Archive for the ‘State Economic Development Commission (SEDC)’ Category

North Korean academic journal suggests conditions for attracting foreign capital

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-1-23

North Korea is promoting stable “political and military environment” as a necessary component to attract foreign investment and regional development through advancement in economic development zones (EDZs).

The Academy of Social Sciences’ newspaper (November 15, 2013 edition) published an article entitled “The Critical Issues in Advancement of Economic Development Zones to Construct a Powerful Economy.” Five major challenges were identified, which included the “creation of a favorable political and military environment.”

As the newspaper explained, “Investors take into consideration the political and military environment of the countries that they will invest in,” and “our fundamental objective is to ensure stability of investments through favorable political and military environment in the EDZs.” Other important issues raised in the article included the creation of a stable political situation, removal of the risk of war, and strengthening of military power.

This corroborates the reality that North Korea is faced with, as the country must create favorable political and military environment as the Kim Jong Un regime pursues its stated national goals of improving the lives of its people and the construction of a powerful economy.

In his New Year address, Kim Jong Un emphasized the need to improve inter-Korean relations and urged the South Korean government to positively respond to this effort. He also refrained from using confrontational remarks. North Korea seems to be demonstrating a willingness to manage the political atmosphere on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea is seeking to mollify the turmoil that followed the regime’s execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, last month, and to encourage favorable atmosphere necessary for economic development.

In addition, the newspaper described the four other major tasks for the advancement of EDZs: infrastructure maintenance of railway, roads, airfields, ports, power plants, water and sewage, hotels, and postal services; enactment of EDZ laws that take into consideration the interests of the state and the investors; provisions for preferential treatment for foreign investors; and business management and operation that fully take into consideration regional characteristics.

In May 2013 North Korea enacted its new EDZ law and announced plans to install special economic zones across the country. In November 2013 the names of 13 EDZs were announced*, with each one said to be tailored to its own area’s local characteristics and environment.

*NKeconWatch: 14 zones were announced.

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Economic Cooperation Office for Overseas Koreans

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

According to a recent article in Yonhap, the DPRK has established a new body to facilitate investments from overseas Koreans.

According to the article:

North Korea has established a government agency to facilitate investments in the communist nation by overseas Koreans, with its services to get into full swing by January, an official was quoted Sunday as saying.

Pyongyang established the “economic cooperation office for overseas Koreans” in August to provide support and guidance for investments from Koreans living overseas, the agency’s chief, Pak Kyong-jin, said in an interview with Minjoktongsin, a pro-North Korean website operated by a U.S.-based Korean.

The agency’s establishment is part of efforts to rebuild the economy, Pak said.

“An increasing number of overseas Koreans have been visiting the North to discuss investment issues. We have established the agency to handle these issues exclusively,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the agency will begin operation in earnest in January.

Pak said he would advise potential investors to focus on construction and light industries for the time being, rather than resources development projects that require massive amounts of capital.

I have been unable to locate any articles about this organization in KCNA or Naenara.

The DPRK also has the State Economic Development Commissio/Association for managing special economic zones/economic development zones (except for Hwanggumphyong, Rason, Kumgang, and Kaesong which have their own management committees), and the Joint Venture Investment Company for managing joint venture investments outside of the SEZs (presumably from non-Koreans). There is also a little known group called the Peach Economic Development Group which was recently announced. Their specific jurisdiction is unknown.

It is unclear what relationship (if any) this new organization has with these other offices.

You can read the full article here:
N. Korea establishes agency handling investments from overseas Koreans
Yonhap
2013-12-29

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Contract signed for Onsong Economic Development Zone

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Onsong-SEZ-2015-9-13-web

Pictured above (Google Earth): The approximate location for the North Hamgyong Provincial Onsong Island Tourist Development Zone

According to China’s Global Times:

A contract has been signed between North Korea and a Chinese border city to develop a special economic zone in North Hamkyung Province, one day after North Korea removed Kim Jong-un’s once all-powerful uncle from his post.

North Korea on Monday signed the contract for Onsong Economic Development Zone with Tumen, a Chinese city under the administration of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Northeast China’s Jilin Province, South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported Thursday.

On Sunday, North Korea dismissed Jang Song-thaek, widely considered the second-most powerful figure in the country, and expelled him from the Workers’ Party of Korea. Jang was accused of “anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts” and womanizing.

Considered an economic reformist, Jang led a delegation to China in August last year to discuss the development of two economic zones in Rason City and the Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa islands near the Chinese border.

An official from Tumen said the city government expressed concerns regarding possible postponement of the contract signing due to Jang’s ouster, but North Korea requested they sign the contract as scheduled, according to the daily.

“Jang’s involvement in economic projects had been diminished significantly this year, so his purge would not have much impact on the speed of economic reform in North Korea,” Kim Kyu-chol, head of non-government Forum for Inter-Korean Relations, a Seoul-based group monitoring inter-Korean business relations, told the Global Times on Thursday. “Actually  economic reform will speed up next year as North Korea will focus on the economy next year, the third of Kim Jong-un’s rule.”

North Korea was in the process of forming the new National Committee for Economic Development earlier this year, which technocrats who had prior experience with the nation’s former economic development bureau, will have joined, Kim Kyu-chol said.

