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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.