Archive for the ‘Economic reform’ Category

Tourism opens in North Phyongan Province’s Chongsu Tourist Development Zone

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The opening ceremony for the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone, an area designated as one of North Korea’s economic development zones (EDZ), took place on October 30, 2014.

According to a report on October 31 by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone is an EDZ which was developed under the July 23, 2014 decree of the Standing Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, and covers nearly 3,800 hectares in various parts of Pangsan-ri and the Chongsong Workers’ District in Sakju County, North Phyongan Province.

It was reported that the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone was opened through cooperation between North Korea’s North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee and China’s Liaoning Province, Dandong City People’s Government, and Dandong Overseas Travel Co. Ltd.

In an interview with the KCNA, Kwak Jin Ho, director of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee’s Department for Economic Zone Development, said about the development prospects of the Chongsu tourist zone: “This area will be developed into a tourist zone equipped with modern tourism and service facilities while also highlighting the distinct characteristics of Korean folklore.”

Director Kwak also stated, “The zone’s infrastructure, public facilities and tourist service facilities will all be built to meet modern standards. Currently there are plans to construct factories for special product manufacturing, as well as areas for livestock, orchards and fisheries. With these targets, there are also plans for a cultural recreation district, Korean folk village, general services area, Korean folk hotel, as well as processing plants for spring water, fruits, wild greens and kimchi.”

In addition, Director Kwak said in the interview, “The hillsides will be transformed into orchards to create a tourist destination filled with scarlet and white peaches and other high quality fruit trees.” With regards to visiting the area, Director Kwak stated, “Due to the geographical location of the tourist zone being along the border, tours are generally half-day or one-day trips.”

It was also noted that the Chongsu and Youlgol Revolutionary Historic Sites will be included among visitor destinations, and that there are plans to include the Chongsong Bridge, which was used in the Korean War, and other Pangsan-ri locations as tourist destinations.

With regards to the tourist development zone, the KCNA expressed its anticipation, saying, “When it begins, tourism will attract many tourists to this zone and will therefore form an international tourism link between Chongsu and Dandong, China.”

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“Securing economic profit,” fundamental to economic management

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea recently announced that the legitimacy and vitality of the “Economic Management in Our Style” policy has been clearly proven at many factories and business, and that ‘socialist principles’ and the ‘securing economic profit’ based on objective economic laws are the fundamental demands which must be adhered to in economic management.

On October 22, 2014, the Rodong Sinmun published an independently written article entitled, “The Fundamental Demands of Establishing Economic Management in Our Style,” which stated, “In a socialist society where the means of production are socially owned and where the economy develops according to the guiding plans of the country, the problem of how the economy is lead and managed carries an especially important meaning.”

The article first mentions, “With relation to means of production, socialist ownership is the foundation of a socialist economy, and a socialist economy is developed through collective labor.” The article continues, emphasizing, “Adhering to socialist principles in an economic enterprise means to support and hold fast to socialist ownership and to thoroughly realize the principles of collectivism.”

More specifically, the article stated, “In terms of economic leadership and management, we must adhere to and support socialist ownership, put national and societal gains above all else while also securing as much profit as possible for producers.” It continues, “The entire process of production and management must become one which fosters the spirit of collectivism in workers and laborers and which elevates the public’s willpower and creativity so that they may fulfill their roles and feel ownership responsibility.”

The article also mentioned, “Economic guidance and management must coincide with objective economic laws and scientific logic in order to guarantee the highest amount of real economic profit.” This was pointed out as another one of the fundamental demands of the “Economic Management in Our Style” policy.

With regards to economic law, the article says, “Objective economic laws affect a socialist economy, and the process of satisfying those demands is equal to ‘economic construction’ or an ‘economic development process’.” The article continues, “In order to guarantee real economic profits, economic laws and related economic spaces must be put to use effectively. Such economic laws include the law of value, the law of distribution through labor, and the law of planned, balanced development of the people’s economy through economic leadership, management, production and economic activities.

Moreover, the article specifically emphasized production relations with scientific technology. “In terms of economic guidance and company management, efforts first must be made to advance scientific technology, and all processes and factors relating to production and management must be made scientific. All businesses should actively pursue research and development in new technology and progress towards becoming a company where scientific technology and production are integrated – a technology-intensive business.” It also argues that today’s rapid economic development spurs further development in scientific technology, which occurs through the processes of wide acceptance in production and the active realization of technological guidance in production.