North Korea also reached an agreement with China on Sunday over a 380-kilometer high-speed railway to connect Sinuiju, the city across the border from Dandong in Liaoning Province, through to Pyongyang and Kaesong, South Korean Democratic Party lawmaker Hong Ik-pyo told a seminar at the National Assembly.

Pyongyang’s insistence on inking the contract sends a signal that its economic ties with China will not be affected by Jang’s dismissal and that North Korea wants to strengthen cooperation with China, said Jiang Longfan, a North Korea expert at Yanbian University.

“Kim wants to consolidate his absolute authority through purging Jang, but in the meantime the commitment to economic development has to be maintained to win people’s support,” Jiang said.

Sinuiju Special Zone located at the estuary of the Yalu River is expected to see the ground-breaking of a major project in February next year, with backing from Hong Kong. North Korea also signed a contract with investors from Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Chinese mainland to invest in the Kangryong Green Development Zone in South Hwanghae Province in mid-November, Tongil News reported on Tuesday.

The Onsong Economic Development Zone is one of the 14 special economic zones North Korea has designated this year to attract foreign investment.

North Korea planned to develop the zone into a tourism resort that includes a golf course, swimming pool, horse racing, and restaurants to attract foreigners, said Jin Hualin, an expert on North Korea economy at Yanbian University.

“But the exact development agenda hasn’t been set as Tumen will invite investors to make their decisions,” he said.

He is optimistic about the economic prospects for the zone, which, located in mysterious North Korea, will be attractive to foreigners, he said.

Next year, North Korea aims to host 1 million foreign tourists and thus further tourism projects are expected to be announced, Kim Kyu-chol said.

Some 250,000 foreign tourists, more than 90 percent of whom were Chinese, visited North Korea last year, Kim said.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea inks border town economic deal
Global Times
Sun Xiaobo and Park Gayoung
2013-12-13

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North Korea’s push for special enterprise zones: Fantasy or opportunity?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Bradley Babson
38 North
2013-12-12

In recent weeks North Korea has actively publicized in domestic and foreign news media its determination to pursue an aggressive strategy to develop special enterprise zones (SEZs) throughout the country. This follows and complements the agreement reached between the two Koreas in September to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC)—which was closed unilaterally by the North in April—and to establish new joint management arrangements for that zone designed to ensure its stability in the future and to attract international, not just South Korean, investors.

Both developments have been met with considerable skepticism following erratic North Korean decision-making and the significantly negative impact of the KIC’s closure on South Korean companies as well as on investor risk perceptions of the reliability of investing in North Korea at all. Clearly, whether rebuilding and internationalizing the KIC or proceeding with ambitious plans to expand the role of SEZs as an economic development strategy, North Korea faces major uphill challenges in attracting investors and finding a formula for success. To many experts and economists, these challenges seem near insurmountable, given the current state of North Korea’s economy and investment climate. This leads us to ask:  should anyone take this new SEZ development strategy seriously?

Read more from Dr. Babason here.

Previous NKeconWatch posts on the Economic Development Commission here.

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Recent DPRK wage increases / economic management changes

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

UPDATE 3 (2013-11-14): North Korea accelerating economic reforms? Wages and prices to be self-regulated (IFES):

North Korea appears to be pushing for internal economic improvement measures. Chosun Sinbo, the pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, released an article on November 6 that discussed various performance-enhancing management and operational changes that took place at the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory this year.

Chosun Sinbo referred to Kim Jong Un’s speech made last March at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party about improving economic management and named the recent changes at the food factory as a pilot project for this purpose. The news article added that “There are studies to bring fundamental changes in economic management and specific measures are being made to turn this into a reality.”

The main systemic changes made at the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory were the increase in autonomy of the company and the enforcement of wage differential based on performance. Based on the principle of cost compensation, prices of products produced with raw materials at the factory may be freely adjusted after consulting with the state.

The news article further explained that “The principle of socialist distribution is a simple system of distributing as much as you earn and the cost of living is determined by labor productivity.”  It also reported that some of the employees’ wages increased. Such news is likely intended to advertise to the outside world about North Korea’s changing domestic economic policies.

The North Korean economic journal Kyongje Yongu has also been increasingly reporting on the principle of distribution based on economic performance. In the recent issue published on October 30, 2013 (issue No. 4), an article titled “The Principle Problem of Properly Implementing the Socialist Labor Wage System” criticized the equalization of product distribution as it decreases the enthusiasm of workers toward production: “The strength and life used during the process of labor must be compensated through the principle of earning the amount of your labor.” The article stressed that wages must increase with production and rationalized the need for such wage increase.

Chosun Sinbo and Kyongje Yongu articles reveal the long-term efforts by the North Korean government in enhancing research about economic improvement measures and expanding projects in various factories, companies, and cooperative farms to implement these measures.

Recently, North Korea launched the State Economic Development Commission and organized a number of international forums on special economic zones.  These can be construed as possible signals toward economic reform, as North Korea continues to make various changes in its internal economic policies.

UPDATE 2 (2013-11-7): Another story of note in the Daily NK ties factory wage increases to the ability of enterprises to negotiate prices with the state:

Choson Sinbo, the regular publication of the pro-North Korea General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), has published news of a Pyongyang-based food factory being used as a testing ground for independent economic management. The enterprise fixes prices semi-independently in discussion with the state and pays increased wages, the piece, published yesterday, explained.

The publication conveyed, “Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory became a test unit and conducted research in order to enact changes to overall economic management. They are currently implementing these.”

