Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

North Korean pilots in the skies over Vietnam (1960s)

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Pictured above: North Korean pilots in North Vietnam (1968).

According to Yonhap:

North Korea dispatched dozens of pilots to the Vietnam War decades ago, with its communist ally short of specialists to operate MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighter jets in battles against the United States, according to a recently released dossier.

“On 21 September 1966 an official North Korean request to be allowed to send a North Korean Air Force regiment to help defend North Vietnam against U.S air attacks was officially reviewed and approved by the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Military Party Committee, chaired by General Vo Nguyen Giap,” read the documents taken from an official People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) historical publication.

North Korea’s Chief of the General Staff, Choi Kwang, and his Northern Vietnamese counterpart, Van Tien Dung, held talks three days later to detail Pyongyang’s role in the war.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank in Washington, studied the dossier and made it public on its Web site as part of North Korea International Documentation Project.

In 2000, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War, North Korea and Vietnam admitted for the first time that North Korea had provided military support in combat against U.S. aircraft.

North Vietnam sought North Korean pilots’ help in training and combat apparently to take advantage of their experience in shooting down U.S. fighter jets during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The newly unveiled dossier show details of North Korea’s military support.

“In late October or during November 1966 North Korea would send Vietnam enough specialists to man a Vietnamese MiG-17 company (a company consisted of ten aircraft),” the two sides agreed in the Sept. 21 1966 talks, adding North Korea would send more specialists to man a second Vietnamese MiG-17 company in later 1966 or early 1967.

“During 1967, after North Korea finished preparing specialists and after Vietnam was able to prepare sufficient aircraft, North Korea would send to Vietnam sufficient specialists to man one Vietnamese MiG-21 company,” they also agreed.

You learn more and download the entire report (PDF) at the Wilson Center’s North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP).

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North Korens advise Vietnam on national celebrations

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

According to TVNZ:

North Korean experts were in Vietnam this week to advise the government on – no, not uranium enrichment – choreography for an extravaganza celebrating Hanoi’s 1,000th anniversary, state media said.

The delegation was led by Song Pyong Won, deputy director of the Arirang performance department in North Korea’s Ministry of Culture, and included experts in mass performance, stage design, sound and lighting, reported the website of the newspaper Saigon Tiep Thi (sgtt.com.vn).

“This is the advance team that will make preparations for the various art performances, including card flipping to make images and words, as well as stage design, sound and lighting for the opening ceremony,” the newspaper said.

Hanoi will mark its 1,000th anniversary on October 10 this year.

Song hoped “through this visit the delegation would gain a precise grasp of the basic material conditions in Vietnam, like human resources, so that the staged programme can be the most unique and best possible,” the article said.

The group met representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and planned to visit various anniversary event venues, including the 40,000-seat My Dinh Stadium. It would also visit other sites, such as Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, it said.

Read the full story here:
N Korea teaches Vietnam how to party
TVNZ
3/5/2010

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North Korean art makes a show in Vietnam

Friday, June 19th, 2009

UPDATE: From Timeout (Vietnamese English publication):

The largest collection of paintings from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) ever shown in Southeast Asia was put on display at the Nha Trang Sea festival last week.

The paintings were produced by more than two dozen artists with recognized artists – so-called Merited artists – and emerging talents all contributing.

The exhibition included a series of beautiful paintings in a variety of styles and materials – prints, watercolour, oil, pencil drawings and “jewel-powdered paintings”, a Korean specialty art.
 
With little exposure to the outside world, North Korean art is considered very pure. North Korean artists are loyal to their country and adhere to the country’s political philosophy.

In the absence of influences by contemporary art trends from the rest of the world the painters have, in a unique manner, developed their own techniques and the use of colors in an original style.

The displayed paintings include, among other things, a variety of beautiful sceneries of nature and of North Korean daily life. These pieces of artwork give a rare insight into the lives and thoughts of the people of this country.

Some of the most impressive pieces are the products of the veteran artist Han Gyong Bo and the emerging artist Han Song Il, a precocious 24-year old who has won many top prizes at national and international exhibitions.