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Smuggling between China and North Korea still prevalent

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern studies (IFES)

On October 15, 2014 Chinese media reported that smuggling along the China-North Korea border, which responds sensitively to North Korea’s situation, is still prevalent and that no particular changes have been detected internally within North Korea.

According to Huanqiu, the website of the Chinese nationalistic tabloid The Global Times, smuggling along the borders of the Liaoning and Dandong provinces has continued to persist in spite of recent flurry of rumors over Kim Jong Un’s whereabouts.

A source familiar with the smuggling situation on the border was quoted as saying, “If tensions were truly rising within North Korea, the very first thing to react would be the border guards, quickly followed by the suspension of smuggling activities.” The source continued, “However, smuggling has so far been unaffected.”

The newspaper captures the scene of a smuggling operation which took place on the night of the 13th near Wollyang Island, a small island on the Yalu (Amnok) River between Dandong and the North Korean city of Sinuiju. North Korean residents send signals to the Chinese on the other side of the river with a red light, to which the Chinese fishing boat responds with a green light. After exchanging signals back and forth, the two parties meet and the deal is finished quickly.

Smuggling along the China-North Korea border has been occurring for quite some time. Besides the smuggling of drugs, which the Chinese government punishes severely, trade products such as food and other daily necessities dear to the North Korean lifestyle have been overlooked for the most part.

Previously, commonly smuggled goods consisted of cooking oil, rice, clothes, and used electronics. However, according to the Huanqiu news, products such as cellphones, PCs, washing machines and refrigerators are also being traded for.

Local sources explained that high ranking “level 1” officials at the provincial and county levels are mainly responsible for ordering these types of products, and that many of the tablet PCs used by high level executives in Pyongyang have been smuggled in through China.

Huanqiu news also introduced another source, who was quoted as saying, “Pyongyang officials are involved in all large scale trade operations along the border. We have connections to high officials in North Korea’s State Security Department, but without them, we cannot do anything.”

Despite the fact that smuggling has been occurring for quite some time, there was a brief slowdown after border security was strengthened immediately following the execution of Jang Song Thaek, former vice chairman of the National Defense Commission in late 2013.

Meanwhile, Huanqiu news also reported that the Third Annual North Korea-China Economic, Trade, Culture and Tourism Expo opened as planned from October 16 – 20 in China’s Dandong province. It was also reported that both legal trade between the two nations and Chinese tourism to North Korea are progressing normally, regardless of recent speculations.

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North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Affairs stresses business at economic development zones is gaining momentum

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Institute for Far Easter Studies (IFES)

In a September 29, 2014 interview by the Choson Sinbo, Director of North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Affairs, Oh Tae Bong, reported that business in North Korea’s newly established economic development zones (EDZ) is gradually being ramped up. In the interview, Oh mentioned the Jindo Export Processing Zone in Nampo City as an example where foreign investment capital is being prepared for the construction of substructure facilities such as piers and power plants and factories for heavy industry like cement and steel.

The Jindo Export Processing Zone carries out technology transfers and exports completed industrial products to foreign countries. Specifically, Secretary Oh emphasized, “Several countries have expressed great interest in the Jindo Export Processing Zone, and investment contracts have already been signed with a few targets such as Hong Kong.” If the Jindo Export Processing Zone succeeds, it is expected that more processing zones will be developed around the country. If development goes smoothly, the structure of primary export products, including underground resources, would change drastically and promote product diversification.

Secretary Oh also talked about the results achieved through economic cooperation with neighboring countries, saying, “Our nation is consulting with Russian governmental organizations regarding the cooperation issues experienced with railroad reconstruction and modernization.” He mentions that certain agreements have already been made in August 2014, and commented that “Relations between two countries have great effect on foreign economic activity, such as investments.” In other words, despite the US and UN imposed economic sanctions against North Korea, Russia has taken an active stance toward economic cooperation with North Korea.

With regards to the Ministry of External Economic Affairs (formerly the Ministry of Foreign Trade), Director Oh explained that the ministry was newly reorganized in June 2014 to expand the state’s foreign economic activities. According to Oh, the ministry will contribute to the strengthening of economic ties between nations, and take unified command over trade, joint ventures, attraction of foreign capital, and economic development zones.

More specifically, Secretary Oh stated that “Since the Ministry of Trade, the Joint Venture and Investment Commission, and State Economic Development Committee have all been combined into one body responsible for foreign economic enterprises, business complexity has disappeared and unity has been secured.” It is said that, first, the process procedures necessary in economic trade activities have been simplified. Second, the combining of various departments among the three committees into one single organization has improved work efficiency. Finally, the agency-centered system has disappeared, allowing for a much more efficient foreign economic industry.