It continued, “Of particular note is the organization of production and economic management based on cost compensation principles and the socialist rules of division. Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory has enacted the measures for themselves and prepared the collateral to allow for expansion and reproduction.”

“This factory has shed the state planning model and sources its own materials, and in discussion with the state it has been able to set its own prices as it sees fit. There is also a measure currently being adopted that provides monthly allowances in consideration of the labor of the employees,” it further emphasized.

However, a high-ranking defector was skeptical when asked about the piece, telling Daily NK, “These factories produce things like soybean paste, soy sauce, salt and side dishes. They have always played the role of distributor to the people, so there is no way that they would be able to just set prices how they wish on these products. It’s likely that the measures focus on work teams making apple and pear beverages, liquor and beer; things that do not relate to improving the lives of the people.”

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-7): The Daily NK follows up on the DPRK’s strategy to bring official wages in line with the price level:

North Korea’s decision to drastically increase the wages of workers in parts of the heavy industrial sector is designed to boost morale and improve productivity, the better to expand the country’s capacity to generate foreign currency income from investments in the exploitation of its mineral resources.

As exclusively reported yesterday by Daily NK, major industrial concerns in North Hamkyung Province such as Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex have raised wages by a factor of approximately one hundred, from a derisory 3,000 won per month, around half the market price of a kilo of rice, to 300,000 won. Thus far, 100,000 won of the total has been paid in cash and the remainder in kind in an attempt to head off the very real danger of dramatic price inflation that would result from 100% cash payments.

That such a substantial wage rise was only deemed feasible in enterprises with the potential to export primary or secondary resources for foreign exchange should not come as a surprise. Smaller domestic enterprises don’t have the liquid resources to take such a step. As with the Kaesong Industrial Complex, wages in cash and kind have always been more generous for workers in joint venture enterprises than elsewhere. The latest move reflects an extension of that reality.

At this early stage, experts believe that the measure is designed to create a business model for North Korea not unlike that on show at Kaesong, under which each province can improve its economic performance and attract greater quantities of foreign capital. By actively nurturing those rare businesses that are competitive in the regional environment, the country hopes to raise productivity overall.

A researcher with Industrial Bank of Korea, Cho Bong Hyun told Daily NK, “Raising salaries for enterprises in the minerals sector looks like an inevitable choice, since productivity couldn’t have been expected from light industrial enterprises when the operational level of most of those factories is so low.

Cho continued, “The Kim Jong Eun regime, which is currently concentrating on producing results in the economic sphere, made this decision based on the fact that for some time it has been earning foreign currency quite easily by exporting its mineral resources. They also hope that by raising salaries they can induce greater productive effort, since workers have not wanted to work properly since the public distribution system collapsed [in the 1990s].”

Yoon Deok Ryong, a senior research fellow with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy added, “Kim Jong Eun has granted this autonomy to firms and raised wages in order to earn foreign currency and firm up his system. He wants to right the economy by discriminating in favor of businesses that are somewhat competitive.”

However, despite cautious enthusiasm for the latest step, the two experts cautioned that unless North Korea moves further in the direction of a market economic system, the measure might not prove effective.

Cho explained, “No matter how tightly the North Korean authorities seek to control economic activity, they will find it almost impossible to stop these wage rises inciting inflation and causing the value of the North Korean Won to nosedive even more. There is also the danger of conflict with between military and Party-Cabinet elements over the management of mineral resource enterprises that can be used to produce military goods.”

Yoon added that workers in enterprises excluded from the latest wage rises will not see the bigger economic picture, and will simply be aggrieved at there being no improvement in their own conditions. “Conflict is unavoidable,” he concluded.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-11-6): According to the Daily NK:

Wage levels for workers in some larger industrial enterprises have risen by a factor of approximately one hundred times, Daily NK has learned. The move, which was put forward as part of the “June 28th Policy” in mid-2012 and is designed to bring wages more into line with market price levels, appears designed to improve the productivity and competitiveness of major industrial concerns.

According to a source from North Hamkyung Province, the monthly wage of people working at Musan Iron Mine, Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and Sungjin Steel Mill rose from an average of just 3000-4000 won up to 300,000 won in September and October. In an attempt to forestall the inflation that such a step would otherwise guarantee, 200,000 won of the payment is issued in goods, with just 100,000 won provided in cash.

The source explained to Daily NK on the 5th, “In September the order was handed down in the name of the State Economic Development Commission to Musan, Kim Chaek and Sungjin; it was about guaranteeing independence in terms of production and the authority to set salary levels. At the time most workers did not believe that they were going to be given a wage of 300,000 won, and are really surprised now that they are actually getting it.”

The source went on to assert that the same instructions have been handed down to all provinces, not only North Hamkyung. “Relatively more competitive” industrial enterprises in each province have been selected, he said, and are resetting wages at a higher level.

Explaining the system of payments in kind, the source said, “Because they are concerned about the danger of inflation being created by the wage rises, they give 200,000 won of it in rice, vegetables, side dishes, other necessities, and electronics. Only the remaining 100,000 won is given in cash.” Workers have been told “not to make purchases in public markets since the state is now providing for your daily needs,” although the instruction is not likely to be adhered to.

Predictably, the source revealed that the move has attracted attention from surrounding enterprises. “Workers who had been ‘off sick’ are coming back,” he said, “and workers from other enterprises have been descending on us after hearing that we are getting a lot of wages and other stuff.”

