Archive for the ‘Daesong Group’ Category

Friday Fun: Fashion, Beer and Coca-Cola

Friday, September 30th, 2011

North Korean Fashion Archives

Choson Exchange posted the following on their web page:

During our last trip, we met with Korea Daesong Bank, which kindly provided a product catalog from the 80s/90s of their parent company – Korea Daesong Economic Group (KDEG). While fashion definitely has moved on in Pyongyang, we thought that it might be good to share some of the products they display in their catalog – for old times sake. In case you decide that the retro look is for you, do note that KDEG is currently under international sanctions.

Choson Exchange posted the pictures to their Facebook Page, but since there are many people who cannot (or do not) access Facebook, I thought I would post the pictures here:

American beer popular in the DPRK?

Pictured above (left) is a bottle of Budweiser served with dry fish aboard the recent Mangyongbong-92 “cruise” from Rason to Kumgangsan.  Learn more here. Pictured above (right) is a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) which has been converted into a candle holder and placed next to a bottle of “domestic” Taedonggang Beer. Click image for source. Maybe the number of hipster visitors to the DPRK has increased?

Coca Cola
Forbes Magazine has a very interesting article on talks between the North Koreans and Coca-Cola! Read the full article here.  I thought this would be a good time to remind readers about the DPRK’s indigenous cola:

Image source here

The soda is “Crabonated” which is a pretty funny typo. Also worth noting are the lengths they have gone through to copy the Coca-Cola brand–as if they are trying to win back market-share from the firm. The colors, red, black, silver and white are the same. The familiar cursive English “C” at the beginning of the word is a close copy. They even tried to replicate the Coke “wave” by adding a literal wave in a similar curve along the bottom of the advert.

 

Share

US sanctions two more DPRK organizations

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

UPDATE 2: Here is the actual Treasury Department Press Release (11/18/2010):

Treasury Designates Key Nodes of the Illicit Financing Network of North Korea’s Office 39

11/18/2010
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13551 for being owned or controlled by Office 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party.  Office 39 is a secretive branch of the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) that provides critical support to North Korean leadership in part through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenues for the leadership. Office 39 was named in the Annex to E.O. 13551, issued by President Obama on August 30, 2010, in response to the U.S. government’s longstanding concerns regarding North Korea’s involvement in a range of illicit activities, many of which are conducted through government agencies and associated front companies. Korea Daesong Bank is involved in facilitating North Korea’s illicit financing projects, and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation is used to facilitate foreign transactions on behalf of Office 39.

“Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation are key components of Office 39′s financial network supporting North Korea’s illicit and dangerous activities,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.  “Treasury will continue to use its authorities to target and disrupt the financial networks of entities involved in North Korean proliferation and other illicit activities.”

E.O. 13551 targets for sanctions individuals and entities facilitating North Korean trafficking in arms and related materiel; procurement of luxury goods; and engagement in certain illicit economic activities, such as money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking. As a result of today’s action, any assets of the designated entities that are within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these entities.

UPDATE 1: Here is the US Treasury Department’s web page on North Korea.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Reuters:

The United States sanctioned on Thursday two North Korean companies linked to a group it accuses of drug smuggling and other “illicit” activities to support the nation’s secretive leadership.

U.S. sanctions against North Korea aim in part to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs, which the United States views as a threat to its allies South Korea and Japan. The North tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

The Treasury Department’s moves against Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation will freeze any assets belonging to them that fall within U.S. jurisdiction as well as bar U.S. companies from dealing with them.

Their main aim is not to block North Korean assets in U.S. banks — analysts say there are unlikely to be any — but to discourage other banks from dealing with North Korea, thereby cutting off its access to foreign currency and luxury imports.

Perks and luxuries such as jewelry, fancy cars and yachts derived from North Korea’s shadowy network of overseas interests are believed to be one of the main tools Pyongyang uses to ensure loyalty among top military and party leaders to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The Treasury described the two entities as “key nodes of the illicit financing network” of Office 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party, which it accuses of producing and smuggling narcotics to earn foreign exchange for the government.

“Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation are key components of Office 39′s financial network supporting North Korea’s illicit and dangerous activities,” Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said in a statement.

Heroin Production?
The Treasury designated the two under a recent executive order that targets entities that support North Korea’s arms trafficking, facilitate its luxury goods purchases and engage in illicit economic activities such as money laundering, drug and bulk cash smuggling and counterfeiting goods and currency.

President Barack Obama signed the executive order on August 30 allowing the Treasury to block the U.S. assets of North Korean entities that trade in arms or luxury goods, counterfeit currency or engage in money laundering, drug smuggling or other “illicit” activity to support the government or its leaders.

When that executive order was announced, the Treasury accused Office 39 of producing opium and heroin and of smuggling narcotics such as methamphetamine.

U.S.-North Korean relations have deteriorated since Obama took office, with his aides deeply unhappy about Pyongyang’s decision to conduct nuclear and missile tests last year as well as the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed in the incident, which the United States, South Korea and other nations blame squarely on North Korea. Pyongyang denies responsibility.

In the August 30 executive order, Obama cited the Cheonan’s sinking as well as 2009 nuclear and missile tests by North Korea as evidence it poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, foreign policy and economy.

The Obama administration has been skeptical about returning to so-called six-party negotiations with the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia under which Pyongyang committed in 2005 to abandon its nuclear programs.

U.S. officials say they do not want to talk for the sake of talking and North Korea must show some commitment to abandoning its nuclear programs.
Read the full story here:
U.S. sanctions two North Korean entities
Reuters
Arshad Mohammed
11/18/2010

Share

Interview with Ken Frost, CFO, Phoenix Commerical Ventures

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Interview Blog, Germany
(click here for all their North Korea-related interviews)

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd is a venture capital company that offers investors business and investment opportunities in the DPRK” – Interview with Ken Frost (CFO of Phoenix)

Klaus-Martin Meyer: Mr. Frost, you are member of the Board of Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd, a company that offers investors business and investment opportunities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) otherwise known as North Korea. Would you mind introducing yourself and your company as well to our readers?

Ken Frost: Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd is a venture capital company that offers investors business and investment opportunities in the DPRK, enabling them to take advantage of the economic reforms that are taking place there.

