Archive for the ‘Bureau 39’ Category

A North Korean Corleone

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Sheena Chestnut Greitens writes in the New York Times:

What kind of deal do you make with a 20-something who just inherited not only a country, but also the mantle of one of the world’s most sophisticated crime families? When Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be 28 or 29, became North Korea’s leader in December after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, he became the de facto head of a mafia state.

(more…)

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Kwangbok Department Store

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2012-2-21): According to the Korea Times, this store is now providing people with a legal window to exchange local for hard currency:

North Korea is apparently allowing foreign currency to be exchanged at unofficial, black market rates at a newly-renovated department store in Pyongyang, according to a diplomatic source who recently visited the country, Tuesday.

The source said people could exchange euros, dollars and yuan at kiosks at Kwangbok Area Supermarket, which recently opened after refurbishment and is said to resemble department stores in the South. The North has long kept the value of its local currency artificially high.

Euros were being exchanged at the rate of one euro for 4,420 North Korean won, while the official rate is around 130 won per euro, the source said.

“They are exchanging hard currency at a rate that seems to be an unofficial rate,” the source told The Korea Times. “People can also shop at the department store using foreign currency by taking their receipts to the booths.”

The source added that the exchange rates were written on a board inside the kiosks.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-6): See the original post below.


 

Pictured Above: (L) The original facade of the “Kwangbok Department Store (광복백화점)”. (R) The new facade of the “Kwangbok Area Supermarket (광복지구상업중심)”

Here is KCNA coverage of the opening of the facility (Posted to YouTube):

Astute observers will notice the American beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, featured prominently in the beer section.

Here is coverage of the opening in KCNA (2012-1-5):

Pyongyang, January 5 (KCNA) — The Kwangbok Area Supermarket was opened with due ceremony on Thursday.

All business service at the supermarket built as a commercial service center has been put on IT and digital basis. Customers can buy varieties of goods according to their taste and requirements in the sales rooms on each floor stacked with household appliances, electronic products, foodstuff, fibre, sundries and others.

Present there were officials concerned, officials of the Korea Taesong General Trading Corporation, officials and employees of the Kwangbok Area Supermarket, members of the Feihaimengxin Trading (Beijing) Co. Ltd. staying in the DPRK and the Chinese embassy here.

O Ryong Il, general president of the Corporation, said in his speech that the work to build the supermarket was successfully completed under the energetic leadership of leader Kim Jong Iland the dear respected Kim Jong Un and the positive efforts of the peoples of the two countries.

He expressed belief that the supermarket would help towards improving the people’s living standard and promoting the well-being of the two peoples through better service and management.

Xue Rifei, executive managing director of the Feihaimengxin Trading (Beijing) Co. Ltd., said in his speech that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un gave field guidance to the supermarket on December 15, 2011 and named it the Kwangbok Area Supermarket.

He expressed the expectation that an effort will be made to reenergize the supermarket to win high appreciation for its best management, service and credit.

The Korea Taesong General Trading Corporation is a sanctioned organization, and according to the US Treasury, it is a “key node” in the illicit activity of Office 39. According to NK Leadership Watch:

One of the participants at the opening ceremony was Jon Il Chun (Chon Il-chun), deputy director of the Korean Workers’ Party’s Finance and Accounting Department and section chief of Office #39.  Mr. Jon accompanied Kim Jong Il on a visit to the Kwangpok store in mid-December 2011, which was KJI’s last reported public appearance before his death.

On a more casual note, the supermarket marks a point of administrative departure from the way department stores are typically managed in socialist countries. The Kwangbok Department Store (the former name) was one of Pyongyang’s premier formal retail outlets. For decades it operated in the same way as other socialist department stores: customers ended up standing in three lines before they were able to collect their merchandise (one line to order, another line to pay, and another line to pick up). The new Kwangbok Supermarket has adopted a market-style check out line. Though unnoticed by foreigners, this is the first such check out line I have seen in a North Korean department store.

This point was also highlighted in AP coverage:

A separate story in KCNA notes that the shop will sell both foreign and domestic goods:

The supermarket is supplied with home and foreign-made products which are in demand in the country.

