Archive for the ‘Economic reform’ Category

Farewell Choco Pie?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

News media reports claim that the DPRK has banned the use/possession of Choco Pies in the Kaesong Industial Complex.

According to the Washington Post:

By some estimates, as many as 2.5 million Choco Pies were traded monthly — though it’s unclear who exactly was so assiduously following Choco Pie markets.

Regardless of its volume, the trade will now surely be shrinking.

According to recent reports in the South Korean press, North Korean authorities have now banned the South Korean-produced Choco Pie at the Kaesong Industrial Complex following a lengthy crackdown on the chocolate treat that has made it scarce in Pyongyang.

Before, workers could pocket as many as 20 pies every night of work. But now, South Korean factory staff said they’ll instead get sausages, instant noodles, powdered coffee or chocolate bars as a bonus.

You can read the full story here.

More information here and here.

Previous posts on the Kaesong Industrial Complex here.

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Chinese investment in the DPRK

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Stephan Haggard posted some interesting information on Chinese investment in the DPRK. See his posts here and here.

In this graph, Dr. Haggard breaks down the Chinese investment data by year and industry:

registered-investments-in-China-by-industry

It is worth noting that the graph only sums the number of registered projects, not the value of the investments. Based on satellite imagery and trade data, I think we can make a strong case that the mining sector would be the area receiving the largest infusion of Chinese investment inflows.

Dr. Haggard also shows that most Chinese investment flows into the DPRK originate from the provinces along its border:

china-investment-in-dprk-by-province

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Data on Kaesong’s cumulative performance

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Cumulative production of the inter-Korean industrial park has come to US$2.3 billion as the most salient outcome of rapprochement between the Koreas marks its 10th anniversary of operations this week, the unification ministry said Thursday.

The joint factory complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong opened a decade ago following the first inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000, in which their leaders adopted a joint declaration calling for closer cooperation and exchanges.

On June 14, 2004, a group of 15 South Korean groups signed contracts to operate factories in the then-newly built complex, inaugurating the era of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. In December that year, the joint complex saw its first batch of goods produced in its factories.

In the first full year of operations in 2005, annual output reached $14.9 million before jumping by more than 30-fold to $469.5 million in 2012, according to the unification ministry.

But yearly output nearly halved last year from 2012 after Pyongyang suspended operations of the Kaesong complex for five months from April amid inter-Korean tensions. The figure rose to $168.1 million in the first quarter of this year.

The value of inter-Korean trade through the park came to an accumulated $9.45 billion, according to the ministry.

A total of 940,000 people have visited the inter-Korean economic zone, with 125 South Korean firms currently operating in the complex designed to match deep-pocketed South Korean companies with cheap North Korean labor.

Among the firms, 73, or 58.4 percent, are textile firms, while another 24 firms are machinery or steel makers. The complex is also home to 13 electronics makers and 9 chemicals firms, the ministry noted.

The Kaesong complex also saw the number of North Korean workers grow from around 6,000 in 2005 to 52,000 as of recently, along with monthly salary more than doubling from $50 to more than $130.

Although this story reports salaries of $130, a separate story released just a couple of days ago claims the monthly incomes are just $70. I am not sure why the discrepancy.

Read the full story here:
Cumulative output of Kaesong park reaches US$2.3 bln
Yonhap
2014-6-12

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German firm to set up in Kaesong Zone

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

According to the Wall Street Journal:

A German industrial needle maker will open an office in the joint inter-Korean industrial complex inside North Korea, South Korea said Tuesday.

The move will mark the first non-Korean business entity inside the plant but falls short of Seoul’s goal to bring in manufacturing operations from foreign companies to help ensure North Korea doesn’t unilaterally close the complex again.

The plant was shuttered for five months last year after Pyongyang withdrew its labor force during a sharp escalation in threatening rhetoric. Seoul officials in recent years have mulled over the possibility of attracting foreign companies, which they say would help the factories run without interruption.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said Groz-Beckert, a maker of industrial needles and other tools for textile manufacturers, will open a sales office inside the facility, located a few miles north of the border. The ministry didn’t specify a schedule.

Here is coverage in AFP.

Here is coverage in Voice of America.

Read the full story here:
German Firm to Open Sales Office Inside North Korean Complex
Wall Street Journal
Jeyup S. Kwaak
2014-6-10

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Seoul to raise wages of Kaesong workers

Monday, June 9th, 2014

The actual headline should read “Seoul increases payments to DPRK goverment by 5% for each Kaesong worker” since it is no secret that “employees” receive little if any of their wages.

According to Yonhap:

South Korea will hike the salary of North Korean workers at an inter-Korean industrial complex by 5 percent from this month, the unification ministry said Monday.

The wage hike came after the two Koreas made the agreement about three months earlier than their usual annual wage talks for July.

The countries had annually agreed to a 5 percent wage increase in July, which starts to take effect from August, but this year’s earlier-than-usual wage hike came after the workers missed their annual hike last year due to a temporary suspension of the complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

Amid worsening inter-Korean tension, Pyongyang had suspended the operations of the Kaesong Industrial Complex for five months from April.

