolation if it refuses to take concrete steps to address the concerns of the international community over its nuclear and missile programs.

More: Marcus Noland’s comments hereSlate.

UPDATE (2013-1-28): According to Yonhap, the DPRK regime is using the sanctions to unite public opinion behind leadership:

North Korea is using U.N. sanctions to unify public opinion behind the leadership and strengthen allegiance to the state, observers said Monday.

Observers in Seoul said Pyongyang places the utmost importance on the solidarity of the people whether it is in the pursuit of its “songun” or military-first politics or to build up the economy. They said recent media reports of foreign threats and the need to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the country is a move in this direction.
Incumbent leader Kim Jong-un has emphasized the importance of economic growth, while his late father placed greater emphasis on the military. North Korea’s current leader took power after the sudden death of Kim Jong-in in late 2011.

“The sudden flood of articles and stories highlighting external threats can be construed as a sign that Pyongyang wants to prop up Kim Jong-un’s weak public support base as well as the overall leadership,” a North Korean watcher said.

Others said that a spike in media reports calling on the people to defend North Korea’s independence may be a tell-tale sign that Kim Jong-un’s hold on power may not be strong as some predicted.

Reflecting these views, media outlets such as the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Radio Pyongyang and Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), all claimed that the people are reacting strongly to calls by the powerful National Defense Commission last Thursday. The commission said future nuclear and rocket tests will have the United States in mind.

Rodong Sinmun said in an article in its Monday edition that the U.N. sanctions have fueled the firm conviction and will of the armed forces and the general public to defend the country.

The newspaper said that the all-out confrontation that can occur is a holy nationalist war.

Similar views were expressed by Radio Pyongyang on Sunday, which pointed out that the only way to deal with the United States and other outside hostile forces is to follow the military first policy.

KCNA said Saturday that foreign forces have hindered efforts to divert more attention to economic development and warned that as long as adversaries try to weaken the country, Pyongyang has no choice but to focus on the military.

The media reports come as the North’s foreign ministry, the defense commission and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland all issued statements last week denouncing the U.N. sanctions and emphasizing the country’s resolve to build up its capability to defend itself.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials have warned the North not to detonate another nuclear device. If they do detonate a nuclear device, it will be difficult to engage in inter-Korean dialogue and economic exchange, they said.

Seoul military and diplomatic sources have speculated that the communist country can conduct a nuclear test if the leadership gives its approval. Pyongyang detonated two nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, in the face of international condemnation.


On DPRK efforts to join UN carbon market

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

UPDATE 13 (2014-11-28): The Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.4 has been completed. According to KCNA:

New Power Station Goes Operational

Kumchon, November 27 (KCNA) — Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 went operational.

President Kim Il Sung indicated the orientation of building the power stations on the Ryesong River. Leader Kim Jong Il visited the construction sites several times, setting forth tasks and ways for the construction and bestowing loving care and benevolence on the builders.

Marshal Kim Jong Un appreciated the achievements of the people in North Hwanghae Province when he visited Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 1. He not only took measures for finishing the construction of Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 2 by the concerted efforts of the army and people but also led the construction of Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4.

The completion of Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 is another success in implementing the behests of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il to settle the acute shortage of electricity in the North Hwanghae Province by building power stations on the Ryesong River. It also helped lay a more solid foundation for developing economy and improving the living standard of the people in the province.

The completion ceremony took place on Thursday.

Present at the ceremony were Tong Jong Ho, minister of Construction and Building-Materials Industry, Pak Thae Dok, chief secretary of the North Hwanghae Provincial Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and others.

Here is KCTV footage (7:21). Here is UNFCCC data.

UPDATE 12 (2012-12-13): Robert Winstanley-Chesters has some additional data here.

UPDATE 11 (2012-11-25): The DPRK has registered four more power plants with the UNFCCC CDM project.

1. Paekdusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2 (백두산선군청년2호발전소)
Registered July 13, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The approximate location of the Paekdusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

Total installed capacity of the project will be 14 MW, consisting of two sets of 7 MW hydropower turbines and associated generators.

According to the UN documents, the project is expected to be put into operation on January 1, 2014.

The organizations listed on the document are the Namgang Hydropower Construction Complex and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic)

2. Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 (례성강청년4호발전소)
Registered July 20, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The approximate location of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The installed capacity of the project is 10 MW, which consists of 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW each. The project will generate the electricity energy of 40,030 MWh and supply 38,640 MWh to the WPG in a year.

According to the UN documents, the project is expected to be put into operation on December 1, 2012. This facility was last featured on the DPRK evening news on 2012-11-8. See the footage here.