Although I have not acquired data specific to this store, I believe it is reasonable (even rational) to assume that if the supermarket sells imported goods it will charge had currency for them. This opinion is based on the following assumptions: 1. The Chinese investors will not accept North Korean won under any circumstances. 2. The goal of Office 39 is to acquire hard currency for the Kim family. 3. North Korean retail outlets frequently post prices in multiple currencies so I don’t see any reason why it would be different here. Today a plurality of North Koreans can easily acquire foreign exchange.

Here is my working assumption of the business model: Chinese partner acquires merchandise and imports it to the DPRK. Sales in hard currency go towards allowing the Chinese supplier to recover its costs. Chinese partner either earns a profit from a markup it charges Kwangbok or it divides the profit with Office 39 along some agreed percentage.

If Chinese profits are earned from a cost-plus markup that it charges Kwangbop, then the partnership is closer to an exclusive supplier deal rather than a true joint equity deal. The North Koreans could cheat on this deal by finding cheaper suppliers and decreasing its purchases from the Chinese partner. If after-sales profits are split between the Chinese and Office 39, then both partners will need auditors on hand to make sure the books are accurate. The Chinese partner will also need a good relationship with the Chinese embassy if it runs into problems with the DPRK managers should they unilaterally change the terms of the contract (the split).

A Chinese firm reportedly tried to invest in the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 several years ago. Not much seemed to happen, but maybe there is some more info here.

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Kim Jong-il visits Kwangbok Department Store

Friday, December 16th, 2011

UPDATE (2011-12-19): KJI’s financial manager appears on tour of Kwangbok.  According to Yonhap:

The head of a shadowy North Korean agency charged with managing slush funds for leader Kim Jong-il has again appeared in public after five months.

Recent footage from the North’s state television network showed Jon Il-chun standing closer to Kim than Kim’s heir apparent son, Kim Jong-un, on an inspection tour of a supermarket in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un is being groomed to succeed his father Kim Jong-il as the country’s next leader in what would be the country’s second hereditary power transfer.

Jon and Kim Jong-un were also seen standing side by side on an escalator at the Kwangbok Area Supermarket, according to recent photos released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Jon, who has rarely been exposed to media, was last seen on Kim’s trip to a factory in July.

He heads Office 39, which has often been referred to as Kim’s “personal safe” for its role in raising and managing secret funds for the North Korean leader.

The office is also believed to be involved in counterfeiting US$100 bills and drug trafficking.

Last year, the United States blacklisted Office 39 as one of several North Korean entities to come under new sanctions for its involvement in illegal activities such as currency counterfeiting.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-12-16): According to the Daily NK:

Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) today reported news of an onsite inspection by Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Eun and others to the Kwangbok District of Pyongyang, the city’s commercial center. The main site on the visit was reportedly the newly expanded and redesigned Kwangbok Department Store.

The redevelopment of the store was ordered by the elder Kim following his trips to China earlier this year, where he was repeatedly exposed to the full force of China’s commercial development.

According to KCNA, “To enhance the people’s welfare and improve their lives, upon the direct suggestion and boundless affection of the fatherly General with his perpetual concern for the people, Kwangbok Department Store, which was constructed in October, 1991, has been transformed anew into the commercial center of Kwangbok District.”

“From warehouse to sale, the realization of information technology and numerical control of all management operations guarantee accuracy and speed, and the store has been stocked to guarantee the utmost convenience of visitors,” it went on.

KCNA went on to say that Kim Jong Il listening to information from related officials, and subsequently declared himself satisfied with the way the store matched the people’s needs in all areas, from sales plans to the amount and quality of goods available.

“We must proceed with the kind of commercial activity that can sell to the people of the capital city those things that they would not be able to live without in their daily lives such as clothing, shoes, food, conveniences, family items, school goods and cultural things, and leave them with no complaint,” he emphasized.

Read the full story here:
Kim Satisfied with “Transformed” Store
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2011-12-16

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Economic performance and legitimacy in the DPRK

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KCC finding creative ways to earn hard currency

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): Korea Computer Center

According to the Associated Press (Via Washington Post):

South Korean police said Thursday they have arrested five people who allegedly collaborated with elite North Korean hackers to steal millions of dollars in points from online gaming sites.

The five, including a Chinese man, were arrested and another nine people were booked without physical detainment after they worked with North Koreans to hack South Korean gaming sites, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said in a statement.

Members of the hacking ring, which included North Korea’s technological elite, worked in China and shared profits after they sold programs that allowed users to rack up points without actual play, police said.