Han Gyong  Bo is famous for his watercolour paintings of wistful and fanciful landscapes created in strong, deep and bold brush strokes. Meanwhile Han Song Il bewitches viewers with his romantic yearnings and smooth style. With refined and flowery strokes, Il’s paintings express the beauties of his country’s natural landscapes.

The painting collection belongs to Swiss businessman Felix Abt and his Hanoi-born wife Doan Lan Huong, who lived and worked in Pyongyang for seven years, where they got to know and love North Korean arts.

At present Abt and his family mostly stay in Nha Trang, Vietnam where they manage their own website Pyongyang-painters.com, one of the very few on-line galleries outside North Korea permitted to sell art and to represent the country’s leading artists as well as new talents.

“Much to our surprise we noticed that (artistic) talents are identified very early in a person’s life and systematically fostered thereafter. As a consequence a high number end up as painters with extraordinary skills. Unfortunately this is largely ignored by the outside world,” says Felix Abt.

Together with the Korea Paekho Fine Arts Company in Pyongyang, Felix and his wife prepared last year the systematic launch and promotion of North Korean paintings on the world wide web and through other marketing measures.

Famous painters from North Korea as well as promising new talents, including young female painters, are now being introduced to a wider public. Abt’s website has been up and running since the beginning of this year and orders are coming from all over the world.

During his time in Pyongyang, Abt and his wife Huong had the opportunity to get acquainted not only with the country’s institutions involved in fine arts but also with numerous artists across the country.

“We learnt that the Koreans were not merely transmitting Chinese culture but also assimilating and adapting it and creating a unique culture of their own while also influencing neighbouring cultures for thousands of years,” says Abt.

But Abt knows that a good website alone is not sufficient to introduce North Korean paintings to a larger public. The paintings need to be physically closer to potential buyers.

“The Sea Festival in Nha Trang, where both Vietnamese and foreigners spend holidays and may want to shop in a relaxed atmosphere was a good opportunity for us to ‘test the market’ in Vietnam,” says Abt.

“In addition, since Nha Trang is a beautiful place with a highly promising potential for tourism, we intend to operate this business out of Nha Trang for both the domestic and international arts markets.”

Talking about their future galleries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Abt shares that making beautiful North Korean paintings available in these cities is a good idea since there are certainly a sufficient number of people in both cities who would love to have such paintings and can also afford them.

But instead of setting up their own galleries they would prefer to build up a close partnership with a couple of existing galleries in these cities that meet their expectations. Moreover, “this business model which we start in Vietnam could then be applied to other major cities in the region such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.”

Read the Press Release below:

(more…)

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Orascom attracting competition

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

According to Telegeography:

Vietnamese military-owned telco Viettel has announced plans to expand its network to North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, according to reports in local paper Thanh Nien Daily. Tran Phuoc Minh, deputy director of Viettel, said the company is hoping to hold negotiations with the three countries in order to gain a foothold in their still relatively underdeveloped wireless markets. The cellco expanded its network to Cambodia last year, where it signed up 100,000 wireless subscribers after two months of pilot operations, as well as Laos, where it hopes to attract 50,000 subscribers this year. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Viettel had a subscriber base of 28 million at end-2008.

Read the full story here:
Viettel plans network expansion to North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela
TeleGeography
2/6/2009

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Balancing Between 2 Communist Powers

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov
12/9/2007

By 1963, the inhabitants of the huge Soviet Embassy compound in downtown Pyongyang felt themselves under siege. All their communications with Koreans were supervised, and most North Koreans who had expressed some sympathy with Moscow had disappeared without a trace. Soviet aid nearly stopped, and most Soviet advisors left the North. On quite a few occasions, the official media of North Korea and Soviet Russia exchanged broadsides of sharply worded critical statements.

In short, in 1963-65 few people doubted that North Korea, together with Albania and, to a lesser extent, North Vietnam, chose to side with Beijing in its quarrel with Moscow. There were good reasons for this: Moscow was too liberal in its domestic policies, too disdainful of Kim Il-sung’s personality cult, too ready to compromise with the arch-villain of U.S. imperialism. And it was prone to an arrogant attitude in its dealings with the small East Asian country, too.

