Archive for the ‘Cabinet’ Category

DPRK creates Ministry of External Economic Affairs

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

According to KCNA:

Ministry of Foreign Trade Reorganized as Ministry of External Economic Affairs

Pyongyang, June 18, 2014 20:58 KST (KCNA) — The DPRK decided to reorganize the Ministry of Foreign Trade as the Ministry of External Economic Affairs of the DPRK by merging the Joint Venture and Investment Commission of the DPRK and the State Economic Development Committee of the DPRK with it.

The Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly promulgated a decree in this regard on Wednesday.

Here is what Choson Exchange, who predicted the merger, had to say:

We think this is a good thing. Investor agreements, ‘exclusive’ rights and attraction need to be streamlined to prevent multiple ‘exclusive’ rights being sold. While this can bureaucratize the investment process, things really can’t get more bureaucratic than it is now in North Korea.

Here are previous posts on the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Joint Venture Investment Commission (JVIC), and the State Economic Development Committee (SEDC).

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Rason Port lease confusion explored

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Rason-port-9-2013

Pictured above (Google Earth): A 2013-9-14 satellite image of Rason Piers 1 and 2. Pier 1 (Top) is used by the Chinese. The Royale Star is docked at Pier 2.

When Jang Song-thaek was purged, among the laundry list of offenses he was alleged to have committed against the regime was this:

Jang made no scruple of committing such act of treachery in May last as selling off the land of the Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades under the pretext of paying those debts.

This phrase had Pyongyang watchers abuzz over whether Chinese contracts in Rason were in any danger of being violated by the North Korean government. Of course it was immediately unclear what enterprise(s) would be affected since we are all unaware of any significant deals reached in May of 2013.

A recent statement by a  North Korean official in the Hong Kong media has, however, raised the issue of contract credibility in the DPRK yet again.

According to Yonhap:

Chinese companies have not leased piers at a port of North Korea’s free trade zone, a Pyongyang official has told Hong Kong media, raising speculation that the shock execution of the North Korean leader’s uncle might have soured business ties with its key ally.

China reportedly agreed to invest about US$3 billion in developing the free trade zone in North Korea’s northern tip of Rason, formerly known as Rajin and Sonbong, in late 2011. The special trade zone sits across the border from China’s northeastern Jilin province.

There have been media reports that Chinese companies have leased two piers at the Rason port, but Kim Chun-il, a division chief of the port’s foreign business bureau, denied such reports during an interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.

Asked by a Phoenix TV journalist whether China won the right to exclusively use two piers at the port, Kim replied in Korean, “There are no piers that are specially used by the Chinese side.”

“They (Chinese people) have said so, but we have never formally rented out Pier 1 and Pier 2 to them,” Kim said.

The interview was made during a 72-minute special TV program on the Rason trade zone, which was aired on April 19. The program’s video footage can be seen on the website of Phoenix TV.

Kim said that Russia leased the Pier 3 at the port, adding that North Korea plans to modernize the two piers on its own.

The Chinese media did indeed claim at least once (see here) that they were “using” Piers 1 and 2. And Dr. Bernhard Seliger told us back in September 2012 that the Chinese were using the port, although no lease was signed.

However, it is not true that the North Koreans have never announced an agreement on Pier 1 at Rason. I posted an article (back in March of this year) in which Choe Hyon Chol, section chief of the new State economic Development Commission, stated the following:

The Rajin Port, a transit trade port, is the hub of international cargo transit transportation and transport of exports and imports of entrepreneurs who invested in the zone.

The port has assignments to transport marine products for export from the East Sea of Korea and every kind of cargoes from and to northeast area of China and Far East Region of Russia.

The Rajin Port consists of three wharves; wharf No. 1 is designed to be renovated and operated by China Dalian Chuang Li Co., Ltd. and wharf No.3 by Rason International Container Transport J. V. Company to be set up according to the contract with Russian Rail Trade Co., Ltd.

I cannot imagine that a Chinese company is going to renovate and operate the pier without a clear contract. Of course the status of that contract is now called into question. Has the Chinese firm pulled out?  Have the North Koreans canceled the contract? Are North Korean individuals from different agencies just not on the same page? Who knows?

Still no word on Pier No. 2.

Great recent photos of Rason port by Ray Cunningham here.

You can read the Yonhap story here:
N. Korean official says no piers for China at special trade zone
Yonhap
2014-5-2

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Knowledge sharing SEZ conference held

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In September 2013 the DPRK held its first conference on economic development zones under the just announced State Economic Development Commission. Read all about it here.

On May 2, 2014, KCNA announced a second conference:

Knowledge Sharing on SEZs in DPRK Held

Pyongyang, May 2 (KCNA) — There took place at Yanggakdo International Hotel on Friday knowledge sharing on SEZs in the DPRK hosted by the Korea Economic Development Association [AKA State Economic Development Commission/Association].

It was attended by Ri Chol Sok, vice-chairman of the association, and its other officials and experts and teachers and researchers at scientific and educational institutions and officials concerned.

Also present there were Kyung-Ae Park, professor at University of British Columbia, Canada, prestigious experts on special economic zones from China, India, Canada, Philippines and the U.S. and foreign diplomatic envoys and representatives of international bodies here and foreign embassy officials.

Ri Chol Sok and Kyung-Ae Park made speeches.

The speakers congratulated those participants on the successful holding of the event and mentioned the importance of the exchange of each other’s experience and cooperation in developing special economic zones and managing and operating them.

They said that the event would help to broaden experts’ vision and expand the development work and also contribute to promoting the international exchange and cooperation.

Then followed speeches.

Introduced at the event were the present situation in some economic development zones of the DPRK and their prospect and policies of preferential treatment and the master plan for Wonsan-Kumgangsan area.

The results of researches and opinions were exchanged and the BOT widely applied to investment and cooperation and the experience gained by various countries in doing so were discussed.

The event marked an occasion in contributing to turning economic development zones of the DPRK into world-level economic cooperation zones by introducing the advanced experience gained in special economic zones according to the specific conditions of the country.

Uriminzokkiri posted this video of Kyung-Ae Park and Yun Yong-sok:

Here is a loose translation of the video:

Q) What were your initial thoughts on the SEZ’s?
A) It is important to differentiate the North’s SEZ’s from those of other countries to make them attractive to investors. For tourism SEZ’s, many experts have recommended minimizing environmental degradation to promote sustainability. 신평 관광개발구 (신평 tourism SEZ) is a good example where sustainable development can help attract tourists who wish to relax and enjoy the environment.

Q) You teach Poli Sci at UBC, how did you get interested in SEZ’s?
A) Faculty exchanges among economics and management experts are often more profitable than academic discussions on political science. Naturally, those who participated in the exchange programs were talking about SEZ’s more often than any other topics.

Q) What are your thoughts on the prospects of the North’s SEZ’s ?
A) I was impressed how the entire country is putting an effort into SEZ projects. This is a very positive aspect, but we need to think about making these SEZ’s more attractive than SEZ’s of other countries.

Here is another translation:

Dr. Park: The key issue of establishing economic development zones (EDZs) is how to make ‘our’ zones distinctive from other countries. In the tourism industry, for example, it has been suggested that simply constructing new buildings, hotels, and condominiums does not offer any competitive advantage because others have been doing the same way. Instead, a better way is to ask ourselves what makes our zones unique so that they could attract people and investment. For North Korea, it is indeed the beauty of the wilderness and untouched nature that makes the country remarkable.

While teaching political science in University of British Columbia, I’ve come to realize that the South-North exchange should first take place in the area where both have mutual interests and the outcome can be mutually beneficial. Exchanges among the political scientists will unlikely be productive; so instead, we have been inviting numerous North Korean professors of economics and business, including those from Kim Il-Sung University, Wonsan University of Economics, and Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. And this year we are extending our invitation for the fourth time.