The organizations listed on the document are the Kumchon Electric Power Company  and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

3. Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 5 (례성강청년5호발전소)
Registered August 22, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction work on the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 5.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The installed capacity of the project is 10 MW, which consists of 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW each. The project will generate electric energy of 41,150 MWh and supply 40,616 MWh.

Organizations listed in the document include the Kangdong Hydro Power Construction Company and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

According to the documents, the project is planned to be put into operation on May 1, 2012. The most recent Google Earth satellite imagery is dated Spetember 5, 2011 and the last time the project was featured on North Korean television was November 5, 2011. I am skeptical that the project was finished on time since the opening of the dam has yet to be announced publicly.

4. Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3 (례성강청년3호발전소)
Registered October 23, 2012


Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction work on the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The project with an installed capacity of 10 MW, 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW
respectively. The project will generate the electricity energy of 42,800 MWh and supply the electricity of 41,310

Organizations listed in the document include the Tosan Electric Power Company and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

Though the plant is supposed to go into operation on July 1, 2012, the most recent Google Earth imagery from 2012-11-8 shows the plan remains uncompleted. The last time the plant was featured on North Korean television was 2011-6-25.

UPDATE 10 (2012-10-23): The DPRK has registered its second CDM project: Kumya Hydro Power Plant. (AKA Kumyagang Power Station No. 2, 금야강2호발전소)

Here is the official UN web page containing all of the technical information.

Here is a Google Earth satellite image featuring the dam and power station (39.552132°, 127.156062°):


The Hanns Seidel Foundation (Facebook page here) visited the site and took this photo:

KCTV footage dated 2014-9-16 shows a completed Kumya Hydro Power Plant (AKA Kumyagang Power Station No. 2). See the footage here.

UPDATE 9 (2012-8-16): The DPRK’s first CDM project registered: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1 (AKA Hamhung Youth Power Station No. 1)


Pictured above (date unknown): On Bing Maps (coordinates: 39.648086°, 127.269219°) we can see construction is underway

A valued reader notified me this morning that the DPRK’s first CDM project was registered in July: The Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No.1.

You can read more about the project on the UN web page here. As I understand it, the CER (the emissions rights) from the plant do not go directly to North Korea but to a Czech company who co-registered the project. It will become operational on January 1, 2013.

UPDATE 8 (2012-6-5): In addition to the seven power plants submitted for approval below, the DPRK is involved in several other “Programmes of Activities (POAs)“. You can see all the POAs by clicking here and selecting DPRK as “Host Country”.

Here is a summary:

1. Methane Utilization and Destruction Programme from Animal Waste Management System (AWMS) in DPR Korea

2. Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme from Industrial Wastewater in DPR Korea

3. CarbonSoft Open Source PoA, LED Lighting Distribution: Emerging Markets

4. Coal Mine Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme in DPR Korea

5. International water purification programme

6. CFL Lighting Scheme in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

UPDATE 7 (2012-6-2): The creator of Nord Korea Info passed along the following information on the DPRK’s CDM projects:

1. Naenara, one of the DPRK’s official news outlets, has posted numerous CDM documents. You can see them here.

2. Information posted to the UNFCC web page on specific CDM projects:

A. Kumya Hydropower Plant (AKA Kumyagang Power Staiton No. 2)
B. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.3 (Comments) (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 3)
C. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.4 (Comments) (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 4)
D. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.5 (Comments) (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 5)
E. Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2 (AKA Paektusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2)
F. Wonsankunmin Hydropower Project No.1 (Comments) (AKA Wonsan Army People Power Station No. 1)
G. Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1 (AKA Hamhung Youth Power Station No. 1)

No new information is available on the Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2 (AKA Hamhung Youth Power Station No. 2). So I am unsure what has happened to it.

UPDATE 6 (2012-5-31): Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the DPRK’s efforts to sell carbon credits:

[U]nder the terms of the [Kyoto] protocol, North Korea, as a developing country and a member of the United Nations, has the right to build clean energy projects that may apply for Certified Emission Reductions, or CERs, popularly known as carbon credits. The North Koreans can then sell them to a rich country or company that needs the credits to offset its own greenhouse gases. Dig into data from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, and you will find seven North Korean projects registered for carbon trading.

This is where Miroslav Blazek comes in. Blazek, director of Czech company Topic Energo, acts as a link between North Korea and potential carbon credit buyers. He says his experience as manager of a tractor factory in socialist-era Czechoslovakia is invaluable for doing business with the communist North Koreans. “I can work with them because I understand how their system works,” he says. “If I send an e-mail and still don’t have a reply in several days, I know it’s not because they didn’t see it but because it had to work its way through the chain of command. For me it’s like a trip down memory lane.”