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Recent CRS reports on the DPRK

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

The Congressional Research Service “recently” published two reports which relate to the DPRK:

The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation
September 16, 2014: 2014-9-16-KORUS-Kaesong
June 2, 2011: Imports-from-North-Korea-2011

(Although this report focuses mostly on US-ROK issues, there is detailed discussion of the complex negotiations around the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).)

Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation 
April 16, 2014: 2014-4-16-Iran-Syria-Missile

You can download most former CRS reports dealing with the DPRK here.

 

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Kaesong Industrial Complex: One year after resuming operations

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Institue for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was reactivated on September 16, 2013 after a five-month shutdown due to North Korea’s withdrawal of North Korean workers from the complex. One year has passed without interruption of operations. However, while most of production activities were resumed to pre-shutdown levels, previously discussed agreements between the two Koreas are not meeting expectations in terms of transportation, customs, communications, security for personnel and vehicles, upgrades to meet international standards, and normalization for development of the KIC.

The tentative suspension of the KIC lasted from April 8 to September 16, 2013. During this period, all aspects of both production and export were frozen completely. After restarting operations, gradual progress was made, with production in October 2013 down only 32.7 percent compared to March of the same year (pre-suspension), totaling approximately 30.8 million USD. By May 2014, average monthly production totaled nearly 42.8 million USD, showing a strong recovery to a total of 93.5 percent of pre-suspension production capacity.

After resuming operations, companies at the KIC experienced problems such as loss of capital, cancelled contracts by buyers, order quantity reduction, and other problems which caused uncertainty about the future of the complex. In spite of this, companies at the complex were quickly able to recover due to their own efforts and the support of various related organizations.

However, since the reactivation, not much progress has been made toward achieving the goal of “developmental normalization” of the KIC. This goal is aimed at expanding and improving the complex through cooperation between the two Koreas. Agreements have been made between the North and South to work together to make the complex better than it was before the shutdown by solving several issues related to safe entry and stay of personnel; transportation, customs, and communication in the KIC; and internationalization of the complex.

For some time after restarting operations, the agreements between the North and South were actively being pursued, and the process of developmental normalization progressed steadily. In January 2014, construction of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities were completed alongside the implementation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) electronic entrance system, and in the following month, progress was made on agreements related to the provision of an Internet service at the KIC.

Furthermore, the joint North-South Commercial Arbitration Committee was created. In March 2014, the committee had its first meeting, which dealt with commercial disputes arising at the complex. Recently, over twenty companies from the United States, Germany, China, Russia and other countries have made inquiries to the South Korean government with regard to investing in the KIC. The Foreign Investor Support Center was also opened to attract and manage investments from abroad.

However, due to the joint ROK-US military exercises, inter-Korean relations have become strained. North Korea also has taken a passive stance toward the Kaesong agreements, leading to a situation where no real progress has since been made. South Korea has been calling out for a subcommittee in order to enforce the RFID card system, continue discussion on the introduction of Internet service, and address the problems of passage, communication and transport at the complex. Seoul has been demanding continuously for North Korean authorities to cooperate on these issues.

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KIC goods and the DPRK’s Choco Pies

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

According to the Daily NK, the DPRK has developed its own version of the South Korean “Choco Pie”. And it is apparently winning over North Korean consumers:

[…] the once popular South Korean snack Choco Pie is seeing a decline in its asking price. In June, Pyongyang demanded that South Korean companies at the industrial complex stop distributing Choco Pies to workers there, as officials had found it problematic that North Korean workers were saving the snacks and selling them in the markets. More recently, the northern workers have been receiving Chaltteok Pie (찰떡) [a chocolate covered rice cake from the South], individually packaged coffee, yulmucha (율무차)[grainy tea made with Job’s Tears], and candy bars.

“In Pyongyang, at the ‘Geumeunsan Trade Company,’ (금운산, Kumunsan Trade Corporation) they have been baking bread for about a year,” the source said, adding, “Of all the different kinds of bread, the most popular are the ones with butter inside, and they are less than 1000 KPW– much cheaper than Choco Pie.”

The trade company is an affiliate of the Military Mobilization Department [Military Manpower Administration in South Korea], which deals with the procurement of military supplies among its many functions. They either directly import the goods or obtain them from military factories in various locations across the country, and oversee the manufacturing of military equipment and machinery.