Yet, compared to the number of North Korean experts coming to Canada, not many scholars have visited the North from our end as part of an exchange program. While we were considering ways to facilitate an academic exchange at a greater level, we were lucky to get in touch with Korea Economic Development Association (KEDA; aka Chosun Economic Development Committee). We had a meeting on special economic zones last October […] and this was a follow-up meeting after the successful outcome of the first one. Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP) organized the event, and KEDA co-hosted the meeting.

Many experts have suggested that more study is needed to make North Korean economic zones distinctive, unique, and attractive. The critical issue remains as to how to attract foreign capital and investment. Despite many challenges North Korea may confront, we believe that passion and diligence of North Koreans will prove fruitful.

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Politburo meeting and 1st session of the 13th SPA

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

UPDATE 3 (2014-4-23): Michael Madden and Ruediger Frank have published articles in 38 north analyzing the “election” results.

UPDATE 2 (2014-4-17): 3th Supreme People’s Assembly Holds First Session, Few Changes in Pak Pong Ju’s Cabinet
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The first session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) held by the Kim Jong Un regime concluded on April 9, 2014 showing no major personnel changes within the Cabinet. The existing regime will continue to lead the North Korean economy, and their recent economic reform measures are expected to gain momentum.

At this session, it was decided that North Korea will retain Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju as leader of the Cabinet, and that many of the other high-level officials will maintain their positions in economic affairs.

It is therefore expected that the Kim Jong Un regime’s economic reform measures, such as the expansion of farmers’ authority (through the Subworkteam Management System), the construction of economic development zones (EDZs), and the system promoting the independent economic management of factories (and all other production facilities), will be implemented smoothly and stably.

It is also expected that North Korea will ramp up the implementation of its economic management improvement measures due to their recent success, which exceeded the state’s expectations. This directly coincides with the decision to retain Pak Pong Ju as Premier, and is an effort to secure the stability, continuity and longevity of North Korean economic policy.

Only three high-level officials in the economic department were replaced at this first session of the SPA: Han Yong Guk replaced Kim Kwang Yong as the forestry minister, Kim Chon Gyun replaced Paek Ryong Chon as the President of the Central Bank, and Ri Je Son was appointed as the Minister of Atomic Energy Industry.

The Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is presumed to be an expanded and reformed version of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy (GBAE), which previously operated as an entity under the Cabinet. Established in 2013 at the 7th session of the 12th SPA, the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program, nuclear policy, and the “byungjin line”, a policy that emphasizes the parallel development of economy and nuclear weaponry.

In 2013, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the establishment of the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry, saying it will “both modernize and systemize the nation’s atomic energy industry.” In the announcement, the KCNA also said, “because [the Ministry] has been founded on a firm base of cutting-edge technology, both the production and quality of nuclear materials will increase, and development will be made in self-sustaining nuclear powered industries.”

The newly appointed Ri Je Son has served as the General Director of the GBAE since 1997, and was the target of United Nations Security Council sanctions after North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009.

Han Yong Guk has risen up through the ranks in the forestry sector, and Kim Chon Gyun has previously served as both director and vice-president of the Central Bank of the DPRK.

These small changes in Cabinet personnel do in fact signify efforts to maintain the stability of the nation’s economic policy, but the fact that these changes are so few in number also signifies that, after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, “re-shuffling” of personnel within the Cabinet had already taken place to some degree.

Before his execution, Jang Song Thaek had influences on many ministries within the Cabinet, including the ministries of commerce, metal and coal industries, and the Cabinet’s Extractive Industries. Since his execution, North Korea has replaced the head of these ministries.

UPDATE 1 [1st session of SPA] (2014-4-9): KCNA has posted many articles on the first session of the SPA. I have archived the important ones below:

Story 1: 1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK Held  (KCNA) (PDF). Notes: Kim Jong-un elected as First Chairman of the NDC. State posts determined. One interesting agenda item was not elaborated on: “2. Election of the State Guidance Organ of the DPRK”.

Story 2: DPRK National Defence Commission Elected (KCNA):

Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The following National Defence Commission was elected at the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK:

First chairman of the NDC of the DPRK Kim Jong Un

Vice-chairmen of the NDC Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Yong Mu and O Kuk Ryol

Members of the NDC Jang Jong Nam, Pak To Chun, Kim Won Hong, Choe Pu Il and Jo Chun Ryong.

Yonhap reports on Choe Ryong-hae:

Choe Ryong-hae, a top military official, has become a truly influential figure second to only North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 9 when the newly launched North Korean parliament elected him as new vice chairman of the communist country’s most powerful body, National Defense Commission (NDC), during its first session.

Choe, the director of the North Korean army’s General Political Bureau, took up the mighty post that had been kept vacant since Jang Song-thaek, a powerful uncle of the North Korean leader, was executed on treason charges in December.

With his NDC appointment, Choe has grabbed all of the No. 2 positions of the North’s three core power bodies, the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and the party’s Central Military Commission.

Story 3: Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Elected (KCNA):

Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The following Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK was elected at the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly:

President of the Presidium of the SPA of the DPRK Kim Yong Nam

Its Vice-Presidents Yang Hyong Sop and Kim Yong Dae

Its Honorary Vice-Presidents Kim Yong Ju and Choe Yong Rim

Its Secretary General Hong Son Ok

Its Members Kim Yang Gon, Thae Jong Su, Jon Yong Nam, Hyon Sang Ju, Ri Myong Gil, Kim Jong Sun, Kim Wan Su, Ryu Mi Yong, Kang Myong Chol, Kang Su Rin and Jon Kyong Nam.

Story 4: Members of DPRK Cabinet Appointed (KCNA) (PDF).

Yonhap reports:

Meanwhile, the North apparently opted for stability by making no dramatic changes in a Cabinet shakeup, which the parliament rubber-stamped during its session.

The North’s octogenarian titular head of state, Kim Yong-nam, retained his position as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, with Premier Pak Pong-ju also keeping his job.

What is notable is that the North replaced its foreign minister. Ri Su-yong, a former ambassador to Switzerland, was named to replace Pak Ui-chun as the top diplomat of the communist country.

Ri is known to have served as a guardian of leader Kim and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong when they studied at an international school in Switzerland in the 1990s.

NK News reports on other changes:

Mun Myong Hak replaced Ri Yong Yong as Minister of Coal Industry
Kim Yong Gwang replaced Han Hyo Yon as Minister of Metallurgical Industry
Ri Hak Chol replaced Kang Min Chol as Minister of Mining Industry
Han Ryong Guk replaced Kim Kwang Yong as Minister of Forestry
Kim Kyong Nam replaced Ri Song Ho as Minister of Commerce
Pak Chun Nam replaced Hong Kwang Sun as Minister of Culture
Kim Chon Gyun replaced Paek Ryong Chon as President of the Central Bank
Pak Myong Chol replaced Kim Pyong Ryul as President of the Supreme Court (not a cabinet position)

Story 5: Director of Supreme Public Prosecutors Office Appointed, President of Supreme Court Elected (KCNA)

Pyongyang, April 9 (KCNA) — The 1st Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK appointed Jang Pyong Gyu as director of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and elected Pak Myong Chol as president of the Supreme Court.

Story 6: Panel Committees of SPA of DPRK Elected (KCNA)

The following Legislation Committee and Budget Committee, panel committees of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, were elected at the 1st Session of the 13th SPA of the DPRK:

Legislation Committee of the SPA of the DPRK
Chairman Choe Pu Il
Members Jang Pyong Gyu, Pak Myong Chol, Pak Thae Dok, Thae Hyong Chol, Cha Hui Rim and Pak Myong Guk.

Budget Committee of the SPA of the DPRK
Chairman O Su Yong
Members Pak Yong Ho, Kye Yong Sam, Hong So Hon, Kim Hui Suk, Choe Yong Il and Pak Hyong Ryol.

Story 7: Statistics on the SPA members (KCNA)

The elected deputies to the SPA are the genuine people’s representatives who are devoting themselves to strengthening the DPRK government and accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche, remaining loyal to the idea and guidance of supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

Among the SPA deputies are anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters who participated in the anti-Japanese armed struggle led by President Kim Il Sung and veterans of the Fatherland Liberation War.