North Korea is now building seven hydroelecrtric plants, which provide some of the cleanest energy going. Most can earn tradable carbon credits. Blazek says the North Koreans “jumped” at the opportunity to get into carbon trading: “They immediately grasped that this is a way to make money.” Korea’s seven dams may generate as many as 241,000 CERs a year, worth almost €1 million ($1.3 million). “The projects are already in a relatively advanced phase,” says Ondrej Bores, director of carbon advisory services at Virtuse Energy in Prague, who’s worked with Blazek on other deals.

Still, selling anything made in North Korea has its challenges. More than 30 potential buyers pulled out because of the U.S. embargo on trade with North Korea. Blazek finally struck a deal with a Chinese-controlled conglomerate that needs credits to offset emissions from facilities in Europe. He won’t name the company, citing a confidentiality clause.

The Prague Post also reported on this story.

UPDATE 5 (2012-2-14): I have been notified that the certification program is proceeding. From a reader:

There has been a statement by the 1718 committee (on sanctions) that CDM projects in NK do not violate UN rules.

[Seven] hydropower plants did get their validation and underwent a process of “clarifications and corrections” as foreseen by UN rules. After the final report (which might have been already issued or might be issued soon) they will go for final vote to the UNFCCC.

Currently, North Korea works on projects as diverse as methane gas from coal mines, bio-gas and electricity-saving light bulbs.

UPDATE 4 (2011-7-11): I just checked the UNFCC web page, and it appears that in addition to the hydro power plants mentioned below, the North Koreans also submitted the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in Pyongyang Textile Factory” [sic] for carbon offsets on May 23, 2011. According to the UNFCC web page, the project is in the portfolio of the Carbon-Trade Division, GBCIO, Ministry of Foreign Trade.

UPDATE 3 (2011-7-11): DPRK begins construction of Ryesonggang Power Stations 3 and 4

On June 25th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3 (례성강청년3호발전소). I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

On June 28th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 (례성강청년4호발전소). I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

UPDATE 2 (2011-3-11): The DPRK has apparently registered eight power plants with the UNFCCC. According to Reuters:

North Korea has registered eight hydroelectric plants with the United Nations, and if approved, could allow the world’s most reclusive state to sell carbon offsets to earn precious hard currency.

These hydropower projects were registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for prior consideration in getting carbon credits, some of which have a capacity of 20 megawatts, the UNFCCC website showed.

Prior consideration is the first step for accreditation toward the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism that allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions from clean-energy projects.

Bernhard Seliger, a messenger for North Korean officials on these projects, said the United Nations uploaded the information on Thursday after he submitted related forms on behalf of the North Korean government’s carbon trade division in late February.

“I have no idea when the U.N. makes a decision… North Korea has to finish the power plants, which up to now are only half-finished dams,” Seliger, Hanns Seidel Foundation’s representative in South Korea, told Reuters via email.

Analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, concerned the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

According to the UNFCCC web page (select Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the “Host Party” box), these are the eight power stations that have been submitted for consideration:

Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1 (AKA Hamhung Youth Power Station No. 1)
Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2 (AKA Hamhung Youth Power Station No. 2)
Kumya Hydropower Plant (AKA Kumyagang Power Station No. 2)
Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2 (AKA Paektusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2)
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 3 (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 3)
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 4 (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 4)
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 5 (AKA Ryesonggang Youth Power Station N. 5)
Wonsangunmin 20MW Hydropower Project No. 1 (AKA Wonsan Army People Power Station No. 1)

And according to an email from the UNFCCC:

This list contains all the projects which have already started and for which a notification of CDM prior consideration has been submitted. This notification is necessary to prove that the incentive of the CDM was a decisive factor for taking up the project when a project has started before a project design document (PDD) has been published for global stakeholder consultation or a new methodology in connection with the project has been submitted. However, kindly note that these projects have not yet entered the CDM project cycle as lined out in the CDM rules, requirements and procedures, and to submission for registration has yet been made.

Further details on the CDM project cycle are available here:

UPDATE 1 (2011-3-8): According to the Guardian:

North Korea hopes to earn much-needed hard currency by selling UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro-power projects, as the country faces sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

If approved and registered by the UN, these would be the first projects for North Korea under a scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions reductions from clean-energy projects.

Some analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, with fears the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

The government has asked the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, which focuses on humanitarian issues, to act as a go-between by working with UN-approved verification agency TUV Nord.

According to Bernhard Seliger, the foundation’s representative in South Korea, North Korea is initially looking at trying to get approval for three hydro power plants of 7-8 megawatts (MW).

Seliger visited the three hydro-plant construction sites in the north-east corner of the country in January.

In a statement, TUV Nord confirmed the foundation had engaged their services.

