Archive for the ‘State Development Bank’ Category

Kumgang Resort operational status (UPDATED)

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Pictured above (Google Earth): April 2010 satellite imagery of the Kumgang tourist resort

The Kumgang resort was receiving 400,000 visitors per year until in July 2008 it became the scene of a terrible tragedy, the shooting of a South Korean tourist. Following the incident, the South Korean government prohibited its citizens from visiting the resort until the DPRK allowed a joint-Korean investigation of the shooting and made a guarantee of future safety.  The DPRK never agreed to these terms so the park fell idle.

The suspension of the project has cost the DPRK government millions of dollars. In response it has moved to pressure the ROK government to change course and allow the tours to resume. Below I have kept a timeline of the course of these events and their outcomes.


2014-7-14: The Hankyoreh marks July 11–the 6th anniversary of the day when tours to Mt. Keumgang in North Korea were suspended. 

“As a result of the suspension of tourism to Mt. Keumgang, we have lost nearly 1 trillion won [US$981 million], including the 300 billion won [US$294.32 million] invested in the facilities and an estimated 530 billion won in lost revenue,” the investors said. They urged the governments of North and South Korea to immediately hold working-level talks to resume tourism to Mt. Keumgang and to hold reunions for divided families.

“The position of the government is that the issue of the safety of its citizens must be resolved before it can allow tours to Mt. Keumgang to resume. In addition, given the continuing UN Security Council sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, which occurred after tours to Mt. Keumgang were halted, we think that the tours cannot be resumed until the government indicates that doing so would not be in violation of UN sanctions,” said Ministry of Unification spokesperson Kim Ui-do during a regular press briefing on July 11.

2012-11-27: The Hankyoreh reports that North Korea provided a written guarantee for the safety of tourists at Mt. Kumkang during 2010 working level talks with the South Korean government.

2011-9-6: South Korea asks foreigners not to invest in Kumgang saying such investments would violate existing property rights.

2011-9-6: Park Chol-su, head of Daepung International Investment Group, said he wants to discuss with South Korea’s Hyundai Asan how to handle its assets at the North’s Mount Kumgang.

2011-8-31: Chinese tourists arrive in Kumgang on Mangyongbong.

2011-8-30: South Korea calls for international boycott of Kumgangsan resort

2011-8-28: Taephung Investment Group outlines new Kumgang business plan

2011-8-24: Kumgang opened to DPRK and Chinese toursits

2011-8-23: South Korean workers leave Kumgang

2011-8-22: DPRK orders expulsion of remaining South Korean staff, auctioning of assets

2011-8-19: Hyundai officials visit Kumgang amid dispute over fate of company assets

2011-8-6: Steve Parks claims he has signed an MOU with the DPRK government

2011-6-2: “DPRK Law on Special Zone for International Tour of Mt. Kumgang” released. PDF of the statute here.

2011-4-29: SPA designates Kumgang special zone

2011-4-1: DPRK rescinds Hyundai’s Kumgang contract rights

2010-11-15: Kumgang re-fozen

2010-10-31: Family reuniuons were held there in October/November

2010-8-7: DPRK using Kumgagn assets to serve tourists in the North

2010-5-16: Taephung shows Chinese investors Kumgang

2010-5-3: Most South Korean and Chinese employees leave

2010-4-25: The National Defense Commission takes over the properties and puts the Korea Taepung International Investment Group in charge of attracting investors and tourists to the resort.

2010-4-23: Seoul denounces the seizure

2010-4-11: Chinese tourists began arriving at the resort (here and here).

2010-4-11: Employees told to leave/sealed up

2010-4-11:The DPRK “seizes” the Hyundai properties in the Kumgang resort

2010-3-24: Investors worried about losing out

2010-3-18: DPRK threatens to seize Kumgang Resort

2010-3-18: Hyundai-Asan’s chief offers to resign

2010-3-10: DPRK threatens to revoke contracts with South Korean partner, Hyundai-Asan


Western Aid: The Missing Link for North Korea’s Economic Reviva

Monday, May 9th, 2011

AEI Working Paper
Nicholas Eberstadt

Download PDF here

[T]his past January, for the first time in over two decades, Pyongyang has formally unveiled a new multi-year economic plan: a 10-year “strategy plan for economic development” under a newly formed State General Bureau for Economic Development. The new economic plan is intended not only to meet the DPRK’s longstanding objective of becoming a “powerful and prosperous country” [Kangsong Taeguk] by 2012 (the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung), but also to promote North Korea to the ranks of the “advanced countries in 2020.”

