Archive for the ‘Black markets’ Category

DPRK reportedly seeks to stem flow of price data

Monday, March 17th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

In an unprecedented move, the North Korean authorities have warned residents in border areas that sharing information on market prices with the outside world will result in harsh punishment.

A Daily NK source located in North Hamkyung Province reported on the 14th, “Recently lectures at People’s Units have emphasized that the Republic’s secrets are being leaked to the outside via phone conversations. We were threatened that if anyone was caught in the act of calling someone outside of the country they would be sent to a prison camp.”

“It was said that ‘impure elements’ are planning to bring about the collapse of socialism in our style from the inside out,” the source recalled.

“We were also told that market prices were a state secret. Such a thing has never been raised in a People’s Unit lecture before, and the people are dumbfounded that the price of rice, pork and corn can be considered a secret of that magnitude.”

“Others are making more cynical remarks,” the source continued. “They say, ‘We’re the worst off in the world, and since we don’t get paid we can’t buy expensive rice. This is a national embarrassment for them and all they want to do is hide it. That’s why market prices are a state secret as well.’”

Furthermore, “Many ordinary people are of the opinion that the cadres [should be targeted] as they know better than anybody else about state secrets. Smugglers, too, are now concerned for their livelihoods as it is necessary for them to discuss pricing issues with their counterparts in China.”

The flow of information in and out of the country has long been restricted by the Kim regime out of fears of a challenge to their unitary rule.

Others assess that these latest measures indicate the North’s sensitivity over recent criticism leveled against the regime in the South Korean media, an act that the North deems an “insult to the Highest Dignity.”

Read the full story here:
Regime Classifies Market Prices as “State Secret”
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2014-3-17

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Bus transportation popular in DPRK

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Phyongsong-bus-station-2013-5-3

Pictured above (Google Earth): Phyongsong Bus Station (2013-5-3)

According to the Daily NK:

Not only are North Korean people able to buy and sell goods in markets using hard currency these days; US Dollars or Chinese Renminbi are also in use for the ubiquitous “servi-cha,” one of North Korea’s few reliable means of mass transit.

A source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 11th, “Trains only run about once a week, and you’d be a fool if you believed that they would run on time. Demand has risen thanks to this state of affairs, so people are making good money from running servi-cha.”

“If you want to ride a servi-cha you can’t use Chosun currency, you have to use Chinese or American money,” the source went on to claim. “You can get anywhere in the country that you want for 200 Yuan.”

The source said that people in Hyesan opt to travel by servi-cha in part because the journey can take up to a week by train but only takes a day by servi-cha. The route from Pyongsung to Chongjin costs 100 Yuan, and a similar amount is required for the trip from the North Hamkyung Province county of Kilju to the border near Hyesan.

According to the source, the price of North Korean gasoline is currently 11 Yuan per kg, approximately two to three Yuan cheaper than the Chinese equivalent. Diesel trades at 6 Yuan. The source said, “There is no problem running a vehicle these days because there are fuel traders selling cheap North Korean gas alongside every road in the country that buses use.”

Many owners of servi-cha have purchased buses rather than utilizing trucks, as they used to do. Owners offer a portion of their income to local government agencies and enterprises, in effect forming the North Korean equivalent of a Chinese “red hat enterprise.”

These privately run buses are clean and popular, and the business itself is seen by operators as an easy way to earn good money. The servi-cha are mainly new vehicles from China or second-hand ones from Japan, and the average cost is in the vicinity of 12,000 USD (though size and type of vehicle both vary). A well run business can earn 3000 USD per month.

In theory, if a traveller wishes to visit a different region, prior to travel he or she must obtain a certificate authorizing the visit. The 2nd Department of his or her Provincial People’s Committee ordinarily issues these permits; however, corruption among Party officials means that these can also be bought illicitly.

According to the source, servi-cha owners deliver regular bribes to senior security service officials running No. 10 Checkpoints, which are in place on every major thoroughfare connecting regions for the purpose of checking transit papers. These payments ensure rapid transit for customers.

Read the full story here:
Servi-Cha Professionalizing for Kim Jong Eun Era
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-03-13

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DPRK as e-waste conduit

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

According to Bloomberg:

How did North Korea become the conduit by which thousands of tons of old junk moved from the developed world into China’s bustling e-waste recycling industry?