The points were later exchanged for cash through sites where players trade items to be used for their avatars. The police said the ring made about $6 million over the last year and a half.

A police investigator, who declined to be identified because the investigation was under way, said North Korean hackers were asked to join the alleged scheme because they were deemed competent and could help skirt national legal boundaries.

The police pointed to North’s Korea Computer Center as the alleged culprit. Set up in 1990, the center has 1,200 experts developing computer software and hardware for North Korea, the police said.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s spy agency, was heavily involved in the investigation, the police said. Investigators suspect the hackers’ so-called “auto programs” could be used as a conduit for North Korean cyberattacks.

South Korean authorities have accused North Korea of mounting cyberattacks in the past few years. Prosecutors said earlier this year that the North hacked into a major South Korean bank’s system and paralyzed it for days. The North is also accused of mounting attacks on U.S. and South Korean websites. Pyongyang has denied the charges.

The New York Times adds the following details:

In a little less than two years, the police said, the organizers made $6 million. They gave 55 percent of it to the hackers, who forwarded some of it to agents in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. “They regularly contacted North Korean agents for close consultations,” Chung Kil-hwan, a senior officer at the police agency’s International Crime Investigation Unit, said during a news briefing.

Mr. Chung said the hackers, all graduates of North Korea’s elite science universities, were dispatched from two places: the state-run Korea Computer Center in Pyongyang and the Korea Neungnado General Trading Company. The company, he said, reports to a shadowy Communist Party agency called Office 39, which gathers foreign hard currency for Mr. Kim through drug trafficking, counterfeiting, arms sales and other illicit activities.

Read the full story here:
South Korean police say they’ve cracked down on ring working with North Korean hackers
Associated Press (Via Washington Post)
2011-8-4

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Office 38 reportedly back in business–and other changes

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story was also reported in Yonhap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Military Commission placed under the Central Committee of the Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pyongyang 1946 and today

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

I recently came across this map of Pyongyang printed in 1946:

Click map to see full size version

According to the map, it is “For use by War and Navy Department Agencies only.  Not for sale or distribution”.

I thought it would be fun to add the map to Google Earth so I could compare the pre-Korean War city infrastructure with what we see today.  Some interesting information emerges:

1. The Omura Silk Mill is now the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Silk Mill. Satellite image here.

2. The Kanegajuchi Spinning Mill is now the Pyongyang Textile Mill.  Satellite image here.

3. Fuji Iron Works is now the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory. Satellite image here.

4. What was the Pyongyang Airport is now Taedonggang-district in East Pyongyang.

5. Much of what we call the  “Forbidden City” (Korean Workers Party Offices) were military barracks.

6. The former Pyongyang Medical College is now … the Kim Il-sung University College of Medicine. Satellite image here.

7. The Supreme People’s Assembly sits on the grounds of the former Pyongyang Women’s Prison.

8. The Namsan School was torn down and is now either the Organization and Guidance Department (according to one defector) or the Democratic Women’s Union Hall. Satellite image below:

I also might have discovered several Japanese colonial-era prisons that may very well still be prisons and/or factories. According to the map, this was the shape of the Pyonysang (Heijo) Prison:

There are a handful of buildings in the DPRK which still retain this distinctive shape (or the obvious remnants of this shape)—as well as walls and guard towers.  They are in Phyongsong, Hamhung, and Sariwon:

I have made the 1946 map available as a Google Earth download. You can obtain the KMZ file by clicking here. Please let me know if you make any interesting discoveries of your own.

By coincidence, Andrei Lankov wrote an article about the history of Pyongyang last week in the Korea Times (as I was comparing the maps). According to the article:

Pyongyang enjoyed boom in colonial era
Korea Times
Andrei Lankov
12/30/2010

This city is long gone. No, it is still on the maps, and all our readers know its name ― Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

But the Pyongyang of the Kims’ dynasty does not have much to do with the old city, wiped out in the social turmoil of the late 1940s and inferno of the American bombing of the early 1950s.

People who nowadays inhabit the North Korean capital, are overwhelmingly newcomers, and not much physical evidence is left from the city past.

It was once a capital of Goguryeo, one of the three ancient kingdoms which fought over the domination of the Korean Peninsula in the first centuries of the Christian era. Pyongyang remained important for centuries. During the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) it was the second or third largest city in the entire country.

