Kim Chan Ku, Researcher in the Institute for Far Eastern Studies
1989 July 14th. Kim Ki Dong, a manager at Rajin ship repairs and superintendent and Choi Chng Ku (affiliated with Daesung General Bureau) of Rajin’s Donghae Marine Products for Exports made a decision to reinvestigate business plans for a ship maintenance factory.
The 3.30PM train headed for Kimchaek arrives at Kimchaek station at 10.40 in North Hamkyung where an official from Kimchaek Fisheries Office came awaiting their guests. We headed for the villa.
Through these business investments, a small fraction of North Korea’s closed doors have been opened and the number of tourists continued to rise. In addition, a great number of Korean-Americans were reunited with their separated North Korean families.
In fact, most of these people had been thinking about small-scale investments with the purpose of frequently meeting their separated families. I was the only person wanting to invest in North Korea despite not having any connections.
In 1988, Koreans with American citizenship thought they were allowed to invest in North Korea different to U.S. North Korea policies. It was at this time problems began to arise.
Korean-Americans only permitted 1 visit to North Korea per year
The U.S. government had claimed North Korea as an enemy state and for this reason had placed restrictions to the number of visits to North Korea. The U.S. had drafted and was regulating a list of visitations to North Korea in which Korean-Americans took no notice of. With the sole reason that North Koreans were of the same race, people traveled unrestricted to North Korea in which the U.S. had deemed an enemy state. However, the U.S. government could not accept this.
Around this time, the number of visits had been reported to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
1) All Korean-Americans residing in the U.S. (with citizenship or permanent residency) are permitted to travel to North Korea on 1 occasion per year.
2) No more than US$100 worth of goods possessed or purchased in North Korea can be brought into the country.
3) All Korean-Americans are prohibited from investing in North Korea and are prohibited from arbitrating any businesses for other North Korea advancement.
A notice was made which specifically stated that strict penalties would be made under U.S. law against any persons who did not comply to the 3 law enforcements. However, I continued with my work.
Following consultations with company authorities, a whole day was spent drafting business plans needed to repair a Russian cargo ship. On examining the business plans, it was decided that a floating dock would be the most appropriate and cost effective operation.
A decision made to help overrun coastal facilities
평양으로 돌아온 나는 종합검토 결과 라진-선봉지역은 일제 때부터 일본군인들이 사용했던 항구이고, 또 지역적으로도 앞으로 동북아 물류 중심 항구로 손색이 없겠다는 결론을 내렸다. 또한, 북한 측의 요구를 고려해 라진-선봉 지구에 시설을 하기로 했다. 원 부자재인 플로팅 독(Floating Dock)은 내가 책임지고, 그 외의 모든 설비는 대성총국 측에서 책임지기로 합의서를 작성했다.
On returning to Pyongyang, I made a decision on the results which indicated that the Rajin-Sunbong region had been used as a port by Japanese soldiers during Japanese occupation and that geographically, this region possessed no disadvantages in being the focal port of distributing goods in the future of North East Asia.
For 10 days, I visited many small and large ports throughout North Korea’s eastern coast and having seen the incomparably inadequate state of the ports in comparison to South Korean marine business, I made the decision to help these people and signed a contract.
On returning to Seoul, I spent a lot of time collating data that needed to be submitted by September. For 3 weeks, colleagues spent the summer working for more than 10 hours each day taking pictures and collecting information on North Korea companies and repair factories on location in Busan.
3 people, a planner, work colleague and myself, Kim Song Chan, a businessman from LA with experiences in trading with Communist countries arrived early in the morning of September 25th at North Korea’s embassy on the borderline and having received the visas arrived in Pyongyang.
In addition, a trading manager, advisor and colleague also joined us on our journey as we left on a special night train headed for Sunbong at 5PM on the 27th. The railroads were so poor that I felt as if I had bordered a boat and I couldn’t see anything as there was no light.
On the following morning, we arrived at Kimchaek city at 8AM. The purpose of this trip was to make ultimate decisions on fisherman, refrigerator and storage for the company, as well understand the present condition of catching turban shells and location for ship repairs. At the time, the Chosun Central Fisheries Committee had requested us to construct facilities at either Rajin or Wonsan port, but the Daesung General Bureau requested that the facilities be constructed at Kimchaek port as it provided all the good conditions.