But then things changed, dramatically and irreversibly. The anti-Soviet pro-Maoist block, clearly in the making in the early 1960s, felt apart in 1966-67. The reason was the Cultural Revolution, the ten years of madness, which engulfed China. Some people believe that there was a system in this madness. Perhaps. But I personally find this system extremely difficult to discover.

It was not the only “cultural revolution,” of course. The Vietnam War demonstrated that China, despite its bellicose rhetoric, was unable to provide enough aid. The Russians provided Hanoi with missiles and tanks while the Chinese largely limited themselves to shipping the “little red books” full of Mao’s quotations.

But it was the “cultural revolution” that played the major role in the alienation between Korea and China. Kim Il-sung was perplexed by the new developments in his sponsor country. Everything looked like madness, and in September 1966 the Cuban Ambassador noticed that North Korean top officials began to make jokes about China and Mao the Great Helmsman himself (they suggested that a bit of Korean ginseng would help the Chinese leader who was obviously becoming senile).

Around the same time, in late 1966, the internal propaganda of North Korea began to criticize “dogmatism” and “superpower chauvinism,” clearly associated with China. For years, the major culprit in the internal propaganda was the “modern revisionism” (read: the Soviet Union). In December 1966, at a secret meeting with the Soviet leader Brezhnev, Kim Il-sung described the “cultural revolution” as a “massive idiocy.” Well, he was probably correct, even if his own policies were not exactly an embodiment of wise statesmanship.

At that stage, China still could play down the differences and probably keep North Korea on its side. But it seems that Beijing was not in control of the situation, or was not able to make reasonable decisions, so in early 1967 the Chinese press began to attack Kim Il-sung. Throughout 1967, the Red Guards newspapers frequently called Kim Il-sung a “revisionist,” the worst term of abuse in their (quite limited) vocabulary. He was accused of “blocking the revolutionary will of masses” and not starting a cultural revolution in his realm.

In early 1967, the Red Guards’ media reported an alleged attempted coup in Pyongyang. As far as we know, the story was a complete fake, but it prompted the North Korean press to react. In January 1967, Nodong Sinmun rebuffed the statements.

The propaganda war escalated. It was meaningless from the Chinese point of view: in its feud with the USSR China needed as many allies as possible. But it seems that the considerations of real politick were rejected by the zealots who required a complete adherence to the then current Chinese political line. Kim Il-sung and his entourage were not famous for their readiness to follow foreigners’ advice, so the situation went from bad to worse.

Bernd Schaefer penned a wonderful monograph based on the now de-classified East German archives, and noted some rather extreme episodes in the late 1960s. In the summer of 1968 the Chinese installed loudspeakers on the border and used them to blast North Korea with Chinese propaganda, largely with tales about the unparalleled wisdom of Mao. The Koreans retaliated in kind, by installing their own loudspeakers and bombarding their opponents with stories of Kim Il-sung’s greatness and superhuman wisdom.

The Chinese accused Kim Il-sung himself of enjoying a luxurious life, very different from the lifestyle of his subjects. This was correct, even if the same thing could be said about Mao. However, these personal accusations made Kim even less willing to accommodate the Chinese.

On one occasion, a group of Chinese soldiers crossed the border, obviously in hope of provoking a clash, but the North Koreans did not react and Chinese soon withdrew. There were also reports that bodies of ethnic Korean officials who were slaughtered in China by the Red Guards were put on a train and sent to the North. Personally, I am somewhat skeptical, but this story was indeed reported in the contemporary diplomatic messages cited by Bernd Schaefer and thus might be true.

Relations reached their nadir in late 1968. However, Kim Il-sung understood that his best policy would be a balancing act between the two Communist great powers, and he was ready to find a path to rapprochement. Fortunately for him, China was gradually coming to some semblance of normality, so from around 1970 it was once again possible to resume the balancing act policy. But that is another story.

