Archive for the ‘Companies’ Category

New KNIC web page

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) has a new web page that is internet accessible. Martyn Williams was the first to notice it. Although the web page offers information in English and Korean, I have only examined the English portal and I am unaware if there are significant differences between the two.

According to the web page:

KNIC, as a sole insurer of the DPR Korea has over 10 provincial insurance branches and over 200 insurance offices at municipal (district) and county levels under its umbrella nationwide and representative offices overseas.

The English web page provides basic financial and corporate information from 2008-2012. You can check out financial highlights, underwriting performance, and the consolidated balance sheet. It is unclear why 2013 and Q1 2014 data is not presented, but it is not like the shareholders or regulators are going to be up in arms about it.

On the corporate side we have a letter from the chairman of the executive management committee (since there are no shareholders he cannot be chairman of the board of directors)–again seeming to date from late 2012 or early 2013. We also see a list of the members of the executive management committee and an organization chart. The organization chart shows a list of internal divisions but does not explain how KNIC is linked to the cabinet.

KNIC posted a table of financial data (all numbers are in millions of KPW and cannot be verified):

KNIC-table

The chart shows gross written premiums (총접수보험료) experienced an average growth of 16.6% (from 41,939m KPW to 48,905m KPW) between 2008 and 2012. Investment revenue (투자수입) also increased 87% (from 1,597m KPW to 2,996w KPW). Profits (순소득), however, fell 31% on average from 8,041m KPW in 2008 to 5,544m KPW in 2012. So over time, the firm has experienced increasing costs. I am not sure what these costs are, but if you love forensic accounting, please go through the financial reports and let me know.

The DPRK won experienced a significant loss in value compared to the US$ on the black market in 2012, falling from 4,400 to 9,100 per 1$. Using an annual average rate of 6,750 KPW to the US$, profits totaled just $821,333. Using the black market rate of 9,100, profits total $609,203. Using the official rate of 100KPW to the US$, profits grow to $55.44 million. Using the official Euro rate of 130KPW, profits total E42.64 million.

It is unclear what exactly “Pre-state payment result” (국가납부전 결과) is, but I believe it is the equivalent of “Earnings Before Taxes (EBT)” under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Since the DPRK has officially abolished taxes, direct cash transfers to the state must take another name, so it appears to simply be “State Payment”, but it is definitely not “tax”.

“Profit for the year” listed for each year is .675 of the “Pre-state payment result” which tells us the unofficial tax rate on the firm is a flat 32.5% (1-.675) on net earnings.

It is unclear what happens with profits in these firms. In privately owned firms in capitalist countries, profits are generally reinvested in the business or distributed as dividends to shareholders, partners, or proprietors.

Moving on to the corporate side, the web site lists the following major operational departments:

1. Property Insurance Department is in charge of non-life insurance classes, such as property, crop, livestock, engineering and motor applied from institutions, enterprises, cooperatives and individual citizens.

2. Marine Insurance Department handles such lines as marine hull, cargo and liability, aviation hull and liability applied from institutions, enterprises and cooperatives.

3. Life Insurance Department provides life and personal accident coverage applied from institutions, enterprises, cooperatives and individual citizens.

4. Economic Cooperation Insurance Department offers different classes of insurance to newly developed economic zones and foreign invested enterprises (foreigners, joint ventures, representative offices, correspondent branch offices, embassies and international organizations) including Rason Economic and Trade Zone and Hwanggumphyong and Wihua Islet Economic Zone.

5. Reinsurance Department organizes reinsurance protection for primary insurance accounts written by KNIC. This department has a bad reputation in the west.

6. Investment Department conducts investment activities into financial securities and mining, and manages non-insurance enterprises like a shipping company.

7. Additional divisions: Market Research, Insurance Cooperation, Financial Supervision, Finance & Accounting, Administration and Protocol, all of which are engaged in their respective functions.

 

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Zimbabwe signs $5m contracts with DPRK for statue and museum

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The cost of Bona Mugabe’s wedding on March 1, attended by the heads of state of South Africa, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea at Mugabe’s private home in Harare’s plush Borrowdale suburb, cost $5 million.

Just after the wedding, plans leaked out that Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) government clandestinely signed North Korea, one of its old friends, to build two statues of Mugabe at an estimated cost of $5 million.

The statues were commissioned by the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

One is a nearly 30-foot high bronze image worth $3.5 million to be placed in Harare; the other is a $1.5 million version to be placed in a $3.8 million museum to be built in Mugabe’s rural Zvimba home, in Mashonaland West. Building statues of leaders is something North Korea has considerable experience doing.

Read more about the story at Bloomberg and Bulawayo 24.

I have documented many of North Korea’s Africa projects on this web page.  See here.

Read the full story here:
Mugabe splashes $5m on N. Korea statues
Christian Science Monitor
Mxosili Ncube
2014-3-12

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DPRK insists Jang purge will not lead to economic policy change

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Following Jang’s purge, there has been speculation about what exactly will happen to economic relations between China and the DPRK and with ongoing efforts to introduce economic reform measures in the DPRK. According to the People’s Daily (China):

The execution of the uncle of Pyongyang’s top leader may temporarily affect some cooperation projects with China, but economic ties between the neighbors will remain stable in the long run, analysts say.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s official news agency KCNA reported on Friday that Jang Song-thaek, uncle of supreme leader Kim Jong-un, was executed on Thursday for being a traitor.