Details on the new 10-year economic plan are as yet sketchy. South Korean analysts report that the plan envisions massive amounts of new investment in North Korea: up to $100 billion, by some accounts.3 But even if the investment target is more modest than such rumors suggest, North Korea will be counting on more than just domestic capital accumulation to secure this funding. It will have to rely upon major inflows of both foreign private capital–and foreign aid.

Additional Information:

1. This report has been added to the DPRK Economic Statistics Page.


Chinese to boost investment in Rason

Friday, January 7th, 2011

UPDATE  1 (2011-1-19): According to the Wall Street Journal:

A Chinese firm has signed a letter of intent to invest $2 billion in a North Korean industrial zone, representing one of the largest potential investments in Kim Jong Il’s authoritarian state and a challenge to U.S. policy in the region.

The agreement was signed with little fanfare in Pyongyang on Dec. 20—a day otherwise marked by pitched tension on the Korean peninsula following the North’s shelling of a South Korean island—according to documents viewed by the Wall Street Journal. Confirmation of the deal comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Washington this week in a bid to forge closer security and economic ties with the U.S.

U.S. officials said the administration is aware of the possible Chinese investment, but noted that previous projects haven’t gone anywhere. “No investment project will enable North Korea to meet the needs of its people as long as its government continues its destabilizing behavior,” said a senior administration official.

The letter of intent involves China’s Shangdi Guanqun Investment Co. and North Korea’s Investment and Development Group. An assistant to the managing director of Shangdi Guanqun, who identified himself only by his surname, Han, said his company’s planned investment is focused on the Rason special economic zone, situated near North Korea’s border with Russia.

The zone was called Rajin-Sonbong when it was established in 1991, but failed to attract sufficient investment. It was revived, and re-named Rason, following a visit there in 2009 by Mr. Kim.

Mr. Han said the plan is to develop infrastructure, including docks, a power plant and roads over the next two to three years, followed by various industrial projects, including an oil refinery, over the next five to 10 years. He said the company was waiting for a response from the North Korean government before applying for approval from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

“It’s all pending at this stage, and it’s really up to the Korean side to make the decision,” Mr. Han said. He added that the $2 billion figure was what the North Korean side had hoped for, not necessarily what his company could deliver.

The company’s Web site says the company was “under the administration” of a state-owned enterprise, Shangdi Purchase-Estate Corporation. Mr. Han, however, said his company was “100 percent private.”

For the Obama administration, securing China’s cooperation in restraining North Korea’s military and nuclear-proliferation activities is a cornerstone of a warmer bilateral relationship. But the potential investment is a reminder of possible limits of Chinese cooperation.

The U.S. wants to step up sanctions to force Kim Jong Il to give up his nuclear-weapons arsenal and military activities. China, meanwhile, is increasingly promoting business projects and direct investment to influence the North, say Chinese and American analysts, arguing financial pressure hasn’t worked.

China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and aid donor, but the scale of this deal raises concerns in Seoul that Beijing is running its own version of the “Sunshine” policy under which the South boosted investment in the North from 1998 to 2008.

This policy disconnect is expected to be one of the issues Chinese and U.S. officials discuss this week. “These types of deals pursued by China generally present a real challenge to the sanctions” being effective, said Victor Cha, a North Korea expert who helped oversee Asia policy in George W. Bush’s National Security Council. “The net effect is that it does make it more difficult for these sanctions to have the desired effect.”

Such deals have emerged in the past and have come to nothing, analysts said, and it is possible this one, too, could peter out. A number of similar North Korean economic zones have failed to live up to their billing because of poor infrastructure and corruption, and a lack of economic reform. News of the deal was first reported in the Korean-language press, including the Voice of America’s Korean service.

It is unclear how long the agreement has been in the works. But its Dec. 20 signing came on the day South Korea conducted a closely watched artillery test from Yeonpyeong Island near North Korea.

The test marked a high point in tensions after North Korea’s surprise late November shelling of Yeonpyeong, which killed four South Koreans. Pyongyang had threatened a swift military response should Seoul carry out an announced artillery test on Dec. 20. But the day’s drill came and went amid high security in the South, with the North saying in a statement it “did not feel any need to retaliate.”