“In this respect, TUV Nord intends to verify hydropower dams in North Korea once pre-registered with United Nations framework conventions on climate change [UNFCCC] via the Beijing branch of its Chinese subsidiary TUV Nord Guangzhou,” it said.

If registered, the plants could yield millions of euros over several years.

Beijing-based lawyer Tom Luckock, who specialises in projects that curb greenhouse gas emissions, estimated that an 8 MW hydro plant could yield about 23,000 UN offsets a year.

The offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), are generated from registered CDM projects, such as wind farms, that are rewarded for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The offsets currently trade at nearly €12 (£10) each and are bought by governments in rich nations that need to meet UN emissions reduction targets.

Europe is the biggest buyer, with large polluting firms allowed to buy the offsets to meet a portion of their emissions reduction targets under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.

“Finding ways to secure foreign currency is the priority for North Korea, which is linked to everything from food to raw material imports to boost reduced productivity,” said Cho Myung-chul, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

Seliger said North Korea, which signed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact in 2005, was also interested in biomass power generation projects under the CDM.

The UN-approved national agency that assesses and approves CDM projects in North Korea was not available for comment.

Questions remained on demand for North Korean CERs.

“Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons programme?” said Choi Soo-young, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Cho said the UN needed to prevent outside cash going into its nuclear development activities, while Luckock, of global law firm Norton Rose, said: “Their limited access to hard currency has to be a concern for buyers – the damages clauses will carry limited weight without some security there.”

Another challenge is that North Korea would have to make public its energy consumption and generation data and disclose information on the amount of energy linked to the hydro project.

“Annual inspection, constant measurement and energy flow posting on the [UNFCCC] website – all these things are new for North Korea,” Seliger said.

According to the AFP:

“We are talking about eight power plants, with the smallest size about 7.5 megawatts. These are not big projects but small or medium-sized projects,” Bernhard Seliger told AFP.

None has yet been completed, he said.

“I saw some (construction) sites in South Hamkyong province but that’s not all. There are other plants in other regions,” Seliger said, adding that some of the projects are led by the UN Development Programme.

The Hanns Seidel Foundation has been working since 2003 to build the North’s development capacity, and in 2008 organised a seminar on carbon trading for Pyongyang officials at their request.

The tradeable credits, called Certified Emissions Reductions, are awarded for approved clean-energy projects such as hydropower plants or wind farms.

Big polluters elsewhere in the world can buy them as part of their efforts to cut emissions.

Seliger said his foundation is helping the North to prepare for the auditing process required to join the UN carbon credit trading system known as the Clean Development Mechanism.

“One good thing about this project is that it is very transparent, involving monitoring and auditing on an annual basis… I think it is very good for North Korea to participate in such an international regime,” said Seliger.

An official at a South Korean state agency, the Korea Energy Management Corp, said registration would take at least a year or two and it was unclear how much the North would be able to earn if approved.

The official, who declined to be identified, said a typical eight-megawatt hydropower plant could yield about 19,500 carbon credits each year, each of which was currently traded at 12 euros in global markets.

This would amount to around $327,000 a year.

But some buyers may shun the communist state, given its history of nuclear and missile development which has led to international sanctions.

“Government buyers will certainly shy away from dealing with the North,” said Koo Jung-Han, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance.

“But private companies have few reasons not to buy credits from the North as long as it can offer a competitively low price. However, the big question is whether the North will be able to build the plants without outside financiers.”

Koo said that countries hoping to buy carbon credits from upcoming overseas projects often encourage investment in the ventures by their own finance companies.

“But what kind of financial companies will take a plunge in projects in such a volatile, politically risky country like North Korea?”

The North suffers persistent power shortages even in the showpiece capital Pyongyang.

Many rural areas receive power only during key agricultural seasons, and must rely for the rest of the year on alternative fuels, according to a recent policy paper published by the Nautilus Institute think-tank.

Here are the web pages for the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Program.

A reader writes in with the following comments:

I would like to share some comments on the potential CDM projects in north Korea as i have been working on this field for many years now.

Concerning existing hydro-power plants:
To be eligible as a CDM project, one of the first criteria is the additionality of the project. You have to prove (the rules are very strict) that the project would not have been launched without the consideration of the revenues from the reselling of the CERs. So the dams that have already been buit are not eligible.

Concerning hydro-power plants that are being implemented:
The first step of a CDM project is to notify to the UNFCCC secretariat and to Designated National Authority (in this case the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Committee of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Environment) that you are seeking to establish your project as a CDM project. Up to now, no such notification has been received by UNFCCC so it would be quite difficult for projects being implemented to ask for the CDM status (I mean nearly impossible).

