Archive for the ‘Joint Venture Investment Committee (JVIC)’ Category

China does [not?] commit to new infrastructure investment in Rason

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

UPDATE 2 (2012-4-12): North Korea and China attracting investors for Rajin Port development (IFES):

China is currently actively recruiting investors to build additional wharfs in Rajin Port.

China’s Dandong City Industrial and Information Association (丹东市信息协会) announced that it is seeking investments for the construction of tanker wharf under 10,000 ton and affiliated facilities. This organization has received 45 year usage rights from the Rason City People’s Committee and stated that it needed 330 million CNY (52 million USD) to cover the construction cost. According to the association, the investment is attractive because of its geographic location, reduced transit time and costs, and tax-free benefits, for which a special permit was obtained from the North Korean authorities granting trade goods coming from Jilin Province at the Hunchun Port to be allowed entry tax-free. In addition, cargo will be permitted to be sent from Rajin Port to other ports in China.

Meanwhile, North Korea is also planning to build a new port in the Rajin-Sonbong area with a state-of-the-art container distribution capacity. According to the “Rajin New Port Development Plan,” Rajin port development will undergo major transformation as an international hub port, similar to Busan Harbor, unlike the previous small-scale renovations of Piers 1, 2, and 3. This new port is expected to be built across from the current Rajin Port.

Rajin Port development was initially considered as a remodeling project to update the existing wharfs. In 2003, China began to implement construction of Piers 1, 2, and 3. However, the piers began to deteriorate and for the lack of railway and road infrastructure in the area, it delayed the transportation and distribution and could not perform its full function. As a solution, in 2008, North Korea transferred the usage right of Pier 1 to China and Pier 3 to Russia. At that time, Pier 1 was developed to primarily transport chemical fertilizers but it was recently updated as a transportation dock for coal. Russia, in addition to the port, also carried out a modernization project of the Rajin-Hassan railway system to improve the transport of containers.

The new port development plan as suggested by North Korea indicates Jian Group of China as the responsible party for developing the new port into a container port. However, considering that North Korea’s industry does not call for container ports, it is more likely that North Korea is expanding the port to make it a hub port to ship cargo to China, Russia, and Europe. Considering Rajin Port’s geographical advantage, it is likely that North Korea is striving to make it into an international hub port that connects the Pacific with Northeast Asia.

China’s recent advertisement of investment is also considered to be linked with the new port development in Rajin Port.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-1): Accoridng to Stratfor, the Chinese have denied they plan to make this investment.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied allegations made in a Feb. 16 South Korean media report regarding its agreement with North Korea to jointly develop the Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a port area in northeast North Korea commonly referred to as the Rason Special Economic Zone.

According to the Yonhap news agency, Beijing agreed in late 2011 to invest about 19 billion yuan ($3 billion) into Rason, for which it would receive the lease of three piers for 50 years. Under the agreement, Beijing would also build an airfield, a thermal power plant and a 55-kilometer (34-mile) railway track connecting Rason to Tumen, China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that the specific details of the report are untrue and that China and North Korea had agreed only in principle to develop the zone.

China has long exerted its economic influence in North Korea and has an interest in the strategically important Rason Special Economic Zone. Chinese involvement in Rason dates back to the 1990s, though Beijing increased its involvement considerably in 2005 when it secured the rights to one of the port’s piers. Beijing has been particularly involved over the past few years. While the details of the deal remain unknown, it is clear that Beijing has arranged to help Pyongyang develop Rason, possibly by connecting the remote port to northwest China. Such a development would revitalize the zone — to the benefit of both countries.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-15): China has committed to infrastructure projects in Rason. According to Yonhap:

China has secured the rights to build three new piers in a special economic zone in North Korea’s northeast and use them for 50 years, sources said Wednesday.

China will also build an airfield and a thermal power plant in the special economic zone known as Rason, as well as a 55-kilometer railway track between China’s northeastern city of Tumen and Rason.