Top administration officials have recently both praised and chided the Chinese over the North. On a trip to China last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates commended the Chinese for their “constructive” role in reducing tensions on the peninsula after Pyongyang’s recent shelling of a South Korean island. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a Friday speech pressed China to be more aggressive in helping tamp down the North’s nuclear program.

The proposed investment is among the strongest evidence yet of China’s strategy of using direct investment rather political pressure to push for change in North Korea. Chinese experts say that after North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, China tried to make improved bilateral relations dependent on Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear program. But after a second test in 2009, China changed tack.

Beijing now believes, according to Chinese experts, that the North Korean regime won’t respond to political pressure and could collapse completely if China cuts off aid and investment, triggering a flood of refugees into northeastern China, and bringing U.S. troops right up to the Chinese border.

The investment strategy was cemented when China’s Premier Wen Jiabao visited North Korea in October 2009 and signed a slew of economic and trade agreements. One of those agreements was for China to fund construction of a $250 million bridge across the Yalu River that separates the two countries.

Construction of the bridge, which would link China with another North Korean special economic zone, had been slated to start in August. Local officials said in November it appeared to have been put on hold indefinitely. Now they say a ground-breaking ceremony was held Dec. 31.

U.S. officials are particularly concerned about how China’s financial links to North Korea may be facilitating Pyongyang’s weapons programs. In November, Pyongyang showed a visiting American scientist 2,000 centrifuges stationed at a cover site, drastically raising fears about the North’s ability to expand its nuclear-weapons arsenal.

“China’s increased economic support undercuts the rest of the region’s efforts to convince Pyongyang that there will be consequences for further belligerence, nuclear weapons development or transfer of nuclear capabilities,” said Michael Green, who also served as a senior official on Asia during the Bush administration.

Read the full story here:
Chinese Firm to Invest in North Korea
Wall Street Journal
Jay Soloman and Jeremy Page

ORIGINAL POST (2011-1-7): According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

A Chinese state-run company recently agreed to invest $2 billion in North Korea’s Rason free trade zone, the JoongAng Ilbo learned yesterday from documents related to the deal.

Shangdi Guanqun Investment Co., Ltd. signed a 10-point memorandum of understanding with Pyongyang’s Investment and Development Group on Dec. 20 in Beijing, the documents showed.

The signing ceremony was attended by Mi Chang, president of Shangdi Guanqun Investment, and Kim Chol-jin, president of the Investment and Development Group.

The goal of the investment, stated in the documents, is to build Rason, a northeastern North Korean city on the East Sea that borders both China and Russia, into the “biggest industrial zone in Northeast Asia” in around 10 years.

The project calls for coal-fired power plants, roads, piers and oil refineries in the North Hamgyong Province city, the documents said.

According to the documents, the deal is “a strategic joint project based on trust between high-level figures” in China and North Korea, which suggests it may have been negotiated by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during two visits to China last year, on which he met Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The North’s economy has suffered under international sanctions on trade and financial services overseas, imposed after its nuclear weapon tests, and is desperately seeking foreign investment.

China is investing in Rason as an export base to serve markets in Japan, southern China and Southeast Asia.

Rason is a merger of two towns, Rajin and Sonbong, and was designated the first free trade zone in the North in 1991. It was promoted to a “special city,” which means it has fewer restrictions on businesses.

“We have a deep interest in North Korea’s ample natural resources,” an official of Shangdi Guanqun Investment Co., Ltd. told the JoongAng Ilbo. “To facilitate the export of natural resources [from the region], we will invest $300 million first and construct a coal-fire power plant at the coal mine and build a railway, roads, and harbors and piers [near it].”

The Chinese firm’s official said the company opened an office in Pyongyang at the end of last month.

Shangdi Guanqun Investment, established in 1995 by the Chinese government, is a trading firm specializing in oil processing, natural resources and international financial services. It is one of the key companies in China’s 12th five-year economic development plan that starts this year.

North Korea’s Investment and Development Group is in charge of developing the country’s four free trade zones. The other economic special zones are in Kaesong, Mount Kumgang and Sinuiju.

The Shangdi Guanqun Investment official said the company will build an oil refinery in Rason, where it plans to refine crude imported from the Middle East and Russia and sell the output to China or other countries.

I believe this Chinese story also relates to the same project.