Phoenix is owned and run by four experienced professionals, who are based in London, Paris and the DPRK. The Board has between them many years of international business experience, and an invaluable network of well placed contacts. Phoenix offers a unique service, by being able to offer direct access to the DPRK.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd specialises in project finance in the DPRK. As is well known, the business environment is difficult, and the company targets very specific investment projects; these are small enough to manage and have the capacity to generate foreign currency, either through export or import substitution.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd maintains an office in Pyongyang, almost the only European company to do so, and operates with the following specific aims:

• Identify commercially viable investment projects in the DPRK, on a case by case basis
• Identify reliable local partners for all forms of business in the DPRK, either trade or investment
• Seek overseas investment sources for such projects
• Minimise the risk in such projects, by taking responsibility for supervision of the local set-up procedures and management of the projects

The Board of Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd consists of nationals of the UK, France and the DPRK. The European flavour is enhanced by the fact that most of the counterparties and suppliers in the various projects are also European, and the DPRK government views Phoenix Commercial Ventures as a prime conduit for European business and investment in the DPRK.

One of the directors of Phoenix Commercial Ventures is also General Manager and CEO of the Daedong Credit Bank, the only western-invested foreign bank in the DPRK. Based in Pyongyang, this is a 70-30 joint venture between a UK financial management company based in Hong Kong and the Korea Daesong Bank, one of the main DPRK banks.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures is unique in having this connection with a reliable, locally based financial institution. The synergy benefits include a wider exposure to local business contacts in differing fields; as well as an additional degree of control, made possible by the fact that the various joint venture projects have to maintain their accounts with the bank.

We have a number of projects within DPRK, including two 50/50 joint ventures:

- Hana Electronics JVC, a consumer electronics company now ranked as one of the top three best performing joint ventures in DPRK, as assessed by the Ministry of Finance.

- Sinji JVC, whose main areas of operations are retail, software and bonded processing.

Full details about our company can be found on our website www.pcvltd.com

I am the CFO of Phoenix and am a chartered accountant with over twenty years international experience of FMCG industries, consumer electronics, rough diamond distribution and the Internet. I have worked in KPMG, Philips Electronics, De Beers and run my own Internet company. I am also a Scholar on Gerson Lehrman Group Councils.

In November 2007 I reached the finals of Accountant of the Year held by the Association of International Accountants at the President’s Awards Dinner 2007. This award is designed to recognise organisations’ accountancy stars.

In January 2007 I was awarded, based on recommendations from fellow members of the ICAEW, a New Year’s Honour by AccountingWeb. The award was for my services to the accountancy profession in opposing the merger of the ICAEW with other accountancy bodies.

In November 2006 I was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Institute of Professional Financial Managers (IPFM), for my services to the accountancy profession.

In January 2006 Accountancy Age placed me on their Financial Power List for 2006. I was 11th on their list of the top 50 of “The Ones To Watch”. The list identified the “most influential names to look out for” in the world of finance for 2006.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: We read on your website “offers investors business and investment opportunities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), enabling them to take advantage of the economic reforms that are taking place there.” Can you tell us what kind of opportunities this could be?

Ken Frost:There are three main areas of investment opportunities open to investors, which we can facilitate within the DPRK:

1 Small scale investments ($500K or less) yielding good levels of return (20% or more).

These investment opportunities are in local production (consumer goods, bonded processing, software etc) for domestic market consumption and export. These utilise the advantages that DPRK has over all the other countries in the region namely:

- 99% literacy
- skilled/disciplined/hard working workforce
- well educated workforce, many speak a good level of English
- lowest wage rates in the region

Phoenix has a number of opportunities that it can offer investors in this area; eg bonded processing, consumer manufacturing, clothing manufacturing and software development.

2 Natural resources

DPRK has proven abundant natural resources worth several trillion dollars; eg coal, gold, copper, titanium, lead, zinc, nephelite, nickel, magnesia, graphite etc.

The investment required would be of a higher order than the small scale investments above, $1M plus. The money would be used to bring existing mines back to production, by pumping out flood water and renewing worn out capital equipment.

Phoenix has, via its working relationship with CPEEC, a number or opportunities in the natural resource sector that it can offer genuine investors.

3 Infrastructure development

Clearly investment in infrastructure is the costliest form of investment. However, given the dilapidated state of the roads, railways, ports, electricity grid etc it is necessary if the economy is to be revived.

DPRK also has a keen interest in infrastructure development focussed on green/renewable energy areas.

Phoenix has on it books a profitable renewable energy project that would suit a serious, well financed and experienced green energy investor.

The DPRK is the final economic frontier and is a “green field” site. Its primary advantages are:

- Location (physical position between Russia, South Korea, China and in AP)
- Location (historical, all the major players now want to move forward)
- Location (resources, it has abundant rich resources both mineral and human capital – high literacy, well educated etc)

Klaus-Martin Meyer: What are the main differences between your company and a conventional venture capital company that is investing for example in internet our biotech companies?

Ken Frost: Companies such as those you mention are industry-specific, whereas ours is location-specific. Our company is relevant to people who might want to invest in the DPRK.  We work in the DPRK and have a physical presence in the DPRK, other “conventional” venture capital companies do not.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: Are there any differences to other investment companies?

Ken Frost: We apply the same principles to potential investments as any other professional investment company, we look at:

- the risk
- the returns
- the quality of the local management
- the quality of the business plan
- the size of investment
- the share offered for that investment etc

We also pay very close attention to corporate governance issues such as; financial reporting, management structure and ethics etc. We have a code of conduct which can be seen on our website.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd is committed to being a responsible corporate citizen and to the pursuit of a sustainable future, both economic and social.

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd adheres to three fundamental ethical principles:

- Integrity
- Competence
- Courtesy

To this end Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd has developed a Code of Conduct, which sets out to ensure that these principles are followed in its operations. The Code of Conduct governs Phoenix’s business decisions and actions. The Code applies equally to corporate actions, and to the behaviour of individual employees when conducting business on behalf of Phoenix.

We work very hard with our local management teams and business partners to ensure that international standards re reporting, corporate governance and ethics are understood and followed.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: What are your plans for the company’s future? How do you see Phoenix Commercial Ventures in five years time?

We see the coming period for Phoenix as that of being continued growth.

In our view there will be a major upswing in economic relations between the DPRK and other countries over the coming months/years. Phoenix Commercial Ventures is uniquely placed to take advantage of, and to respond to, that upswing.

We are one of the very few organisations to have made successful joint ventures in the DPRK. We are also one of the very few organisations to have people with many years’ experience, and cultural sensitivity, actually on the ground in Pyongyang. You cannot run a business by email!

Share

Daedong fights U.S.-imposed sanctions on North Korea banks

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

International Herald Tribune
Donald Greenlees
3/8/2007

Last August, Colin McAskill, a British businessman, agreed to buy a small bank in North Korea. On the face of it, Daedong Credit Bank was not a brilliant investment.

The agreement that McAskill signed with the management of Daedong Credit at a hotel in Seoul came as the bank was caught in the grip of financial sanctions that had virtually cut off North Korea from the global financial system.