North Korea and China reached an agreement late last year to build infrastructure in Rason with Chinese investment of about US$3 billion, according to the sources in Seoul and Beijing.

The Daily NK offers some more data:

China has agreed to dig out dock 4 at Rasun to make it possible for 70,000 ton vessels to dock and to construct a runway long enough to accommodate passenger and cargo aircraft within the SEZ; the railroad is due to be complete by 2020, while the development of dock 5 and 6 will follow that of dock 4, Yonhap sources claim.

This agreement was reportedly signed quietly by North Korea’s Joint Ventures Committee and the Chinese government shortly before Kim Jong Il’s death.

The North Koreans have sought the construction of an airport and expansion of the port  for some time.

KITC published the image above in 1995 (Source here).  If you look carefully on the right side of the picture you will see the site of a proposed airport.

Above is a more recent map of Rason published by the DPRK. In the middle of the above map you can see a small airplane which represents the desired location of a future airfield. It is in the same location as shown on the KITC map.

Here is the approximate location on Google Earth (42.397884°, 130.592084°):

If you look at the left side of the KITC photo you can also see that there are many piers, however today there are only three.  I suspect that the new piers will be constructed south of the current piers and will look something like this:

The railway and power plant projects are intereting as well.  There is already a thermal power plant in Sonbong, so I expect that the Chinese are simply renovating it so that it generates more power or is simply more reliable (Google Earth:  42.327275°, 130.382585°):

At a presentation at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, DC, Andray Abrahamian reported that increased electricity supplies for the Rason Zone could come from China.

As for the Tumen (China) – Rason railway line…this already exists as well.  The DPRK’s Hambuk Line (함북선) runs from Chongjin to Namyang (border with Tumen) to Rason:

The Tumen to Rason leg of this railway line, however, is approximately 156km (according to Google Earth) and likely runs pretty slowly.  The proposed new Chinese-built Tumen-Rason line is intended to be just 1/3 the distance!

Additional Information:

1. The Russians built a railway line from their border to the Rajin Port. Learn more here.

2. The Chinese and Russians have already rented two of Rajin’s three ports.

Read the full stories here:
China secures right to use 3 piers to be built on N. Korean port for 50 years
Yonhap
2012-2-15

China Reportedly Grabs 3 Docks and More
Daily NK
2012-2-15

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Choson Exchange with a JVIC update

Monday, February 13th, 2012

According to Choson Exchange:

As we mentioned recently, Ri Chol, the broker of the Orascom deal, has moved on from JVIC. Where he has gone is not yet certain, but the choice for his replacement is interesting.

Ri Gwang Gun is the new head of JVIC and was introduced as such to the CEO of Orascom last week. Ri Gwang Gun has held various positions related to trade, including executive positions at state owned enterprises and as Minister of Foreign Trade. He apparently reports to Kim Yang Gon.

He was (is?) a Daepung Investment Group man. We’ve speculated that the existence of both Daepung and JVIC reflected a kind of “competition at the top” for influence in attracting and managing investments. They were both formed around the same time in 2009/2010 and have similar charges. Therefore, Ri Gwang Gun’s promotion could indicate a potential harmonizing of this competition.

Of course, the contours of this are difficult to see. Daepung, with stronger ties to the NDC, could be construed as taking over the JVIC from the top; perhaps the military has been able to exert itself to make sure that in the new leadership era, it does not get shut out of the investment game. (JVIC has become the more active and influential of the two groups.)

It could also be seen as a victory for JVIC, with Daepung being left to crumble and the top talent from that group being brought across. It remains to be seen if there will be some kind of exodus from either group.

Perhaps, also, it is some kind of compromise and a merger of sorts, with competing groups of elites ‘buying in’ to a unified system of investment management under the JVIC brand. They may see this as a way to increase effectiveness, avoid the negative outcomes of unfettered intra-elite competition and therefore encourage stability overall.

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Ri Chol out as JVIC chief

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

According to Choson Exchange:

[The] Choson Ilbo has just reported that Ri Chol has left his post as head of the Joint Venture and Investment Committee (JVIC).