17.2 percent of the deputies are service personnel who are performing shining feats at posts to defend the country and worksites to build a rich and powerful country, true to the Songun revolutionary leadership of Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un.

Workers account for 12. 7 percent, cooperative farmers 11.1 percent and women 16.3 percent. They are bringing about shining labor innovations in the van of the heroic advance to build a thriving socialist nation.

Also among the deputies are officials of the party and power bodies, administrative and economic organs and working people’s organizations, those in the fields of science, education, public health, literature and arts and media and various other sectors and those of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and organizations under it.

Winners of Order of Kim Il Sung, Kim Il Sung Prize, Order of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il Prize account for 30.2 percent, recipients of the titles of the DPRK hero and labor hero 14. 6 percent and recipients of academic degrees and titles including professors and doctors and scientists, technicians and experts 91.7 percent.

3.9 percent of the deputies are aged below 39, 66.9 percent 40-59, 29.2 percent above 60 and 94.2 percent of them graduated from universities or received similar level of education.

Story 8: Report on Implementation of State Budget for 2013 and State Budget for 2014 (KCNA)(PDF).

16% of the total expenditure was spent for national defence, thus contributing to smashing the enemies’ reckless moves to ignite a nuclear war and the anti-DPRK confrontation racket and powerfully demonstrating the dignity and might of the DPRK.

45.2% of the total expenditure went to the field of economic construction to consolidate the foundation of the self-supporting economy, bring a surge in the production in various fields of the national economy including agriculture and usher in a heyday in construction.

38.8% of the total expenditure was spent for the field of cultural construction including education, healthcare, sports and music and arts, contributing to the enforcement of popular policies and the building of a highly-civilized socialist nation.

This year’s state budgetary revenue and expenditure have been shaped in such a manner as to meet the financial needs for realizing the Party’s plan to build a thriving nation as early as possible and carrying out the national economy plan.

The state budgetary revenue is expected to grow 4.3% over last year. Out of this, transaction revenue is expected to swell 4.5%, the revenue from the profits of state enterprises 7.9%, that from the profits of cooperative organizations 4.8%, that from real estate rent 9.5%, that from social insurance 5.1%, that from sale of properties and price differential 2.4%, other revenues 1.7% and the revenue from economic and trade zone 5.1%.

This year’s state budget envisages that provinces, cities and counties will ensure the expenditure with their own incomes and deliver revenue to the national budget for their fulfillment of the plan for local budgetary revenue and expenditure.

The state budgetary expenditure is expected to increase 6.5% over last year. Out of this, spending for the fields of agriculture, stockbreeding and fishery is expected to go up 5.1%, that for capital construction 4.3%, that for science and technology 3.6%, that for the vanguard sector of the national economy and the fields of basic industry and light industry 5.2%, that for education 5.6%, that for healthcare 2.2%, that for social insurance and social security 1.4%, that for sports 17.1% and that for culture 1.3%.

15.9% of the total state budgetary expenditure is expected to be spent for national defence this year and a huge amount of educational aid fund and stipends is to be sent to the children of Koreans in Japan.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time:

The last publicly available figure for Pyongyang’s annual budget, in 2008, was 451.3 billion North Korean won. Based on the latest available market rate, that would be roughly equivalent to $61.8 million. Using that figure to calculate spending on national defense would give a figure of around $8.65 million.

Here are the pictured from Rodong Sinmun:

 2014-04-10-SPA-1

 

2014-04-10-SPA-2

 

2014-04-10-SPA-3

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

1. The Daily NK has an interview with a participant in the 12th SPA.

2. Here is 13th SPA “election” coverage.

ORIGINAL POST [Politburo] (2014-4-9): KCNA reports on the meeting of the Political Bureau of the Worker’s Party:

Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un

Pyongyang, April 8 (KCNA) — A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea was held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, on April 8.

It was attended by members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK, and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the C.C., the WPK.

Vice-premiers of the Cabinet and some department directors, first vice-department directors and vice-department directors of the C.C., the WPK were present at the meeting as observers.

The meeting discussed the issue of reinforcing the organization for increasing the leadership role and function of the Party as required by the developing revolution.

It discussed a proposal for forming the state leadership body to be submitted to the First Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly.

It also discussed an organizational matter.

Decisions on the relevant agenda items were unanimously adopted at the meeting.

Kim Jong Un at the meeting set forth important tasks to be fulfilled to further strengthen the WPK to be an invincible revolutionary party, firmly protect the dignity and sovereignty of the country and dynamically accelerate the work to improve the standard of the people’s living and the building of a rich and powerful country.

The meeting held under the guidance of Kim Jong Un marks a historic occasion that encouraged the service personnel and people in the struggle to dynamically advance along the road of independence, Songun and socialism under the uplifted banner of great Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and provided an important milestone in bringing earlier the building of a thriving nation and a great revolutionary event of national reunification.

Here are photos from Rodong Sinmun:

2014-04-09-politburo-1

 

2014-04-09-politburo-2

 

2014-04-09-politburo-3

Here is coverage in the Daily NK.

Read the full story here:
Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un
KCNA
2014-4-8

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Sinuiju-Kaesong high-speed rail project (UPDATED)

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Sinuiju-Kaesong-high-speed-rail

Pictured Above (KBS):  A map of the planned high-speed rail project

UPDATE 4 (2014-4-29): The Choson Ilbo reports that Ms. Choi has returned from the DPRK:

The Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD) has decided to hold two major meetings, the Commission on Freight Traffic in 2015 and Conference of General Directors in 2019, in Seoul.

KORAIL president Choi Yeon-hye made the announcement at Gimpo Airport on Monday after returning from an OSJD meeting in Pyongyang. It is unprecedented for an associate rather than full member to host the conference.

The OSJD is an organization of 27 former and current communist countries, including Russia, China and North Korea.

“We don’t know yet whether the North will attend the meetings in 2015 and 2019, but the participants unanimously decided to hold them here, and the North didn’t oppose it, so we expect them to come,” she added.

The annual conference of general directors alternatively takes place in Asia and Europe, but exceptionally the 2019 meeting will also be held in Asia following the 2018 meeting in Vietnam.

The government here is keen to work with the railway body to link South Korea to Eurasia via North Korea.

Here is coverage in Yonhap.

UPDATE 3 (2014-4-22): The Choson Ilbo reports that the head of Korail has left for the DPRK:

KORAIL president Choi Yeon-hye is appropriately on her way to North Korea by train.

Choi left for Pyongyang on a train from Beijing on Monday afternoon to attend a meeting of the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD), KORAIL said Monday.

The OSJD is an organization of 27 former and current communist countries, including Russia, China and North Korea.

The government approved Choi’s request to visit to the North on Sunday after the North sent her a letter of invitation. She got a visa from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing the same day.

The train runs from Beijing to the North Korean border city of Sinuiju in 24 hours, where she switches trains for the 225 km stretch to Pyongyang.

A KORAIL executive said, “Choi’s visit is the North’s first approval of a South Korean official’s visit” since the South imposed sanctions against North Korea in 2010.

She is the first senior South Korean figure to visit Pyongyang since the inter-Korean summit in 2007.

President Park Geun-hye is keen to connect South Korea to Eurasia by railway, which requires cooperation from the OSJD.

Here is coverage in Yonhap.

UPDATE 2 (2014-4-7): KBS has a report (in Korean) on the project. See the report here. Seoul Village has translated some of the details.

Construction would last 6 years, with two waves that have not been fully detailed yet:
1st stretches: 80 km
From the North: Sinujiu Station – Tongrim Station (Sinujiu-Dongnim, 40 km)
From the South: Kaesong – Yonan (Gaesong-Yeonan, 40 km)
2nd stretches: 296 km

From the North: Tongrim – Chongju – Sinanju – Pyongyang (Dongnim-Jeongju-Sinanju-Pyongyang, 147 km)
From the South: Yonan – Haeju – Sariwon – Pyongyang (Yeonan-Haeju-Sariwon-Pyongyang, 149 km)

UPDATE 1 (2014-4-7): Korail may be involved in the high-speed rail project. According to the Hankyoreh:

News of a recent agreement between North Korea and China to build an international high-speed railroad and highway between Sinuiju (a city on the Chinese border) and Kaesong is raising questions about the fate of a scheduled North Korea visit on Apr. 24 by Korail CEO Choi Yeon-hye.