Financial institutions around the world were shunning any links to North Korean banks, making it almost impossible to transact business.

Daedong Credit was using couriers to carry cash in and out of the country in amounts as high as $2.6 million because it could not make electronic transfers to other banks.

Since September 2005, Daedong Credit had also been fighting to recover $7 million that had been frozen in a Macao bank as part of efforts by the United States to put a financial squeeze on North Korea over alleged illicit financial transactions. This was a big sum for Daedong Credit. When McAskill had examined the bank’s books, its total assets were just $10 million.

None of this has deterred him. He said during an interview in Hong Kong that he planned to execute the sale agreement within the next two weeks and take full control of the only foreign-managed bank in North Korea. The Hong Kong- based Koryo Asia, chaired by McAskill, will take control of the banking license and a 70 percent stake owned by British investors through a Virgin Islands company. The remaining 30 percent is held by the state-owned Daesong Bank. “I think it’s a magnificent deal,” McAskill said, although he would not disclose the purchase price. “The bank has been running for 12 years. It is trusted and it has been profitable since day one.”

Despite McAskill’s optimism, the future of Daedong Credit has been under a cloud since the imposition of the U.S.- orchestrated banking embargo on North Korea 18 months ago and the viability of the business remains precarious.

Even amid signs of a thaw in relations between Pyongyang and Washington, the start of a bilateral dialogue that began in New York on Monday and an agreement in six-nation talks in Beijing on Feb. 13 to start to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, analysts say banks in North Korea will struggle to restore contacts with the global financial system.

The trigger for the financial embargo of North Korea was a declaration by the U.S. Treasury Department under section 311 of the Patriot Act that the Banco Delta Asia, based in Macao, was a “primary money laundering concern” because of its links to a number of North Korean banks, individuals and companies alleged to have engaged in product and currency counterfeiting, drug trafficking and weapons proliferation.

The U.S. and Macanese authorities began separate investigations into Banco Delta Asia and the bank was placed under Macao government supervision.

Along with about 50 North Korean banks, trading companies and individuals, Daedong Credit had its account frozen. The total amount put into “suspense accounts,” according to Banco Delta Asia, was about $25 million, with Daedong Credit accounting for the largest share. Since then, almost all foreign banks that had correspondent relations with Daedong Credit have severed contact for fear of being excluded from the U.S. financial system.

Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, said it was unlikely that the United States would send an explicit signal to the financial community to resume trading with North Korea, regardless of whether Pyongyang starts to address concerns about its foreign financial transactions.

He said that although a portion of the frozen money was likely to be released soon, there would not be a “100 percent reversal” of the American stance on financial transactions with North Korea.

Daedong Credit is likely to be one of the first North Korean account holders in Banco Delta Asia to get its money back from the Macao Monetary Authority where it has been earning no interest.

In recent months, McAskill has circled the globe from his home in London acting under a mandate from Daedong Credit to persuade officials in Washington and Macao to release the account. At 66, McAskill has spent 28 years doing business with North Korea, including as a consultant to North Korean banks on debt negotiations and helping to operate North Korean foreign gold sales. He said that at no stage in his meetings with officials from either the U.S. or Macao governments had he seen any specific reason for freezing the Daedong Credit money or been told of any specific allegation about its origins.

McAskill has produced what he calls a “dossier of proof” to establish the identity of all the customers whose money is frozen and the sources of the money. Since it was founded by the failed Hong Kong finance group Peregrine in 1995, Daedong Credit has filled a valuable niche serving the foreign community in Pyongyang. It has about 200 customers among foreign-invested joint ventures, foreign relief organizations and foreign individuals, according to McAskill. The biggest single amount frozen in Macao is $2.6 million belonging to British American Tobacco, which owns a cigarette plant in North Korea.

“We irrefutably established that the money was legal,” McAskill said. “The U.S. Treasury have been going around the world saying to banks ‘close this account, close that account’ but not offering any proof of wrongdoing.” He said his due diligence of Daedong Credit had convinced him that it was a “fully legal, legitimate operation” that did not manage state accounts or had ever been connected to illicit practices.

One of the Treasury’s main allegations against Banco Delta Asia is that it facilitated the spread of counterfeit $100 bills. But McAskill said Daedong Credit had put $49 million into Banco Delta Asia in 2005 and all that money had been forwarded to HSBC for verification.

Only three of the $100 notes belonging to Daedong Credit were confiscated because they were “suspect,” he said.

McAskill has charged the Treasury with harassment after two correspondent banks — one in Vietnam and the other in Mongolia — informed Daedong Credit late last year that they would immediately close accounts because of pressure from the United States.

But it is likely to prove difficult to persuade banks, nervous about the effect on Banco Delta Asia of the long- running Treasury investigation, to take the risk of dealing with a North Korean counterpart, regardless of the pedigree of its shareholders and board.

Last week, at a meeting in Macao, McAskill was finally told by the head of a government-appointed committee supervising Banco Delta Asia, Herculano de Sousa, that it was likely that the money in Daedong Credit would be returned by the end of March.

In the meeting, McAskill told de Sousa that once the funds were freed, Daedong Credit intended to leave the money in Banco Delta Asia and resume operating its old account.

But Banco Delta Asia has informed the U.S. Treasury that as part of its cleanup both the administrative committee and the shareholders were adamant that they no longer would do business with any North Korea entities. In doing so, the bank hopes to avoid the United States making good on a threat to ban Banco Delta Asia from having any correspondent relationships with U.S. banks.

Still, McAskill insisted that Daedong Credit has not broken any law in Macao or elsewhere and that there were no grounds for it to be forced to close its account.

“I am not going to take my money back and cut and run,” he said.

Share

North Korea’s golden path to security

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Asia Times
Bertil Lintner
1/18/2007

While the West and Japan have targeted North Korea’s overseas bank accounts to curtail its weapons program, Pyongyang has recently turned to more ingenious ways of maintaining its international businesses through substantial exports of gold, silver and other valuable metals.

Pyongyang has apparently found a willing conduit to global buyers through its many business connections in Thailand, which has recently emerged as the isolated state’s third-largest trading partner after China and South Korea. According to official Thai Customs Department statistics, North Korea shipped 500 kilograms of gold worth 398 million baht (US$11 million) to Thailand last April.

The following month, another 800kg of gold worth 635 million baht landed in Thailand courtesy of North Korea. Also, in June, 10 tons of silver worth 148 million baht was sent from North Korea to Thailand, followed by 12 tons worth 166 million baht last October.

In sum, North Korea exported 1.35 billion baht – or nearly $40 million – worth of precious metals to Thailand last year.