As we argued last fall, the name of the game for Pyongyang’s elites is securing trade and investment deals. Two main investment organs exist, the JVIC and the Daepung Investment Group. We have in the past heard rumors of other similar international investment organizations being under consideration, also. From these overarching groups, down to smaller State Owned Enterprises, there is considerable competition to show that one’s organization can deliver.

Ri Chol was a close ally of Kim Jong Il’s and the organization he came to be associated with, JVIC, rose to prominence after he helped put together the Orascom deal and was given stewardship. He was even with Kim on his last official visit, to a joint venture supermarket in Pyongyang.

He also spent most of the 1980’s and 1990’s in Switzerland in various diplomatic capacities, not the least of which was acting as a minder to Kim Jong Il’s children as they studied at private school.

What might his departure portend?

A few possibilities come to mind.

– Has the JVIC fallen out of favor with the new leadership? If this is the case, Ri might be tasked with building a new organization, perhaps with a similar focus. It would seem redundant to add another, rather than reform this one, but redundancy is hardly unheard of in planned economies.

– Has Ri himself fallen out of favor? Is he being put out to pasture? Again, it is impossible to know, but it seems that such a long term friend of the Kims, who has a personal relationship with Kim Jong Un from his school days would be a key ally at this time, especially since his deals are driving economic growth in North Korea. (Though who knows? Perhaps Kim the Younger has never liked him.)

– If not an issue with Ri personally, the move could be a part of a factional reshuffling. Bartering and dealmaking for control of the commanding heights of the economy is no doubt underway as the new government consolidates its power. It might have been deemed necessary to grant control of the JVIC to another group of Pyongyang movers and shakers – of which Ri Chol is not a part.

– Also very possible is that the very top leadership is planning to give Ri some new responsibility elsewhere. JVIC may have been judged to be running smoothly enough that Ri’s skills would be more effectively used another important organization.

This of course is highly speculative. All we really know is that Ri Chol, with a track record of securing investment, has left the JVIC. Whatever the case may be, he is worth watching in the coming months, as Pyongyang is compelled to keep investments from China and elsewhere coming.

You can read a longer bio on NK Leadership Watch.

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Economic performance and legitimacy in the DPRK

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Geoffrey See and Andray Abrahamian (both representatives of Choson Exchange) wrote an article in the Harvard International Review which asserts that economic successes are becoming more important to the political narratives that reinforce the DPRK leadership’s claims to legitimacy. Below is an excerpt from their article:

North Korea’s most important domestic policy statement comes each New Year, when the major newspapers publish a joint editorial. The editorial often signals where government priorities will be in the coming year. In 2010 the newspapers spoke of “Bring[ing] about a decisive change in the people’s lives by accelerating once again light industry and agriculture.” Similar themes were echoed in 2011. This is opposed to the joint editorials of the past few years, which have focused on the more traditional themes of military strength, revolution, and socialism.

Another public sign of a shift towards focusing on economic issues is the type of official visits and inspections carried out by Kim Jong Il. Following in the footsteps of his father, Kim uses these visits to signal emphasis or encouragement of specific industries, activities, and policies. According to a report by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, the first six months of 2011 have seen Kim exceptionally busy, participating in 63 official activities. Unlike previous years, however, the number of military visitations has dropped off: only 14 visits were military related, the lowest number ever recorded. By contrast, 28 visits were economic related.

In terms of policy, North Korea has been haltingly experimenting with Special Economic Zones (SEZ) since the mid-nineties, but has recently built a bit more momentum in this area. Rason, an SEZ in the far northeast, is finally seeing some basic infrastructure upgrades that were long talked about but always delayed. Government investment bodies have started to promote the idea that Rason will be the “next Singapore,” an ambitious marketing claim to anyone who has been to Rason. With both Russia and China leasing port space, it seems more likely to be transformed into a regional transportation hub. Meanwhile, along the Chinese border in the northwest, the Hwanggumpyong SEZ recently held a groundbreaking ceremony, attended by high-ranking North Korean officials and Wang Qishan, China’s commerce minister.