Jang was in charge of economic affairs and cooperation with China.

“Following Jang’s execution, the DPRK is likely to review cooperation projects with China,” said Gao Haorong, an expert on DPRK studies at the Xinhua Center for World Affairs Studies, a think tank under Xinhua News Agency.

Jang led delegations to China for negotiations on economic projects, including Hwanggumpyong Island, a special economic zone near Dandong in Liaoning province.

Chen Qi, a professor in international affairs at Tsinghua University, said that after Jang’s execution, China and the DPRK may need some time to rebuild connections to continue cooperation on such projects and to further their economic cooperation.

But Wang Junsheng, a researcher in East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the impact will be short-term and limited.

“Pyongyang needs China to support its economic development, and this offers opportunities for Chinese companies, so both sides want to advance ties,” Wang said.

“Both countries have the will to consolidate their relations, given frequent high-level visits,” he said.

The latest such exchange saw Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng meet a visiting delegate from the DPRK’s Foreign Ministry on Friday.

At a news briefing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China hopes and believes that economic relations between the two countries will continue to advance.

Hong said it is in line with the interests of both to develop economic ties. China will further promote economic cooperation with the DPRK.

He described Jang’s execution as “an internal affair” of the DPRK.

In response, the DPRK has started sending signals that Jang’s purge will not lead to any surprises. Eric Talmadge writes for the Associated Press:

The execution Friday of Jang, considered to be North Korea’s second most powerful man and a key architect of the country’s economic policies, should not be taken as a sign that the North will change its economic course or its efforts to lure foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a senior official in the State Economic Development Committee, said in an interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang.

“Even though Jang Song Thaek’s group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Yun said. “It’s just the same as before.”

Jang’s sudden purge and execution for allegedly trying to overthrow the government has raised questions about how solid the North Korean regime is and whether it will be able to stay the course on policies aimed at raising the country’s standard of living.

The North has shown no willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program to get out from under international trade sanctions. That makes investment or financing from major international organizations difficult if not impossible.

It also means the success of the zones hinges on China, North Korea’s only major ally, and Jang was seen as a crucial conduit between Pyongyang and Beijing, along with being a supporter of China-backed reforms, such as the zones, to revive the North’s moribund economy.

Jang met with top Chinese officials during their visits to Pyongyang, and in 2012 traveled to China as the head of one of the largest North Korean delegations ever to visit the Chinese capital to discuss construction of the special economic zones, which Beijing hopes will ensure North Korea’s stability.

Yun, however, downplayed Jang’s importance in policymaking and said his removal would instead speed progress on the economic front because he was a threat to the unity of the nation. He said Jang’s execution should not scare away Chinese investment, which is crucial to the success of the zones.

“By eliminating the Jang Song Thaek group, the unity and solidarity of our party and people with our respected marshal at the center has become much stronger, our party has become more determined and the will of our soldiers and people to build a prosperous socialist country has been strengthened,” Yun said. “Our State Economic Development Committee welcomes investment and business from any country to take part in the work of developing our new economic zones.”

Yun said local officials have been tasked with drawing up the plans for the zones in their jurisdictions and are likely to formally submit them for approval to his commission within the next few months.

At the same time, rumors from the South Korean media indicate that North Korean businessmen in China are returning home in large numbers. According to Yonhap (2013-12-14):

North Korean businessmen in China have been summoned back to their country in large numbers in connection with the execution of North Korea’s No. 2 man two days ago, sources familiar with the issue said Saturday.

The businessmen worked out of the northeastern Chinese cities of Shenyang and Dandong to facilitate trade between the two countries and attract Chinese investment in North Korea, according to the sources.

The top North Korean official in charge of promoting economic ties with China is believed to have been Jang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

With Jang’s execution on Thursday, however, North Korea appears to be cracking down on those loyal to him by summoning them back to their country, the sources said.

Jang was executed immediately after a special military tribunal found him guilty of treason, according to the North’s state media.

“Large numbers of North Korean businessmen in Shenyang and Dandong have gone home in a hurry this week,” said one source, who declined to be identified.

“Judging from their numbers and the fact that it was so sudden, it doesn’t appear to be related to the second anniversary of (the death of former North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17,” the source said, referring to the late father of the current leader.

According to another source, Norea Korea plans to summon all of its officials and staff from China in stages.

“The ostensible reason will be to educate them on the government’s policies, but (in fact), those classified as having connections to Jang Song-thaek will never be able to go abroad again and will be purged,” the source said, also requesting anonymity.

On Chinese report insinuated that Jang’s ouster could affect Chinese investment in the Hyesan Youth Copper Mine. According to Shanghai Metals Market:

 North Korea’s Zhang Chengze [Jang Song-thaek]  event might undermine Wanxiang Group’s 500-million-yuan ($81.6 million) investment in Huishan copper mine [Hyesan Youth Copper Mine], according to a report by the business magazine China Entrepreneur.