As with any smuggling story, the tale starts with a prohibition. In this case, Chinese laws and regulations prohibit e-waste — most commonly understood as old, non-working electronics like laptops, monitors and mobile phones — from being imported into the country. The reasons are several, including a government interest in keeping used foreign goods from competing against new ones, and environmental concerns about how some of those goods are recycled. Nevertheless, China’s national-level environmental and customs authorities have long struggled to maintain those prohibitions against local ports and authorities — especially in south China — who view e-waste recycling as a good source of jobs, tax revenue, and used components to drive local industry. Of the several conduits through which e-waste has traditionally been smuggled, the most common and long-standing was over the Hong Kong-China border.

That all changed in February 2013 when — for reasons that are still unclear — Beijing announced “Green Fence,” a high-level crackdown on the import of prohibited waste and recycling exports, including old electronics. Nonetheless, here and there, imported old electronics still turned up in Chinese recycling facilities (I personally saw them).

The likely means, as described in state media after the North Korea bust, was convoluted. A Hong Kong “gang” allegedly received containers of used electronics from abroad. They arranged for them to be placed them on smaller ships bound for a “country in Northeast Asia.” The culprit’s identity is clear from the awkward phrasing. Criticism of North Korea in the Chinese press is exceedingly rare and -– needless to say — connecting the country to an e-waste smuggling ring qualifies as criticism. Were the country Japan, or even South Korea, it would have been named.

In fact, North Korea has long been rumored to be an e-waste recycling center. Since January 2008 a Chinese company based in Liaoning Province along the border has advertised for scrap to feed its e-waste recycling operations in North Korea itself. The facilities are located, according to the ad, in the port of Nanpo, and “take advantage of North Korea’s environmental policies and inexpensive labor resources.” There, the ad promises, prohibited e-waste can be dismantled and transformed into a product acceptable for export to China.

The smuggling ring was allegedly doing something similar, although its “transformed” e-waste clearly did not meet environmental standards. In North Korea the bulky e-waste was dismantled (steel cases would be removed from old desktop PCs, for example), segregated into marketable components like computer chips for re-use, and then sent to Dandong, a Chinese city and port on the Yalu River, directly across from North Korea. From there, the goods were trucked south, to recycling and re-use centers in Guangdong Province, a straight-line distance of roughly 1,800 miles.

Read the full story here:
Did North Korea Recycle Your Laptop?
Bloomberg
Adam Minter
2014-3-6

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More measurement of the importance of markets in the DPRK: residential and public sector energy consumption

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

According to Yonhap (via the Korea Herald):

A fuel ration system in North Korea seems to have been dismantled due to a chronic fuel shortage, a report said Monday.

The report by the state-run Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) said a majority of households in North Korea secure their fuel for heating and cooking on the black market or by themselves, hinting that the country’s fuel ration system might have been scrapped.

The report was made on the basis of data compiled from a poll of 350 North Korean defectors who fled the country after 2011.

According to the report, 51.1 percent of the North’s households bought their heating and cooking fuel on the market, with 42 percent gathering their fuel, such as firewood, by themselves.

Only 6.8 percent of them were provided with fuel for heating and cooking through the country’s fuel ration channel.

The energy consumption of a North Korean household was estimated at 0.291 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) as of 2011. The TOE is a unit of energy which is equivalent to the amount of energy released by burning one ton of crude oil.

The consumption of energy gaining from coal briquettes accounted for 36.8 percent of the total, reaching 0.107 TOE, followed by wood with 0.069 TOE, electricity with 0.038 TOE, oil products with 0.025 TOE and propane gas with 0.023 TOE.

The energy consumption for heating took up 50.9 percent of the total, amounting to 0.148 TOE.

The KEEI said a program for fuel aid to North Korea should be mapped out on the basis of exact data on the energy consumption in the North’s private sector.

You can download the full report here in Korean (PDF). Here is the web page for the Korea Energy Economics Institute.

Read the full story here:
Fuel ration seems to have been dismantled in N. Korea: report
Yonhap
2014-2-3

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DPRK reorganizing rents in Rason

Monday, January 27th, 2014

When Jang Song-thaek was purged, the North Korean prosecutors provided a laundry list of offenses committed against the nation. Among his crimes, Jang was specifically criticized for his management of assets in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone. The public accusation stated, “Jang made no scruple of committing such act of treachery in May last as selling off the land of the Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades under the pretext of paying those debts.”

The unnamed “foreign country” in the quote is obviously China, and the subtext of the quote implies that Rason contracts signed under Jang’s protection are in danger of being violated as the North Koreans reorganize the allocation of rents among key leadership organizations. This has to be unnerving to the Chinese business partners that signed these contracts and have been investing in the zone. In a best-case scenario for the investors, the reorganization of patronage would simply mean that they are just making payments to different organizations, but otherwise, business is pretty much unchanged. However, if the North Koreans are taking the drastic step of invalidating contracts and confiscating property, then we would expect to see a significant slow down in development of the zone in the future.