That is a substantial figure for North Korea, a country with an estimated gross domestic product of about $22 billion and whose total exports amounted to just over $1 billion, according to official statistics. Thailand is bound by the international sanctions imposed last October against North Korea by the United Nations in response to Pyongyang’s exploding an atomic bomb.

According to official Thai statistics, the gold and first consignment of silver were shipped to Thailand before the UN sanctions were imposed. But there is nothing illegal in North Korea exporting precious metals, unless, of course, the income from the sale can be tied directly to the country’s controversial weapons programs, which anyway would be extremely hard to prove.

Untapped riches
North Korea’s gold and silver mines remain largely untapped. According to Tse Pui-kwan, a Chinese-American chemist who joined the US Bureau of Mines in 1990, North Korea has significant deposits of copper, gold, graphite, iron, lead, magnesite, tungsten and zinc. When the Cold War ended and North Korea lost large amounts of foreign aid from both the Soviet Union and China, its mining industry fell into disrepair and extraction activities sharply declined.

But with new foreign cooperation, production has resumed, which the recent exports to Thailand clearly demonstrate. North Korea’s main gold mine is in Unsan county in North Pyongan province, about 150 kilometers north of Pyongyang. It was originally opened by a US firm in 1896, when Korea was still an independent and unified kingdom, and was later taken over by a Japanese company when the peninsula became a colony ruled by Tokyo in 1910.

Nearly a century later, consultants from Clough Engineering of Australia in 2001 inspected the same mine under the sponsorship of the United Nations Office for Project Services. They estimated that Unsan held 1,000 tons of gold reserves, which if true would make it one of the world’s major gold mines. Silver is also mined in the same area, while iron ore and magnesite are found in North and South Hamgyong provinces in the northeast.

North Korea’s extraction techniques are sometimes controversial. According to witnesses interviewed by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea for its 2003 report “The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps”, there is a gold-mining labor camp near Danchun in South Hamgyong province, where thousands of prisoners are being held and forced to work under abysmal conditions.

In that same report, several witnesses claimed that “some of the mine shafts dated back to the early days of the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 1900s. Accessing the veins of minable gold required descending and, later, ascending a wooden staircase 500 meters in length, using gas lanterns for light. Deaths from mining accidents were a daily occurrence, including multiple deaths from the partial collapse of mine shafts.”

The first attempt to modernize North Korea’s gold-mining industry was made by an Italian financier and former Foreign Ministry official, Carlo Baeli, who traveled to the country in the early 1990s and claims to be the first Westerner to do business with Pyongyang since the Korean War. He later wrote a book called Kim Jong-il and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, which was published in Pyongyang in 1990, obviously with official permission as it was printed by the state-owned Foreign Languages Publishing House.

Apart from painting a flattering portrait of the North Korean leader, the book describes Baeli’s first trip to Pyongyang in 1990, of which he wrote, “We were interested in investing in the mining industry, mainly in the extraction of gold and granite.” Baeli later signed a contract for a loan of $118 million to purchase mining equipment, and the goal was to resurrect no fewer than six gold mines across North Korea. The money was to be provided by international banks such as Midland Bank and the Naples International Bank. He also arranged for the mining equipment to be shipped from Italy.

But heavy flooding in the mid-1990s damaged both the equipment and the mines and, according to a 2006 report in Forbes magazine, Baeli today works as an adviser to the Pyongyang government at a tire-recycling plant. The car and truck tires are imported from Japan, get ground into granulate in North Korea, and are sold to China for road resurfacing, car mats and shoe soles. A lucrative business, perhaps, but not quite the golden dream Baeli had when he first arrived in Pyongyang nearly 17 years ago.

Another unusual partner in North Korea’s gold trade may have been the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In August 2001, the right-wing South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo published a story claiming that Marcos in September 1970 had deposited 940 tons of gold bars at a Swiss bank in the name of the late North Korean dictator, Kim Il-sung. The report came from a former Marcos aide, and Munhwa Ilbo carried a copy of the bank-account certificate on its front page. The alleged gold bars were part of what a Japanese army general had looted from Asia during World War II, Munhwa Ilbo claimed.

That report was never independently confirmed, but it nevertheless reflects the mystique and speculation that still surround North Korea’s gold industry – and how little the outside world actually knows about it.

Financial pressures
When the US took action against Banco Delta Asia in Macau in September 2005, labeling it a “primary money-laundering concern” for North Korean funds, very little evidence to substantiate the charges was ever produced. North Korea lost $24 million when the accounts it held with the bank in the name of a front company, Zokwang Trading, were frozen. Zokwang, which had been operating in Macau for decades, also closed its office and relocated to Zhuhai province across the border in China proper.

The action against Banco Delta Asia, a privately owned bank that the Macau government later had to prop up to prevent it from collapsing, was the second move against North Korea’s assets abroad. In a much less publicized action, North Korea’s only bank located in a foreign country – the Golden Star Bank in Vienna – was forced to suspend its operations in June 2004. The Golden Star was 100% owned by the Korea Daesong Bank, a state enterprise headquartered in Pyongyang, and was allowed to set up a branch in the Austrian capital in 1982.

For more than two decades, Austrian police kept a close eye on the bank, but there was no law that forbade the North Koreans from operating a bank in the country. Nevertheless, Austria’s police intelligence department stated in a 1997 report: “This bank [Golden Star] has been mentioned repeatedly in connection with everything from money-laundering and distribution of fake currency notes to involvement in the illegal trade in radioactive material.”

Eventually the international pressure to close the bank became too strong. Sources in Vienna believe the US played an important behind-the-scenes role in finally shuttering Golden Star’s modest office on 12 Kaiserstrasse in the Austrian capital. Until then, Vienna had been North Korea’s center for financial transactions in Europe and the Middle East. Visitors to North Korea have noted that euro coins in circulation in the country – the US dollar is not welcome in Pyongyang – invariably came from Austria. (Euro notes are the same in all European Union countries, but coins designate individual member countries.)

Last October, in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, Japan froze a dollar-denominated account that North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank held with an unnamed Japanese bank. The account had a balance of $1,000 and had not been active for nearly a decade, so the move was mainly symbolic: to demonstrate to North Korea that it cannot use banks in Japan for any deposits, big or small.

So it is hardly surprising that North Korea is looking for new ways to manage and maintain its international business interests and for new partners when it is increasingly locked out of most foreign countries. That is where Thailand apparently comes into the picture.

In 2004, trade between Thailand and North Korea for the first time overtook trade between Japan and North Korea. Previously, a string of North Korean-controlled front companies, managed by the Chosen Soren, or the Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, had supplied North Korea with computers, electronic goods and other vital items.