The move appears designed to increase the competitiveness of major industrial enterprises in North Korea, and to improve the attractiveness of joint ventures to companies in China.

At the time of writing, the dramatic wage increase has not generated rice price inflation in public markets in the North Hamkyung Province region. For example, the price of rice in Musan is currently stable at around 5,800 won/kg.

On this, the source concluded, “Because some of the wages have been given in kind, demand in markets will not rise for the time being.” However, he cautioned that later, when workers attempt to buy and sell the products they have received, instability and inflation could result.

Read the full story here:
Wages Rise 100x in Heavy Industry
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong
2013-11-6

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New info on the DPRK’s exchange rates and Economic Development Zones

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

James Pearson writing in Reuters updates us on the state of the DPRK’s domestic currency:

In a dimly-lit Pyongyang toy shop packed with Mickey Mouse picture frames and plastic handguns, a basketball sells for 46,000 Korean People’s Won – close to $500 at North Korea’s centrally planned exchange rate.

Luckily, for young North Koreans looking to shoot hoops with Dennis Rodman, the new friend of leader Kim Jong Un, the Chinese-made ball actually costs a little less than $6 based on black market rates.

Once reserved for official exchange only in zones aimed at attracting foreign investment, and in illegal underground market deals elsewhere, black market rates are being used more frequently and openly in North Korean cities.

Publicly advertised prices at rates close to the market rate – around 8,000 won to the dollar versus the official rate of 96 – could signal Pyongyang is trying to marketise its centrally planned economy and allow a burgeoning “grey market” to thrive. This could boost growth and capture more of the dollars and Chinese yuan circulating widely so that North Korea can pay for imports of oil and food.

Unofficial market rates could become more widespread following an announcement last month of 14 new special economic zones (SEZs) aimed at kickstarting a moribund economy where output is just one fortieth of wealthier South Korea’s. A spokesperson for the Korea Economic Development Association, a local organization tasked with communicating policy in the new SEZs, told Reuters that exchange rates in the new zones are to be “fixed according to (local) market rates.”

“The official rate for the won is like a placeholder,” said Matthew Reichel, director of the Pyongyang Project, a Canadian NGO that organizes academic exchanges with North Korea. “We all know that the value of the won is not this.”

UNDER STRAIN

An estimated 90 percent of economic transactions along North Korea’s border with China are in yuan, an embarrassment for a country whose policy stresses economic independence, and something that reduces the grip that authorities attempt to exercise over its people and economy.

Pyongyang does not publish economic data, but is believed to have run a sizeable current account deficit for years, straining its ability to pay for imports in hard currency.

An attempt in 2009 to revalue the won and confiscate private foreign currency savings prompted protests from market traders and forced a rare policy reversal and public apology from state officials.

“Due to its lack of foreign currency, the North Korean government will have to tolerate black market rates, even if it has difficulty in officially recognizing them,” said Cho Bong-hyun, a North Korea economics expert at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul.

Read the full story here:
Insight: Won for the money: North Korea experiments with exchange rates
Reuters
2013-11-3

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DPRK Economic Development Commission

Friday, September 6th, 2013

UPDATE 5 (2013-10-31): North Korea Opens Fourteen Special Economic Zones Nationwide (IFES):

North Korea announced that it has opened fourteen special economic zones (SEZs) in various provinces this year.

The Rodong Sinmun, official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) covered the news about the Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Trade Zone held from October 16 to 17, 2013. This conference was convened by the Korean Economic Development Commission.

According to the newspaper, a law professor from Kim Il Sung University, Dr. Kang Jong Nam, presented at the conference and said, “There are four well-known special economic zones in our country: the Rason Economic and Trade Zone, Hwanggumpyong and Wiwha Islands Economic Zones, Kaesong Industrial Complex, and Mount Kumgang International Tourism Zone. But from this year, fourteen new economic zones were established.” However, details on where these fourteen new SEZs are located were not disclosed.

Kang added, “To meet the growing demands for development, operation and management of new economic development zones, increasing legal measures are being taken to reinforce the development with establishment of new laws or amendment of existing laws.”

North Korean leader and Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong Un made a statement at the WPK Central Committee meeting in early March, saying that economic development zones be established in each province, taking into consideration the special characteristics of each region.

Experts confirmed that North Korea has officially announced its plans to develop Wonsan and Chilbosan as tourism zones this year. SEZ development of Kangryong District in Southern Hwanghae Province began from last July.

In addition, the Korean Central News Agency announced on October 17 that ‘Kaesong High-Tech Industrial Park’ will be jointly developed by North Korea and foreign consortium, and this is likely to be one of the new fourteen SEZs built this year.

North Korea is actively hosting international forums targeted to attract foreign investment into the country, with experts from Canada, Malaysia, the United States and other foreign countries attending.

The Rodong Sinmun also quoted Director Choe Hyon Chol of the Korean Association of Economic Development: “It is crucial to educate and train experts to work in the economic zones and this will be the next step for the development of SEZs.” He also said that “We are willing to participate in various functions such as international forums, investment briefings, and exhibitions to encourage more international investment and cooperation.”