Senior politicians in North Korea are increasingly judged by their ability to bring in foreign direct investments. These efforts appear to be competitive rather than coordinated. North Korean leaders associated with the National Defense Commission, the highest level policy body, have been meeting with visiting foreign investors. In 2009, the Daepung International Investment Group was re-purposed along the lines of a holding company model as a vehicle for attracting foreign direct investment l with “27 joint ventures planned and to be managed by the Group.” Daepung Group is backed by specific high-level individuals. Jon Il-Chun, reportedly the Director of Office 39, a murky international trade and finance organ, is definitely involved with the Daepung Group. Media reports also indicate that Kim Yang Gon, Director of an organization tasked with managing contacts with South Korea, the United Front Department of the Workers’ Party, is also behind the group.

In July of the same year, the Joint Venture & Investment Commission (JVIC) was established. Instead of a holding company model, JVIC is a government institution modeled as a “one-stop shop” for investors – that is, JVIC is meant to “seek out investments and assist investors in setting up operations in North Korea.” While multiple institutions claiming to hold such authority have always existed in North Korea, many of these institutions have been merged into JVIC and long-time investors have been directed to liaise with JVIC as their primary government contact. JVIC’s nominal and public head is Ri Chol, a high-ranking North Korean government official.

In August of 2010, we received credible reports that foreign investors were approached to help set up a group similar to Daepung that would be backed by another member of the National Defense Commission. Given this proposed initiative’s similarities to Daepung, the prior establishment of JVIC, and that all three groups do not appear to communicate with each other, we surmise that these various groups have a competitive relationship with the support of different patrons. Investment officials with whom our teammates have met confirm that the relationship between the agencies is “very competitive.” If this is the case, it is a signal that influential groups in Pyongyang sense that future power bases will require the ability to attract and deploy capital.

The full article is worth reading here:
Harvard International Review
Geoffrey K. See and Andray Abrahamian
August 23, 2011

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The Rason Economic and Trade Zone to Adopt the Singapore Model

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2011-6-25

Since the June 8 and 9 groundbreaking ceremonies for joint development projects between North Korea and China were held, attention has been directed toward North Korea’s international economic activities. The Japan-based newspaper, Chosun Shinbo, featured an interview article regarding these collective projects, including the areas of Hwanggumpyong and Wiwha Islands and the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

According to North Korea’s Committee of Investment and Joint Venture, Rason Economic and Trade Zone is, “an important national undertaking following the teachings of Kim Il Sung. . . . Rason will soon become the entrepot port like Singapore, enhancing the lives of North Korean people.”

In addition, it was mentioned that the development of economic zones in Hwanggumpyong and Wiwha Islands will solidify the already strong DPRK-China friendship and expand the boundaries of international economic relations.

According to North Korea’s Committee of Investment and Joint Venture, politically, “Stable political atmosphere allow investors to engage freely in investment activities and necessary legal measures were taken creating favorable legal conditions for foreign investments. This includes the establishment of Joint Venture Law (of 1984) and other related laws.” Economically, “All the necessary substructures supporting the business operation are set. Workers will all be provided free 11-year education and tax rates are the lowest in the region and for those investors investing in sectors that the DPRK is promoting, will be provided with preferential treatment.”

North Korea is encouraging foreign investments especially in the industrial, agricultural, transportation, construction, financial, and tourism sectors. In particular, adopting state-of-the-art production technology is considered most important. This is to increase the area’s competitiveness in the international market through the production of items that have high export value. However, investment restrictions are placed preventing exports on natural resources like ore and coal.

The Committee also stressed the accomplishments of economic cooperation with China and Egypt and revealed plans of passing a double tax avoidance agreement with China, who is the largest foreign investment for North Korea.