In 2003, North Korea’s total trade volume to Japan was just over $265 million and fell even lower in 2004. At the same time, trade between Thailand and North Korea rose to more than $331 million in 2004. Two-way trade between Thailand and North Korea totaled $328 million in 2005, with Thai exports to North Korea amounting to $207 million and North Korean imports to Thailand totaling $121 million.

During January-November 2006 – the latest statistics available from the Thai Customs Department – trade totaled about $345 million, with Thai exports accounting for $200 million and North Korean imports $145 million. Thai imports of gold and silver have pushed those trade figures higher.

North Korea’s trade with Thailand grew mainly under the previous government of Thaksin Shinawatra, who at one point proposed signing a free-trade agreement between the two countries. In August 2005, Thaksin was formally invited by Kim Jong-il to visit Pyongyang. The visit never materialized, and since Thaksin was ousted last year in a military coup, the future of Thai-North Korean relations is very much in doubt.

But gold and silver are highly fungible and North Korea apparently has lots of the commodities. It appears Kim Jong-il has for now found at least one golden path around the international sanctions imposed against his regime’s nuclear tests.

Share

Koryo Asia to Buy U.S.-Sanctioned North Korean Bank (Update2)

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Bloomberg
Bradley K. Martin

Koryo Asia Ltd., a London-based financial adviser, said it will buy North Korea’s Daedong Credit Bank for an undisclosed amount and lobby the U.S. to lift sanctions on the foreign-run bank.

Daedong Credit is among North Korean banks whose accounts in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia SARL have been frozen since September 2005 after the U.S. Treasury Department alleged Banco Delta laundered money from North Korea and worked with front companies trafficking drugs for the communist state. The Macau government has taken control of the bank.

The value of Daedong Credit “would be enhanced if we can resolve the sanctions issue with the U.S.,” Koryo Asia chairman Colin McAskill said in an e-mail interview. Koryo Asia is adviser to London-based Chosun Development & Investment Fund LP, which aims to raise $50 million for investments in North Korea.

North Korea has demanded removal of the financial sanctions before it will return to six-nation talks to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons. The U.S. and China urged North Korea to resume the talks that include South Korea, Russia and Japan, after the country in July tested a missile that may have the capability to reach the U.S.

Daedong Credit’s general manager Nigel Cowie confirmed the sale and that he would stay on. He declined further comment. Cowie said in an interview last year that the bank’s assets –including those frozen in Macau — totaled around $10 million.

A former HSBC Holding Plc banker, Cowie was hired in the mid- 1990s by Peregrine Investment Holdings Ltd. to start the bank. Following Peregrine’s 1998 collapse, Cowie and three other investors bought the 70 percent foreign stake from the liquidator in 2000.

Transparent

Koryo Asia signed an agreement to buy the majority share in Daedong through a wholly owned subsidiary that McAskill, 65, did not name. The majority shareholders had approached Koryo Asia to propose the sale, he said.

McAskill said he won’t take a direct management role in the bank, instead serving as a consultant to persuade U.S. officials to release as much as $7 million of Daedong’s and its customers’ assets in Macau. The total of frozen North Korean bank assets in Macau is about $24 million.

McAskill’s argument that Daedong Credit Bank serves only foreign, not North Korean, customers and that its transactions are legal and transparent may not win an audience at the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Given the regime’s counterfeiting of U.S. currency, narcotics trafficking and use of accounts worldwide to conduct proliferation-related transactions, the line between illicit and licit North Korean money is nearly invisible,” Stuart Levey, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said last month.

Asked if the purchase of Daedong Credit Bank is a big gamble, McAskill said, “Not a gamble — a gambit.”

He said his strategy is to demonstrate that Levey’s blanket condemnation of all North Korea-related finance is counter to U.S. interests.

Exempting Daedong on its merits from the sanctions would bring a potentially big payoff, he said, “an atmosphere in which Kim Jong-il can consider a return to the six-party talks.”

Anselmo Teng, chairman of the Macau Monetary Authority, didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail to his office seeking comment on the sale and any impact the ownership change may have on the status of Daedong’s Banco Delta Asia accounts.

Korean Investment

McAskill said the Chosun Development & Investment Fund LP aims to raise funds for “transaction-based” investments, such as procuring mining equipment and receiving mine output in return.

“We believe we will fully subscribe the fund from investors in Europe, Asia, the People’s Republic of China and possibly South Korea,” he said. “Global investor interest in this potential emerging market was not affected by the missile launches in July,” he said, without giving details.

Taking over the bank “gives us a legitimate foothold and provides a conduit for investment in the country, whether through Chosun Fund or other sources,” McAskill said. “In the long term, the goal is to facilitate the resuscitation of the legitimate economy.”

Chosun Fund, managed by London-based Anglo-Sino Capital Partners Limited, is denominated in U.S. dollars. If the sanctions issue cannot be resolved, the fund has the option to switch to denomination in euros or pounds sterling, McAskill said.

“There’s no point in taking in U.S. funds if the United States is going to try and block them,” he said.

Room 39

The minority owner of Daedong Credit is Korea Daesong Bank, a unit of North Korea’s Daesong Group.

A 1995 U.S. government study cited close ties between Daesong and Room 39, an office of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party said to handle foreign exchange-gathering projects for the country’s leader.

McAskill said the minority owner does not run the bank. Daedong is “not only majority foreign-owned and foreign- controlled but also foreign-managed,” he said, adding he was given access to all of Daedong’s activities and concluded it’s a legitimate business.

Only North Korean-owned banks can do business with state enterprises and North Korean individuals, Cowie said last year, so Daedong’s customers are all foreign — mostly Chinese, Japanese and Western individuals and institutions.

As of Aug. 17, that had not convinced Levey at the U.S. Treasury.

“The U.S. continues to encourage financial institutions to carefully assess the risk of holding any North Korea-related accounts,” he said.

The undersecretary traveled in Asia in July to push that line, which resulted in the closure of some North Korean banks’ accounts in Vietnam.

Share

Pyongyang’s Banking Beachhead in Europe

Thursday, February 13th, 2003

Far Eastern Economic Review
Bertil Lintner
2/13/2003 

One of the few things that Kim Kum Jin and Sun Hui Ri didn’t leave behind when they fled Slovakia in August last year was their collection of bank records. Their invoices came to millions of dollars, but the documents recovered by Slovak police don’t make clear where all the money went. Some answers could probably be found just up the Danube River from Bratislava. Since 1982, the North Koreans have had their own bank in Austria’s capital, Vienna. It’s called the Golden Star Bank–almost the same name as a North Korean company in Beijing that was used by Kim.