The latest 5 percent hike in the North Korean workers’ minimum wage takes effect from their May salary, to be paid in late June, according to the Unification Ministry.

The two sides “agreed to hike the North Korean workers’ wage at the Kaesong Industrial Complex to US$70.35, an increase of 5 percent from now,” unification ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said in a briefing.

“So far, the minimum wage had been raised from August, but (we) decided to bring it forth by three months this year in consideration of (South Korean) companies’ opinions at the complex,” Kim said.

Citing the absence of a wage hike last year, Pyongyang had demanded a 10 percent wage hike this year.

About 52,000 North Korean laborers are employed by more than 100 South Korean companies operating in the joint factory park, a major cash cow for the communist country. Each North Korean worker receives up to $150 in monthly wages, including social benefits and overtime.

Read the full story here:
Seoul to raise salary of N.K. workers at Kaesong complex
Yonhap
2014-6-9

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4th Rason International Trade Fair (UPDATED)

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Choson Exchange has posted the marketing flyer for the 4th annual Rason International Trade Fair. I repost a larger scan below

4th-rason-trade-fair-1

  4th-rason-trade-fair-2

The 2014 flyer text is nearly identical to the 2013 flyer. All of the names/contacts/accounts/prices are identical. The only difference that I noticed was that two of the domestic phone numbers for the Rason Exhibition Corp. have changed.   Two more remained unchanged.

Here are the event details:
4th Rason International Trade Fair
Exhibition Period: August 18-21, 2014
Venue: Rason Exhibion House
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00
Application Deadline: July 20th, 2014

Here are posts on previous Rason International Trade Fairs: 2011, 2012, 2013.

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Yanbian University seeks involvement in Rason Zone

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

According to Yonhap (2014-6-7):

A Chinese university near the northern border with North Korea said Saturday it has signed an agreement to help develop a North Korean free trade zone, one of high-profile joint economic projects between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The agreement calls for Yanbian University in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Jilin province to train workers and provide technological and legal services to the Rason economic zone, the university said in a statement.

China reportedly agreed in late 2011 to invest about US$3 billion in developing the free trade zone in a North Korean border city of Rason, formerly known as Rajin and Sonbong. The special trade zone sits across the border from Jilin province.

North Korea and China set up a joint management committee in Rason in October 2012, but it is unclear whether Chinese projects for the economic zone have remained on track since the North’s third nuclear test in February last year.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday between Park Young-ho, president of Yanbian University, and Wang Yonggang, a director of the Rason management committee, according to the statement.

In the statement, Park said the university “will actively provide human resources, technological innovation and legal advices to build and develop the Rason economic zone.”

China has grown increasingly frustrated with the North’s wayward behavior, but many analysts believe that Beijing would not suspend all economic supports for Pyongyang because it could lead to a regime collapse in North Korea.

Read the full story here:
China university helps N. Korea develop trade zone
Yonhap
2014-6-7

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High-tech development zones: The core of building a powerful knowledge economy nation

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-6-5

It appears that the Kim Jong Un regime’s core slogan of “constructing a powerful knowledge economy nation” is being propelled by the development of high-tech development zones.

The need to switch to a knowledge economy is emphasized in the newest issue of the quarterly North Korean academic journal Kyongje Yongu (published April 30, 2014). According to a thesis included in this quarter’s issue (entitled “The Creation of High-Tech Development Zone is Necessary Step in the Knowledge Economy Era”), “Using high-tech development zones as a model, the establishment of a high-tech industry and the shifting of the entire economy towards a knowledge economy is both a Party initiative and legal demands to the construction of a knowledge economy.”

Alongside the national goals of becoming both an economic superpower as well as an athletically powerful nation, the Kim Jong Un regime has also established the national goal of becoming a leader among knowledge economy countries. In order to establish a foothold for building the country’s knowledge economy, the regime has proposed the construction of high-tech development zones.

After attracting foreign investments to fund economic development zones (EDZ) last year, North Korea has begun pushing forward for the construction of a high-tech development zone in the city of Pyongsong, located in South Pyongan province. The high-tech development zone will be built in the same area as the Unjong Science and Technology Zone and will share a similar locale with the National Academy of Sciences, both of which are located in the South Pyongan Province.

According to the thesis, high-tech development zones will “act as regional bases that bring technology and production closer together, unifying the research-development-production-export process.” The thesis also explains the characteristics of the high-tech development zone, calling it a “new type of development region with a high concentration of information, technology, and talented individuals” and “a place where education, scientific research, and production are brought together to become one.”

Furthermore, the thesis continues, “Through the improvement of the high-tech development zone, existing businesses have begun to change to information-related businesses,” and noted that, “Just as the foundation of the high-tech development zone is important to the construction of a powerful knowledge economy, it is also important to provide support from the state and the Party.”

In November of 2013, North Korea formed an international consortium of foreign companies to initiate the building of the Kaesong High-Tech Development Zone; however, construction has reportedly been suspended.