Read the full story here:
China backs North’s Rason project
Joong Ang Daily
Ko Soo-suk


Jon Il-chun re-surfaces

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

South Korean intelligence officials breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday. They had finally located Jon Il-chun, the head of a special department in North Korea’s Workers Party that manages Kim Jong-il’s slush fund. Jon, who had eluded intelligence officials for the past six months, was finally spotted on a North Korean TV broadcast featuring one of leader Kim Jong-il’s so-called on-the-spot guidance tours in Pyongyang.

The 69-year-old Jon went to high school with Kim (68) and was appointed head of the department, known as Room 39, early this year. It manages 17 overseas branch offices and around 100 trading companies and even owns a gold mine and a bank. The US$200-300 million those companies make each year is funneled into Kim’s secret bank accounts around the world.

Room 39 is targeted each time the U.S. and other foreign governments apply financial sanctions against North Korea. Kim replaced its head early this year because the former director, Kim Tong-un, was put on an EU list of sanctioned individuals late last year, making it impossible for him to manage the leader’s secret overseas bank accounts.

Due to the importance of the department and the clandestine nature of its business, the director of Room 39 rarely appears in public, but he sometimes accompanies Kim Jong-il on guidance tours when they involve organizations linked to Kim’s slush funds, an intelligence official said.

In the TV clip on Sunday, Jon is seen with Kim on an tour to Hyangmanlu, a popular restaurant, and Sonhung food manufacturing plant. A North Korean defector who used to live in Pyongyang, said the restaurant was built in the 1990s by a wealthy ethnic Korean from Japan and is located in a busy part of Pyongyang. “It was always packed with wealthy party officials,” the defector said, adding the party manages the restaurant so the entire proceeds probably go into Kim Jong-il’s coffers. He added there is a strong possibility that the food factory also belongs to the party.

The last time Jon appeared on North Korean TV was on June 20, at the opening of a mine in Yanggang Province. A North Korean source said the Huchang Mine is a famous copper mine that had been closed for some time but must have reopened. “Judging by the fact that Jon took part in the opening ceremony, it appears to be one of many mines run by Room 39.”

Jon was also spotted at Kim’s inspections of two fisheries companies last year and one this year. A Unification Ministry official said, “North Korean exports of fisheries products are handled by the party or the military and they’re sources of revenue for Kim Jong-il’s slush fund.” Fisheries products accounted for the second largest North Korea’s W1.64 trillion exports to South Korea last year, amounting to W173 billion or 16.3 percent. Textiles totaled W477 billion or 44.8 percent.

“This is one of the reasons why we blocked imports of North Korean fisheries products” following the North’s sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, the official said.

Additional Information:

1. Michael Madden has written a biography of Jon Il-chun here.

2. Here is a satellite image of the Hyangmanru Restaurant.  Here is a satellite image of the Sohung Foodstuff Factory (right next door).

Read the full story here:
Elusive Manager of Kim Jong-il’s Slush Funds Pops Up Again
Choson Ilbo


Room (Bureau) 38 allegedly restored

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

According ot the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea in March restored a special department in the Workers Party codenamed Room 38 which manages leader Kim Jong-il’s coffers and personal slush funds, it emerged Monday. The North last fall merged Room 38 with Room 39, which manages party slush funds.

“Rooms 38 and 39 were merged to simplify Kim Jong-il’s slush funds,” said a North Korean source. “But when it became difficult to secure hard currency due to international sanctions, Room 38 seems to have been restored because there was a feeling that Room 39 alone can’t meet the need.”

Room 38 is reportedly led by Kim Tong-il, who heads three regional departments in charge of earning hard currency.

Room 39 tries to maximize earnings from gold and zinc mining and farming and fisheries. It also manages stores and hotels exclusively for foreigners in Pyongyang. Room 39 seems to have suffered badly due to the recent suspension of inter-Korean trade. “Taesong Bank and Zokwang Trading, which received remittances from Mt. Kumgang tourism, are both controlled by Room 39, and is also in charge of the exports of agricultural and fisheries products,” said a government source.

Kim Jong-il needs dollars to maintain the party elite’s loyalty to him and his heir presumptive. He is said to have told party bigwigs in February, “From now on I will judge your loyalty based on the amount you contribute to the fund.” His son Jong-un is also said to be amassing separate slush funds for his own use.