Some facts concerning future hydro-power projects:
From the day you send the notification that you are seeking the CDM status to the day you are actually given the status, it takes in average 2 to 3 years (they would have to build the plants during this period). Then it can be at least another year before you receive the CERs. The price of 12 euro for a CER is for secondary market. The price for primary CER (directly sold by the producer) would be much less than 8 euro.

The figure of 20 000 CERs/year is completely unpredictable for the moment, here is a simplification of the calculation: One CER is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent that would be avoided by producing clean electricity. For example when you produce 1 MW electricity from coal, the process releases X tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but when you produce 1 MW from a hydropower plant, you do not release CO2. In order to calculate what the CDM project would be able to claim, we would have to know the CO2 emission factor of the North Korean grid and then multiply it by the amount of MWh produced by the CDM project. If most of the electricity produced these days in North Korea already comes from hydro-power plants, then the national emission factor will be low and the CDM project will not avoid a lot of CO2 emission (and so not earn a lot of €) Without the capacity of the future project and the national emission factor, it is impossible to estimate the amount of CERs the project could generate.

The CDM status seems quiet unrealistic to obtain for North Korean projects but other international agreements are discussed these days and their outcome may be more adapted.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-1-31): According to Radio Free Asia:

Nuclear-armed but cash-starved North Korea has expressed interest in joining the world carbon market in an apparent bid to earn precious hard currency and avoid international sanctions, an expert told RFA.

But the secretive Kim Jong Il regime has to disclose critical information, such as energy consumption data as well as methods by which it derives energy, to be eligible for funding under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said the North Korea expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The CDM is aimed at encouraging companies or organizations in the developed world to invest in carbon dioxide emissions-saving projects in developing countries.

In return for funding and technology transfer, investors receive carbon credits, which can then either be traded on carbon markets or used to reduce their own emissions tally if they are subject to a domestic cap.

The Kyoto Protocol set emission caps for 38 countries through 2012, establishing the CDM as a worldwide carbon market. It is a cornerstone of the group’s efforts to tackle global warming.

The North Korea expert told RFA on Jan. 13 that Pyongyang intended to apply for funding via the CDM and that the regime might list its proposed hydro-electricity power projects under the U.N. mechanism.

UN refrains from comment

When contacted on the North Korea move, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the secretariat charged with implementing the global environmental treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, said it would refrain from commenting on individual country projects.

The North Korea expert estimated that one ton of carbon dioxide would trade for about U.S. $26 dollars and if a hydro-electric power project was registered under the CDM, depending on the carbon credit bid price, about U.S. $1 million dollars could be earned annually.

A hydro project registered under the CDM would need to be evaluated by U.N. inspectors for it to qualify for carbon credits. Usually, it would be evaluated continuously for about 14 years.

Details, including the amount of energy linked to the hydro project and potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, would have to be submitted.

North Korea has been mostly reluctant to share information about its energy generation activities.

According to the expert, North Korea has recently displayed “great interest” in the possibility of operating hydro-electric power stations to alleviate its domestic energy shortages and to acquire “carbon credits” that it could, in turn, sell on the international carbon market.

Hard currency

As North Korea’s economic crisis worsens, Pyongyang is seeking ways to earn hard currency following a failed currency reform and due to sanctions imposed by the international community over its nuclear and missile developments and provocations targeting South Korea.

The interest in the CDM is likely to be part of this search.

The North Korea expert also said that earning hard currency through “carbon credits” would not be subject to sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under UN Security Council resolutions, and that any North Korea’s application for participation under the CDM “may stand a chance.”

“For North Korea, this could be an opportunity to earn hard currency without engaging in illegal armament sales, while operating an electric power station in transparent fashion, and accepting strict monitoring by the UN, and abiding by applicable international standards.”

The United States has been pressing China to use its influence to persuade North Korea regime to end recent provocations and return to disarmament talks involving the three countries and South Korea, Russia and Japan.

The six-party nuclear talks were last held in 2008. The impoverished North has been seeking a restart to the nuclear negotiations, which propose to reward its gradual nuclear disarmament with phased infusions of economic aid.

In a bid to renew dialogue and ease chances of conflict, South Korea recently proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to prepare for high-level defense talks. On Friday, the North suggested parliamentary talks between the two sides.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Eyes Carbon Market
Radio Free Asia


DPRK luxury imports 2011

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Pictured above in Wonsan: Possibly a new yacht (see more here)

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The North Korean regime has spent US$1.04 billion since 2008 importing luxury goods in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions.

According to data Grand National Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun obtained from the Foreign Ministry and other government agencies, the regime imported luxury goods worth $272.14 million in 2008, $322.53 million in 2009, and $446.17 million in 2010.

TVs, digital cameras, and video recorders made up the largest proportion, jumping from $115.47 million in 2008 to $215.95 million in 2010.