Meanwhile, on October 21 the KCNA reported on the extended cabinet plenary meeting. At the meeting, reports were given on the performance of the third quarter of the national economic plan and measures to successfully implement the plans for the fourth quarter. The central agenda for the last quarter is increasing production of coal and steel products and improving agricultural and light industries to resolve the shortage of food and consumer goods for the people. In addition, improvement in education, health services, and sports sectors were named as imperative areas to recover the country’s status as a powerful socialist nation. Specific tasks and strategies of the fourth quarter were presented at the meeting for the implementation of the national budget.

UPDATE 4 (2013-10-31): Rodong Sinmun follows up on the Economic Development Commissions’ conference on Special Economic Zones:

On Oct. 16 KCNA reported that the Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development opened. Many foreign sources conveyed the news, each with their own comments.

Economic experts from without were not many in number, but each of the attendants was a specialist who had either been involved in successful development of SEZ in Asia and the rest of the world or rich in relevant research experience.

Among the organizers of the conference was Prof. Kyung Ae Park, director of the Center for Korean Research, University of British Columbia, who played a big role in inviting experienced specialists and scholars to the conference.

The first foreign speaker on the first item on the agenda was professor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Exchanged at the conference were experience on SEZ development in Vietnam, Malaysia, India and many other Asian countries.

Economists and specialists from Canada and the U.S. also spoke at the conference.

Many speakers expressed their unusual feeling of having the opportunity of academic exchange on SEZ development in the city of Pyongyang.

Impressions on Pyongyang were in some points common to all. They said in one voice that Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, is beautiful and peaceful, and that Korean economists and specialists were very sincere and enthusiastic in their attitude to the SEZ development.

All the attendants of the conference, both from within and without, expressed thanks to the Korean Economic Development Society, the sponsor, and Kyung Ae Park, organizer, of the conference, which was conducive to seeking a new way of economic development that suits the needs of the 21st century.

UPDATE 3 (2013-10-24): North Korea Launches New Economic Development Organizations (IFES, 2013-10-24)

North Korea announced that it had installed the State Economic Development Commission to oversee the national economic development.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on October 16 that preamble to raise the existing General Bureau for State Economic Development to State Economic Development Commission was adopted at the recent Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Details for appointment of officials and function of the commissionareyet to be announced.

The bureau was established in 2011 to design and carry out the 10-year plan for the development of the national economy. The elevation of this institution from bureau to commissioncan be interpreted as increasing emphasis on economic development.

In particular, the State Economic Development Commissionis likely to serve as the control tower, overseeing the development of special economic zones and the 10-year economic plan.

The KCNA also reported on the establishment of a non-state organization called the Korean Economic Development Association. As the news explained, this organization was installed for the purpose of “attracting interests of economic, business, and academic communities from abroad in special economic zones (SEZs)” and “to promote SEZs to companies and organizations of other countries to draw investments for development in these areas.”

The association is expected to organize and provide support services to foreign investors and coordinate debates, conferences, exhibitions, economic information exchanges, and provide advisory services, in accordance with government mandates and investment agreements. Essentially, the association’s chief focus is to attract foreign investments into SEZs and provide various services to assist their activities in the economic zones.

The news reported the first project of the association was the organization of the “Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Development,” held at the Yanggakdo International Hotel. The conference brought together economic experts from North Korea, the United States, Canada, India, and Malaysia. The association’s contact information (phone and fax numbers;email address)were also released.

The launch of a non-state organization for the promotion of SEZs is a first for North Korea. This is considered as a follow-up measure to the Law on Economic Development Zones, which was enacted in June 2013.

UPDATE 2 (2013-10-23): Rodong Sinmun follows up on the Economic Development Commissions’ conference on Special Economic Zones and reports that there will be 14 Economic Development Zones:

An International Conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Development was held in Pyongyang, the beautiful capital of Juche Korea on Oct. 16 and 17 under the sponsorship of the Korea Economic Development Association. It proceeded in an amicable atmosphere with the participation of competent economic professors and experts of Canada, Malaysia, U.S., Vietnam, India and China, economists and researchers of the Korea Economic Development Association, Kim Il Sung University, University of National Economics, Wonsan Jong Jun Thaek University of Economics and Academy of Social Sciences and officials of various fields who were striving to develop regional economy in Rason City and other areas.

The conference heard first the speeches of Vice-chairman of Korea Economic Development Association Ri Chol Sok and Prof. Kyung Ae Park from University of British Columbia, who was the organizer of the conference. It discussed 6 themes. The matter of primary concern at the conference was the actual situation and prospect of special economic zone development in the DPRK and the legal system related to it. Officials of the Korea Economic Development Association and professors of Kim Il Sung University spoke of this matter.

Thanks to the measures of the DPRK government, Rason Economic Trade Zone, Hwanggumphyong-Wihwado Economic Zone, Kaesong Industrial Zone and Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Special Zone have already been created and this year witnessed the establishment of 14 economic development zones. In conformity with this, legal measures for development, management and operation of the special economic zones were newly taken and the existing laws are being revised and supplemented.

At the session held on the theme “Next Steps for DPRK Economic Zones” held prior to the closing ceremony, Choe Hyon Chol, director of the Korea Economic Development Association, explicated the prospects for development of the special economic zones in our country and hoped for broad and positive international cooperation.

The Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zone Development held under tense situation was an important occasion showing the peace-loving stand and policy of the WPK and DPRK which are concentrating efforts on the development of economy and improvement of people’s living standard.

Here is coverage of this report in Yonhap.