Geumeunsan Trade Company maintains branches in multiple areas, including Rasun and Cheongjin, and the office in Pyongyang imports ingredients such as flour, sugar, and cooking oil directly from China. According to the source, the raw material prices are cheaper than in the  North’s markets, and the products taste good, allowing it to monopolize the confectionery market there.

“The company has brought in foreign equipment and technology, putting it ahead of the South’s Choco Pie in price and taste,” he said, concluding, “This is why with the introduction of these different breads in Pyongyang, the price of Choco Pie [from the South] has dropped to 500 KPW from 1,200 KPW.”

The same story also reports that goods produced in the Keasong Industrial Complex are selling really well in the DPRK:

“These days, there are all kinds of goods in the markets,” adding that “no matter what kind of foreign products come in, they cannot beat KIC goods, which sell out due to high demand.” In North Korean markets, goods from South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere are brought in either through official or illicit trade routes. The products are then sorted by quality into “good, average, and poor” with corresponding prices.

“With the KIC now back in full operation, products are spilling into the markets,” he explained. “The goods produced there are not found in the Kaesong markets but areas such as Sinuiju [near the northwestern border] and Pyongsong [located an hour North of Pyongyang].”

Merchandise from the joint complex, such as clothes, shoes, and other mass-produced goods, sell for much higher prices compared to those from China, because not only are they new in the market, they are also considered scarce. The hefty price tag is believed to include a premium for the risk of smuggling the goods out of the heavily guarded industrial park and the bribes required to gain entry.

The items most popular with men are hiking boots, especially those made with special materials to withstand cuts from sharp objects like knives, and pants. Women, on the other hand, prefer goods for around the home, such as high-quality and sanitary cutting boards, the source told Daily NK.

“Top-quality pants from China in the Pyongsong market sell for a rather high price of roughly $10 USD, but KIC products sell for $30 USD,” he said. “Although Chinese products use the best material they have, there’s a big difference in the quality and degree of processing,” justifying why those who have used KIC-produced goods will invariably opt for them again, even if it means they need to pay more.

Authorities in the North try to keep a tight lid on goods from KIC trickling into the black market in an effort to prevent people from longing about life in the South. According to the source, this is why sellers or buyers refrain from using the word “Kaesong” and simply say, “Do you have goods from the Complex? Complex pants, or Complex shoes?”

The article does not mention it, but I suspect that not many goods are smuggled out of the KIC. The goods are probably exported from South Korea to China where they are imported back into North Korea.

Read the full story here:
Kaesong Goods Fetch Highest Market Prices
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-9-24

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10th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair opens

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

According to KCNA:

10th Pyongyang Autumn Int’l Trade Fair Opens

Pyongyang, September 22, 2014 (KCNA) — The 10th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair opened with due ceremony at the Three-Revolution Exhibition House on Monday.

Present at the opening ceremony were Vice-Premier Ro Tu Chol who doubles as chairman of the State Planning Commission, Ri Ryong Nam, minister of External Economic Relations, Kim Song Dok, vice-chairman of the Pyongyang City People’s Committee, Ri Hak Gwon, head of the DPRK Chamber of Commerce, officials in the field of foreign trade, delegations of different countries and regions, foreign diplomatic envoys and staff members of their embassies here.

Pak Ung Sik, director of the Korean International Exhibition Corporation, made an opening address which was followed by a congratulatory speech by Ri Myong San, vice-minister of External Economic Relations.

The speakers said the fair would offer a good opportunity to promote friendship and cooperation among countries and boost the wide-ranging economic and trade transactions and scientific and technological exchange.

They expressed the will to boost bilateral and multilateral cooperation with various countries and regions of the world in the fields of the economy and foreign trade on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in the days ahead.

The participants looked round products presented by companies of various countries and regions including the DPRK, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, China, Cuba, Italy and Taipei of China.

The fair will run through Thursday.

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DPRK holds investor forum in Dalian

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

According to the JoongAng Ilbo:

North Korea held a rare investors relations event over the weekend and its more capitalistic and entrepreneurial manner hinted at a new openness to foreign investors and economic reform in general.

“The door is wide open. Come on in any time,” said Oh Eung-gil, president of North Korea’s Wonsan District Development General Corporation.

Oh was inviting South Koreans to invest in the North as he addressed a group of businessmen at an investors relations session at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dalian, China, on Saturday.

“We prepared all the conditions to develop Mount Kumgang and waited for the South to change its attitude,” said Oh. “But we can no longer wait, so we are trying to attract foreign investors. We have no intention to exclude the South.”