Back in 2004, Wanxiang Group’s chairman Lu Guanqiu started investing in Huishan copper mine with a joint venture company Sino-Mining International Investment Co. and added up total investments to 560 million yuan over the years, according to the report.

The mine, said to have a copper reserve largest in Asia and located just 10 kilometers from the China-North Korea border, was put into production in 2011. Yet daily operations met with many political hurdles since, the report said.

Zhang Chengze, North Korea’s young leader Kim Jeong-eun’s uncle and close aid with a pro-China view, was executed by Kim earlier this month.

Both the Rason and Hwanggumphyong Special Economic Zones have been brought to a standstill following Jang’s purge. Leaders from both projects have been called back to Pyongyang.

You can read posts related to Jang’s purge here.

Click to read posts on the Economic Development Zones and the new Law on Economic Development Zones.

Read the full story here:
N Korean Official: Purge Won’t Hurt Economic Policy
Associated Press
Eric Talmadge
2013-12-15

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Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in DPRK

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

2013-12-Jongju

Pictured above (Google Earth): Jongju County

According to Mining.com:

Privately-held SRE Minerals on Wednesday announced the discovery in North Korea of what is believed to be the largest deposit of rare earth elements anywhere in the world.

SRE also signed a joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop REE deposits at Jongju in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited, based in the British Virgin Islands, has also been granted permission for a processing plant on site at Jongju, situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital of Pyongyang.

The initial assessment of the Jongju target indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6 billion tonnes with total 216.2 million tonnes rare-earth-oxides including light REEs such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium; mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals. Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 million tonnes consists of more valuable heavy rare-earth-elements.

According Dr Louis Schurmann, Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and lead scientist on the project, the Jongju deposit is the world’s largest known REE occurrence.

The 216 million tonne Jongju deposit, theoretically worth trillions of dollars, would more than double the current global known resource of REE oxides which according to the US Geological Survey is pegged at 110 million tonnes.

Minerals like fluorite, apatite, zircon, nepheline, feldspar, and ilmenite are seen as potential by-products to the mining and recovery of REE at Jongju.

Further exploration is planned for March 2014, which will includes 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling, with results reported according to the Australia’s JORC Code, a standard for mineral disclosure similar to Canada’s widely used National Instrument 43-101.

Also from Mining Weekly:

SRE Minerals Limited announces the results of exploration and studies in collaboration with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

SRE Minerals Limited (“SRE” or “the company”) announced today their joint venture agreement with the Korea Natural Resources Trading Corporation for rights to develop all rare-earth-element deposits at Jongju, North Pyongan Province.

The joint venture company known as Pacific Century Rare Earth Mineral Limited has the rights under the joint venture agreement which includes the exploration, mining, beneficiation and marketing of all REE deposits in the Jongju area for the next 25 years with a further renewal period of 25 years.

Under the terms of the JV agreement SRE has also been granted permission for a National Rare Earth Mineral Processing Plant on site at Jongju, which is situated approximately 150 km north-northwest of the capital city of Pyongyang, within the North Pyongan Province, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Leading Australian mining and geological consultancy, HDR Salva Resources Pty Ltd, has been SRE’s technical representative for the project and has been commissioned to access the mineralised potential of the Jongju REE target* with special reference to detailed mapping, extensive trenching and limited drilling.

HDR Salva Resources (Pty) Ltd.’s initial assessment of the Jongju REE Exploration Target* indicates a total mineralisation potential of 6.0 Bt (216.2 Mt total rare-earth-oxides including light rare-earth- elements such as lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium (mainly britholite and associated rare earth minerals). Approximately 2.66% of the 216.2 Mt TREO consists of heavy rare-earth-elements. A detailed classification of mineralised potential present in the Jongju REE Target* is presumed to be:

• 664.8 Mt @ >10.00% TREO,
• 1.1 Bt @ 4.72% TREO,
• 579.4 Mt @ 3.97% TREO, and
• 3.63 Bt @ 1.35% TREO.

Dr Louis Schurmann said: “The Jongju Target* would appear to be the World’s largest known REE occurrence.”

Technical information in this announcement has been compiled by Dr Louis W. Schurmann, who is a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and a Professional Natural Scientist with over 18 years of experience relevant to the styles and types of rare earth mineral deposits under consideration, and to the activities which has been undertaken to qualify as a Competent Person as defined by the Australasian Code for Reporting of Minerals Resources and Reserves (JORC) 2004. Dr Schurmann consents to the inclusion of information in this publication.

Further exploration is planned to recommence in March 2014, which will include 96,000m (Phase 1) and 120,000m (Phase 2) of core drilling. Results from the exploration program will be reported according to the Joint Ore Reserves Committee of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Australian Institute of Geoscientists and Mineral Council of Australia (JORC Code (2004 / 2012)).

Investigations by the DPRK’s Academy of Science geologists have also identified several HREE targets*. There are also seven newly discovered carbonatite complexes which have been identified as green-field exploration targets. Exploration programs have been planned to assess their potential in 2014, together with the evaluation of known bastnasite and monazite deposits.