If Korail does participate in the project, it would bring South Korea one step closer to the Asian continent via the North Korea-China high-speed rail project, which comes on the heels on North Korea‘s Rajin-Hasan development project with Russia.

South Korean businesspeople in China who are closely involved in the high-speed rail project said on Apr. 6 that a contract for the railway/highway construction was signed in Beijing on Feb. 24 by North Korea’s State Economic Development Commission, chaired by Kim Ki-sok, and a Chinese consortium headed by the Shangdi Guanqun investment company. The line would be 376 km in length and connect Sinuiju with Chongju, Sukchon, Pyongyang, Haeju, and Kaesong, with the five-year construction beginning in 2018 with a budget of US$21 billion, or around 22 trillion won. The method would be a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement, with an international North Korean-Chinese consortium providing the investment and delivering the line to North Korea once the costs are recouped. A survey team for the Chinese consortium is reportedly scheduled to visit North Korea in late April.

The chances of South Korea participating are higher in the wake of President Park Geun-hye’s speech in Dresden on Mar. 31. There, she declared that an “organic linkage between South Korean capital and technology and North Korean resources and labor could contribute to building a future economic community on the Korean Peninsula.”

She also said she planned to “achieve shared development for the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia both through collaborations with North Korea and Russia, as with the current Rajin-Hasan distribution project, and collaborations with North Korea and China focusing on Sinuiju.”

Further increasing the possibility of South Korean participation are guidelines handed down in January by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who said North Korea should work with China and South Korea on an international line through a privately funded BOT arrangement.

Meanwhile, Korail is awaiting Ministry of Unification approval on a request to allow CEO Choi Yeon-hye to travel to North Korea to attend a general directors’ conference for the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD), which is scheduled to take place on Apr. 24.

“Our basic position is to approve visits to North Korea in cases of international events,” said an official from the ministry on condition of anonymity, adding that a final decision would be made “after discussions with the other agencies.”

But Korail remains cautious about the possibility of future cooperation, whatever the outcome for Choi’s visit ends up being. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source there said, “We’re preparing data on things like a plan to expand cargo transport for different continental rail zones, which is one of the topics on the agenda at the OSJD meeting.”

“We’ve never officially examined the North Korea-China high-speed rail project, and it doesn’t look like it would be economically feasible anyway unless a section is opened between Seoul and Kaesong,” the source added. “Anyway, the government has not decided on participating, and that‘s not a matter that KORAIL can weigh in on by itself.”

ORIGINAL POST (2013-12-20): High Speed Rail and Road Connecting Kaesong-Pyongyang-Sinuiju to be Built
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-12-20

On December 8, 2013, North Korea reached an agreement with a consortium of international companies to construct highways and high-speed railroad connecting Kaesong, Pyongyang, and Sinuiju.

The agreement between North Korean authorities and a consortium representing the Chinese companies was signed in both Chinese and Korean by Kim Chol Jin, Vice-Chairman of State Economic Commission of North Korea and representatives from state-owned enterprises of China’s Commerce Department.

The construction period was designated as five years and businesses will operate the rail for 30 years and return the operation rights to North Korean government in the form of a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project, worth a total of 15 trillion KRW. The high-speed rail will be a double-track system with a speed of more than 200km per hour, and the construction of four-lane highway will be built adjacent to the railway. Fence will also be built to prevent unauthorized access to the railway.

The construction zone will cover the areas of Kaesong, Haeju, Sariwon, Pyongyang, Sinanju, Jongju and Sinuiju, approximately 400 km in total length and from Sinuiju will connect to Chinese cities via railway while from Jongju will connect with the Rajin-Sonbong SEZ (special economic zone) to the Russian Khasan railway to be linked with the Eurasian railway.

The consortium working group is planning to visit North Korea to confirm the specific construction plans. It was tentatively decided that the formal contract be signed in Pyongyang based on the proposal submitted by the consortium.

The subject of agreement is a multinational consortium of international investment group, which also includes a South Korean company, which is known as a company involved in North Korean mineral resources development. Once the project is in progress, there are plans of bringing other South Korean companies into the project.

In exchange, businesses will obtain the development rights of extracting gold from Hyesan City (Ryanggang Province) and iron ore in Musan (North Hamgyong Province). North Korean officials are claiming that this project was the legacy of Kim Jong Il and welcomed the participation of South Korean companies.

In March 2011, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is reported to have instructed that inter-Korean exchange programs be continued. Upon the completion of the railways and highways, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly will proclaim international road operations to ensure its stable operation.

The operation rights will be given to the consortium for 30 years while the ownership rights will be shared by the North Korean government and the consortium.

China is also building new railway lines up towards the North Korean border.

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Choe Hyon Chol on Rason development

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

According to Naenara, Choe Hyon Chol is the section chief of the State Economic Development Commission (SEDC). He has previously been identified as a director of the Korean Association of Economic Development. In a recent interview with Naenara, he discusses the benefits of investing in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

Before getting to the interview, however, it is worth noting that the Rason Economic and Trade Zone was set up before the creation of the State Economic Development Commission and it was “controlled” by Jang Song-thaek. Since Jang’s purge, it appears that Rason (and probably Hwanggumphyong) have been moved to the SEDC’s portfolio–that is, under the control of the cabinet.

Here is the interview:

Reporter: Would you please give me a briefing on the Rason Economic and Trade Zone that is now under development.

Choe: As you know, northeast Asia becomes one of the global development regions with a great potentiality, for the countries in this region have comparative advantages in respect of availability of production factors such as economic conditions, natural resources and economic and trade relations.

The Rason Economic and Trade Zone, situated on the western shore of the lower Tuman River in the northeastern part of Korea, borders on China and Russia, and Japan with the sea on the east. Its geographical location offers immense economic and traffic advantages as a transportation hub as well as a bridgehead of the continent.

Occupying an area of 470 km2, it has Rajin Port with an annual handling capacity of 3 million tons of cargoes, Sonbong Port with a handling capacity of 2 million tons of oil and Ungsang Port with a handling capacity of 600 000 m3 of timbre. The sea off the ports is deep and not frozen even in winter.

Rajin Port, in particular, has favourable conditions for creating cargo handling capacity of over 100 million tons without building a breakwater thanks to the Taecho and Socho islands in front of it.

The zone has also advantageous traffic connections with neighbouring countries.

Rajin-Wonjong class-B road (51 km), Rajin Port-Tumen railway (158 km) and Rajin Port-Khasan railway (51 km) are under construction or nearing completion.

The Rason Economic and Trade Zone is endowed with abundant tourist resources such as beautiful seascape, lake and bathing resorts, and 20-odd islands including Pipha, Taecho, Socho and Al islands.

In view of these favourable geopolitical and economic conditions, the DPRK government declared Rason city as an economic and trade zone on December 28, 1991 and held an international investment seminar with participation of entrepreneurs from 27 countries under the sponsorship of the UNDP and UNIDO in September 1996. It also raised Rason city to the status of special city on January 4, 2010 and agreed with China on the issue of joint development and management of Rason Economic and Trade Zone and Hwanggumphyong-Wihwado Economic Zone in May 2010.

In November 2010 the DPRK and the Chinese governments signed the Agreement on Joint Development and Management of Rason Economic and Trade Zone and Hwanggumphyong-Wihwado Economic Zone and organized the DPRK-China Joint Guidance Committee. The second session of the committee was held in June 2011 in Yanji, Jilin Province, China and its third session in August 2012 in Beijing. Besides, both governments concluded the agreement on establishment and operation of management committee for Rason Economic and Trade Zone, the master plan for DPRK-China joint development of the zone, the framework agreements on investment in ports, industrial districts and power transmission within the zone and investment and cooperation for construction of a new border bridge between Wonjong and Quanhe, the agreements on investment and cooperation for a high-efficiency agricultural model district and investment and cooperation for building-materials industry and the master plans for Sonbong-Paekhak industrial district and Rajin port industrial district.