The investors relations event was arranged by the Dalian chapter of the World Federation of Overseas Korea Traders Association. About 200 Korean businessmen from around the world including Australia, China and the United States attended.

From North Korea, five delegates including Oh joined the event.

The North started its event with a presentation by Oh on the country’s laws governing foreign investments and the business environment.

“We have already simplified the investment application procedures and created regulations that meet international standards,” Oh said.

He spent a considerable amount of time to assuring businessmen that their investments, if made, will not vanish overnight.

“With Article 19 of the Foreign Investment Act, we promise that the assets of foreign investors and their companies won’t be nationalized,” he said. “If they are nationalized for an unavoidable reason, then we will make compensation for all costs.”

He also stressed that the North has abundant mineral and fisheries resources. With its 2 million educated workforce, who graduated from 300 universities, Oh said North Korea is the best place to make investments in Asia.

He said foreign companies that invest in special economic zones will only have to pay 14 percent corporate income tax and that the tax is even lower for some advanced technology industries. Making investments in the North’s infrastructure will also be tax-free, he said.

The North also held an unprecedented question and answer session. At similar events in the past, the North only made presentations without answering investors’ questions.

A businessman said he was afraid that the North Korean government could confiscate his investments, and Oh assured him that the government guarantees all legal investments by laws.

Oh even used humor to answer one businessman’s question.

“I would like to invest in hospitals,” the businessman said.

“Our [Democratic People’s] Republic of Korea offers free medical services, so it will be hard for you to make money,” Oh joked. “Please reconsider.”

Following Oh’s presentation, Ri Sing-ryol, vice president of the Wonsan District Development General Corporation, unveiled a development plan for the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang international tourism zone. He said the zone has 142 historic sites, 11 white-sand coasts and nine lakes, as well as 676 tourist venues.

The North’s Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly announced in June an ambitious plan to develop the area as an international tourism zone.

“Now that the Kim Jong-un regime is settled, the North’s top priority is resolving economic hardships and strong economic reform is being pushed forward,” said Jin Jiang, chairman of the Dalian Chapter of the World Federation of Overseas Korea Traders Association.

According to the Donga-Ilbo, the patchy subject of Hyundai Asan’s assets came up:

North Korea requested South Korea to make additional investment in Mount Kumgang and Wonsan areas, claiming that “it never confiscated the South’s property,” which it had forfeited and frozen in April 2010. Oh Eung Kil, general president of Wonsan district development company under the North’s external economy ministry, told South Korean reporters at an informational session on investment in the North in Dalian, Liaoning Province, China on Saturday.

“We did not confiscate Hyundai (Asan)’s asset. We will not confiscate and will wait (going forward). We have waited for long (thus far),” Oh said. “The South’s asset is just in our territory because it is real estate, and the property is registered in Hyundai’s name.”

Notably, citing the North’s foreign investment act providing that Pyongyang does not nationalize foreigners’ asset, Oh said, “Because we cannot afford to continue waiting, blindly trusting the South, we will form ties with investors from various countries. Still, we are not excluding the South. The door is open.”

In April 2010, the North implemented a slew of measures, including forfeiture of the South Korean government’s assets such as a separated family reunion house, freezing of private sector assets including duty-free shops, and deportation of management staff. In 2011, the North enacted the “Mount Kumgang international tourism district act,” and deprived Hyundai Asan of the exclusive right to tourism projects. Hotels and other assets that were owned by Hyundai are currently operated by the North Korean authority. Experts say, “The North’s move is aimed at denying its forfeiture of Hyundai Asan’s assets, which was negatively regarded by foreigners, and displaying situation of improved investment environment.”

Meanwhile, Oh said, “Foreign shipment of unprocessed natural resources has been designated as an additional item subject to restriction of investment into North Korea.” While banning shipment of coals and others without processing in North Korea by foreign investors, the North intends to allow processing of such resources within the Stalinist country. Since the North Korean authority singled out “sale of valuable natural resources at bargain prices as a unpatriotic act” as one of the crimes allegedly committed by Jang Song Thaek who was executed late last year, Pyongyang is believed to have strictly restricted foreign shipment of natural resources.

Here is additional coverage in the Choson Ilbo.

Other posts on the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone here. See the category tab on the right for more.