The Egyptian company Orascom Telecom has invested in telecommunications, construction, and financial sectors in North Korea. The president of Orascom is said to have met with Kim Jong Il early this year, announcing his plans of expanding investment in the country.

In addition, the Committee reiterated building an independent national economy does not exclude international economic relations. It explained, “We are trying to resolve our shortcomings through international economic activities while maximizing our domestic technology and resources. This is the principle of socialist economic construction.

The Committee of Investment and Joint Venture was established last July, which is a central state organization under the Cabinet overseeing joint ventures and investments. It is in charge of guiding, supervising and administering the inducement of investments from abroad. It is a government body on the level of the Ministry of Trade, which it has close affiliations with. The Ministry is a central organization controlling general trade activities while the Committee is mostly responsible for attracting foreign investment, joint investment, and ventures.

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Increase in DPRK’s mineral resources exports to China expected again for this year

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2/24/2011

The trade volume between North Korea and China has steadily increased, reaching its record high of USD 3.4 billion in 2010. Total exports amounted to 1.19 billion USD while imports doubled that figure to USD 2.22 billion. Imports have continued to grow, increasing by 2.4 times over the previous year.

Since the Cheonan incident and the implementation of May 24 sanctions, inter-Korean economic cooperation has come to a halt, naturally resulting in rise in exports to China. In particular, a significant growth in anthracites exports was observed. The monthly anthracites exports that averaged around USD 10 million surpassed USD 70 million mark last August and maintained USD 50 million monthly average between September to November. In addition, cost-per-ton of anthracite in March which was USD 52.2, jumped to USD 82.8 in November, a climb of 60 percent. This boost is attributed to its increased export.

The current supply of electric power consists mostly of hydroelectric power — reaching over 60 percent– but during the winter season most of the hydropower plants are unoperational due to frozen facilities from harsh winter weather. Anthracites were the alternative resource to fill this gap. Sacrificing power production and exporting great amount of anthracites despite severe winter is a strong indication of the poor foreign currency situation in North Korea.

In its New Year’s joint editorial, North Korea placed heavy emphasis on its anthracite export that took up 60 percent of its total exports. In the statement, four vanguard sectors of coal, electricity, metals, and railroads were highlighted as important industries as “rich underground resources that will help with securing funds and resolving raw material problems.” This is the first time in 13 years – that is, since the Arduous March — for coal to be mentioned first in the New Year’s message.

North Korea also began to lift export restraints of mineral resources like coal and silver from the latter half of last year and ordered to increase imports of rice and corns in place of minerals.

The reason food procurement is placed first at the expense of its mineral resources is believed to be associated with the implementation of the succession involving Kim Jong Un, and to keep North Korean people’s dissatisfaction under control and manage the domestic situation.

North had placed restraints on coal, gold, silver, lead, and zinc exports from 2007 through adopting export control of mineral resources.

In addition, North Korea and China will meet in Beijing to sign an agreement on joint development of underground resources. This agreement will include Musan Mine and rare-earth mines that POSCO (The Pohang Iron and Steel Company of South Korea) has shown interest in in the past for development. China’s moves in this sector are suspected as China’s attempt to monopolize the DPRK’s underground resources.

The DPRK’s Joint Venture and Investment Guidance Bureau and China’s Ministry of Commerce were expected to meet on February 15 to discuss agreements related to underground resources development. On the agenda was Musan Mine, abundant in gold and anthracite, and other mines rich in rare-earth elements. Other mines are also known to be specified in the agreement.

China is expected to bring private companies into the underground resources development project after reaching an agreement with the DPRK. According to our source, “both parties will establish a joint venture investment corporation in Hong Kong after signing the agreement.”

Construction of a highway connecting Heilong City of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture to Nampyong and Chongjin of North Korea and railway system linking the cities of Heilong, Nampyong, and Musan are currently underway, expected to be in operation by end of this year. Jilin Province and Ministry of Railways of China began construction of this railway system from October 2010 investing CNY 1.19 billion, which runs a distance of 41.68 km. However, it is expected to extend further onto Chongjin and is considered to become the major transportation hub, integrating economic cooperation between the two countries.