The development of the zone in which a hundred and scores of businesses from different countries of the world are now active is in its initial stage but the number of potential investors with exceptional interests in the zone is increasing as days go by.

Reporter: How is the present state and prospect of the zone?

Choe: I shall begin with the progress of city construction.

The city is divided into residential quarters, industrial district and traffic junction district. The residential quarters consist of economic and trade area and peripheral area; the economic and trade area is subdivided into Rajin, Sonbong, Ungsang, Kulpho-Uam and Chonghak areas and the peripheral area into Tumangang, Hongui, Wonjong and Huchang areas. The industrial area embraces Changphyong, Yokjon, Chonggye, Sinhung, Tongmyong, Namsan and Andong areas.

The traffic junction district includes Rajin, Sonbong and Ungsang ports, Rajin, Ungra and Sonbong railway stations and Chongjin-Wonjong and Chongjin-Tuman River roads.

The Rajin Port, a transit trade port, is the hub of international cargo transit transportation and transport of exports and imports of entrepreneurs who invested in the zone.

The port has assignments to transport marine products for export from the East Sea of Korea and every kind of cargoes from and to northeast area of China and Far East Region of Russia.

The Rajin Port consists of three wharves; wharf No. 1 is designed to be renovated and operated by China Dalian Chuang Li Co., Ltd. and wharf No.3 by Rason International Container Transport J. V. Company to be set up according to the contract with Russian Rail Trade Co., Ltd.

The project of Rajin-Wonjong road started in April 2011 and completed in October 2012, and the power transmission project is now under way.

Currently, three railways run through Rason.

In the whole section of the Pyongyang-Tumangang line, standard gauge track

(1,435 mm) is laid from Pyongyang to Rajin and combined-gauge track with standard gauge and broad gauge (1 520 mm) from Rajin Railway Station to Tumangang Railway Staion, leading to Khasan Railway Station.

The updating project of Rajin-Namyang railway has been agreed with China in October 2012 and the construction of Sonbong-Paekhak industrial district, building materials industrial district, high-efficiency agricultural model district and Wonjong-Quanhe border bridge is in full swing.

When the construction projects of power line, railways, ports and border bridge are brought to completion, the Rason Economic and Trade Zone will be turned into a promising economic and trade zone of the world standard.

Next, tourism is booming in this zone.

Rason has eight bays and 21 islands, big and small.

There are Pipha, Chujin and Kalum Headland tourist attractions furnished with hotels, restaurants and sea bathing grounds along the coast.

Rason abounds in natural monuments, mineral water, spring water and marine products, and sea birds and coastal scenery strike tourists with admiration.

As mentioned above, the Rason Economic and Trade Zone is a special economic zone equipped with all conditions favourable for preferential trade and investment, transit transportation, tourism and financial and service businesses.

The DPRK government is constantly encouraging foreign investors to invest in intermediate trade, industry, agriculture, construction, transport, communications, science and technology, tourism, service and finance.

Today the development prospect of the zone is optimistic.

We are looking forward to an active investment in development projects of the zone, promising high profit with small investment.

Reporter: Thank you for kind explanation.

State Economic Development Commission of the DPRK

PDF of the interview here.

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North Korea seeks investments from overseas Koreans

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-3-7

North Korea has been showing increased efforts in attracting economic investment from overseas Koreans. In particular, recent foreign media outlets run by overseas Koreans are showing increased emphasis on economic cooperation with North Korea.

In the March issue of the monthly magazine Joguk (Homeland) published by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (a pro-North Korea association), featured an interview with Park Kyung Jin, the director of Economic Cooperation Office for Overseas Koreans.

In the interview, Director Park described the plans for the organization: “We are diligently working to create an environment where overseas Koreans can successfully do business with North Korea.” He also emphasized that they are continually working to protect the rights and provide special legal treatment for overseas Koreans.

On February 24, US-based pro-North Korean website Minjoktongsin (Minjok Thongsin) introduced Kim Ji Hyuk and Ri Hak Song, department heads of the (DPRK) State Economic Development Commission in an article, “Where Is the North Korean Economy Heading?”

In the article, the officials stressed that North Korea is actively looking to foster economic experts and said, “We welcome the participation of experts, businesses, and organizations of overseas Koreans who wish to invest in North Korea.”

In addition, in order to increase economic cooperation with overseas Koreans, the commission introduced future plans of easing the travel process to and from North Korea including visa and other entry requirements.

North Korea is subject to international sanctions that limit its trade with most of the world and appears to be turning to overseas Koreans to overcome the country’s economic crisis. Rather than reaching out to other foreigners, North Korea is likely to be reaching out to overseas Koreans who share a common language and ethnicity, with relatively easier access.

Since the establishment of the Joint Venture Act in 1984, North Korea has worked extensively with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and with ethnic Koreans living in China. Since the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, economic development zones (EDZs) are being set up across the country and ties with overseas Koreans are likely to be strengthened in efforts to further attract foreign investments into North Korea.

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State Economic Development Commission and the Jang purge

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Two officials at the State Economic Development Commission have apparently been reinstated following their removal during the purge of Jang Song-thaek. According to Yonhap:

Kim Ki-sok and Kim Chol-jin, chief and deputy chief of the North’s State Economic Development Commission, had been sacked in connection with the purge and execution of leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, in December last year, but have been reinstated after undergoing an “ideology re-education,” the source said on the condition of anonymity.

“Kim Ki-sok and Kim Chol-jin were forced to resign from the posts after being involved in the case of Jang Song-thaek, but reinstated as they were considered not so close to Jang,” the source said.

After reinstatement, Kim Ki-sok, chief of the North Korean commission, made secret visits last week to Beijing and Shenzhen, southern China, during which he met with Chinese business people, according to the source.

Here is what the Choson Ilbo had to say:

A source in Beijing said Kim visited Beijing, Shenzen, Singapore and Malaysia last week. He met with businesspeople interested in developing North Korea’s special economic zones.

Kim also met with Chinese officials who had experience in developing special economic zones, the source said. In Singapore, Kim discussed the development of a tourism zone in Wonsan.

But he apparently returned empty-handed.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing say North Korea is poised to push for more economic exchanges with China after elections for its rubber-stamp parliament on March 9. It will form a new team to handle the initiative now that Jang and his associates have been purged.

Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju or Ri Su-yong, a deputy department chief in the Workers Party who used to manage the coffers for former leader Kim Jong-il, may pay an official visit to China, according to sources.

Read other posts about the State Economic Development Commission here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea reinstates key officials on economic projects with China
Yonhap
2014-2-26

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The status of the cabinet still rising

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-2-9

In this third year of the Kim Jong Un regime, the expanding activities of the Cabinet are drawing much attention. High-level officials of the Cabinet are frequently appearing at public events in North Korea and Kim Jong Un is repeatedly emphasizing the importance of this organ of state power.

North Korean media reported on the February 12th annual mass rally celebrating Kim Jong Un’s Songun leadership at the secret camp in Mount Paektu. The speakers at the event were reportedly Senior Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Department Deputy (1st vice) Director Choe Hwi, Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kang Pyo Yong, and Vice Premier Jon Sung Hun.

At the event, Vice Premier Jon delivered a speech and expressed determination to “follow the ideology and policy of our revered leader Kim Jong Un and solidify the monolithic leadership system of the Party in all state economic policy.” In addition, he promised to elevate the status and responsibilities of the Cabinet as “the control tower” of the nation’s economy.

The annual mass rally is held for those to display loyalty to the deceased leader Kim Jong Il (whose birthday is celebrated on February 16). The event is attended by party, state, and military officials. Since Kim Jong Un’s power transition in 2011, it is unprecedented for the North Korean media to cover the speech of the vice premier at this rally.