Read the full stories here:
Pyongyang woos foreign investors
JoongAng Ilbo
Choi Hyung-Kyu
2014-9-22

N.K.: ‘We never confiscated facilities from Hyundai Asan’
Donga-Ilbo
2014-9-22

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Taxis grow in popularity in the DPRK

Friday, September 12th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Independently owned taxi services have emerged in South Pyongan Province, Daily NK has learned. This is the only other confirmed location of such a service in North Korea, outside of Pyongyang and Rasun.

A source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on September 11th, “Taxis have appeared in Pyungsung [Phyongsong] and Suncheon [Sunchon] Cities and are quickly gaining popularity,” adding that, “Privately owned taxis are emerging as a new way to make money and the donju [new affluent classes] are quick to invest in the opportunity.”

Taxis managed by the Daedong River Passenger Transport Service Company in Pyongyang are widespread in the capital city as well as Rasun [Rason], but the cabs operating in Pyungsung and Suncheon only require registration with the Transport Service Company, after which they and are free to operate independently.

Originally, Daedong River Passenger Transport Service Company had plans to expand its operations to other regions, but budget shortages stymied these efforts, and the source surmised this as cause for the organization to begin issuing operating licenses, for a fee, to individually owned taxis instead.

As these privately owned taxis become more prevalent in Pyongnam [South Phyongan Province], Pyongsung, and Suncheon, vehicle sales, automobile parts, and recruitment and hiring of drivers continues to rise. The source estimated approximately 18 privately owned taxis in Pyungsung currently, with at least 8-10 operating in Suncheon.

A report by the pro-North publication Choson Sinbo [run by The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan] proclaimed last year that there were 400 taxis operating in Pyongyang. A taxi dispatching service [known as “call taxis” in South Korea] were among the other purported features offered to customers by the Transport Company in the capital city.

“These independently-owned cabs are not part of a state-run enterprise; they are personal businesses,” he explained. “After being granted an operating license, the donju are keen to purchase vehicles to employ as taxis. Cars imported for use as taxis through official trading licenses are taxed at high rates, so most use smuggled cars instead.”

In Sinuiju City, the Kangsung Port sees high volumes of exports serving to procure foreign currency that funnels back into the Chosun Workers’ Party, in addition to highly active smuggling operations. Members of the donju usually request a vehicle to utilize as a cab through the appropriate trading company and receive it through the Kangsung Port.

New vehicles to service as taxis sold at Suncheon Market cost approximately $12,000, while used cars are priced in the region of $6,000-7,000 USD, with additional payments of $500 sellers who have the connections to throw in an accompanying license plate.

Even those who receive the license plate in the market must go through the proper channels to start offering their services. “Taxis purchased by individuals must be registered with the Daedong River Passenger Transport Company in Pyongyang,” he said, nothing it to be a fairly simple procedure, “After being issued an operating license and license plate, they pass through the “No. 10 Checkpoint and they are immediately able to begin business operations.”

According to the source, the majority of individuals purchasing taxis are female, while the drivers are procured from the Transport Company or personal connections. The taxi owners generally conduct personal interviews before hiring the drivers, who are mostly males in their 30s and 40s; it is fiercely competitive process–one must pass through a competition of 50:1 to secure the job.

Potential benefits of the position are enough to ensure no shortage of applicants. With the exception of those areas off limits without a special license, namely border regions and Pyongyang, it is within taxis’ rights to go to most areas. These taxis fetch approximately $100 USD [80,000 KPW] per day, excluding fuel expenses, and cab owners pay the driver roughly 50% of these profits [including gas] as a monthly salary.

The exact amount that individual taxi workers owe the transport company in Pyongyang cannot yet be verified, though the source reported that a monthly offering in the region of $500 USD, for “the sake of formality,” must be contributed to management officials there.

Taxi fees run about 15,000 KPW for a 4km ride; bus fees are approximately 2000 KPW to go the same distance. A Pyungsung-Suncheon trip costs the passenger in the region of 75,000 KPW–extremely expensive compared to the 10,000 KPW bus fee to make the same trip. However, for those doing a great deal of business and working against time, taxis are the easiest option, explaining the increase in those employing their services.

The source asserts that the North Korean authorities’ inability to expand taxi operations due to budget shortages will inevitably lead to the spread of these individually owned cab services through the North. The ease of and lack of restriction on running such an operation will also see them continue to spread, “Everyone doing business will start to use them,” he said. “There aren’t that many taxis at the moment, and the price is expensive, but as the number of those owning the vehicles increases, the price will drop, as will the cost of motorcycles and bicycles.”

Read the full story here:
Taxis Take Off in South Pyongan Province
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-9-12

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