According to the mentioned HDR Salva Resources’ assessment, the Jongju REE Target* also contains economical quantities of rare and critical metals associated with fluorite, apatite, zircon, magnetite, ilmenite, nepheline and feldspar. These commodities will also be addressed during future exploration and further studies.
“This joint venture agreement reinforces the strong and constructive relationship SRE has developed with the DPRK over that time,” he said.

“The REE resource potential of the DPRK, while estimated to be massive has only been lightly explored to date. Given the major economic significance of the effective utilisation of these important minerals to the DPRK, we look forward to working in close co-operation with our partner to progress the development of this excellent opportunity.”

In terms of back ground, the majority of rare earth elements were sourced from placer deposits in India and Brazil in 1948. During the 1950’s, supply came mainly from South Africa, mined from large veins of rare earth-bearing monazite. Then from the 1960’s to 1980’s, rare earths were supplied primarily from the U.S., predominantly from Mountain Pass in California. Competition from China and environmental concerns eventually saw the U.S. operations shut down, and for the last 15 years China has dominated global supply. China today supplies an estimated 90-95% of the global market.

China has recently set quotas to restrict its rare earth exports, and global suppliers have made considerable headway in reducing dependence on Chinese supply. Based on this, several major rare earth companies have been taking advantage of this situation while many junior exploration companies have embarked on exploration programs to add value to small and relatively low-grade REE occurrences.

References to Exploration Target(s)* or Target(s)* in this document are in accordance with the guidelines of the JORC Code (2004). As such it is important to note that in relation to reported Exploration Targets or Target any reference to quality and quantity are conceptual in nature. Exploration carried out to date is insufficient to be able to estimate and report rare-earth mineral resources in accordance with the JORC Code (2004). It is uncertain if further exploration will result in the determination of a rare earth mineral Resource.

Further information will be available at www.pcreml.com and www.sreminerals.com

Here is coverage in Voice of America,  Time, The Diplomat.

Read the full story here:
Largest known rare earth deposit discovered in North Korea
Mining.com
Frik Els
2013-12-5

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Pyongsu to open new pharmacy in Phyongsong

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

A joint venture between North Korea and Switzerland will open its first chain drugstore in a provincial city in the communist country by the end of this year, according to the company’s website Sunday.

The new store will be situated in Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, where many of the North’s well-off people who can afford medicine live, the Pyongsu Pharma J-V Co. said.

Launched in 2004 as a joint venture between Parazelsus, a Swiss investment and management company with a focus on healthcare, and Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Factory under the North’s health ministry, Pyongsu Pharma has since opened nine chain stores in Pyongyang to provide North Koreans with essential medicine, such as aspirin and digestive aids.

Pyongsong, located just north of Pyongyang, is the capital of North Pyongan Province. It was developed into a science-research city, housing many research institutes in the 1960s, but now is a hub of logistics for distributing everyday goods all over the country.

Last month, the North Korean authority opened the city to foreign tourists, according to a Chinese tourism agency specializing in tours to the North.

“Since medicine is as precious as rice in North Korea, Pyongsong will be crowded with people coming to buy medicine from other parts of the country if a drug store opens in the city, which has a relatively well-developed traffic network with other cities,” a source well informed on North Korea said.

Read the full story here:
N.K.-Swiss joint venture to open drugstore in N.K. provincial city
Yonhap
2013-9-8

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US sanctions DPRK Daedong Credit Bank

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Here is the press release from the Treasury Department:

Treasury Sanctions Bank, Front Company, and Official Linked to North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs

6/27/2013
Action Targets North Korea’s Use of Deceptive Financial Practices
to Support its Weapons Programs

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of the Treasury took another step in our ongoing efforts to disrupt North Korean financial networks supporting the regime’s illicit ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and proliferation activities. Daedong Credit Bank (DCB), together with DCB Finance Limited—a DCB front company—and DCB’s representative Kim Chol Sam were designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets proliferators of WMD and their supporters. The financial operations carried out by DCB, DCB Finance Limited, and Kim Chol Sam are responsible for managing millions of dollars of transactions in support of the North Korean regime’s destabilizing activities.

The Treasury Department also designated Son Mun San, the External Affairs Bureau Chief of North Korea’s General Bureau of Atomic Energy (GBAE) under E.O. 13882 for his work directing North Korea’s nuclear-related research efforts. The GBAE, which was previously designated by the U.S. and the UN, is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program, which includes the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and its five megawatt plutonium production research reactor, as well as its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities.

“Although the recent spate of provocations has waned, North Korea’s dangerous and destabilizing illicit nuclear and ballistic missile program continues apace, supported by North Korean financial institutions like Daedong Credit Bank. We are committed to increasing the sanctions pressure on North Korea until it complies with its international obligations,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “We urge financial institutions around the world to be wary of dealing with Daedong Credit Bank and the other designated entities in order to maintain the transparency and legitimacy of the international financial system.”