Musan Iron Mine is known as the largest outdoor iron mine in Asia and Tonghua Iron and Steel Group along with three other Chinese corporations acquired 50-year development rights of Musan Iron Mine. They are bringing in about 120 tons of iron ore each year and more is expected to be brought in once the Heilong-Musan rail link is completed.

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Office 38 reportedly back in business–and other changes

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

UPDATE 4 (2/20/2011): Kim Tong-un (김동은) named Kim Jong-il’s fund manager.  According to Yonhap:

A senior official of North Korea’s ruling party has been named to lead a special party bureau, code-named Office 38, that oversees coffers and raises slush funds for its leader Kim Jong-il and the ruling elites, a source on North Korea said Sunday.

Kim Tong-un, formerly head of Office 39 in the Workers’ Party of Korea, assumed the post in May last year, when North Korea revived Office 38, which was merged with Office 39 in 2009, the source said on condition of anonymity. Office 39 is believed to be another organ that governs a wide network of business operations both legal and illegal.

Both Offices 38 and 39 belong to the Secretariat of the Workers’ Party, which Kim Jong-il chairs, according to a diagram of the North’s power structure released by the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs. Last year, the ministry had only included Office 39 in a similar diagram.

In a meeting with reporters last week, a ministry official said Office 38 has been spun off from Office 39 and is now running on its own again. The official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitive nature of his comments, described “a stream of information” that has come through since mid-2010.

Office 38 mainly oversees transactions involving foreign currency, hotels and trade, the official said, while Office 39, headed by Jon Il-chun, drives revenue by dealing in narcotics, arms, natural resources and others.

The North’s revival of Office 38 is interpreted as an effort to cover the increasing cost of leader Kim Jong-il’s ceding of power to his youngest son, Jong-un.

The story was also reported in Yonhap.

UPDATE 3: Here are links to the Ministry of Unification‘s English language organization charts of the North Korean leadership in which some of the changes mentioned below are listed (though not all): Workers’ Party, State Organs, Parties and Organizations

UPDATE (2/15/2011): According to the Daily NK:

The number of Special Departments under the Secretariat of the Chosun Workers’ Party has been increased from 18 to 20, a move that includes the revival of the No. 38 Department, which previously served as Kim Jong Il’s private bank vault, and the foundation of a film department.

The Ministry of Unification revealed the news yesterday in its 2011 North Korean Power Structure and Index of Figures, Agencies and Organizations. It incorporates North Korean changes from December, 2009 up to the present day, completed after consultation with relevant agencies and experts.

The revival of the No. 38 Department and founding of a film department

The report states, “The No. 38 Department, which was merged with the No. 39 Department in 2009, was spun off again last year. Kang Neung Su, who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in June of 2010, was introduced as head of the film department at the same time. The exact foundation date of the film department is unknown; however, it appears to be newly established.”

No. 38 and No. 39 Departments are directly controlled by Kim Jong Il and serve as a private vault for his ruling funds. The No. 38 Department manages hotels, foreign currency stores and restaurants etc, while illegal weapons trading through foreign trade companies, the smuggling of gold, illegal trade in drugs and the distribution of counterfeit dollars, so-called supernotes, are handled by the No. 39 Department.

“They combined two offices which had different functions, and it appears that this did not result in the intended efficiency,” a knowledgeable source commented.

Meanwhile, on the establishment of a film department, the source added, “North Korea’s cultural art is a political means by which to carry out Party policy and a policy tool to implant policy in the North Korean citizens.”

Among the reshuffled special departments, the existing ‘Munitions Industry Department’ has been renamed the ‘Machine Industry Department’, and the ‘Administration and Capital Construction Department’ has been scaled back to simply ‘Administration Department’.