But international sanctions on exports of weapons, counterfeit dollars, fake cigarettes and drugs remain in place, and the United States is pushing ahead with additional financial sanctions over the North’s sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March. Pyongyang was dealt a heavy blow in 2005 when the U.S. froze US$25 million in the Banco Delta Asia in Macao which was apparently for Kim’s personal use.

Kim earlier this year appointed his high school friend Jon Il-chun head of Room 39. Jon was also named chairman of the National Development Bank, established early this year with a view to conducting normal international financial transactions to induce foreign investment. “North Korea seems to be planning to divert part of foreign investment to Kim’s slush fund,” said a government official.

NK Leadership Watch has more

Read the full story here:
Kim Jong-il Restores Special Department to Swell Coffers
Choson Ilbo


DPRK looking for Chinese investors in Taebong gold mine

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

The chairman of North Korea’s State Development Bank, Jeon Il Chun visited China on April 8, reportedly to try and bring Chinese investment to Daebong Mine, located near Hyesan, Yangkang Province.

Daebong Mine is one of North Korea’s major gold mines, managed under the auspices of the No. 39 Department of the Central Committee, a special department charged with raising funds for Kim Jong Il’s personal use. Jeon Il Chun is the person in charge of the No. 39 Department.

Attempts to sell shares in a gold mine directly controlled by the 39 Department, Kim Jong Il’s own private safe, to China seem to indirectly imply that Kim is suffering from a debilitating foreign currency supply crisis.

One Daily NK source in China who is well-acquainted with North Korean affairs reported that while Jeon was in China, he met with the management of three or four Chinese enterprises which already have investments in North Korea, and suggested investment conditions under which the North could transfer some of its mineral rights to them and receive capital investments in return.

The source said, “For now, as far as I know, executive managers of the No. 39 Department have been in contact with Chinese enterprises. Since the Workers’ Party is trying to sell shares in a gold mine, it seems the funding of the Party might be serious.”

“It is not clear whether or not this attempt was done on Kim Jong Il’s instructions, but attracting foreign investment in a gold mine is not a commonplace affair,” the source pointed out, adding that an investor has not yet been put in place.

What is the Daebong Mine for?

The Daebong Mine is a relatively large gold mine on the border of Woonheung and Gapsan in Yangkang Province. Until 2001, a Yangkang provincial foreign currency earning enterprise and the foreign currency earning department of the People’s Safety Agency jointly managed it. However, in May, 2002, it became a No. 39 Department affiliated enterprise.

The No. 39 Department has been raising private funds for the leader and Party operations under the Finance and Accounting Department of the Central Committee since the mid-1970s. According to defectors, it has the highest authority and the largest funds of all North Korea’s foreign currency earning enterprises. Especially, it has the ability to mobilize tremendous financial resources since it manages and controls supplies of gold and silver and rare non-ferrous metals.

A source from Yangkang Province explained, “According to Chongjin University of Mining and Metals and Kim Chaek University of Technology, the purity of the gold from the Daebong Mine is more than 76 percent, while production from Hoichang and Eunsan in South Pyongang Province is 63 percent and 61 percent respectively. More than 150kg of solid gold is produced annually, so this mine is known as the ‘loyalty mine’.”

“People say that the government earns four or five million dollars a year through this mine. Neither Yangkang Provincial Committee nor Hyesan Municipal Committee is involved with the business of the mine.”

The source added, “Since the No. 39 Department deals with the mine, only those discharged soldiers with good family backgrounds are dispatched there by the Central Committee. In October of last year, around 200 discharged soldiers with good family backgrounds came to the mine.”

Almost all the gold produced in the Daebong Mine is stored in Swiss and Austrian banks in gold bars.

A Chinese company had a contract with the DPRK’s Musan Mine which has been canceled for an unknown reason.

Click here to see what I believe is the mine’s location.

Read the full article here:
No. 39 Department Hawking Shares in Key Gold Mine
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin


DPRK State Development Bank holds first meeting

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

According to the AFP:

Sanctions-hit North Korea on Wednesday formally launched a development bank aimed at attracting foreign funds to revive its economy, state media reported.

Directors of the State Development Bank held their first meeting to elect officers and decide on a management structure and annual budget, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The bank, set up on the orders of leader Kim Jong-Il, will have “advanced banking rules and system for transactions with international monetary organisations and commercial banks,” the agency said.