According to official Austrian bank documents seen by the REVIEW, the Golden Star Bank is 100% owned by the Korea Daesong Bank, a state enterprise headquartered in Pyongyang. Kim Dok Hong, a top North Korean official who fled to South Korea in 1997, says that both banks come under the jurisdiction of Bureau 39, a shadowy wing of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Western and Asian intelligence services believe it was set up in 1994 to generate hard currency for Kim’s impoverished nation.

For more than two decades, the Austrian police have kept a close eye on the Golden Star Bank, but there is no law that forbids the North Koreans from operating a nonretail financial institution in the country. Nevertheless, Austria’s police intelligence department stated in a 1997 report: “This bank [Golden Star] has been mentioned repeatedly in connection with everything from money laundering and distribution of fake currency notes to involvement in the illegal trade in radioactive material.”

But finding hard evidence of illegal activity is another matter and the bank continues trading in the Austrian capital. While documents left behind in Bratislava by Kim Kum Jin and Sun show dealings with respected banks such as the Bank of China and the National Bank of Egypt, there is no paperwork connecting them directly to the Golden Star Bank. But the Austrian police report’s assertion that “Vienna must be seen as North Korea’s centre for financial transactions in Europe” remains relevant today.

The former Portuguese enclave of Macau–where the North Koreans have had a discreet but solid presence since the mid-1970s–plays a similar role in East Asia, according to Western and Asian intelligence officials. The North Koreans do not have their own bank in the largely autonomous Chinese territory, but they operate through locally owned family banks, the officials believe.

In an October 2000 conference paper, Marcus Noland of the Washington-based Institute for International Economics asserted that money owed by South Korea’s Hyundai company to the North Korean government had gone “into the Macau bank account of ‘Bureau 39′.” The payments were for permission to operate tourist trips to Mt. Kumgang in the North. An official at Hyundai Asan, which organizes the tours, says only that royalties are paid to North Korea through Korea Exchange Bank’s branches in unspecified third countries.

The Congressional Research Service–which provides United States congressmen with background briefings–reported on March 5 last year that “the U.S. military command and the Central Intelligence Agency reportedly believe that North Korea is using for military purposes the large cash payments, over $400 million since 1998, that the Hyundai Corporation has to pay for the right to operate [the] tourist project.”

Noland, an expert on Korean affairs, asserted in his paper that this income was used for “regime maintenance,” or to strengthen the government and its armed forces. Bankers and Western security officials believe this is also the case with money earned from the operations in Europe and the Middle East.
The Macau Connection
The Former Portuguese Colony was a Terrorist Base for Pyongyang

Avenida de Sidonio Pais is not Macau’s busiest street. And the trading company that is located on the fifth floor in a nondescript concrete building doesn’t even have a sign outside. But this is where Zokwang Trading is located–and from where the North Koreans have conducted some of their more nefarious activities in East Asia. The company was set up shortly after the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974, when the old fascist dictatorship was overthrown and the new, left-leaning leaders recognized North Korea.

But Zokwang, which ironically means “morning light” in Korean, has always been more than a trading company. This was the alleged planning base for the 1983 bombing in which North Korean agents killed 17 South Korean officials, including four cabinet ministers, who were visiting the Burmese capital, Rangoon. In 1987, another set of North Korean agents bombed a Korean Air jet, killing all 115 people on board. One of those agents, Kim Hyun Hee, now lives in Seoul and describes in her autobiography, The Tears of My Soul, how she was trained in Macau. There, she and other North Korean agents learnt Cantonese so that they would be able to pose as Macau or Hong Kong Chinese when sent on overseas missions. They were also trained to shop in supermarkets, use credit cards and visit discos–amenities that did not exist in their homeland.

In 1994, the head of Zokwang and four other North Koreans were arrested in Macau for depositing millions of dollars worth of counterfeit $100 bills. But nothing came of the investigation and in 1999, more counterfeit dollars were discovered in Macau. The North Koreans were also suspected of peddling drugs and guns through the then Portuguese enclave. Once a week, the North Korean national carrier Air Koryo flew from Bangkok to Pyongyang with a stopover in Macau. The flights, now monthly, carried few passengers–but plenty of cargo.

So Western and Japanese intelligence agencies were apprehensive when North Korea was allowed by the Chinese government to open a new consulate general in Hong Kong on February 16. Air Koryo had applied in April last year for permission to use Hong Kong’s new Chek Lap Kok airport instead. But the airport authorities turned the request down. Air Koryo’s old Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft were just too noisy.

But those who thought Hong Kong would become a new centre for North Korean crime have so far been proven wrong. Perhaps under Chinese pressure, the North Koreans in Hong Kong have become model diplomats: open, approachable and eager to forge links with the local business community. Hong Kong has also eclipsed Macau as the centre for North Korean businesses in East Asia, and the new style may serve as a harbinger for change. No one wants to see another terrorist state emerge in Asia.

Issue cover-dated October 25, 2001

Share

North Korean Financial Institutions (loads of info)

Tuesday, March 5th, 2002

From our friends at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul:

North Korean financial institutions
U.S. Embassy; Seoul, South Korea
Flash Fax Document Number: 5711
Date: April, 1995
——————————————————————————–

1. This cable summarizes information obtained from meetings with Korean Development Institute (KDI) officials as well as from two unclassified publications:
– “Status of North Korea’s financial system and expected reform in North Korea’s financial world in case economic integration takes place,” written by Dr. Chun Hong-Taek, and published by KDI in January 1994. Chun notes that his information is from open sources as well as interviews with South Korean companies that have done business with North Korea.

– “North Korean trading companies and financial institutions,” published by the National Unification Board (NUB) in October 1994. The NUB notes that the data in its publication is based on contract forms between South and North Korean trading corporations and other open sources, such as “Foreign trade of the DPRK” (published by the DPRK International Trade Promotion Committee, editions of January 1993 to June 1994) and “Directory of DPRK Foreign Trade Organizations,” (published in March 1994 by Japan’s East Asian Trade Society).

2. A few observations about the information:

– It provides a snapshot of individual North Korean financial institutions, such as a bank’s areas of specialization (if any), its address, key personnel, and its correspondent banks overseas. It does not provide information on current financial transactions.

– There are some differences in the information provided by the KDI and NUB, especially regarding subordination/jurisdiction. For example, the KDI publication notes that all banks are subordinate to the Central Bank, which itself is subordinate to the State Administration Council (SAC). The NUB, however, indicates that some banks are directly responsible to the Central Bank, while others are responsible to the SAC.

– Neither the KDI nor NUB publication lists any North Korean financial institution as having a correspondent agreement with Ashikaga Bank in Japan — a relationship that has been discussed in the press.

– Because of the date of information, newly created banks, such as the Ing-North East Asia Bank (reftel), are not included below.