UPDATE 1 (2013-10-17): In September, IFES reported the creation of the DPRK’s Economic Development Commission” (See original post below). It appears that KCNA has finally announced its creation. According to KCNA in two different articles:

General Bureau for State Economic Development Renamed

Pyongyang, October 16 (KCNA) — The DPRK decided to rename the General Bureau for State Economic Development the State Economic Development Commission.

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

And…

Economic Development Association Organized in DPRK

Pyongyang, October 16 (KCNA) — The Economic Development Association was organized in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

As a non-governmental organization, it helps foreign businesses and entities to get a better knowledge of special economic zones in the DPRK and to make investments in them.

It is also working to assist business activities of foreign investors in the zones.

As part of its first work, it hosted the Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Development in Pyongyang starting from Wednesday, attended by economists from Canada, Malaysia and the United States.

The details to contact with the association are as follows:
Tel: 00850-2-381-5912
Fax: 00850-2-381-5889
E-mail Address: sgbed@star-co.net.kp

Here is the Korean version of the articles:

국가경제개발총국을 국가경제개발위원회로 하기로 결정

(평양 10월 16일발 조선중앙통신)조선에서 국가경제개발총국을 국가경제개발위원회로 하기로 결정하였다.

이와 관련한 조선민주주의인민공화국 최고인민회의 상임위원회 정령이 16일 발표되였다.(끝)

조선경제개발협회 조직

(평양 10월 16일발 조선중앙통신)조선경제개발협회가 조직되여 자기 활동을 시작하였다.

협회는 다른 나라의 기업들과 단체들이 조선의 특수경제지대들에 대하여 잘 알게 하고 그 진출을 협력해주는 민간급단체이다.

조선의 특수경제지대개발에 도움이 되는 투자토론회, 상담회, 전시회, 경제정보교류, 자문봉사, 정부의 위임에 따르는 투자합의, 투자가들의 기업활동방조 등 다양한 봉사를 제공하고있다.

협회는 앞으로 조선의 특수경제지대개발에 관심을 가지거나 투자에 참가하는 여러 나라 경제계와 기업계, 학계의 광범한 인사들의 리익을 도모하기 위해 자기의 역할을 끊임없이 높여나가게 된다.

조선경제개발협회는 첫 사업으로서 카나다와 말레이시아, 미국을 비롯한 여러 나라의 경제전문가들을 초청하여 16일부터 특수경제지대개발에 관한 평양국제토론회를 주최하고있다.

협회는 전화 00850-2-381-5912와 확스 00850-2-381-5889, 전자우편 sgbed@star-co.net.kp로 기업, 단체들과 련계하고있다.(끝)

I am unsure of the difference between the “Economic Development Commission” and the “Economic Development Association”, but they appear to be the same organization. The same name difference is apparent in the Korean articles as well: 조선국가경제개발총국, 조선경제개발협회. I also assume this is the same “Economic Development Commission” reported by IFES in September and posted below.

The first high profile event of the Korea Economic Development Association/Commission was an event: The Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zone (특수경제지대, SEZ) Development. Below are articles on the event:

KCNA (2013-10-16):

International Conference on SEZ Development Opens in DPRK

The International Conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Development opened at the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang on Wednesday, with economists from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Canada and other countries in attendance.

In this regard, KCNA met Ri Chol Sok, vice-president of the Korea Economic Development Association.
Ri said:

The conference takes place at a time when the DPRK is paying deep attention to developing special economic zones in local areas, as the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

The conference deals with present-day situation and prospect of the special economic zones in the DPRK and its laws for SEZs, characteristics of special economic and exports processing zones in China and Vietnam as well as the experiences gained in developing them.

It also introduces the roles the zones play in the economic development in each country.

The DPRK has constituted a series of laws for ensuring free business activities in the zones.

Meanwhile, the country is making efforts to improve economic management methods, while consolidating the socialist economic system.

This conference will mark a good occasion in promoting international exchange and cooperation and in developing the economy of the country.

Xinhua:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Wednesday it would establish special economic zones open to investment from “any country.”

Ri Chol Sik, deputy head of the Korea Economic Development Association (KEDA), told the first international conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development here that the DPRK was preparing to open many SEZs at provincial level, with legal protection and preferential policy already set up.

“Policies and regulatory environment and their implementation are critical to the success of SEZs,” said Bradley Babson, chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the U.S.-Korea Institute at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

A DPRK professor with Kim IL Sung University told Xinhua the seminar was “a great opportunity for our people to learn from other countries’ successful experience on SEZs.”

The seminar, sponsored by KEDA and co-hosted by Park Kyung Ae, director of the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP) at the University of British Columbia, Canada, was attended by DPRK scholars and officials and dozens of foreign economic specialists from countries such as the United States, Canada, China, Vietnam, India, and Malaysia.

Park told Xinhua it was a chance to exchange ideas and promote cooperation between DPRK and the outside world. She has been engaging for years in a KPP academic exchange program, which sends DPRK professors to study and do research in Canada.

KEDA, a newly formed non-government organization, aims to support activities by foreign businesses and scholars interested in the country’s special zones, said KCNA, DPRK’s official news agency.

The non-governmental association, the first of its kind in DPRK, arranges meetings, supports business activities and offers information and consulting to prospective investors.

Also on Wednesday, the National Economic Development General Bureau was renamed the National Economic Development Committee, KCNA said.

