Archive for the ‘National Economic Cooperation Federation (DPRK)’ Category

More on the DPRK anti-corruption campaign…

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Details are starting to emerge on North Korea’s recent anti-corruption drive.   

North Korean authorities have been investigating the chief of a North Korean committee in charge of inter-Korean economic cooperation for months after seizing $20 million from his house, a report said Friday.

Quoting an unidentified Chinese source informed on North Korean affairs, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said Pyongyang authorities are intensifying their investigation into Jung Woon-eop and 80 other officials of the committee over where the money came from.

It is possible that this is just a good old fashoned purge.

It is also possible that this campaign is the first stage in a policy shift.

The full article can be found here:
NK Official Suspected of Embezzling Funds From Seoul
Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki
02-22-2008

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North Korea launching massive anti-corruption drive

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Last Friday, Yonhap reported that Kim Jong Il has ordered an anti-corruption investigation of two key agencies, both of which manage South Korean investments in the DPRK: the United Front Department (which Lankov claims is involved in clandestine operations) and the National Economic Cooperation Council.

North Korea is in the midst of a massive anti-corruption drive which has already resulted in the arrest of one of its top officials handling business with South Korea, informed sources in Seoul said Saturday.

The campaign, ordered by leader Kim Jong-il, was prompted by widespread allegations that some top party and administration officials took bribes as they pushed business projects with South Korean industrialists, said the sources well versed in North Korean affairs.

“The probe was launched as National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il said there was a lack of supervision over the United Front Department [a key party organization that supervises inter-Korean affairs], although lots of suspicions were raised over the department’s corruption,” one source told Yonhap News Agency.

According to the sources in Seoul, the North Korean leader was enraged after getting a report that some party and government officials allegedly pocketed bribes and diverted food and other aid from South Korea to black markets.

Also under investigation is the National Economic Cooperation Council, a government body that handles business with South Korean entrepreneurs, the sources said.

The Council’s chief, Jeong Woon-eop, remains under arrest pending investigation into allegations that he took “huge amounts” of bribes, said the sources, who wanted to remain anonymous. (Yonhap excerpted)

Frequently “anti-corruption campaigns” in developing countries have nothing to do with making the bureaucracy more accountable or responsive to public demands, but rather are political maneuvers to prevent “rents” or funds from being channeled to uses that lie outside the leadership’s control (or some faction of the leadership).  In other words, they are regime enhancing.  The announcement of this campaign demonstrates two important principles that deserve explicit mention:

1. Not all profits earned by North Korean joint ventures are channeled to the leadership, and in fact many of them are siphoned off by middlemen who actually control the financial machinery.  Once skimmed off the top, it is likely that these funds are used in illicit private commercial operations since they cannot be legally declared by the owner (unless there are domestic channels for laundering money in North Korea).

2.  If funds are being siphoned off of high-profile official joint venture operations, then the leadership is not in control of its internal fiscal affairs.  Indeed it is likely that, as in the Soviet Union, the people who keep the private economy running are the trusted mid- to senior-level officials who can skirt the rules and know how to actually get things done within the system.

Update 2/24/2008:

North Korean authorities have been investigating the chief of a North Korean committee in charge of inter-Korean economic cooperation for months after seizing $20 million from his house, a report said Friday.

The full article can be found here:
NK Official Suspected of Embezzling Funds From Seoul
Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki

Update 2/12/2008:

The chief of Daesung General Bureau, a division of the 39th Department which manages foreign transactions, was fired on suspicion of embezzling US$1.4 million last fall.” (Daily NK)

The full article can be found here:
North Korea launching massive anti-corruption drive
Yonhap
2/9/2008

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Hyundai Group chief, N. Korean officials discuss business projects: report

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Yonhap
11/1/2007

The chief of South Korea’s Hyundai Group met with North Korean officials in charge of inter-Korean cooperation on Thursday to discuss the group’s business projects in the North, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The KCNA said Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun held talks with North Korean officials, including officials from the North’s National Economic Cooperation Federation.

The two sides took notes on an industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong and the building of a tourist resort near Mount Paekdu, according to the KCNA. Prior to the talks, Hyun’s delegation also toured Mount Paekdu, the North’s highest mountain on the border with China, the KCNA said.

The KCNA, however, stopped short of reporting the outcome of the talks.

At Thursday’s talks, Hyun is believed to have discussed the Mount Paekdu tourism project and the second-stage development of the Kaesong industrial complex with the North.

The South Korean company said earlier that Hyun and Yoon Man-joon, head of Hyundai Asan, a Hyundai subsidiary that runs Hyundai’s business in North Korea, visited Pyongyang on Tuesday via Beijing to discuss inter-Korean projects with North Korean officials. Hyun and Yoon are to return home Saturday, according to Hyundai officials.

Hyun’s visit this week marked her second trip to North Korea in a month, as she accompanied South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on his historic inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from Oct. 2-4.

At the summit, Roh and Kim agreed their two countries would work together on a wide range of economic projects, even though the two states are still technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

After the summit, Hyun said she expects tours to Mount Paekdu to start as early as next April. At the summit, the two leaders agreed to establish direct flights from Seoul to Mount Paekdu.

Hyundai maintains close business ties to North Korea. One of its major cross-border projects is tours of scenic Mount Geumgang on the North’s east coast. More than 1 million South Koreans have visited it since 1998.

Hyundai’s business with North Korea was started by its late founder, Chung Ju-yung, in the early 1990s.

Hyun took the helm of Hyundai in 2003 after her husband, Chung Mong-hun, the Hyundai founder’s fifth son, committed suicide by jumping from a window of his high-rise office in Seoul, apparently under pressure from a lobbying scandal involving a North Korean project.

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An affiliate of 38 North