It would invest in major projects and act as a commercial bank.

The bank is the latest move by the North to revive its ailing economy and rebuild crumbling infrastructure. In January it upgraded the status of Rason, a free trade zone near the border with China and Russia, to boost foreign trade.

Analysts have said the decision to found the development bank shows leader Kim is confident the six-party talks will eventually produce a settlement.

The board is made up of members of the National Defence Commission (NDC), the nation’s top ruling body; the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a state agency in charge of exchanges with South Korea; the finance ministry; the Korea Taepung International Investment Group and two independent directors.

NDC representative Jon Il-Chun was elected director-general and Pak Chol-Su, described as a Korean resident in China, as his deputy.

Previous State Development Bank posts here.

The KCNA story is here.

North Korean leadership Watch has more, including a picture of Jon Il-chun.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea launches bank to woo foreign capital


China to send $10 billion investment to DPRK

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

UPDATE: According to the Daily NK, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) claims $10 billion transfer is not likely:

The director of the NIS, Won Sei Hoon passed on the confirmation to a closed-door meeting of the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday, after which members Chung Jin Suk of the Grand National Party and Park Young Sun of the Democratic Party revealed it to the press.

According to the two lawmakers, Won told the Committee, “Although North Korea is likely going around trying to invite 10 billion dollars of foreign investment, it seems that they have not attracted that much capital,” before predicting, “Unless the North solves the nuclear problem, it will be almost impossible to attract that much capital.”

He did add, however, “The Cabinet, Workers’ Party, military authorities and National Defense Commission have all seemingly been moving to try and obtain foreign capital. The appeasement attitude shown to the international community may be a part of their efforts to solve the problem of a lack of foreign currency.”

During the closed-doors meeting, Won also gave his opinion on a wide range of other issues pertaining to North Korea, including the inter-Korean dialogue and the truth of Kim Jong Il’s health status.

“It is not a deadlock situation because there is still dialogue,” Won said of the inter-Korean relationship. However, “Since North Korea’s attitude has not changed yet; it will take more time to resume the tours of Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong.”

Commenting on Kim Jong Il’s probable health condition, Won revealed that Kim has been making an effort to appear healthy, for example by removing age spots on his face, but, “While he has been visiting industrial sites, he has expressed nervousness about current issues and economic problems, and has a sharpened temper. His tendency of relying on old acquaintances and family members has been increasing.”

However, “I believe there is zero possibility of a coup. For the time being, it seems that the North Korean leadership can control its domestic society.”

ORIGINAL POST: According to Yonhap:

During his four-day visit to Pyongyang, the source said [Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Communist Party of China] held in-depth discussions about investments by Chinese companies via Daepung Group, an investment company that works to attract overseas capital to the communist state.

Total investments are expected to exceed the $10 billion mark, with a signing ceremony planned by North Korea’s State Development Bank in mid-March that is to be attended by foreign investors from involved nations, the source said.

“Over 60 percent of total investments, which will be announced next month, will come from China,” the source added, suggesting the Chinese government’s close involvement in building railways, ports and houses in North Korea.

China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and an important provider of food and fuel. North Korea remains isolated from most of the world and has received virtually no foreign investment. The North’s GDP was estimated at around $26.2 billion in 2008 compared with $1.3 trillion for the South, according to the U.S. State Department.

Read more about the Korea Taepung International Investment Group and the DPRK State Development Bank here.

Read the full story below:
N. Korea draws US$10 billion in foreign investments: source


First meeting of Korea Taepung International Investment Group held

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

UPDATE: According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea recently announced it wants to create a bank to finance national development projects and appointed a Korean-Chinese businessman named Pak Chol-su to head what is to be called the [North] Korea Taepung International Investment Group, which is to attract foreign capital for the bank. The seven-member board of directors at the investment company include usual suspects like Kim Yang-gon, the director of the Workers’ Party’s United Front Department, Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law, and other key players.

But analysts say Pak, a foreigner, is the only one with the ability to attract overseas capital, leading to a sense among South Korean intelligence analysts that Pak was brought in to save what he can of the North Korean economy. It is not the first time. In 2002, the hermit country appointed Chinese-Dutch entrepreneur Yang Bin governor of the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region, though the plan belly-flopped when the Chinese arrested Yang on corruption charges.