The city remained surrounded by the stone walls which by the 1890s had been in a state of disrepair for a long time (they had lost any military significance since a much earlier date, one has to admit). The majestic Taedong Gate, facing the river, was seen as a masterpiece of traditional architecture.

Throughout the colonial period, the city’s population increased from 40,000 around 1910 to 285,000 in 1940. It was roughly one third of the then size of Seoul, but this still made Pyongyang one of the largest cities in the nation.

As was the case with nearly all major cities of both the to-be North and to-be South, the railway was instrumental in Pyongyang’s growth.

Pyongyang was located straight on the Busan-Seoul-Sinuiju line, built in the early 1900s. This line became a backbone of the country’s transportation network, and old cities which were bypassed by this railway, eventually went into decline. Pyongyang was lucky to avoid such a fate.

Nowadays Pyongyang Station is located close to the center of the North Korean capital. However, in the early 1900s it was located some distance away from the old walled city, so the space between the station and walls became a new part of Pyongyang, with rectangular grid of streets and the numerous houses of the Japanese settlers who comprised about 13 percent of the city population in 1945.

The army barracks and a large military area appeared near the station as well. Meanwhile, the Koreans were left within the space once occupied by the old walled city.

The fast growth of the city made public transportation necessary, and indeed in May 1923 a tram service ― or “streetcars” as Americans would say ― was introduced, to remain in operation until the autumn of 1950 (the present-day tram system was built anew in the early 1990s, and has no continuity with the old trams of the colonial era).

Since time immemorial and until the late 1920s, Pyongyang was located on the eastern (left) bank of the Taedong River, but from the late 1920s the city crossed to the opposite bank as well.

In 1921, an airfield was built there, to be used by both the Japanese air forces and civilian planes which landed there for re-fueling on their way from Japan to China and back. This airfield, located roughly where the “embassies quarter” is now, remained in operation until the late 1950s, if not longer.

Pyongyang underwent a major industrial boom in the colonial era. Huge coal deposits were discovered around the city, so by the 1920s the mines of the Pyongyang area provided about a half of all coal produced in Korea. This economy of the era was largely an economy of coal and steel, so these mines attracted heavy industry.

The Mitsubishi Group built a large steel mill in Nampo, not far away from Pyongyang. Another major consumer of high-quality coal was the Imperial Navy ― and the ship engines of the era were very demanding when it came to the coal quality.

Pyongyang itself also had a number of smaller businesses, including textile and footwear factories. Their presence also meant a presence of powerful labor unions, so Pyongyang was a place of some of the largest strikes of the period.

For the Koreans of the colonial time, Pyongyang was a city of Christianity. Indeed, Protestants constituted up to 25-30 percent of its population.

In a time when nationwide the share of Christians did not exceed 1 percent, this was a truly remarkable figure. This implied a large missionary presence but also existence of first-class educational facilities: Protestant schools played a major role in introducing modern science and technology to Korea.

The result was strength of the nationalist movement then closely associated with Christianity. Contrary to what one might expect, prior to 1945 Pyongyang was a stronghold of the nationalist Right while the Communists position appeared much stronger in Seoul.

The city also boasted a number of museums, including a large archeological museum with the findings made during the excavations of the 1920s.

Not much is left of that city. Most of Pyongyang’s population left in 1945-53, fleeing either religious persecution by the new regime or U.S. bombing raids. These raids virtually wiped the city off the face of earth, so in the mid-50s Pyongyang was built anew without any references to the then rejected past.

A few historical monuments of ancient times have been restored (or rather built), but almost nothing has survived from the colonial era Pyongyang. Only the old Taedonggyo Bridge still crosses the river, handling a large part of very heavy Pyongyang traffic.

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Daedong Credit Bank Press Release

Monday, December 20th, 2010

On November 18, 2010, the US Treasury Department issued the following press release:

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

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.

You can learn more about the Treasury’s press release here.

Here is the US Treasury Department’s new North Korea resource page.

In response, the Daedong Credit Bank issued the following press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

US Treasury Press Release 18th November 2010

London UK/Pyongyang DPRK, December 20th 2010

Daedong Credit Bank (DCB) has noted the press release of 18th November 2010 by the US Treasury and makes the following comments:

1.    Korea Daesong Bank (KDB) is a 30% shareholder in DCB.  DCB is not, and never has been, aware of any activity by KDB which is in breach of any of its obligations, domestic or international.  In particular, DCB is not aware of KDB having acted in breach of any sanctions.  DCB is not aware of any cause of concern about the conduct of KDB.