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Odd couple: The royal and the Red

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Asia Times
Bertil Lintner
10/31/2007

North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il is scheduled to pay a four-day visit to Cambodia in early November, underscoring the curious close relationship between one of the world’s last communist dictatorships and one of Asia’s most ancient monarchies.

Kim Yong-il, who should not be confused with the North Korean supremo, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il or any of his relatives, will hold talks with Cambodia’s retired king Norodom Sihanouk, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The North Korean premier will also hold “official talks” with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, and “pay courtesy calls” on Senate president Chea Sim, and the president of the National Assembly, Heng Samrin, according to the statement.

Cambodia has long served as a link between North Korea and Southeast Asia and beyond, so it is plausible to assume that trade and related issues will be on the agenda. For years the two countries ran a joint shipping company, and before the China-led six party talks, Cambodia had offered to mediate over Pyongyang’s contentious nuclear program.

Kim Yong-il’s visit to Cambodia is not the first by a North Korean dignitary in recent years. Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, also visited the country in 2001 at the invitation of Sihanouk, who had then not yet abdicated in favor of his son, Norodom Sihamoni, the current serving monarch.

Kim Yong-nam now functions as de facto head of state, as Kim Jong-il’s father, “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung was elevated to the position of “eternal president” before his death in 1994, making North Korea not a monarchy, but rather the world’s only necrocracy.

As incongruous as it may seem, Cambodia is North Korea’s oldest ally in Southeast Asia. It all began when Sihanouk met Kim Il-sung in 1961 at a Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Belgrade and a personal friendship developed between the two leaders. When Sihanouk was ousted in a coup in 1970, Kim Il-sung not only offered him sanctuary in North Korea but also had a new home built for him about an hour’s drive north of Pyongyang.

A battalion of North Korean troops worked full-time on it for almost a year, and when it was finished, only specially selected guards were allowed anywhere near the 60-room palatial residence. Overlooking the scenic Chhang Sou On Lake and surrounded by mountains, the Korean-style building even had its own indoor movie theater. Like the Great Leader’s son, Kim Jong-il, Sihanouk loves movies.

Sihanouk has both directed and acted in his own romantic feature movies and a few more were made in North Korea, with Cambodian actors strutting their stuff against the backdrop of Korea’s snow-capped mountains.

French wines and gourmet food were flown in via China, and Sihanouk and his entourage were treated as royals would have been in any country that respects monarchy – as North Korea evidently does.

By contrast, North Korea has maintained less cordial relations with neighboring communist Vietnam, which still exerts behind-the-scenes pressure on Cambodia. Kim Yong-il will nonetheless also visit Hanoi during his diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia.

Throughout the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, North Korea refused to recognize the regime that Hanoi installed in Phnom Penh in January 1979 – and that despite immense pressure at the time put on Pyongyang from Moscow. During a meeting between Kim Il-sung and Sihanouk seven years later on April 10, 1986, in Pyongyang, the Great Leader reassured the then prince that North Korea would continue to regard him as Cambodia’s legitimate head of state.

When Sihanouk returned to Phnom Penh in September 1993, after United Nations-led mediation to end Cambodia’s civil conflict, he arrived with 35 North Korean bodyguards, commanded by a general from Kim Il-sung’s presidential guards. They are still there, now guarding Sihanouk as well as the new king, Sihanomi, who is not as close to North Korea as his father, but has paid at least one visit to Pyongyang.

Sailing buddies
Sihanouk and the Cambodian royals showed their gratitude to the North Koreans when in the late 1990s they set up a privately-owned shipping registry, the Cambodia Shipping Corporation (CSC). The flag of convenience was used by the North Koreans, and it enjoyed royal protection as it was headed by Khek Vandy, the husband of Sihanouk’s eldest daughter, Boupha Devi.

CSC was also partly owned by a Phnom Penh-based North Korean diplomat and for a few years aggressively marketed itself as a cheap and efficient “flag of convenience” service for international shippers. A series of embarrassing maritime incidents, including the interception in June 2002 of a Cambodian-registered – though not North Korean owned – ship by the French navy, in a joint operation with US, Greek and Spanish authorities, of a massive haul of cocaine off the West African coast prompted Hun Sen’s government to cancel CSC’s concession and reportedly give it to a South Korean company, the Cosmos Group.