According to North Korean sources, Pak was born in 1959, graduated from Yanbian University and has a master’s degree in business and commerce from another university in China. He later developed close ties with high-ranking North Korean officials selling Chinese gasoline in the North. “Since Chinese gasoline is used in cars, it is sold directly to North Korean military officers or key government agencies” since top officials are practically the only ones likely to have one, said one North Korean source. “Pak appears to have gained the confidence of high-ranking officials in the process.”

Pak is believed to have been responsible for setting up a secret meeting between Kim Yang-gon and South Korean Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee in Singapore last October. “Pak used his connections to help North Korea when it was looking for a contact point with the South Korean government after August last year, and it appears this position is his reward,” said Cho Bong-Hyun, a North Korea analyst with the Industrial Bank of Korea. There is speculation that Pak may be tasked with luring South Korean capital for investment in North Korea.

The Taepung International Investment Group was established in China and Hong Kong in September 2006 to lure foreign investment to North Korea. In 2007, Taepung signed an agreement with China’s Tangshan Iron and Steel to build a production plant in North Korea and was involved in getting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to perform in Pyongyang in February 2008. The North announced last Wednesday that both Taepung and the bank would be headquartered in Pyongyang.

It remains to be seen whether Pak will generate the results the regime hopes for. Lee Jo-won, a professor of North Korean studies at Chung-Ang University, said, “Unlike the appointment of Yang Bin, there seems to have been a certain level of consent in terms of the role Pak will play. But without progress in the North Korean nuclear crisis, it’ll be virtually impossible for him to attract foreign investment.” One senior South Korean government official said, “Last year, North Korea apparently held an investment blitz in the EU and was disappointed to learn that continued economic sanctions due to its nuclear weapons program in effect prevent other countries from making any investment there.”

UPDATE: DPRK establishes national development bank in order to attract foreign capital
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No.10-01-22-1

On January 20, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the North’s most powerful government organization, the National Defense Commission, ordered the establishment of a ‘National Development Bank’ to “carry out investment affairs for projects important to national policy and to conduct business with international commercial banks and international financial institutions.”

Furthermore, the committee decided to establish the main branch of the ‘Korea Daepung International Investment Group’ in Pyongyang, which will operate as an economic consortium attracting foreign monies and ensuring the flow of capital for the National Development Bank. The KCNA reported that an announcement was made at the Pyongyang Yanggakdo International Hotel explaining that “the first meeting of the Korea Daepung International Investment Group board of directors had opened, and that at the meeting, the National Defense Commission’s decision regarding the establishment of the National Development Bank and the mediation committee of the Korea Daepung International Investment Group had been created.”

The news agency went on to explain that the National Development Bank would conduct business with international financial institutions and commercial banks according to “modern financial standards and systems,” ensuring necessary investments in support of projects central to the promotion of national policy. The KCNA also reported that at the meeting, an order from Kim Jong Il was passed down with the title “On Ensuring the Operations of the Korean Daepung International Financial Group.”

Kim Yang-gun (a member of the National Defense Commission and director of the Unification Strategy Department) was selected as Chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, while Chinese-Korean Bak Cheol-su was chosen as president and chairman of the board. The 7-member board of directors is reportedly made up of representatives from the National Defense Commission, the Cabinet, the Ministry of Public Finance, the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, the Korea Daepung International Investment Group, and other related offices.

The board of directors meeting also discussed and voted on bylaws, a 2010 action plan and an annual budget for the Korea Daepung International Investment Group as well as activities for a preparatory committee for the establishment of the National Development Bank. It was also decided to form a secretariat for the board of directors.

In September 2006 the Daepung International Investment Group was established in Hong Kong by North Korean authorities in order to serve as a window for foreign investment, and the group was part of the effort in October 2007 to entice investment from the Chinese Tangshan Iron and Steel Group. It also played a role in bringing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to Pyongyang in February 2008.

This latest measure appears to indicate that the North Korean leadership is taking a more aggressive drive to entice foreign capital, but it is not yet clear if the move will have any significant impact. It stands out that as sanctions enforced against the North by the international community make it difficult for Pyongyang to attract foreign investment, the North is stressing its intention to uphold “modern standards” for those willing to invest.

The Daepung Group rose to prominence in 2007 as a new window for attracting foreign investment into the North when it reached agreements with China’s Dangshan Steel and Iron Group, the country’s 3rd largest steel company, and Datang Power to form a joint venture to build a 1.5 million-ton processing plant and a 600,000 kW coal-burning power plant in the Kimchaek Industrial District.