North Korea is currently pressing for construction of a type of cooperative complex to be built in the high-tech development zone where research and development, as well as production itself can take place in order to produce technologically-intensive products with high added value. However, due to sanctions imposed by the international community, North Korea is unable to acquire the advanced machinery it needs to construct the high-tech zone, and for now has only drawn out a rough sketch of the framework.

On the other hand, North Korea has also spurred progress in light industry in other regions by rewarding exemplary factories. This is seen as an attempt to increase the standard of living for the locals living in those regions, who have taken it upon themselves to improve light industry to best suit their situations.

Companies in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, Wonsan, Kangwon Province, Chinchon [?], Chagang Province, and other regions have become recognized in North Korean media for their “innovations.” In Hoeryong, a chemical commodities factory developed fuel additives for lignite that increase its burning ability and efficiency, and was commended for its contribution in solving its citizens’ fuel problems. Other factories that were chosen to receive rewards include a glass bottle factory in Wonsan, and a wooden commodities factory in Chinchon[?] for increasing the production quality of their respective goods.

In a situation where the central authorities are in a vulnerable situation financially, North Korea has been encouraging regional businesses to grow and develop on their own. This not only increases the standard of living for the people, but encourages balanced regional development as well. Another thesis appearing in the most recent issue of Kyongje Yongu argues, “The comprehensive development of the regional economies has greatly reduced the state’s burden by allowing households to take it upon themselves to meet their needs according to their own situation.

Furthermore, regarding the growth of regional light industry, the thesis says, “general consumer goods are now being mass-produced, and are able to fulfill the region’s supply and demand needs,” emphasizing the use of “small quantity batch production.” Other light industry factories are also being built across the nation as part of the efforts to revitalize North Korea’s local economies.

Recently, construction of the Haeju Unjong Beer Factory was finished. Operations have commenced in Southern Hwanghae Province, and construction of the Musanryong Spring Water Factory was completed in late 2013. While North Korea’s plan to develop its local economies is not exactly breaking news, advances are slowly being made toward achieving the Kim Jong Un regime’s national goals.

* NKeconWatch: I have no idea why this article references a place in Jagang Province called “Chinchon”. Maybe they mean Huichon?

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DPRK reports number of Chinese tourists entering Rason by car

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

According to KCNA:

Number of Chinese Tourists Grows in DPRK

Pyongyang, June 2 (KCNA) — The tour by Chinese was conducted in the Rason area of the DPRK from May 31 to June 2, under an agreement made between the DPRK’s Rason International Travel Company and China’s Yanbian Arirang International Travel Agency.

Involving in the tour were more than 40 Chinese, who toured Pipha Islet, the Rason Taehung Trading Company, Rajin Port and other places by private cars.

This was the eighth batch of Chinese this year to visit the DPRK by private cars.

In this regard, an official at the Tourism Bureau of the Rason City People’s Committee, told KCNA:

“The tour by private cars began in June Juche 100 (2011), with due ceremony in the Rason economic and trade zone. Since then, more than 1 300 tourists have made trips to the area by more than 300 private cars in 70-odd batches.
Other forms of tourism are expected to grow in scope.”

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China to build new bridge linking Tumen and Namyang

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

According to the China Daily:

Construction on a new bridge over a river separating China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has started, authorities of northeast China’s Jilin Province said on Tuesday.

With a total investment of 137 million yuan (21.93 million US dollars), the 804.7-meter new Tumen River bridge is expected to open in 2015 or 2016 as a new route for bilateral trade, authorities said.

The old Tumen River bridge has not been repaired for many years and is facing safety risks. However, the old bridge will not be dismantled and will be kept as a scenic spot.

Tumen City is linked to the DPRK by both highway and railway.

According to Yonhap:

China will begin constructing a new major bridge to North Korea over the Tumen river, China’s state media reported Friday, in the latest sign that economic relations between the two nations remain stable despite the North’s nuclear ambition.

The 804-meter-long, 23-meter-wide bridge will link the Chinese border town of Tumen to North Korea’s northeastern coastal city of Chongjin, the Yanbian Daily newspaper reported, citing the city government of Tumen.

China’s central government recently gave a final approval to build the bridge, which is entirely funded by China at a cost of 137 million yuan (US$21.9 million), the report said.

The newspaper did not specify when the construction would start but that it would “soon be implemented.”

China has been building another major bridge connecting its border city of Dandong to the North Korean city of Sinuiju across the Amnok river, called as the Yalu River in China.

North Korea’s series of provocations, including last year’s third nuclear test, have strained political ties with its last-remaining ally, China. Still, many analysts believe that Beijing will not put strong pressure on Pyongyang due to the risk of aggravating the current situation.

According to AFP:

The bridge will replace an older structure, built in 1938, which will be turned into a tourist attraction, Xinhua said. There are several other rail and road bridges linking the two countries.

Chinese tourists recently started crossing into Namyang for day trips on bicycles.

Read the full stories here:
China to build new cross-border bridge to N. Korea: report
Yonhap
2014-5-23

New bridge to link China, DPRK
China Daily
2014-5-27

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