North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and proliferation activities violate UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), and 2094 (2013); destabilize the region; and undermine the global nonproliferation regime. Today’s designations build upon other recent U.S. efforts to target DPRK proliferation activities, including the March 2013 designation of North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB).

Daedong Credit Bank has engaged in the same type of activity that was at issue in the FTB designation, most notably providing financial services to the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), Pyongyang’s premier arms dealer as well as KOMID’s main financial arm, the Tanchon Commercial Bank (TCB), both of which have been previously designated by the U.S. for the central role they play supporting North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missiles programs. KOMID and TCB were also designated by the United Nations. UNSCR 2094 requires the imposition of targeted financial sanctions on entities that work for or on behalf of, or at the direction of, UN-designated North Korean entities. Since at least 2007, Daedong Credit Bank (DCB) has facilitated hundreds of financial transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of KOMID and TCB. In some cases, DCB has knowingly facilitated transactions by using deceptive financial practices.

DCB Finance Limited and Kim Chol Sam

Since at least 2006, Daedong Credit Bank has used its front company, DCB Finance Limited, to carry out international financial transactions as a means to avoid scrutiny by financial institutions avoiding business with North Korea. DCB Finance Limited is registered in the British Virgin Islands and also operates out of China.

Kim Chol Sam is a representative for Daedong Credit Bank who has also been involved in managing transactions on behalf of DCB Finance Limited. As a Dalian, China-based representative of DCB, it is suspected Kim Chol Sam has facilitated transactions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and likely managed millions of dollars in North-Korean related accounts.

Son Mun San

Since at least 2010, Son Mun San has served as the External Affairs Bureau Chief of North Korea’s General Bureau of Atomic Energy (GBAE).

GBAE is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program, which includes the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and its five megawatt plutonium production research reactor, as well as its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities. GBAE was designated by the United Nations Security Council in July 2009 and was also designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in September 2009.

U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the entities and individuals listed today, and any assets they may have subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

Identifying information:

Entity Name: Daedong Credit Bank
AKA: DCB
AKA: Taedong Credit Bank
Address: Suite 401, Potonggang Hotel, Ansan-Dong, Pyongchon District, Pyongyang, DPRK
Alt. Address: Ansan-dong, Botonggang Hotel, Pongchon, Pyongyang, DPRK
SWIFT: DCBK KPPY

Entity: DCB Finance Limited
Address: Akara Building, 24 de Castro Street, Wickhams Cay I, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Alt. Address: Dalian, China

Name:Kim Chol Sam
Date of Birth: March 11, 1971
Nationality: Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea
Role: Treasurer, Daedong Credit Bank

Name: Son Mun San
Date of Birth: January 23, 1951
Role: External Affairs Bureau Chief, General Bureau of Atomic Energy

According to Reuters:

The U.S. Treasury said Daedong Credit Bank has been providing financial services to the Korea Mining Developing Trading Corp, or KOMID, which it said was Pyongyang’s premier arms dealer, and the Tanchon Commercial Bank, or TCB, its main financial arm.

“Since at least 2007, Daedong Credit Bank has facilitated hundreds of financial transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of KOMID and TCB,” the Treasury said. “In some cases, (it) had knowingly facilitated transactions by using deceptive financial practices.”

The Treasury said it was also sanctioning a Daedong front company called DCB Financial Limited, that company’s representative, Kim Chol Sam, and Son Mun San, the external affairs bureau chief of North Korea’s Bureau of Atomic Energy.

It said the front company had carried out international financial transactions as a way to avoid scrutiny by institutions trying to avoid doing business with North Korea.

The action generally prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in any transactions with the entities or persons targeted, and freezes any assets they might have in the United States.

The fresh set of sanctions follows a decision by the United States in March to target North Korean’s Foreign Trade Bank, its main foreign exchange institution, to try to choke off cash to the government in Pyongyang.

Banks in the European Union have been reluctant to do business with FTB in the wake of the U.S. sanctions, and China’s biggest foreign exchange bank, the Bank of China, closed FTB’s account.

Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen told reporters on a conference call that he expects banks outside the United States to continue to limit or terminate their dealings with the sanctioned banks. “Being exposed to a financial institution like Daedong Credit Bank exposes those financial institutions to real risk, in particular reputational risk,” he said.

Cohen said previous sanctions had increased the North Korean regime’s financial isolation and that these latest designations would ratchet the pressure up further.

Here is the Wall Street Journal’s coverage.

Additional information:

1. Previous posts on Daedong Credit Bank here.

2. The US recently sanctioned the DPRK’s Foreign Trade Bank. Previous posts on the Foreign Trade Bank here.

3. Previous posts on KOMID here.

Read the full story here:
U.S. sanctions North Korea bank as it targets weapons program
Reuters
Paige Gance
2013-6-27

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Mansudae Art Studio repaired German fountain

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

According to Bloomberg:

In November 2005, two Germans flew to North Korea on official business. Their goal was not to discuss nuclear disarmament or diplomatic relations. Rather, they went to check on the progress of a sculptural commission: the reconstruction of Frankfurt’s so-called Fairy Tale Fountain, an art nouveau relic from 1910 that had been melted down for its metal during World War II.