Pyongyang, January 20 (KCNA) — The first meeting of the Board of Directors of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group took place at Yanggakdo International Hotel on Wednesday.

It was attended by directors of the board of the group and officials concerned as observers.

Conveyed there were an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission “On ensuring the activities of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group” and decisions of the DPRK NDC “On establishing the State Development Bank” and “On setting up the Coordinating Committee of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group”.

At the meeting Kim Yang Gon, chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, was elected director-general of the board of the group and Pak Chol Su, a Korean resident in China, permanent deputy director-general and president of the group.

The board of directors is made up of seven persons including representatives of the National Defence Commission, the Cabinet, the Ministry of Finance and an office concerned of the DPRK, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee and the Korea Taepung International Investment Group.

The meeting decided to set up a secretariat of the board of directors and named its members.

It deliberated and decided on the draft rules of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group, its action program and financial budget bill for 2010, a resolution on starting the operation of a preparatory committee for establishment of the State Development Bank and other agenda items related to the work of the group.

Kim Yang Gon made a keynote report and Pak Chol Su an address on the work of the group at the meeting.

The group, an external economic cooperation body, will play the role of an economic complex ensuring the induction of investment and finances for the State Development Bank, and it will be headquartered in Pyongyang.

The State Development Bank is to provide investment on major projects to be carried out according to the state policy after being equipped with advanced banking rules and system needed for transactions with international monetary organizations and commercial banks.

The Choson Ilbo has more:

North Korea will establish a state development bank which will deal with international financial organizations and commercial banks and invest according to state policies, the official [North] Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday. The decision was made by the powerful National Defense Commission, which is headed by leader Kim Jong-il.

It will also set up an international cooperation agency called the Joson Daepung International Investment Group to take charge of attracting investment for the bank, KCNA said.

KCNA claimed the bank has “modern financial rules.” Kim Yang-gon, the director of the Workers’ Party’s United Front Department, has been named chairman of the Joson Daepung Investment Group, and Pak Chol-su vice chairman.

A North Korean source said Pak is a Korean-Chinese businessman who maintains relations with South Korean officials and businessmen. He apparently once arranged a secret inter-Korean meeting.

Pak is also believed to have been involved in a secret meeting held between Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee and Kim Yang-gon in Singapore last October.

Rumor has it that Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and the director of the Administrative Department of the Workers’ Party, is also on the board of directors.

North Korea will establish a state development bank which will deal with international financial organizations and commercial banks and invest according to state policies, the official [North] Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday. The decision was made by the powerful National Defense Commission, which is headed by leader Kim Jong-il.

It will also set up an international cooperation agency called the Joson Daepung International Investment Group to take charge of attracting investment for the bank, KCNA said.

KCNA claimed the bank has “modern financial rules.” Kim Yang-gon, the director of the Workers’ Party’s United Front Department, has been named chairman of the Joson Daepung Investment Group, and Pak Chol-su vice chairman.

A North Korean source said Pak is a Korean-Chinese businessman who maintains relations with South Korean officials and businessmen. He apparently once arranged a secret inter-Korean meeting.

Pak is also believed to have been involved in a secret meeting held between Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee and Kim Yang-gon in Singapore last October.

Rumor has it that Jang Song-taek, Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and the director of the Administrative Department of the Workers’ Party, is also on the board of directors.

(From a reader):  The Korea Taepung International Investment Group (조선태풍국제투자그룹) will attract and coordinate investment – ostensibly from China as a founding member is a Korean Chinese. The group’s charter came from Kim Jong-il , Chairman of the NDC, and its board members include Kim Yang-gon, chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (who was elected chairman of the board), Pak Ch’ol-su, a Korean-Chinese (elected standing vice chairman of the board and president), and seven persons representing the NDC, Cabinet, Ministry of Finance, relevant ministries, Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, and the Choson Taep’ung International Investment Group. This seems to be a major salvo in North Korea’s current campaign to ease international tensions, curry desperately needed investment, and ultimately get the country back on its centralized economy track.

According to NK Leadership Watch: In the video footage of the meeting (1/20/2010 on Kim Chang-sun can bee seen.  He is on Kim Jong il’s secretariat.

The Pyongyang Times has more here.