At the time, International Transport Federation general secretary David Cockroft told the Cambodia-based fortnightly newspaper the Phnom Penh Post that “they’ll need to be able to walk on water, because nothing short of a miracle will clean up the name of Cambodian shipping”. Indeed, little appeared to change, including North Korea’s use of Cambodia’s flag of convenience for controversial shipments.

In December 2002, a Cambodian-registered, North Korean-owned ship named So San was intercepted by Spanish marines, working on a US tip, in the Arabian Sea. It was found to be carrying 15 Scud-type missiles, 15 conventional warheads, 23 tanks of nitric acid rocket propellant and 85 drums of unidentified chemicals under a cargo of cement bags.

The destination of the weaponry was said to be Yemen, and following protests from both Yemen and North Korea – and intervention by the US, which apparently did not want to antagonize Yemen, a supposed ally in Washington’s “war on terror” – the ship was allowed to continue to Yemen. Later revelations indicated that the cargo was ultimately delivered to Libya, which caused considerable embarrassment in Washington.

Premier Kim Yong-il is likely to be quite familiar with the CSC, as he served as minister for land and marine transport from 1994 until the Supreme People’s Assembly appointed him to the premiership in April this year. But since the scandal-ridden CSC was reorganized five years ago, Cambodia’s economic importance to Pyongyang would appear to have waned, and North Korea’s only known activity in the country today is in the restaurant business, including eateries in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Yet as a diplomatic link to the wider region, Cambodia is still important to North Korea. In April 2003, the Cambodian government, at the urging of Sihanouk, had plans to send an envoy to Pyongyang in a bid to persuade the North Korean leadership to be more flexible about talks on its nuclear program, which at that time had stalled.

The mission never materialized, but North Korea no doubt remembers that its trusted ally Cambodia tried first to mediate – and that Phnom Penh in future could still serve as a gateway for improved contacts with the outside world. It remains to be seen what message Kim Yong-il will bring to Phnom Penh, but it is reasonable to assume that his visit will, despite the official announcements, be confined merely to “courtesy calls” and royal audiences.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.

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N. Korea Eager for Economic Modernization

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki
10/29/2007

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.

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Kim Jong-il Interested in Vietnam-Style Reform Policy

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki
10/28/2007

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has expressed intention to model after the Vietnam-style economic reform and openness policy, dubbed “Doi Moi,” a report said Sunday.

Vietnam adopted the reform policy in 1986 to establish a market economy such as liberalization of trade and finance with foreign countries, decentralization of state economic management and reliance on the private sector as an engine of economic growth.

Kim made the remarks during a meeting with Nong Duc Manh, secretary-general of Vietnam’s Communist Party, in Pyongyang last week, Yonhap News reported, citing the Sunday edition of the weekly Yazhou Zhoukan, a Hong Kong-based international Chinese business daily. The newspaper carried an interview with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem who accompanied the secretary general on his Pyongyang visit.

“Chairman Kim highly evaluated the achievements Vietnam’s Doi Moi has made in the past 20 years while meeting with Secretary General Manh,” Khiem was quoted as saying, adding the North Korean leader accepted Manh’s proposal for Kim’s visit to Hanoi.

The ongoing visit to Hanoi by North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong-il aims to prepare for Kim’s visit to Vietnam, the report said.

The North Korean premier, who arrived in Hanoi Friday, visited several industrial and tourist sites in Vietnam, including Halong Bay, one of the biggest tourist attractions for foreigners, reports said.

Diplomatic sources in Hong Kong, however, were quoted as saying it is remarkable that Kim Jong-il expressed an interest in Doi Moi, but it is not likely for the communist North to closely follow the reform program.

The reason why the North is eyeing Vietnam’s economic program could have something to do with China’s lukewarm attitude to Pyongyang’s efforts to build special economic zones near the North’s border with China, they said.

Hanoi’s reform has often been referred to as a model for North Korea’s underdeveloped economy to emulate.

