Following two days of talks between economic representatives of the two Koreas at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, South Korea announced on July 7 that it would begin shipping raw materials to the North in exchange for DPRK natural resources. South Korea shipped 800,000 USD of polyester fabric on July 25, and is set to send the rest of the materials by the end of November. North Korea accepted South Korean prices for the goods, and will pay transportation, cargo working, and demurrage costs, as well. South Korea will pay for shipping, insurance, and the use of port facilities. On 28 July, a South Korean delegation left for the North in order to conduct on-site surveys of three zinc and magnesite mines. The team will spend two weeks in North Korea.
It was reported on 17 July that North Korea proposed a joint fishing zone north of the ‘Northern Limit Line’ dividing North and South territorial waters to the west of the peninsula. Seoul turned down the offer.
Inter-Korean military talks broke down early on 26 July after only three days of negotiations as North Korea insisted on the redrawing of the Northern Limit Line.
North Korea demanded on 27 July that workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex be given a 15 percent pay raise. The North Korean workers will not work overtime, weekends or holidays beginning in August unless the raise is granted.
It was reported by the Korea International Trade Association on 26 July that inter-Korean trade was up 28.6 percent in the first six months of 2007, totaling 720 million USD.
It was reported on 19 July that Russia and North Korea have agreed to connect Khasan and Najin by rail, enlisting investment from Russian oil companies interested in an inactive refinery at Najin Port capable of processing up to 120,000 barrels per day. The project is estimated to cost over two billion USD.
During a four-day visit to Mongolia by Kim Yong-nam beginning on 20 July, the two countries signed protocols on cooperation on health and science, trade and sea transport, and labor exchange issues. This follows on the heals of an agreement to allow South Korean trains to travel through North Korean territory on to Mongolia in route to Russia and Europe.
Japan took one step further to recover abductees in North Korea this month when the government began broadcasting propaganda into the DPRK intended for Japanese citizens. The broadcasts are made in Korean and Japanese (30 minutes each) daily, and updated once per week.
U.S.-DPRK PEACE PROSPECTS
U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Alexander Vershbow stated that Washington was prepared to negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula by the end of the year if North Korea were to completely abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The Egyptian company Orascom Construction Industries announced a 115 million USD deal with North Korea’s state-owned Pyongyang Myongdang Trading Corporation to purchase a 50 percent state in Sangwon Cement. To put this in perspective, the deal in worth more than four times the amount of frozen DPRK funds that had caused six-party talks to break down and delayed the implementation of the February 13 agreement.
NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
The Economist reported on 7 July that, according to foreigners living in the North’s capital, concern for petty law appears to be weakening. Citizens are reportedly smoking in smoke-free zones, sitting on escalator rails, and even blocking traffic by selling wares on the streets.
It was reported on July 11 that a letter sent earlier in the year by the North Korean Red Cross indicated severe shortages of medical supplies. The letter stated that North Korea would accept any medicine, even if it was past expiration, and accept all consequences for any problems that arose from using outdated supplies. The (South) Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association had no choice but to reject the request.
Events were held on July 11 in North Korea in order to promote women’s health and well-being issues. Marking World Population Day, a North Korean official stated that the DPRK has cooperated with the UN Population Fund since 1986, and is now in the fourth phase of cooperation.
Seeing entertainment venues as a “threat to society”, North Korean security forces have been implementing a shutdown of karaoke bars and Internet cafes. These venues mainly cater to traders in the northern regions of the country.
It was reported on July 13 that construction of North Korea’s first all-English language university was nearing completion. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, funded largely by ROK and U.S. Christian evangelical groups, will hold 2600 students and offer undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in business administration, information technology, and agriculture.
Local elections were held on 29 July for DPRK provincial, city, and country People’s Assemblies. 100 percent of 27,390 candidates were approved with a 99.82 percent turnout reported.