And from KCNA on 2013-10-17:

Ri Chol Sok, vice-president of the Korean Economic Development Association (KEDA), said in his closing address at the Pyongyang International Conference on Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Development that other countries’ experience would be helpful to the DPRK seeking to create economic development zones in its localities.

The conference was held at the Yanggakdo International Hotel on October 16-17, with the attendance of KEDA officials, professors of Kim Il Sung University, University of National Economy, Academy of Social Sciences and other related institutions and economists of the DPRK and experts of academic and economic circles of different countries, including University of British Columbia in Canada, Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Delhi in India, Planning & Economic Research in Malaysia and University of Wisconsin in the United States.

It focused on such matters as the features of SEZ planning and the study of its examples, management and investment in SEZ and development course of SEZ.

Its participants presented papers on experience and lessons of some countries and valuable propositions and exchanged their views on the prospect of SEZ development in the DPRK and international cooperation in this respect.

Professor Pak Kyong Ae of University of British Columbia in Canada recalled that the conference was conducive to establishing and putting into practice the strategy of comprehensive economic development including the creation of SEZs.

The professor hoped that the good ties forged between the participants through the conference would lead to continuous exchange.

And from Xinhua (2013-10-17):

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is hosting an international conference to explore ways of developing its economy. Earlier this year, the country announced a new law governing new economic zones.

A sign of new climate in economic development, thirteen foreign academics and experts from countries including the US, Canada, India, China, Malaysia and Vietnam gathered in Pyongyang on Wednesday for an international economic conference.

They joined about 60 economists from the Kim Il Sung University, the Academy of Social Sciences, and other local institutions.

The conference comes as economic zones are starting to be created all over the country. On June 5th, the DPRK’s state news agency KCNA announced a new law governing special economic zones. Foreigners can now invest in the new economic zones with preferential conditions for land-use, employment and tax.

The DPRK has experimented with special economic zones for years. In the early 1990s, the DPRK set-up the Rason Special Economic Zone in the far northeast, but it made little progress until recently being reinvented as a joint project with China.

Another DPRK-China joint economic development project on the border between the two countries at Hwang-gum-pyong is still at a much earlier stage of development.

The joint industrial zone with South Korea at Kaesong has not long reopened after a months-long shutdown earlier this year due to tensions on the peninsula.

The new law on special economic zones is one of a number of signs that the DPRK may be seeking to speed up its economy.

Here is coverage in Yonhap (2013-10-16):

North Korea has established a private organization to develop special economic zones, its media said Wednesday, following toughened business sanctions slapped on the communist country for its nuclear weapons test earlier in the year.

The organization, dubbed the Korean economic development federation, aims to support activities of foreign businesses and scholars interested in the special zones in North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The regime’s news wire added that the organization will arrange meetings, support business activities and offer consulting and information to prospective investors.

As part of its first official activity, the federation arranged an international conference attended by United States, Canadian and Malay economists that kicked off earlier in the day in Pyongyang, the KCNA said.

North Korea observers said that the creation of a civilian entity to manage a handful of special zones is a first for the communist country and that it follows the revision of related laws in late May aimed at fueling growth and attracting more foreign investors.

“The federation seems to be a copy of similar private sector organizations in capitalist countries and shows the importance placed on pulling off economic growth by the Kim Jong-un government,” said Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University in South Korea.

Other experts said with the toughened sanctions from the United Nations, the North may be seeking to circumvent the existing business and trade restriction by creating a private body.

Here is coverage in the Daily NK:

According to an October 16th report by Chinese news agency Xinhua’s correspondent in Pyongyang, Yoon Yong Suk, who is in charge of the Chosun Economic Development Committee, recently spoke at the “Pyongyang International Symposium on Special Economic Zone Development,” held at the Yanggakdo Hotel. He said, “We are actively preparing to establish special economic zones in all provinces and introduce foreign capital.” Chosun Economic Development Committee is a “non-state” institution established for the purpose of developing special economic zones.

He explained, “At the Central Committee meeting last March, it was decided that special economic zones should be established in each province, and tourist areas, too, in order to invigorate the tourist industry, and bring about greater diversity in international trade. Currently, each province is moving forward with the establishment of development zones and the task of attracting foreign currency, in accordance with the plan.”

“It is the consistent policy of our country to develop the Rason Special Economic Zone, the Hwangguempyeong and Wihwa Island areas, Mt. Geumgang International Tourist Area, and economic development zones in each province,” he added. “We will find practical and logic means by which to expand economic, trade and scientific exchanges, as well as enhance understanding, exchanges and contacts with governments, private industry, and private groups.”

On October 1st, Daily NK reported that economic officials in provincial areas of North Korea had been ordered to formulate plans for the designation of two candidate cities for development, and that legal and systemic modifications were being investigated, in order to try and ensure interest from foreign capital.

According to Daily NK’s information, the profit derived from joint ventures would be shared 50-50; owever, foreign companies would only have to cover the cost of land use and wages.

Naenara, one of the DPRK’s official web portals, has also posted lots of content on the meeting. See here, here, here, here, here, and here. I have compiled all these articles into this PDF.