– Likewise, the KDI and NUB include the names of several banks that may not be currently operating (such as Lyongaksan Bank), may have merged, or may have been renamed. 3. According to KDI officials and the two documents mentioned above, North Korean financial institutions include:

The Central Bank
4. Its title in English is the “Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The CB is located In the central district of Pyongyang. Its telegraphic address is central bank. The CB operates 227 branches throughout North Korea, including P’yongyang, Ch’ongjin, Haeju, Hamhung, Hyesan, Kaesong, Kanggye, Namp’o, Najin, Sariwon, Sinuiju, and Wonsan. According to NUB, CB’s President is Chong Song-t’aek.

5. Established in 1946, the CB falls under the jurisdiction of the State Administration Council. Organizationally, the CB consists of three departments (Cadre Affairs, Material Supply, and Finance) and 14 Offices (coordination/planning, floating fund, Construction fund, repair fund, technology, currency control, banknote issue, fixed assets, savings/insurance, bookkeeping, inspection, business, and mobilization).

6. As a central bank, it is responsible for issuing bank notes, regulating currency in circulation, handling matters related to payment of accounts on a national level, making the government’s budgetary payments, and purchasing/managing precious metals. The Central Bank also operates as: a “special bank” by supplying state funds; a “commercial bank” by accepting deposits and lending money; a “state auditor” by exercising financial control in matters regarding the use of state funds; a “state property manager” by registering and evaluating the fixed assets of state institutions and enterprises; and as an “insurance institution” by handling domestic insurance matters–including property insurance for cooperative farms and factories and accident insurance for working Persons between 16 and 65 years old.

7. (FYI: according to KDI, there are four kinds of savings accounts available at the CB and north Korean Post Offices: ordinary savings accounts carrying 3.0 percent interest per year; long-term savings accounts carrying 3.6 percent interest per year; time deposit accounts carrying 4.0 percent interest per year; and a lottery-type deposit whereby the subscriber-if he/she draws a winning number in a lottery held every quarter–is paid a prize instead of interest.)

8. Funds lent by the CB to North Korean enterprises come from three sources, including the state budget, savings accounts, and insurance premiums. If an enterprise suffers a temporary cash flow problem while implementing Its projected economic plan, it can go to the CB because — according to KDI — the CB is the only supplier of state budgetary funds and money needed for financing national economic plans comes out of the state budget.

9. The NUB publication lists a firm named “Eunbyol Corporation of the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” It is located in the central district of P’yongyang, its telex number is 5965 zu kp, and its telephone numbers are 33946 and 36882. According to the NUB, Eunbyol accepts orders for the manufacture of memorial coins. (Comment: The relationship between Eunbyol and the Central Bank is not further defined.)

Trade Bank (aka Korea Trade Bank)
10. The Korea Trade Bank’s (KTB) title in English is the “Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The bank is located in the central district of P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is Mooyokbank Pyongyang; its telephone numbers are 32588, 34531, and 36508; its telex is 5460, 5465, 5477 and 36032 muyok bk kp; and its fax number is 814467. KTB’s president is Kim Ung-ch’ol, and its vice presidents are Kim Chun-ch’ol, Kim Myong-po, Pak Yang-sok, and Kim Yun-sik.

11. KTB was established in November 1959. The bank comes under the Central Bank’s jurisdiction, although KDI officials believe that the bank is now operating with less Central Bank oversight. According to KDI — KTB actually functions like a central bank’s foreign exchange department because its responsibilities include settling accounts in trade and invisible transactions, exercising control in matters regarding foreign exchange acquisition and disbursement, setting and announcing foreign exchange rates, and issuing foreign exchange convertible notes that can be used only by foreigners while staying in north Korea. According to NUB, KTB was once involved in trade with South Korea, such as selling gold and silver nuggets.

12. In order to settle its trade accounts overseas, KTB has correspondent agreements with foreign banks, including 18 banks in Japan, which (as of March 1993) the NUB identified as Sanwa, Tokyo, Sakura, Mitsubishi, Fuji, Daiichi-kangyo, Tokai, Sumitomo, Asahi, Saiwa, Hokkaido Takushoku, Nihon Kogyo, Nihon Long-term Credit Bank, Itsui Trust, Sokuri, Hyogo, Hokkuriku, and Norin Chuou Kinko. According to KDI, other foreign banks include Great Britain’s Lloyds and Standard Chartered, Germany’s Deutsche and Commerze, France’s BNP and Credit lyonnaise, Switzerland’s SBC and UBS, Austria’s Creditanstalt Bankverein and Girozentrale Vienna. KTB also has correspondent agreements with unidentified banks in Hong Kong.

Daesong Bank
13. This bank’s title in English is “Korea Daesong Bank” (KDB. It is located in the central district of P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is Daesongbank Pyongyang; its telephone number is 43002; and its telex is 36023 and 37041 kdb kp. According to the NUB, KDB’s President is Kim Myong-hui, its vice president is Chang Kon-il, and its chief managing director is Ch’oe Su-kil. (comment: according to KDI, the KDB’s top managers traditionally hold high posts within the KWP, and these persons are typically more influential than other government officials.)

14. Established in November 1978, KDP comes under the Central Bank’s jurisdiction. The bank settles accounts for trading and shipping companies, such as Korea Daesong Trading Corporation, Korea Tonghae Shipping Company, and Korea Mangyong Trading Corporation. The bank was also once involved in trade with South Korea, such as selling gold and silver nuggets

15. (Comment: the KDI and NUB publications say that KDB is under the Central Bank’s jurisdiction, but the NUB write-up on Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation (KDGTC) notes that KDGTC operates a bank, most likely referring to Korea Daesong bank. Moreover, the NUB says That kdgtc itself is under the jurisdiction of the Daesong General Bureau, Office 39, KWP Central Committee.)

16. KDB operates a branch/affiliate in Vienna, Austria, named the Golden Star Bank. It also operates a branch of the Korea Daesong Trading Corporation in Hong Kong, according to KDI. In addition, KDB has correspondent relations with banks in Japan (Tokyo, Sanwa, and Sokuri), In the United Kingdom (Midland, National Westminister, and Standard Chartered), in Germany (Deutsche Bank) and in Switzerland (Swiss Bancorp). It also has correspondent relations with unidentified banks in Bombay, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Paris, Singapore, Stockholm, and Vienna.

Changgwang Credit Bank
17. Its title in English is “Korea Changgwang Credit Bank” (KCCB). The bank is located in P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is Changgwang credit; its telephone number is 31477; its telex is 36016 kccbc kp; and its fax number is 814414. According to NUB, the chairman of Korea Changgwang Credit Bank (KCCB) is Sin Ho and its president is Maeng Pok-sik.