2.    KDB has no executive control of DCB.

3.    DCB is majority owned by overseas investors and is foreign-managed.

4.    DCB does not act and has never acted in breach of any of its domestic or international obligations.  DCB acts in a manner consistent with domestic and international law.

5.    DCB is apolitical and promotes foreign investment in the DPRK as a positive development.

The Daedong Credit Bank looks forward to playing a significant part in facilitating normal commercial relationships between the DPRK and the international business community.

About Daedong Credit Bank

Daedong Credit Bank is a joint venture retail bank based in Pyongyang. It was established in 1995 as “Peregrine Daesong Development Bank”. The Bank underwent a change of name and foreign ownership in 2000.

Daedong Credit Bank is the first, by fifteen years, foreign majority held bank in the DPRK. DCB considers itself a flagship successful joint venture in the DPRK, and a key part of the infrastructure needed to assist the foreign-invested ventures, which drive the country’s economic reforms.

The bank’s principal function is to offer normal “high street” banking facilities in hard currency to; foreign companies, joint ventures, international relief agencies and individuals doing legitimate business in the DPRK.

Daedong Credit Bank was the first bank in the DPRK to introduce, and vigorously implement, a comprehensive set of anti-money laundering procedures. DCB’s anti-money laundering procedure manual was introduced seven years ago, and subsequently updated based on anti-money laundering guidelines provided by the Asian Development Bank. The manual has been sent to, and accepted by, DCB’s international correspondent banks.

Daedong Credit Bank also maintains strict procedures for the detection and rejection of counterfeit bank notes; it uses regularly updated note checking machines, and has personnel with over 10 years’ of experience of handling notes. DCB have encountered and impounded the so-called ‘superdollar’ notes, proving that these notes (despite media misconceptions) are not undetectable.

The wealth of experience garnered over Daedong Credit Bank’s 15 years of successful operation is unrivaled.

Daedong Credit Bank has a significantly strong position in relation to the future economic development of the DPRK and, being the oldest established foreign invested commercial bank in the DPRK, it is the intention of the bank to capitalise on these advantages.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Daedong Credit Bank office address in Pyongyang is:

Daedong Credit Bank
401, Potonggang Hotel
Ansan-dong
Pyongchon District
Pyongyang
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Phone Switchboard  +850 2 381 2228/9    ext 401
Direct line     +850 2 381 4866
Mobile          +850 193 801 8400 *
*Note, the mobile number may not be obtainable from certain countries (eg UK and Hong Kong).
Corporate Website www.daedongcreditbank.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

US Treasury Press Release 18th November 2010

London UK/Pyongyang DPRK, December 20th 2010

Daedong Credit Bank (DCB) has noted the press release of 18th November 2010 by the US Treasury and makes the following comments:

1. Korea Daesong Bank (KDB) is a 30% shareholder in DCB. DCB is not, and never has been, aware of any activity by KDB which is in breach of any of its obligations, domestic or international. In particular, DCB is not aware of KDB having acted in breach of any sanctions. DCB is not aware of any cause of concern about the conduct of KDB.

2. KDB has no executive control of DCB.

3. DCB is majority owned by overseas investors and is foreign-managed.

4. DCB does not act and has never acted in breach of any of its domestic or international obligations. DCB acts in a manner consistent with domestic and international law.

5. DCB is apolitical and promotes foreign investment in the DPRK as a positive development.

The Daedong Credit Bank looks forward to playing a significant part in facilitating normal commercial relationships between the DPRK and the international business community.

About Daedong Credit Bank

Daedong Credit Bank is a joint venture retail bank based in Pyongyang. It was established in 1995 as “Peregrine Daesong Development Bank”. The Bank underwent a change of name and foreign ownership in 2000.

Daedong Credit Bank is the first, by fifteen years, foreign majority held bank in the DPRK. DCB considers itself a flagship successful joint venture in the DPRK, and a key part of the infrastructure needed to assist the foreign-invested ventures, which drive the country’s economic reforms.

The bank’s principal function is to offer normal “high street” banking facilities in hard currency to; foreign companies, joint ventures, international relief agencies and individuals doing legitimate business in the DPRK.