In addition, a national conference of sub-workteam heads in the agricultural sector (National Conference of Subworkteam Leaders in the Agriculture Sector) opened at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium from February 6 to 7. At the conference, DPRK Premier of the Cabinet Pak Pong Ju, DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, Vice Premier and Minister of Agriculture Ri Chol Man, Vice Premier and Minister of Chemical Industry Ri Mu Yong, and other high-level Cabinet officials were present, demonstrating the rising status of the Cabinet.

In particular, Kim Jong Un sent a letter (“Let Us Bring About Innovations in Agricultural Production under the Unfurled Banner of the Socialist Rural Theses”) to the participants at the conference. In the letter, he stated that “It is essential to enhance the role of the Cabinet and the agricultural guidance organs,” and that the power to make a transformation in agricultural production will depend “largely on the role of the Cabinet and the agricultural guidance organs.”

Furthermore, DPRK Premier Pak is actively conducting onsite inspections of various agricultural and economic related sites. He visited the construction site of the Sepho Tableland on January 29 and made a field survey of the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex and Posan Iron Works on February 2.

In a speech in April 2012, Kim Jong Un mentioned plans to strengthen the power of the Cabinet. This policy appears to be ongoing. As North Korea continues to emphasize agriculture as a core economic focus as well as improvement of the lives of the people, the role and the activities of the Cabinet are likely to be reinforced.

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13th Supreme People’s Assembly election compilation

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

UPDATE 18 (2014-3-20):KCNA has made the following announcement:

1st Session of 13th SPA to Be Convened
Pyongyang, March 20 (KCNA) — The 1st Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK will be convened in Pyongyang on April 9, Juche 103 (2014), according to a decree of the Presidium of the SPA on Wednesday.

What can we expect at the first session?  According to the Hankyoreh:

North Korea is likely to shuffle the members of the NDC during this session of the SPA. The position of vice chairman is vacant following the execution of the previous vice chairman – Jang Song-thaek – at the end of 2013. In addition, Ri Myong-su, former Minister of People’s Security, and Paek Se-bong, former chairman of the Second Economy Commission, were not elected as deputies.

It is expected that these empty seats will be taken by up-and-coming figures including Jang Jong-nam, minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

In the case of the heads of various government ministries, there are not expected to be any major changes since a number of officials were replaced after Jang Song-thaek’s ouster.

One noteworthy question is whether the North Korean constitution will be revised and whether national agencies will be reorganized. During the fifth session of the SPA in Dec. 1972, North Korea adopted a presidency system. At the 10th session in 1998, it revised the constitution to abolish the State Administration Council (SAC) and set up a cabinet. This reform also turned the NDC into the country’s most powerful body.

UPDATE 17 (2014-3-14): Ruediger Frank and Michael Madden each write about the election in 38 North.

UPDATE 16 (2014-3-14): Here is comprehensive Yonhap coverage of the election.

UPDATE 15 (2014-3-11): The results are in! KCNA has announced the following:

Report of Central Election Committee on Results on Election of Deputies to 13th SPA

Pyongyang, March 11 (KCNA) — The election of the deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly took place successfully in the DPRK

The Central Election Committee Tuesday reported the results on the election held on Sunday.

According to the report, the election was held according to the Rules on the Elections of Deputies to the People’s Assemblies at All Levels.

According to the election returns available, 99.97 percent of all the voters registered on the lists of voters across the country took part in the election and 100 percent of them voted for the candidates for deputies to the SPA registered in the relevant constituencies.

This is an expression of the absolute support and trust of all voters in the DPRK government, the genuine people’s power which serves the people and relies on them, and a manifestation of the steadfast will of the service personnel and people to consolidate the people’s power as firm as a rock and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche.

Electors on foreign tours or working in oceans could not take part in the election.

The Central Election Committee deliberated the reports on the election returns submitted by constituency election committees across the country and reported the names of 686 elected deputies to the SPA.

They published the names of the winners in Korean, but not in English. You can see them here. No 2009 SPA delegates returned from the same district.

UPDATE 14 (2014-3-10):  Surprise!  Kim Jong-un has been elected by his constituency to the SPA. 100% voter turn out as well!

Central Election Committee Reports on Kim Jong Un’s Election as Deputy to SPA

Pyongyang, March 10 (KCNA) — The election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK was successfully held in the DPRK.

The Central Election Committee on Monday released a report on the results of the election of the deputies to the SPA held at Paektusan Constituency No. 111 on Sunday.

According to the report, all the voters of the constituency took part in voting and 100 percent of them voted for Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, reflecting the unanimous will and desire of the service personnel and people across the country.

This is an expression of all the service personnel and people’s absolute support and profound trust in supreme leader Kim Jong Un as they single-mindedly remain loyal to him, holding him in high esteem as the monolithic center of unity and leadership and a striking demonstration of their revolutionary spirit and indomitable will to make a fresh shining history of Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

The DPRK is ushering in the era of great surge in building a thriving socialist nation under the outstanding and tested leadership of Kim Jong Un.

He set it as the supreme programme of the party to model the whole society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, providing a firm organizational and ideological guarantee for developing the WPK into the glorious party of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

He, at the same time, opened a new chapter of the cause of immortalizing the leaders with loyalty and sense of moral obligation, developing the DPRK into the socialist country of Juche which is shining with the idea and the august names of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

He set forth a clear-cut strategy for the Korean revolution to be held fast to for all ages so that the country may advance straight along the road to independence, Songun and socialism under the uplifted banner of Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, providing an ever-victorious treasured sword for the prosperity and development of the DPRK.

He put forward the Korean People’s Army as a reliable scout party and a strong mainstay for the Songun revolution by developing and enriching Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s strategy and tactics and further bolstered it up as elite revolutionary armed forces. He thus remarkably increased the defense power of the country, firmly protecting the destiny of the socialist country and its people.

He made a new legendary history of love for the people and love for the rising generations with his noble patriotic politics and all-embracing politics, bringing into full bloom the happiness of the great socialist family in which all its members have blood relations with their leader.

He has energetically led the servicepersons and the people to bring about a turning phase in building the economy and improving the people’s living standard through a strong wind of Kim Jong Il’s patriotism across the country and their patriotic enthusiasm. As a result, the country witnessed steady great successes showing the appearance of a thriving nation.

Thanks to Kim Jong Un’s leadership, the DPRK will as ever prosper as the glorious state of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and the revolutionary cause of Juche, the revolutionary cause of Songun, is sure to win a final victory.

The Central Election Committee reports that Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, was elected deputy to SPA according to the results of the voting confirmed and submitted by the above-mentioned constituency.

UPDATE 13 (2014-3-9): Election day! Kim Jong-un Votes at the Kim Il Sung University of Politics (just like his dad!). According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Visits Kim Il Sung University of Politics and Takes Part in Election of Deputy to SPA

Pyongyang, March 9 (KCNA) — Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, visited the Kim Il Sung University of Politics and took part in the election of a deputy to the Supreme People’s Assembly at sub-constituency No. 43 of Constituency No. 105 together with service personnel of the KPA on Sunday.

Kim Jong Un received a ballot from the chairman of the election committee of the KPA for the election of deputies to the SPA and voted for Kim Kwang Hyok, commander of the KPA Unit 855, who is a candidate for SPA deputy.

He met the candidate and warmly shook hands with him, encouraging him to display a high sense of responsibility in the struggle for stepping up the combat preparations and bolstering up the combat capabilities, not forgetting even a moment the last instructions given by leader Kim Jong Il while visiting the unit in the last period of his life.

After voting for him, Kim Jong Un inspected the university.

He looked round the room for the education in the revolutionary history and the room devoted to the history of the university.

He said that the university has creditably fulfilled its honorable mission and duty as the nation’s highest seat for training political officers of the KPA, adding that it is great honor and pride of the WPK and the people to have the Kim Il Sung University of Politics and its history will always remain shining along with the history of the WPK.

He went round the e-library and the hall of service personnel and other places of the university.

He was greatly satisfied to learn that the university has created an excellent educational environment for training its cadets as versatile political officers and it is effectively using it. He appreciated the efforts made by the teaching staff while devoting all their wisdom and energies to training political officers.