18. According to NUB, KCCB was established on 25 February 1983 and deals in international financing – making exchange transactions in Beijing, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Milan, Rome, Singapore, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Vienna. KCCBC also has 172 branches. (Comment: the NUB publication does not specify whether these branches are located in North Korea or overseas.)

19. (Comment: Although KDI’s banking document does not contain any details on KCCB or its activities, a KDI official told Emboffs that he considers KCCB to be the richest bank operating in North Korea — primarily because it is associated with the military (NFI).)

Koryo Commercial Bank
20. The bank’s title in English is “Koryo Commercial Bank Ltd.” This bank is located in Taedonggang District, P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is Koryo bank; its telephone number is 32060; its telex is 36019 kcb kp; and its fax number is 814441. According to NUB, the bank was established in 1988, jointly financed by the DPRK and a Group of Korean residents in the United States. Its business reportedly is to issue “National Reunification Fund” bonds.

Credit Bank
21. The Credit Bank’s title in English is “Credit Bank Of Korea.” It is located in the Taedonggang District of P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is credit bank; its telephone number is 814285; its telex is 5939 cbk kp; and its fax number is 817806. The president of Credit Bank is Pak Ki-chu.

22. Credit Bank was first established in September 1986. It was initially called the International Credit Bank, but its name was changed to its present form on 23 August 1989. Dealing in international finance, the Credit Bank does exchange transactions in cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Milan, Moscow, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Vienna, and Zurich. The Credit Bank also was once Involved in trade with South Korea, selling gold nuggets to it.

Kumgang Bank
23. Kumgang bank is located in the central district, P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is Kumgang Pyongyang; Its telephone numbers are 32029 and 32797; its telex is 5355 kgbk kp. Kumgang Bank settles accounts for export-import transactions of North Korean trading corporations, including Korea Pyongyang Trading Corporation and Korea Ponghwa General Trading Corporation.

24. According to the NUB, Kumgang bank was established in September 1978. Its subordination is not clear as the NUB says it is under the state administration council’s jurisdiction, while KDI says it is under the Central Bank’s. (Comment: to further complicate the issue, the NUB document notes in its write-up of Korea Ponghwa General Corporation (SEPTEL) that Ponghwa itself operates the Kumgang Bank.)

Nagwon Financial Joint Venture Corporation
25. According to the NUB publication, Nagwon was established in October 1987, jointly financed by Korea Nagwon Trading Corporation and a Japanese firm “Palace.” Its subordination is not clear as NUB says it is under the State Administration Council jurisdiction, while KDI says it is under the Central Bank’s. The bank accepts deposits, remits money, and provides financial services to joint venture projects, trading corporations, and companies run by overseas compatriots.

26. (Comment: The KDI publication does not provide information on this firm. Instead, it notes that a bank named Korea Ragwon Kumyung Company (aka Korea Ragwon Financing Company) operates in North Korea, but information on its activities is not available. It is not clear whether the NUB and the KDI firms are one and the same.)

Yongaksan Bank (aka Lyongaksan Bank)
27. This bank was established in February 1983. It settles trade accounts of trading companies, including Yongaksan Trading Corporation.  T’ongil Palchon Bank (aka Korea Tongil Paljon Bank)

28. (Comment: T’ongil Palchon means “reunification and development.” Based on the information below, this bank is probably the same as “United Development Bank” which was formed in November 1991 between Ruby Holdings (now known as China Strategic Investments) and Osandok General Trading Corporation.)

29. According to NUB and KDI, T’ongil Palchon Bank (TPB) is a joint venture between Hong Kong’s Ruby Holdings Company and North Korea’s Osandok General Bureau. The two publications differ regarding the bank’s financing and subordination: –NUB says that TPB was jointly financed; KDI indicates that Ruby Holdings financed 51 percent of TPB’s US $30 million capital, with Osandok financing the remaining 49 percent. (Comment: According to the KDI publication, China’s International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) had an option to buy into the joint venture, but it is not clear whether CITIC ever did so.)

– The NUB says TPB falls under the State Administration Council’s jurisdiction; KDI says TPB is subordinate to the Central Bank.

30. According to KDI, TPB deals in general trade, including the import of advanced technologies (NFI). It also operates an affiliate, Korea International Trust Investment Corporation (KITIC). KDI notes that North Korea appears interested in learning market financing techniques because the holding company of the joint venture partner (Ruby Holdings) is Indonesia’s Sinarmas (phonetic) Business Group which owns the Bank International Indonesia. (Comment: KDI defines “financing techniques” as ones required for inducing foreign capital.)

Habyong Bank
31. Habyong Bank’s title in English is “Korea Joint Venture Bank” (KJVB). It is located in the Central District, P’yongyang. KJVB’s telephone numbers are 33052 and 39620; its telex is 36001 kjb kp; and its fax number is 814497. The bank’s vice president is Pak Il-nak, who the NUB document says is from the Chosen Soren.

32. KJVB was established in April 1989. The NUB and the KDI publications differ on the names of the joint venture partners:

– The NUB says that the bank was formed by the Chosen Soren and its affiliate, the Federation of Korean Traders and Industrialists in Japan. The North Korean partner is the State Administration Council’s Joint Venture Industry General Bureau.

– KDI notes that KJVB was jointly financed by the Chosen Soren’s Joint Ventures Promotion Committee and North Korea’s Korea International Joint Venture Company.

33. The bank functions as an international financial institution, providing financial assistance for North Korea’s joint venture projects and settling domestic and foreign accounts for joint venture companies. According to NUB, the bank also conducts economic surveys. KJVB operates branches in North Korea, including Hamhung, Sariwon, Sinuiju, Wonsan, P’yongsong, and Ch’ongjin. It also has correspondent relationships with some 30 foreign banks, including Japan’s Sokuri Bank, Hong Kong’s Maritime Commercial Bank, and China’s Bank of China.

Kukche Insurance Company
34. This firm’s title in English is “Korea Foreign Insurance Company” (KFIC). It is located in P’yongch’on District in P’yongyang. Its telegraphic address is chosunbohom; its telephone numbers are 36147, 38805, and 45501; and its telex number is 5464 bohom kp. KFIC’s president is Paek Myong-non, and its vice presidents are Yi Sang-chu and Pak Kun-pae.

35. According to NUB, KFIC handles insurance matters involving ships and export-import cargos and reinsurance issues involving foreign insurance companies. It also does business with some non-life insurance companies in Japan regarding reinsurance matters. KFIC operates branches at major ports, including Namp’o, Hungnam, Ch’ongjin, Najin, and Haeju.

Share