Chief U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill said during a visit there in May that North Korea should “move on in the way that Vietnam has done so well.”

North Korea, Vietnam agree to boost bilateral ties
Yonhap

10/27/2007

North Korea and Vietnam said Saturday they have agreed to forge closer cooperation in the sectors of agriculture, culture and tourism, in their first high-level meeting in five years.

The agreement was reached after a meeting of visiting North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Kim, who is in charge of economic policy, arrived in Hanoi on Friday for a five-day stay, as part of the first leg of a tour to Southeast Asian nations that include Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.

Vietnam has shifted to a market economy since the mid-1980s and Hanoi’s reform is seen by many as a model for North Korea’s underdeveloped economy to emulate.

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Officials from two Koreas made joint on-site visit to overseas companies

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Yonhap
7/2/2007

In a sign of burgeoning economic ties, a group of South and North Korean officials jointly visited South Korean companies in China and Vietnam, the Unification Ministry said Monday.

The delegation consisting of seven South Koreans and as many North Koreans working at a joint management office of the Kaesong industrial complex visited the companies in Shanghai, Shenzen, Guangzhou, Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn City for 10 days from June 19. They were given tours and received briefings on the companies’ operations, the ministry said.

“It was a good opportunity for North Korean economic officials to learn from rapidly developing socialist countries,” a senior ministry official said, asking to remain anonymous. “They must have shared the need to further promote inter-Korean economic ties.”

It marks the first time that South and North Korean officials made an overseas trip together to assess the development of South Korean companies, the official added.

In the North Korean border city of Kaesong, a capitalist enclave, South Korean businesses use low-cost skilled North Korean labor to produce goods. Monthly production in the complex exceeds US$10 million.

Currently, 23 South Korean companies employ about 15,000 North Korean workers at the site developed on a trial basis. These include construction workers and workers at a management office. The number of North Korean workers is expected to increase to more than 350,000 when the complex becomes fully operational in 2012.

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N. Korea kept millions at Vietnam bank

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

From Kyodo News:

North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank, which has been identified by the United States as the primary financial facilitator of that country’s ballistic missile program, had until recently held dollar and euro accounts at Vietnam’s Military Commercial Bank, a Military Commercial Bank official said recently.

The official said millions of both dollars and euros, respectively, had been deposited in the accounts.

But the funds were hastily transferred to other banks, including a German bank, in July after the State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank, acceded to a U.S. request and began checking on any North Korean accounts involved in suspicious banking transactions.

Tanchon Commercial Bank is among North Korean entities that the United States has since June last year designated as proliferators of missiles and weapons of mass destruction, or their supporters, imposing sanctions aimed at denying them access to the U.S. financial and commercial systems.

The United States is urging other members of the United Nations to identify, track and freeze financial transactions and assets of such North Korean entities as the first step in implementing a binding U.N. Security Council resolution adopted last month.

The unanimous Security Council resolution, which condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches in early July, requires all U.N. member nations to prevent the transfer of financial resources that could help North Korea’s missile and WMD programs.       

The U.S. Treasury Department identifies Tanchon Commercial Bank as the main financial agent for North Korea’s sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and goods related to the assembly and manufacture of such weapons, which have provided Pyongyang with a significant portion of its export earnings and financially aided its own weapons development and arms-related purchases.

The Pyongyang-based bank held accounts at Macao’s Banco Delta Asia SARL, which the United States in September 2005 subjected to sanctions as a “primary money laundering concern” that had facilitated a range of North Korean illicit activities.

While it was not clear when the funds were deposited in the North Korean accounts at the Vietnam’s Military Commercial Bank, the bank official said they were transferred from a German bank and from the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, or Vietcombank.

According to sources, financial intelligence authorities of the United States, South Korea and Japan recently compiled a report on North Korea’s overseas bank accounts that singled out 23 accounts in 10 countries, including Russia, deemed suspicious. Among the total, around 10 were in Vietnamese banks.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey, responsible for terrorism and financial intelligence issues, visited Vietnam in mid-July and called for Hanoi’s cooperation in investigating and freezing the suspicious North Korean bank accounts.

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