Read full story here:
N. Korea sets up civilian body for special economic zones
Yonhap
2013-10-16

ORIGINAL POST (2013-9-6): On May 29, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly promulgated the “DPRK Law on Economic Development Zones“. Now it appears they have named a body to administer the law. According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

DPRK Economic Development Committee launched: Special economic and tourism zones to be named (IFES)

In the wake of normalizing the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) agreement, North Korea has announced that it had installed the Economic Development Committee and named special economic and tourism zones, as well as newly appointed officials in charge. In the near future, North Korea has plans to announce specific special economic zones in Sinuiju, Nampo, and Haeju, along with tourism zones in Mount Baekdu, Wonsan, and Chilbosan. The head and director-level executives for the Economic Development Committee are likely to be appointed from the Joint Venture Investment Committee. The head of the Tourism Development is reported to be the former director of Korea Tourism Administration.

Meanwhile, North Korea has released the preamble of the economic development law adopted at the recent Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly held on May 29. As inter-Korean relations are progressing with the plans of restarting the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the reunion of separated families moving forward, North Korea’s economic development law is drawing attention once again.

In principle, the selection process for the special economic zones must possess these following elements: Area must 1) be in a favorable location for foreign economic cooperation and exchanges; 2) contribute to the economic and science and technology development; 3) be at a fixed distance from the residential areas; and 4) be at a location that does not intrude in the state protected areas (Article 11). This can be interpreted as the North’s effort to segregate the existing residential areas with the special economic zone similar to the Kaesong Industrial Complex so as to minimize the political and social impact of these zones.

The newly confirmed information for the new Economic Development Law is the list of development activities. “Investors from other countries are permitted to develop economic zones either alone or in collaboration after obtaining state approval (Article 20).” Evidently, North Korean institutions and enterprises may also develop economic zones after receiving approval from the state.

In addition, the law granted comprehensive property rights to the development companies. It states that “Companies have the right to sell, re-lease, bequeath, or transfer the ownership of the buildings and land lease” and “the selling or re-lease price shall be determined by the development company” (Article 29).

As for recruitment of workers, there is a provision that states “our country’s labor force must be given preferential consideration” (Article 41), and “the minimum wage for the employees of the Economic Development Zone shall be determined by central guidance organization of special economic zone” (Article 42). This poses some concern as the employee wage at the Economic Development Zone could be compared to that of the KIC, which could lead to wage disputes after the KIC begins to implement its internationalization process.

Another noteworthy change is the currencies permitted at the zone: “currency for circulation and payment must be Korean Won (KPW) or other specified currency” (Article 46), suggesting that other currencies such as the US dollar and euro will be allowed.

Furthermore, the Act specifies that “Companies in the economic development zone will decide on the commodity and service prices, and all the prices in the Economic Development Zone between institutions, enterprises and organizations shall be determined by the international market price based on agreement of all the parties” (Article 43). This suggests that the products produced in the zone may be traded domestically in North Korea.

In this Act, corporate income tax rate was set at 14 percent of profits and “Economic Development companies that operate for more than 10 years will be considered for a tax cut or exemption from the corporate income tax.” Article 58 grants “communication guarantees” for the usage of mail, telephone, and fax services, but did not include the use of the Internet.

Posts on the DPRK Law on Economic Development Zones can be found here.

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

Monday, May 9th, 2011

AEI Working Paper
Nicholas Eberstadt

Download PDF here

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

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

Additional Information:

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

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DPRK establishes State General Bureau for Economic Development

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

According to KCNA:

The DPRK Cabinet adopted its decision on “10-Year State Strategy Plan for Economic Development” and decided to establish the State General Bureau for Economic Development.

This governmental body will handle all issues arising in implementing state strategy projects for economic development.

This step was taken at a time when miracles and innovations are being performed in the socialist economic construction everyday on the basis of a solid springboard laid for building a thriving socialist nation under the outstanding and tested Songun leadership of Kim Jong Il.

The above-said plan set a state strategic goal for economic development. It puts main emphasis on building infrastructure and developing agriculture and basic industries including electric power, coal, oil and metal industries and regional development. It, at the same time, helps lay a foundation for the country to emerge a thriving nation in 2012 and opens a bright prospect for the country to proudly rank itself among the advanced countries in 2020.

When the above-said strategy plan is fulfilled, the DPRK will emerge not only a full-fledged thriving nation but take a strategic position in Northeast Asia and international economic relations.

The DPRK Cabinet entrusted the Korea Taepung International Investment Group with the task to fully implement major projects under the strategic plan.

The historic Conference of the Workers′ Party of Korea and events to mark the 65th anniversary of the founding of the WPK successfully held in the DPRK fully demonstrated the might of the single-mindedly united country in the aspects of politics and ideology and in military technique. All the people are dynamically advancing to fling open the gate of a thriving nation in 2012.

According to Yonhap:

Cho Bong-hyun, a Seoul-based analyst with IBK Bank, said North Korea had been working on the 10-year plan since late 2009 and that it covers 12 areas worth US$100 billion.

According to Cho, the dozen categories include agricultural development, the building of five logistics districts, an airport and a port, and urban development.

“Setting up this 10-year plan is to help find breakthroughs for the North Korean economy through foreign investments, since the North has reached a point where it can’t solve economic problems on its own,” Cho observed.

The analyst also said the North’s current regime appears to be trying to build economic achievements credited to Kim Jong-un, the heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, and smooth the impending hereditary power succession.

I am unsure of the relationship between this new organization and the Korea Taepung International Investment Group and the State Development Bank (previous posts here).  I have a major exam next weekend so I will take a closer look after then.

Here also are some quick country rankings by per capital GDP: IMF, CIA.

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