Blueprints for the original Fairy Tale Fountain had gone missing, and the City of Frankfurt needed sculptors who could work from old photographs to re-create the naked beauty gazing down on an array of cherubic children and enormous water-spewing reptiles and fish. For this intricate job, the Germans had turned to Pyongyang’s Mansudae Art Studio.

Klaus Klemp, deputy director of Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Art, discovered Mansudae back in 2004 and was impressed enough by the craftsmanship to convince Frankfurt officials to hire the atelier. “It was a purely technical decision,” he says. “The top tier artists in Germany simply don’t make realist work anymore. North Koreans on the other hand haven’t experienced the long evolution of modern art; they are kind of stuck in the early 1900s, which is exactly when this fountain was made.” North Korea’s price tag for reconstructing the ornate bronze fountain was also attractive: €200,000, including shipping and handling.

In Pyongyang, Ministry of Culture officials escorted Klemp and his colleague, Philipp Sturm, to an expansive, well-lit factory space hung with banners touting slogans like, “When the Party Gives Orders, We Execute!” and “Self-Sustenance Is the Only Path To Survival!” There, a full-size plaster model of the German fountain stood among other works-in-progress, including a 25-foot-tall white marble statue of North Korea’s first leader, and a smaller statue of three revolutionary heroes, one of them brandishing an enormous flag.

The quality of the work was impeccable, but the Germans did have one complaint: Their art nouveau fountain had been rendered with a slightly hard, angular communist touch. “The woman had kind of a cement block hairdo,” recalls Sturm. “It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed. We explained to the head sculptor that the socialist realist style wasn’t really in vogue in Frankfurt at the moment. He was very receptive and softened the look accordingly.”


Germany is the only Western democracy to have hired Mansudae’s art army, and it did so before North Korea further sank into isolation by launching the country’s first nuclear and missile tests in 2006. “There’s no question that North Korea was a criminal country, even then,” says Klemp, but Germany at the time hoped a policy of rapprochement might help the Hermit Kingdom embark on a better, more humanitarian path. “It would be very difficult to hire them today,” Klemp says.

Frankfurt’s Fairy Tale Fountain was completed entirely in North Korea, and went off without a hitch. The Germans took precautions early on to supply Mansudae’s sculptors with photos of European children, so the sculptures “wouldn’t end up looking too Korean,” says Klemp. “We knew that could be a problem, but so did they.” Once complete, the fountain got shipped from China to Hamburg, and then trucked to Frankfurt where it was installed. “We were all really pleased with the work,” says Klemp. “Everything was done on time, and everyone we worked with was exceptionally professional and personable … for me, the most interesting part was how normal it all was.”

Read the full story here:
Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory
Bloomberg
Caroline Winter
2013-6-6

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DPRK Money laundering in Guangdong

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

According to to the Joongang Ilbo:

It was the end of March, about 20 days after the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution No. 2094 punishing North Korea for its third nuclear weapons test with new sanctions. At a newly built, modern-style train station in this southeastern Chinese city bordering Macau, three North Koreans in black suits with badges bearing the portrait of former leader Kim Jong-il appeared in the early evening. From the station they carried a large and obviously heavy gunny sack to a sedan parked about 30 meters (0.18 miles) away. They all got in and pulled away.

Two hours later, the sedan arrived at a high-rise building in Menggang district, Guangdong Province. Inside was an office of a private loan shark.

They entered the office on the seventh floor. One of the visitors, a middle-aged North Korean who spoke fluent Cantonese, greeted a Chinese man whom he called “Russelle.”

The North Korean dragged the sack to Russelle and opened it. Inside were bundles of U.S. banknotes. Russelle handed them to his underling and ordered him to count them with a banknote-counting machine.

After the total was confirmed, the North Korean withdrew a piece of paper with bank account numbers written on it. As in a thriller movie, Russelle began electronic banking transactions on a computer. He divvied up the total amount of cash among the accounts, sending set amounts to each. The total amount transferred: $2 million.

For helping in the money-laundering, Russelle was to receive 15 percent of the $2 million. In more urgent situations, his commission rises to 30 percent.

Several sources familiar with loan sharks in Guangzhou described these scenes to the JoongAng Sunday. The North Koreans were allegedly officials working for the Kwangson Banking Group, an affiliate of North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, the country’s primary foreign exchange bank. The North Korean who led the shady business with Russelle was Kim Kwi-chol, head of the Kwangson branch in Zhuhai.

North Korea has, sources say, conducted illicit activities like money-laundering through Kwangson’s branches in Zhuhai and Dandong, and it is playing a role for Pyongyang similar to that of Macau’s Banco Delta Asia’s after 2005, when sanctions brought its business to a halt.

According to “Recent Financial Activities of North Korea,” a report by Kim Gwang-jin, a defector-turned-researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy under the National Intelligence Service, Kwangson Bank is in charge of slush funds used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, money-laundering and remittances from banks sanctioned by the U.S. or UN Security Council.