Saying that the university has a very important position and role in developing the party political work in the People’s Army as required by the modeling of the whole army on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism, he set tasks which would serve as guidelines for steadily improving the instruction and education, educational environment and the living conditions of the cadets.

Kim Jong Un expressed his expectation and conviction that teachers of the university would train more able all-round political officers strong in the party spirit, keenly aware of the sense of responsibility for training the backbones for carrying out the revolutionary cause of Songun.

He was accompanied by KPA Vice-Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, and Kim Kyong Ok, Hwang Pyong So and Kim Yo Jong, senior officials of the C.C., the WPK.

Below is a picture of the Kim Il-sung University of Politics that I identified in 2009:

KISUP

Here are other stories from KCNA on election day:

1. All Voters Go to Polls

2. Senior Party, State Officials Go to Polls

3. Voting Takes Place at Paektusan Constituency No. 111

4. Paektusan Constituency No. 111 Replete with Loyalty to Kim Jong Un

UPDATE 12 (2014-3-6): Candidates for SPA Deputies Nominated, Registered at All Constituencies

UPDATE 11 (2014-2-24): Voters meetings held nationwide. KCNA:

Voters’ Meetings Held at All Constituencies

Pyongyang, February 24 (KCNA) — There took place oath-taking meetings of voters for the election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK at all constituencies from Feb. 21 to 24 to repay with loyalty the deep trust of supreme leader Kim Jong Un who sent his open letter to all voters across the country.

The open letter was read out at the meetings.

Speeches were made there.

Speakers said that the open letter carries the noble intention of Kim Jong Un wishing all service personnel and people across the country to take part in the election as one, consolidate the people’s power as firm as a rock and further consolidate the state and social system.

The nomination of Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA was a unanimous will and desire of all service personnel and people of the DPRK and a clear manifestation of their faith and will to achieve a final victory in building a thriving nation under the guidance of the great party, they noted.

They called for making positive contributions to the drive to greet the election with high political enthusiasm and shining labor success, further consolidate the people’s power and build the socialist country into the most powerful one in the world and the people’s paradise.

They also called on all service personnel and people to take part in the election as one and vote for the candidates with patriotism, cherishing the happiness and honor of having nominated Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA.

UPDATE 10 (2014-2-22): North Koreans have reportedly been notified whom to vote for in the upcoming SPA elections. According to KCNA:

Lists of Voters Displayed at Constituencies, Sub-constituencies

Pyongyang, February 22 (KCNA) — Lists of voters were displayed at the constituencies and sub-constituencies for the election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly across the country.

All citizens with suffrage residing in the relevant areas are registered in the lists of voters worked out according to the Rules on the Elections of Deputies to People’s Assemblies at All Levels of the DPRK.

Voters are confirming the accuracy of their names registered.

UPDATE 9 (2014-2-20): Rodong Sinmun calls for greeting election of deputies to SPA with high political enthusiasm and labor achievements (KCNA)

UPDATE 8 (2014-2-19): Although all constituencies nominated Kim Jong-un, he could only pick one in which he would “run”:  Paektusan Constituency No. 111. Here is more in KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Sends Open Letter to Voters throughout Country

Pyongyang, February 19 (KCNA) — Supreme leader Kim Jong Un sent an open letter to all voters throughout the country on Tuesday.

The following is the full text of the open letter:

The election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly, which is going to be held at a time when the service personnel and people across the country are vigorously stepping up a general onward march for ushering in a golden age of Songun Korea as they are filled with confidence in victory, will prove an important occasion in demonstrating the true features of our style of socialism centered on the masses and further consolidating the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The voters’ meetings held in all constituencies of the country for the nomination of candidates for the posts of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly nominated me, in reflection of their determination and will to entrust their destiny and future entirely to the Workers’ Party of Korea and support its leadership with loyalty, as candidate for the post of deputy to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly. I keenly felt the steel-strong faith and will of our service personnel and people to place their absolute trust in the Party and follow it to the last, and was greatly encouraged by it.

I feel very grateful for their expression of deep trust in me and extend warm thanks to them from the bottom of my heart.

The integral whole of the Party and the masses, in which the Party believes in the people and the people absolutely trust and follow the Party, is the fundamental source of the unquenchable strength of our Republic and by dint of this great single-hearted unity, the government of our Republic is writing an ever-victorious history, overcoming all manner of challenges and difficulties. No force in this world can match the strength of our single-hearted unity, in which the Party and the masses, the leader and all the service personnel and people are united in one ideology and will and linked with one another in blood-sealed ties.

Remembering the deep trust and expectations of the entire electorate, I will remain faithful to the last to the ideology and cause of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and devote my all to working for my fellow countrymen and expediting the day of prosperity when they would live without envying others, enjoying all the benefits of the world.

According to the Rules on the Elections of Deputies to the People’s Assemblies at All Levels of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a candidate shall be registered at only one constituency. So I decided to register as a candidate at Paektusan Constituency No. 111 for the election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly.

Before our people who are advancing, full of confidence, for the final victory of the building of a prosperous socialist nation is the wide, victorious road President Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il opened for them, and the people’s government is a powerful political weapon for building a thriving nation. We should strengthen the people’s government in every way and constantly improve its functions and role as required by the times and developing revolution.

All voters should take part in the election of the deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly as one and elect genuine representatives of the people, thus consolidating our most advantageous people’s power to be rock-solid and further developing the state and social system.

I firmly believe that all the service personnel and people will work devotedly with ennobling self-consciousness as befitting the citizens of the Republic and high patriotic zeal and build our socialist country into the most powerful country in the world, a people’s paradise.

UPDATE 7 (2014-2-15): Posters have been produced and KCNA reminisces on the DPRK’s first election.

UPDATE 6 (2014-2-10): KCNA publishes a laughable description of the election process:

Popular, Democratic Election System in DPRK

Pyongyang, February 10 (KCNA) — The polling day for election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK is coming nearer.

The DPRK has the advantageous election system for the working masses to take part in forming state power organs.

Its advantages are evidenced by free and fair election based on a secret ballot in the universal, equal and direct principles.

The universal election principle allows each citizen to elect or to be elected without any restriction and reserve. Accordingly, a citizen over 17 years old is entitled to participate in the elections of deputies to people’s assemblies at all levels, regardless of sex, nationality, occupation, property, standards of learning, party affiliation, political view and religious faith. And he or she can be elected a deputy.

The equal election principle makes every voter elect or be elected with equal qualification and right, not allowing any distinction and privilege among voters in the exercise of rights.

The direct election principle makes a constituent directly cast a ballot. It does not allow voting by proxy and makes it possible to set up special sub-constituencies at hospitals, sanatoriums and other places or organize mobile ballots for citizens hard to move.

The secret ballot guarantees fair election.

The election system in the DPRK fully conforms with the essential character of the revolutionary power, which was established by the popular masses and serves for their interests, freedom and happiness.

UPDATE 5 (2013-2-7): Kim Jong-un  nominated as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA by full support of all electors and other people. According to KCNA:

Meetings of Electorate Nominate Kim Jong Un as Candidate for Deputy to SPA

Pyongyang, February 7 (KCNA) — Meetings of electorate took place at all constituencies across the country to nominate supreme leader Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK.

Reporters and speakers at the meetings said the election of deputies to the 13th SPA of the DPRK will offer a historic occasion of glorifying forever the Juche-oriented idea of nation-building of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il and their immortal exploits, and bringing about a turning-point in the efforts for realizing all dreams and ideal of the people by enhancing the function and role of the people’s government.

They went on:

Kim Jong Un, possessed of outstanding wisdom, versatile leadership ability and noble traits, performed immortal exploits for the Party, revolution, country and people by leading the struggle for accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche at a historic time when the new century of Juche era started.

During the days of advancing the revolution and construction by having Kim Jong Un at the supreme posts of the party, state and army, the DPRK army and people keenly realized the great personality of the peerless Songun commander who is possessed of traits and qualifications as a contemporary statesman.