Elsewhere, the existing National Resources Development and Guidance Department under the Ministry of Extractive Industries has been promoted to National Resources Development Council and, as reported, the Joint Investment Guidance Department rose to become the Joint Investment Committee, while the National Price Establishment Department became the National Price Establishment Committee. Again, as reported, the ‘People’s Safety Agency’ under the Cabinet became the People’s Safety Ministry under the National Defense Commission, while the Capital Construction Department was downsized to become the General Bureau of Capital Construction.

The Central Court and Central Prosecutors Office were also renamed the Supreme Court and Supreme Prosecutors Office respectively.

The Ministry of Unification report also notes that North Korea added Nampo City to its list of eleven cities and provinces, increasing the total number to twelve.

The newly designated Nampo City includes five former parts of South Pyongan Province; Gangseo, Daean, Oncheon, Yonggang, and Chollima districts. Previously, Nampo was under the direct control of the central government as part of South Pyongan Province proper.

At the same time, North Korea also transferred the existing Kangnam-gun, Joonghwa-gun, Sangwon-gun, and Seungho-district, all formerly southern sections of Pyongyang City, to North Hwanghae Province.

Military Commission placed under the Central Committee of the Party

The relationship of the Central Committee and Central Military Commission, which was formerly said to be in parallel, has been changed, reflecting the idea that the Military Commission is now under the Central Committee of the Party.

The Ministry of Unification commented, “By revising the Party regulations, the Central Military Commission and Central Committee were marked as parallel in 2009 and 2010. However, after confirming the revised Party regulations at the Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference on September 28th last year, this relationship was adjusted, and an election is now held for the Central Military Commission via a plenary session of the Central Committee.”

Also, the ‘Bureau of General Staff’ under the National Defense Commission was judged to be below the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, but is now shown to be in a parallel relationship with the Ministry of the People’s Armed Force and ‘General Political Department’.

ORIGINAL POST (2/14/2011): According to Yonhap:

North Korea has revived a special party bureau, codenamed Office 38, that oversees coffers and raises slush funds for its leader Kim Jong-il and the ruling elites, South Korea said Monday in its annual assessment of the power structure in the communist country.

In 2009, the bureau had been merged with Office 39, another organ that governs a wide network of business operations both legal and illegal, according to the Unification Ministry in Seoul.

In a meeting with reporters, however, a ministry official said Office 38 has been spun off from Office 39 and is now running on its own again. The official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity citing the intelligence nature of his comments, cited “a stream of information” that has come through since mid-2010.

The official would not elaborate on how the information has been obtained, only saying the ministry works closely with “related government bodies” to outline the North’s power structure.

Office 38, whose chief remains unknown, mainly oversees transactions involving foreign currency, hotels and trade, the official said, while Office 39, headed by Jon Il-chun, drives revenue by dealing in narcotics, arms, natural resources and others.

A source privy to North Korea matters said the spin-off suggests that North Korea has been experiencing difficulties in earning foreign currency since merging the two offices.

“Efficiency was probably compromised after the two, which have different functions, were combined,” the source said, declining to be identified citing the speculative nature of the topic. “More importantly, it seems related to the current state of foreign currency stocks. The North is apparently trying to address those difficulties.”

In August last year, the United States blacklisted Office 39 as one of several North Korean entities to newly come under sanctions for involvement in illegal deeds such as currency counterfeiting.

North Korea is also believed to have been hit hard financially after South Korea imposed a series of economic penalties last year on Pyongyang when the sinking of a warship was blamed on it.

Both Offices 38 and 39 belong to the Secretariat of the Workers’ Party, which Kim Jong-il chairs, according to a diagram of the North’s power structure released by the Unification Ministry. Last year, the ministry had only included Office 39 in a similar diagram.

Both offices have often been referred to as Kim Jong-il’s “personal safes” for their role in raising and managing secret funds and procuring luxury goods for the aging leader.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Splits No. 38 and 39 Departments Up Again
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol
2/15/2011

N. Korea revives ‘Office 38’ managing Kim Jong-il’s funds: ministry
Yonhap
Sam Kim
2/14/2011

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