The U.S. Treasury Department froze U.S. assets of the Kwangson Banking Corporation and prohibited U.S. citizens from doing business with the group in August 2009, accusing it of aiding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Last March, it said the Foreign Trade Bank was covered by executive order No. 13382, freezing all of its U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from doing business with it. In May, the Bank of China said it would stop all dealings with it.

But an expert in international finance told the JoongAng Sunday in April, “The sanctions taken by the U.S. Treasury Department against North Korea has no effect in regard to the Foreign Trade Bank.”

The head of the Zhuhai branch of Kwangson, Kim Kwi-chol, was allegedy born in Hoeyang, Kangwon Province in the North, on Nov. 19, 1955. In April 1984, he started work at the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea and worked in a branch of the bank in China in the late 1990s, and in Libya during the mid-2000s. He moved to the branch in Zhuhai on April 13, 2003.

Sources said Kim is in charge of delivering slush funds to Kim Jong-un and other members of his elite inner circle. He’s also in charge of some large-scale money-laundering, taking advantage of Zhuhai bordering Macau. He is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin with working experience in China for more than 10 years as a financial expert. He is allegedly living with his wife Pak Yong-hui, 57, in Zhuhai.

“He is a person who is always vigilant,” researcher Kim said.

An official investigating North Korea’s businesses in Zhuhai said, “We have recently confirmed that there are five workers and Kim Kwi-chol in the branch [in Zhuhai]. The amount of money the branch is dealing with is about $3 billion won a year, which is a bit less than that of the branch in Dandong in Liaoning Province.”

“Since Banco Delta Asia was frozen in 2005, North Korea’s funds are going through Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai,” an official in Macau said on the condition of anonymity.

On April 30, a JoongAng Sunday reporter visited a residential complex in Zhuhai, where several sources alleged the Kwangson Banking Group’s Zhuhai branch was located. The complex was composed of three separate apartment buildings with a front gate that required a security code for entrance. The JoongAng Sunday reporter sneaked into the complex when some residents punched in their codes.

However, when the reporter reached the office of Kwangson, there was no sign on its door. Although the reporter pressed the doorbell, no one answered. A security guard at the building said: “I have not heard of Kwangson Banking Group.”

Sources said the office kept as low a profile as possible. A resident of the complex who has seen the office said, “It’s not that large with several workers at the desks looking at financial terminals. The atmosphere was bleak.”

“Recently, the Hong Kong financial authorities launched a probe into Kwangson bank’s branch in Zhuhai, on suspicion of starting a shell company in Hong Kong under a fake name and working on money-laundering,” an official at a corporate intelligence service in Hong Kong said.

The official said the company was registered to a woman who doesn’t live in Hong Kong but in mainland China. Starting several years ago, more than $100 billion has been remitted to her accounts, raising suspicions she could be connected to the Kwansgon branch in Zhuhai.

A similar front company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading Company, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in January.

“Since the incident with Banco Delta Asia, most North Koreans staying in Macau left due to tightened supervision of money-laundering,” a source said. “However, they still had to keep in touch with their clients and partners in Macau, so they chose Zhuhai, bordering Macau, as an alternative.”

Currently, North Korea’s two major state-run banks are its Central Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank. The Foreign Trade Bank is in charge of foreign currency.

Although the Kwangson Banking Group officially belongs to the Foreign Trade Bank, in fact, it is a special organization that deals with foreign currency that is dubbed the “revolution fund.” The bank’s other name is Bureau 711.

“Kwangson Banking Group is a special financial organization in charge of slush funds of the Kim family under the direct control of Kim Kyung-hui, younger sister of the late leader Kim Jong-il,” Kim Gwang-jin said. “The group’s branch in Dandong was founded in September 2002 and another one in Macau was moved to Zhuhai after the problems with Banco Delta Asia starting in 2005.”

“After Banco Delta Asia, the foreign currency business of normal North Korean banks was paralyzed, but the Kwangson Banking Group has led the money-laundering business with the full support of the North Korean elite.”

Kim said there are three financial experts specializing in foreign currency in North Korea – Ri Tong-rim, president of the Kwangson Banking Group, Kim Kwi-chol, head of the Zhuhai branch and Ri Il-su, head of the Dandong branch.

Ri, the 57-year-old executive, was born in Songgan County, Chagang Province. He started as a manager at the Foreign Trade Bank in 1980 and became president of the 711 Bureau, the Kwangson bank, in 2004.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed, he collaborated with the Russian mafias and successfully withdrew $4.5 million from a bank in the USSR,” Kim said.

Ri Il-su, head of the bank’s Dandong branch, is assumed to be in his mid-50s. He was a vice president of the Foreign Trade Bank’s branch in Zhuhai and vice president of the 711 Bureau in the mid-1990s.

In June 2006, he signed an agreement with the China Construction Bank’s branch in Dandong over founding a joint bank in a border region between China and North Korea. The joint bank is in charge of foreign currency in three provinces in northeastern China.

“Under the agreement, if the Dandong branch remits money to a local bank in the three provinces first, then the Chinese bank resends the money to another bank in China or a third country for money-laundering,” Kim said. “Although the Bank of China or other major banks ban North Koreans opening accounts, other small-scale banks allow it.”