Luxury cars and parts came second and movie equipment such as film cameras and projectors third.

UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 ban exports of luxury goods and weapons of mass destruction to the North.

The amount the regime spent buying luxury goods was about 10 times the total humanitarian aid of $107.29 million it received from South Korea and the international community over the same period.

Read the full story here.

Additional information:
1. Back in July, there were several estimates of DPRK luxury goods imports based on Chinese data.

2. The DPRK maintains appx 200-300 foreign trade companies.

3. Office 38 is reportedly responsible for engaging in trade deals.

4. On the life of an overseas North Korean trade agent.

5. Here is an American Hummer parked at the Yangakdo Hotel.


DPRK’s import of luxury goods and estimated trade data

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

UPDATE 2 (2011-7-20): The Daily NK offers some more statistics:

It has been confirmed the North Korean authorities were concentrating on importing luxury items for privileged people, while international humanitarian organizations were worrying about North Korea’s chronic food shortage and the damage to the vulnerable classes.

According to statistics from the South Korean government and Chinese customs, from January to May this year, the cost of food import is only about 4% out of the total amount of imports, which translates to about 46 million dollars out of 1.148 billion dollars.

The total amount of trade with China was doubled as compared with the corresponding period from last year: exports were increased by 217% and imports by 58%. The export amount is 812 million dollars while the import is 1.148 billion dollars.

In comparison, around 10 million dollars were used to purchase high quality liquor, cigarettes and others for privileged classes. The amount of cigarette imports, such as Marlboro, Mild Seven and others, is 7.5 million dollars. 2.4 million dollars were used to buy Cognac or whisky like Chivas Regal, Hennessy X.O. and other kinds of alcohol.

The amount of alcohol imported was increased by 94 % compared to the same period of last year.

It was reported that other items, such as international designer brands clothes, watches, and other items and electronic goods from SONY and Samsung were also imported.

It also showed that North Korean authorities sold wheat it had received from the international community to other countries. 200,000 tons of phosphate rock, which is materials for fertilizer, provided by Middle Eastern countries for free in 2010, were sold to some countries in Europe.

In addition, since South Korean markets have been blocked due to May 24 Measures, North Korea tried to download agricultural products, which are disguised as Chinese products, onto South Korean vessels in international waters by secretly working with Chinese traders. The South Korean government reported that there were four cases last year and 11 cases so far this year.

So apparently everyone has seen the data source but me.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-22): The Los Angeles Times picked up on the report and offered a few more details:

North Korea’s importing of luxury goods from China nearly doubled in the first five months of this year, compared with the same time period for 2010, according to a report by Beijing customs officials obtained by the South Korean Unification Ministry.

The communist regime spent $46 million on imported corn, rice and other food staples, but it also spent $10 million on luxury items from January through May of this year. Imported through China, the items reportedly include Marlboro cigarettes, Hennessy cognac, whiskey and Japanese beer, South Korean officials said this week, quoting the Chinese customs report.

The imports included about $500,000 worth of high-grade beef, apparently for luxury meals, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Il uses to maintain the support of the power elite, Seoul officials said.

This year, the regime again requested food aid, citing reduced crop yields. Though the European Union plans to send $14.5 million in food aid, the United States and South Korea have been reticent to supply such aid.

Some scholars believe that North Korea has exaggerated its need for food, alleging that the aid is turned over to the military or stored for future use, such as a planned celebration next year to mark the anniversary of the regime.

“I do not believe these claims about mass starvation,” said Andrei N. Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and the author of several books on North Korean history and politics.

He called the move by Pyongyang “a deliberate campaign to get free food, which will then be distributed to the privileged groups as government gifts. This will allow them to increase their legitimacy and win some popular support at the expense of the Western and South Korean taxpayers.”

I still have not seen the original Chinese source.  If anyone has it, please send it my way.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-7-20): Yonhap cites an unnamed South Korean government official (anyone want to take credit for these statistics?) who claims that the DPRK is skirting UN sanctions and obtaining luxury goods.  According to the article:

Despite years of food shortages, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has engaged in the gift politics of showering his top aides and other elites with luxury goods to win their loyalty.

Some ruling elites also enjoyed McDonald’s hamburgers delivered from China via Air Koryo, North Korea’s flagship airline, the official said, without elaborating.

The North also spent about US$7.5 million in buying cigarettes such as Marlboro and Mild Seven in the first five months, a rise of 117 percent compared to the same period last year, according to figures by South Korea and China. It also showed that the North imported $2.4 million worth of Hennessy Cognac, whiskey and Japanese beer, up 94 percent compared to the same period last year.

The trade volume between North Korea and China stood at US$1.96 billion in the first five months, twice as much as in the same period last year, according to Lee.