The service personnel and people of the country are full of conviction that the rosy future of Songun Korea and the victory of the cause of building a thriving socialist nation, in which the noble ideal and desire of the great Generalissimos are brought into full bloom, lie in following Kim Jong Un.

At the meetings they courteously proposed nominating Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA, reflecting the unanimous desire of all electors and other people.

The participants expressed full support for the proposal reflecting the unanimous will of the service personnel and other people.

The meetings solemnly declared that Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, was nominated as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA by full support and approval of all electors and other people.

Letters to Kim Jong Un were adopted at the meetings.

UPDATE 4 (2014-2-4): Surprise! Kim Jong-un has been nominated as a candidate to the SPA. According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Nominated as Candidate for Deputy to SPA

Pyongyang, February 4 (KCNA) — Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army and supreme leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the people of the DPRK, was nominated as a candidate for deputy to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly in reflection of the unanimous desire and absolute trust of all the service personnel in him.

A meeting of electorate took place with splendor at Paektusan Constituency No. 111 Monday to nominate Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA.

Present there were Choe Ryong Hae, Ri Yong Gil, Jang Jong Nam and officials of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces and KPA service personnel.

Vice Marshal of the KPA Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and director of the KPA General Political Bureau, made a report.

He said the path covered by the DPRK under the leadership of the Songun commander of Mt. Paektu is a sacred path in which it emerged victorious by dint of the spirit, pluck and gut of the supreme commander, and a gigantic path in which it created world-startling miracles and innovations.

Through their life experience the KPA service personnel keenly felt that the bright future of Songun Korea and the victory of building a thriving socialist nation, the lifelong desire and wish of the great Generalissimos, are guaranteed only when they follow the supreme commander.

He courteously proposed nominating Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the SPA of Paektusan Constituency No. 111 for the election of deputies to the 13th SPA carrying the unanimous desire and warm wishes of all the service personnel.

Ri Yong Gil, chief of the KPA General Staff, Jang Jong Nam, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and other speakers expressed full support and approval for the proposal for nominating Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the SPA.

The meeting solemnly declared that Kim Jong Un was nominated as a candidate for deputy to the SPA of Paektusan Constituency No. 111 for the election of deputies to the 13th SPA according to the unanimous desire and warm support and approval of all the electorate.

A letter to Kim Jong Un was adopted at the meeting.

And this article in KCNA:

Letter from Meeting of Electorate of Paektusan Constituency No. 111
Pyongyang, February 4 (KCNA) — Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army Kim Jong Un Monday received a letter from the participants in a meeting of electorate of Paektusan Constituency No. 111 to nominate him as a candidate for deputy to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK.

The letter said:

The period in which Kim Jong Un has led the army and the people of the DPRK true to the intention of leader Kim Jong Il was a short time in the nation’s history spanning five thousand years, but the feats he performed during the period are, indeed, the great feats that politicians can not do for a century and more.

The DPRK is giving full play to its dignity and might as an invincible power, while confidently advancing along the road of independence, Songun and socialism despite the world political upheaval. This is the proud fruition of Kim Jong Un’s extraordinary wisdom, distinguished political caliber, matchless courage and pluck.

Therefore, the grand meeting of electorate decided with a unanimous approval to nominate Kim Jong Un as a candidate for deputy to the 13th SPA of the DPRK amid the full support and enthusiastic cheers of all the participants.
The letter expressed the determination to successfully fulfill the honorable mission and duty as the defender of the DPRK government, rallied close around the supreme commander.

According to coverage in Yonhap:

Although the SPA is a rubber-stamp organization, it comprises almost all key members of the North’s elite. Late leader Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un, was elected uncontested in past elections.

The outgoing SPA with a membership of 687 deputies was elected in 2009. Only those endorsed by the party can run in the elections, according to South Korean officials and analysts.

Analysts said North Korea will likely use the upcoming elections as an opportunity to eliminate or sideline supporters of Jang Song-thaek, leader Kim Jong-un’s once-powerful uncle, who was executed in December for treason.

UPDATE 3 (2014-2-2): According to KCNA:

Election Committees for Deputies to SPA Start Their Work

Pyongyang, February 2 (KCNA) — Election committees were organized in constituencies and sub-constituencies for the election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK formed in provinces (municipality), cities (district) and counties and in the field of armed forces according to the law of election of deputies to the people’s assemblies at all levels of the DPRK and started their work.

Preparations are making headway across the country on the threshold of the election of deputies to the 13th SPA.

Here is the Korean version of the article.

UPDATE 2 (2014-1-15): Preparations for the elections continue. According to KCNA:

Brisk Preparations for Election of Deputies to SPA

Pyongyang, January 15 (KCNA) — Preparations are making brisk headway across the DPRK for the election of deputies to the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA).

Provincial (municipal), city (district) and county committees for the election of deputies to the 13th SPA were organized according to the regulations for the enforcement of the law on electing deputies to the people’s assemblies at all levels of the DPRK and started their work.

Election committees were also organized in the field of armed forces.

UPDATE 1 (2014-1-12): KCNA reports on creation of Central Election Committee:

SPA Presidium Decides to Form Central Election Committee

Pyongyang, January 12 (KCNA) — The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK decided to organize the central election committee for the election of deputies to the 13th SPA. The decision was released on Jan. 7.

The chairman of the committee is Yang Hyong Sop, vice-chairman Kim Phyong Hae, secretary general Hong Son Ok and its members Choe Pu Il, Kim Yong Dae, Kim Yong Ho, Jon Yong Nam, Hyon Sang Ju, Ri Myong Gil, Ro Song Sil, Ryom Chol Song, Kim Wan Su and Yun Jong Ho.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-1-8): According to KCNA:

Election of Deputies to SPA to Be Held

Pyongyang, January 8 (KCNA) — The Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) decided to hold an election of deputies to the 13th SPA on March 9, Juche 103 (2014), according to Article 90 of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK.

The Daily NK offers additional information:

Deputies of the Supreme People’s Assembly represent 687 constituencies and serve for five years, with the last election held in March 2009.

The decision to hold elections was made by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s most powerful supervisory body.  Established in 1948, the Presidium implements the orders of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and sets guidelines for both domestic and international policy.  It has the authority to promote and recall core members of central state organs, including the National Defense Commission, the Cabinet and the Supreme Court.
Naturally, the new power shakeup is set to generate intense speculation over the future direction of national and economic policy.
Ahn Chan Il of the World Institute for North Korea Studies told Daily NK, “It seems that the all-powerful regime of Kim Jong Eun will be formalized through the Supreme People’s Assembly for the world to see.  This (election) could present an opportunity to revise the law, including amendments to the constitution, the ironing out issues related to land and the selection of special economic zones.”

The Associated Press offers additional information:

North Korea usually holds parliamentary elections every five years and the polls are largely a formality because candidates are believed to be hand-picked by the ruling Workers’ Party. But since members of the Supreme People’s Assembly typically hold other top official posts, the elections are closely watched by outside analyst for any hints for a shift in power in the tightly controlled country.

This year’s election will be the first since Kim took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in late 2011.

It also will take place after Kim Jong Un had his uncle and top official Jang Song Thaek executed on treason charges last month. Observers said the execution was aimed at bolstering Kim’s power but also showed his grip on power wasn’t as tight as his father’s.

Kim is expected to use the elections to replace aging legislators with younger ones loyal to him, said analyst Cheong Seong-jang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.

Here are previous posts on the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly:
1. Elections for the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly were held in March 2009. See hereherehere.

2. 1st Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (regular session: 2009-4):  KCNA and here.

3. 2nd Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (regular session: 2010-4): KCNA 1,KCNA 2,  here, and here.

4. 3rd Session  of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (extra session: 2010-6): KCNA 1KCNA 2KCNA 3KCNA 4KCNA 5KCNA 6KCNA 7KCNA 8herehere, and here.

5. 4th Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (regular session: 2011-4)

6. 5th Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (regular session: 2012-4)

7. 6th Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (extra session: 2012-9)

8. 7th Session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly (regular session: 2013-4)

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