The Kwangson bank reportedly has a branch in Shenzhen, southern China, but its head is unknown.

“In the financial sector in Hong Kong, it’s said that Kwangson bank’s Zhuhai branch is earning big profits through gold investment, stock transactions and foreign exchange,” an official at a croporate intelligence service in Hong Kong, said. “A rumor says that when North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010, the branch bought a bunch of stocks of South Korean companies whose prices drastically dropped because of the shelling and made huge profits.”

“It is really urgent to stop the illicit activities of these North Koreans in China,” a South Korean government official said. “It is actually impossible to impose effective sanctions against North Korea without the full help of the Chinese government.”

Read the full story here:
North money laundering done in Guangdong
Joongang Ilbo
Ahn Sung-kyoo
2013-6-5

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North Korea promoting extensively for the international product exhibition

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-5-30

North Korea currently under robust international sanctions has put on extensive advertising campaign for the recent International Product Exhibition [Spring International Trade Fair] held in Pyongyang.

A week has passed since the 16th Pyongyang International Spring Product Exhibition (May 13-16), but the Choson Sinbo, the bulletin of the Japan-based Chosen Soren, continues to run daily articles on the products displayed in the exhibition.

The products displayed at the Pyongyang International Spring Product Exhibition, which is North Korea’s largest trade exhibition, provided a peak at the country’s current industrial trends. Moreover, this year’s exhibition introduced a number of products which are used in the daily lives of North Koreans.

The (North) Korean United Trading Company exhibited over fifty categories of products including colored metal products and a variety of lubricants and ball bearings. Groups including the Sungri Economic Trade Alliance, the State of the Art Technology Development and Exchange Center, the (North) Korean Hard Glass Company, the Pyongjin Bicycle Joint Venture Company, etc. entered products which contribute to improving the lives of North Koreans. The Chosun Sinbo introduced various new products displayed at the exhibition, including shoes was introduced which treats athlete’s foot and dissipates odors with substances such as nano silver as well as complex lactic acid products and other pharmaceutical products made at the Pyongchon Koryo Pharmaceutical Factory.

North Korea also focused on advertisement for automobiles and electronics. Pyonghwa Motors introduced over 30 new models at the exhibition, with the increase in demand. It also boasted that the new models were equipped with lower fuel consumption, reduced by two-thirds.

North Korean media also praised computer products introduced by the (North) Korean Computer Center for its rise in popularity and international competitiveness. The Ryongak Computation Information and Technology Exchange Center introduced a new tablet PC which it dubbed the ‘Yongheung.’ It was reported that buyers welcomed the site for portable profile projectors which had TVs for viewing and allowed for comfortable exhibition of mass media materials.

To overcome the current international sanctions imposed on North Korea, the exhibition is likely to be intended to increase its economic cooperation with the outside world. On May 22, the Chosun Sinbo reported that despite the United States-led economic sanctions on North Korea, many foreign enterprises participated in the exhibition in the hopes of expanding trade with North Korea. It highlighted that the Rason Comet Trade Corporation which is located in China and North Korea’s joint Rason Special Economic District, participated this year for the first time in the Pyongyang International Spring Merchandise Exhibition. The article explained that the Rason Comet Trade Corporation is exporting clothing including t-shirts and athletic wear to Indonesia, Thailand, China, etc. Pyonghwa Motors which exhibited 36 varieties of cars, passenger vans, and buses at the outdoor exhibition center, benefited from meetings with several foreign companies as well as North Korean trade and economic agencies.

The 16th annual Pyongyang Spring Product Exhibition was held from the 13th to 16th of this month and companies from North Korea, Germany, Malaysia, Mongolia, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Italia, Indonesia, China, Poland, and Taiwan participated at the event with various products including machineries, electronics, light industry, foods, medical, and chemicals.

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Kiribati issued passports to North Korean

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The tiny South Pacific island nation of Kiribati issued passports to North Korean businessmen until 2004 as a “means of generating revenue,” its president has admitted.

There had been speculation for some time that North Koreans engaged in illicit activities such as arms deals were illegally obtaining passports from small countries.

Appearing recently on Australian radio, Kiribati President Anote Tong said he was embarrassed that the passports were reportedly related to international crime. “I can assure you that we had corrected that situation in 2004 when we stopped issuing these passports,” he said.

Late last year, a Japanese activist group said two agents from North Korea, Han Chol [한철] and Ju Ok-hui [주억희), used passports issued by Kiribati and the Seychelles.

They are board members of North Korea’s Tongsin International Trading Corporation, an agency suspected of illegally exporting weapons to Burma and other countries, the group added.

Both Han and Ju were given passports by the Kiribati government in 1996 and by the Seychelles in 2007. The countries reportedly sold passports to foreign businessmen but abandoned the practice due to mounting worries about illicit activities.

A Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said, “Kiribati has been neutral since it won independence from the U.K. in 1979. “It would have been easier for the North Korean agents to travel with those passports rather than with North Korean ones.”

Read the full story here:
South Pacific Island Admits Selling Passports to N.Koreans
Choson Ilbo
2013-3-13

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