Since the article does not name a source or provide any way to track down the numbers, take them with a grain of salt.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea imports luxury goods for ruling elites despite food shortages


M/V Light returns to DPRK

Monday, June 13th, 2011

According to the New York Times:

The United States Navy intercepted a North Korean ship it suspected of carrying missile technology to Myanmar two weeks ago and, after a standoff at sea and several days of diplomatic pressure from Washington and Asia nations, forced the vessel to return home, according to several senior American officials.

Washington made no announcement about the operation, which paralleled a similar, far more public confrontation with North Korea two years ago. But in response to questions about what appears to be a growing trade in missiles and missile parts between North Korea and Myanmar — two of the world’s most isolated governments — American officials have described the episode as an example of how they can use a combination of naval power and diplomatic pressure to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed after the North’s last nuclear test, in 2009.

It was a rare victory: a similar shipment of suspected missile parts made it to Myanmar last year before American officials could act. Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to squeeze North Korea with both economic and trade sanctions, there are continuing reports of sophisticated missile technology exchanges, some of it by air, between North Korea and Iran, among other nations.

North Korea, aware that shipments leaving the country are under increased scrutiny, has found a profitable trading partner in the authoritarian government in Myanmar.

The extent of that trade is unclear to American intelligence agencies. Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly expressed suspicions that Myanmar was attempting to purchase nuclear weapons technology, but it recently said it was too poor to use such technology. And the evidence has been scant at best. (In 2009, India inspected a North Korean ship that was believed to be carrying equipment for a nuclear reactor to Myanmar, but quickly discovered that its contents were legal.)

The most recent episode began after American officials tracked a North Korean cargo ship, the M/V Light, that was believed to have been involved in previous illegal shipments. Suspecting that it was carrying missile components, they dispatched a Navy vessel, the destroyer McCampbell, to track it.

“This case had an interesting wrinkle: the ship was North Korean, but it was flagged in Belize,” one American official said, meaning it was registered in that Central American nation, perhaps to throw off investigators.

But Belize is a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort begun by President George W. Bush’s administration to sign up countries around the world to interdict suspected unconventional weapons. It is an effort that, like the military and C.I.A. drone programs, Mr. Obama has adopted, and one of the rare areas where he has praised his predecessor.

According to American officials, the authorities in Belize gave permission to the United States to inspect the ship.

On May 26, somewhere south of Shanghai, the McCampbell caught up with the cargo ship and hailed it, asking to board the vessel under the authority given by Belize. Four times, the North Koreans refused.

As in the 2009 case, which involved the North Korean vessel the Kong Nam 1, the White House was unwilling to forcibly board the ship in international waters, fearing a possible firefight and, in the words of one official, a spark “that could ignite the Korean peninsula.” Moreover, the Americans did not have definitive proof of what was in the containers — and a mistake would have been embarrassing.

“There is always a chance that the North is setting us up for a raid that they know will find nothing,” one official said. “So we want to make sure we don’t fall into a trap.”

By happenstance, a group of senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — including a representative from Myanmar — was in Washington while the slow-speed chase was occurring 8,000 miles away. On May 27, when the group visited the Old Executive Office Building opposite the White House, Gary Samore, the president’s top nuclear adviser, addressed the officials, urging Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to fully join the nonproliferation effort.

He then surprised the Asian officials by telling them he had a “sensitive subject” to raise, and described the American suspicions, providing the group with a picture of the ship on its way to Myanmar. He reminded them that under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, which was passed in response to the North Korean nuclear test in 2009, its vessels are to be inspected if “reasonable grounds” exist to suspect that weapons are being exported.

“The Burmese official in the room protested that we were making accusations,” said one American official familiar with the exchange. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has denied stockpiling missiles or buying parts from North Korea. It repeated those denials during recent visits to the country by a midlevel State Department official and by Senator John McCain.

American officials dismiss those denials, pointing to years of evidence of missile-related purchases during both the Bush and Obama administrations. But they concede they are mystified about Myanmar’s motives. The missiles that they believed were aboard the M/V Light have a range of about 350 miles, meaning they could hit parts of India, China, Thailand or Laos — all unlikely targets.

The message apparently got across. A few days later, long before approaching Myanmar, the cargo ship stopped dead in the water. Then it turned back to its home port, tracked by American surveillance planes and satellites, and suffering engine trouble along the way.

And according to the Wall Street Journal:

Under pressure from the U.S. and other countries, a North Korean vessel called the M/V Light turned around in the South China Sea two weeks ago and returned to the North last week, U.S. and South Korean officials said Monday.