Daedong Credit Bank was the first bank in the DPRK to introduce, and vigorously implement, a comprehensive set of anti-money laundering procedures. DCB’s anti-money laundering procedure manual was introduced seven years ago, and subsequently updated based on anti-money laundering guidelines provided by the Asian Development Bank. The manual has been sent to, and accepted by, DCB’s international correspondent banks.

Daedong Credit Bank also maintains strict procedures for the detection and rejection of counterfeit bank notes; it uses regularly updated note checking machines, and has personnel with over 10 years’ of experience of handling notes. DCB have encountered and impounded the so-called ‘superdollar’ notes, proving that these notes (despite media misconceptions) are not undetectable.

The wealth of experience garnered over Daedong Credit Bank’s 15 years of successful operation is unrivalled.

Daedong Credit Bank has a significantly strong position in relation to the future economic development of the DPRK and, being the oldest established foreign invested commercial bank in the DPRK, it is the intention of the bank to capitalise on these advantages.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Daedong Credit Bank office address in Pyongyang is:

Daedong Credit Bank
401, Potonggang Hotel
Ansan-dong
Pyongchon District
Pyongyang
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Phone

Switchboard +850 2 381 2228/9 ext 401
Direct line
+850 2 381 4866
Mobile
+850 193 801 8400 *
*Note, the mobile number may not be obtainable from certain countries (eg UK and Hong Kong).

Corporate Website www.daedongcreditbank.com

#004

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Jon Il-chun re-surfaces

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

South Korean intelligence officials breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday. They had finally located Jon Il-chun, the head of a special department in North Korea’s Workers Party that manages Kim Jong-il’s slush fund. Jon, who had eluded intelligence officials for the past six months, was finally spotted on a North Korean TV broadcast featuring one of leader Kim Jong-il’s so-called on-the-spot guidance tours in Pyongyang.

The 69-year-old Jon went to high school with Kim (68) and was appointed head of the department, known as Room 39, early this year. It manages 17 overseas branch offices and around 100 trading companies and even owns a gold mine and a bank. The US$200-300 million those companies make each year is funneled into Kim’s secret bank accounts around the world.

Room 39 is targeted each time the U.S. and other foreign governments apply financial sanctions against North Korea. Kim replaced its head early this year because the former director, Kim Tong-un, was put on an EU list of sanctioned individuals late last year, making it impossible for him to manage the leader’s secret overseas bank accounts.

Due to the importance of the department and the clandestine nature of its business, the director of Room 39 rarely appears in public, but he sometimes accompanies Kim Jong-il on guidance tours when they involve organizations linked to Kim’s slush funds, an intelligence official said.

In the TV clip on Sunday, Jon is seen with Kim on an tour to Hyangmanlu, a popular restaurant, and Sonhung food manufacturing plant. A North Korean defector who used to live in Pyongyang, said the restaurant was built in the 1990s by a wealthy ethnic Korean from Japan and is located in a busy part of Pyongyang. “It was always packed with wealthy party officials,” the defector said, adding the party manages the restaurant so the entire proceeds probably go into Kim Jong-il’s coffers. He added there is a strong possibility that the food factory also belongs to the party.

The last time Jon appeared on North Korean TV was on June 20, at the opening of a mine in Yanggang Province. A North Korean source said the Huchang Mine is a famous copper mine that had been closed for some time but must have reopened. “Judging by the fact that Jon took part in the opening ceremony, it appears to be one of many mines run by Room 39.”

Jon was also spotted at Kim’s inspections of two fisheries companies last year and one this year. A Unification Ministry official said, “North Korean exports of fisheries products are handled by the party or the military and they’re sources of revenue for Kim Jong-il’s slush fund.” Fisheries products accounted for the second largest North Korea’s W1.64 trillion exports to South Korea last year, amounting to W173 billion or 16.3 percent. Textiles totaled W477 billion or 44.8 percent.

“This is one of the reasons why we blocked imports of North Korean fisheries products” following the North’s sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, the official said.

Additional Information:

1. Michael Madden has written a biography of Jon Il-chun here.

2. Here is a satellite image of the Hyangmanru Restaurant.  Here is a satellite image of the Sohung Foodstuff Factory (right next door).

Read the full story here:
Elusive Manager of Kim Jong-il’s Slush Funds Pops Up Again
Choson Ilbo
12/15/2010

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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

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