Among the countries that agreed to apply pressure was Myanmar, a previous destination for North Korean weapons, a senior U.S. official said. Some reports said the North Korean ship was bound for Myanmar, but the U.S. official, Gary Samore, special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, said its final destination wasn’t clear.

“It was headed for the Straits of Malacca, which would have required it to pass between Malaysia and Singapore,” Mr. Samore said. “Since we had alerted the Singaporean and Malaysian authorities, there might have been concern [in Pyongyang] whether it could pass through the straits without action by either of those countries.”

The ship turned around, without the U.S. resorting to force, before reaching the straits.

North Korea’s state media haven’t reported on the latest journey of the M/V Light, keeping with a silence it maintained over previous interceptions of its weapons-ferrying ships and planes.

The incident is unlikely to change the fundamental standoff between North Korea and other nations over its nuclear-weapons program. The U.S., China and other countries have tried to lure North Korea back to the so-called six-party talks, in which Pyongyang has been encouraged to give up its nuclear pursuit in exchange for economic incentives and security guarantees.

Mr. Samore said the multilateral cooperation is a signal to North Korea that other nations remain committed to enforcing the trade limitations set forth by the U.N. Security Council several weeks after Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in 2009.

U.S. officials in late May began tracking the M/V Light, and a U.S. Navy destroyer intercepted it on May 26 and followed it down the Chinese coast for several days. Meanwhile, American diplomats won agreement from several southeast Asian nations to stop the ship if it attempted to make port.

U.S. officials also discussed the M/V Light with North Korean officials several times via the North’s U.N. delegation, a so-called back channel the two countries use because they don’t maintain official diplomatic relations.

“The North Koreans claimed the ship was going to Bangladesh with a cargo of industrial chemicals,” Mr. Samore said. “We have no way to verify whether any of that was true. And we had good reason to be suspicious with this ship, which in the past has been involved in the export of weapons to [Myanmar] and other locations in the Middle East.”

Read the full stories here:
U.S. Said to Turn Back North Korea Missile Shipment
New York Times
David Sanger

North Korea Keeps Silent on Ship’s Turnaround
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad


UNSC expands panel of experts mandate

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Here is the press release from the UNSC:

Security Council
6553rd Meeting (AM)



The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts helping monitor sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for an additional year, until 12 June 2012.

Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1985 (2011) maintaining the current mandate of the group that it established in June 2009. At that time, the Council also condemned a nuclear weapons test conducted by the East Asian country and toughened the sanctions regime on it, calling for stricter inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and tightening the arms embargo and financial restrictions. (See Press Release SC/9634)

Through today’s text, noting the importance of credible, fact-based, independent assessments, analysis and recommendations from the Panel, the Council also presented the group’s reporting and consultation requirements. It urged all States to cooperate with the Panel and the sanctions regime.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:14 a.m.


The full text of resolution 1985 (2011) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling its previous relevant resolutions, including resolution 825 (1993), resolution 1540 (2004), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009) and resolution 1928 (2010), as well as the statements of its President of 6 October 2006 (S/PRST/2006/41) and 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7),

“Recalling the creation, pursuant to paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009), of a Panel of Experts, under the direction of the Committee, to carry out the tasks provided for by that paragraph,

“Recalling the 12 November 2010 interim report by the Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009) and the 12 May 2011 final report by the Panel,

“Recalling the methodological standards for reports of sanctions monitoring mechanisms contained in the Report of the Informal Working Group of the Security Council on General Issues of Sanctions (S/2006/997),

“Noting, in that regard, the importance of credible, fact-based, independent assessments, analysis and recommendations, in accordance with the Panel of Experts’ mandate,

“Determining that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,

“Acting under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

“1. Decides to extend until 12 June 2012 the mandate of the Panel of Experts, as specified in paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009), and requests the Secretary-General to take the necessary administrative measures to this effect;

“2. Requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee no later than 12 November 2011 a midterm report of its work, and further requests that, after a discussion with the Committee, the Panel of Experts submit to the Council its midterm report by 12 December 2011, and requests also a final report to the Committee no later than 30 days prior to the termination of its mandate with its findings and recommendations, and further requests that, after a discussion with the Committee, the Panel of Experts submit to the Council its final report upon termination of the Panel’s mandate;

“3. Requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee a planned programme of work no later than 30 days after the Panel’s appointment, encourages the Committee to engage in regular discussions about this programme of work, and further requests the Panel of Experts to provide to the Committee any updates to this programme of work;

“4. Urges all States, relevant United Nations bodies, and other interested parties to cooperate fully with the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) and with the Panel of Experts, in particular by supplying any information at their disposal on the implementation of the measures imposed by resolution 1718 (2006) and resolution 1874 (2009);

“5. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

Previous reports by the Panel of Experts can be found here and here.