Following news of Jang’s purge, initial reports indicated that both DPRK and Chinese members of the Rason Management Committee had departed the SEZ and that most activities have come to a complete halt. But there are not enough reports to firmly conclude this is the case. Now New Focus has published information on some of the changes taking place in the Rason SEZ. The usual caveats apply:

The Kim Il-sung villa in Rajin-Sonbong is no longer available for hire, according to a reliable source in the area. The de-listing happened in the course of a Ministry of State Security (MSS) surveillance operation in North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone.

The operation was instigated under orders from the Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD) of the Workers’ Party, as it tightens its grip on the zone in the aftermath of Jang Song-thaek’s purge and execution. Nevertheless, the operation is being conducted in a relatively discreet manner so as not to startle Chinese businessmen in the zone.

The talk among senior DPRK cadres is that although Rajin-Sonbong’s Party Secretary, Party Committee Chair and MSS Supervisor are Jang Song-thaek’s associates, they are being left alone for the time being because of their close personal relations with Chinese investors; but that following the Supreme People’s Assembly elections in March, they will be replaced.

Nevertheless, the highest ranking female cadre in Rajin-Sonbong, the Tourism Director, was taken away. This prompted rumours that she was Jang Song-thaek’s lover, but her circumstances make this very unlikely.

The International Club in Rajin-Sonbong closed after the purge of Jang Song-thaek and the coming and going of Chinese businessmen has also decreased. The Kim Il-sung holiday villa in Rajin-Sonbong, which had been rented by HK investing company Emperor Group, has now been confiscated.

This villa is a 70s construction built as a getaway for Kim Il-sung and was a prized landmark in Rajin-Sonbong, with even a commemorative monument to mark the villa’s location. When the Emperor Group set up a casino in the area, they asked for permission to hire the villa for its VIP guests. At first, the Rajin-Sonbong Party Committee refused because it was considered a sacred landmark related to Kim Il-sung.

The person who secured the deal for the Emperor Group was an ethnic Korean Chinese named Ri Bong-hui, director of a fuel oil company. He donated US$1 million as a brokerage fee and the rental permit was granted. Rumours have now been spread that this fee had gone personally to Jang Song-thaek.

Existing land lease agreements in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone have also been affected. These originally stipulated that at US$20 / m2, plots of land could be leased for 20-50 years, depending on their location. The agreements have now been invalidated on the grounds that the details had been mismanaged by Jang Song-thaek.

Further, personnel tax and operating tax have been re-calculated and a request has been made by Party authorities in Rajin-Sonbong for the appropriate payments to be made in yearly groupings. As the Rajin-Sonbong authorities have asked for ten years back payment, many small investors from China are complaining about their losses.

The fact that the new rulings are being applied only to smaller companies is said to be exacerbating their disgruntlement. Chinese firms making larger investments are currently exempt, but some are still worried that the new measures might be applied to the bigger investors in a second phase of rulings.

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DPRK-China trade

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

From the PRC’s Global Times:

“Like the ancient Chinese verse that goes ‘a duck knows the coming of springs beforehand,’ the so-called ‘gray’ trade on the border of China and North Korea serves as a thermometer of North Korea’s politics and economy,” Lin Jun, a merchant from Dandong, a border city of Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, told the Global Times. Lin has 12 years of experience in Sino-North Korean border trade.

Since Jang Song-thaek, allegedly the second powerful man in North Korea, was purged in December, the northeast Asian country has released mixed signals toward the outside world: On the one hand, it seems to be toughening its political stance, but on the other, it pledges continued reconciliation with South Korea and further economic development.

The sensitive border trade between the two countries has witnessed dramatic ups and downs during recent months.

“My North Korean partner came by speedboat on December 30, bringing orders from Sakchu, Bakcheon and Pyongyang, demanding all the goods ready by the next day,” said a man surnamed Deng, who works for Lin.

“However, the next day he suddenly called to cancel the deals without giving any reason. There was no such precedent, even after North Korea conducted the nuclear test [in February last year],” he said.

Luxury goods

“Two years ago, North Korean people mainly needed cooking oil, rice, garments and second-hand electric appliances,” Deng told the Global Times reporter when taking his ship to Sakchu down the Yalu River.

“Nowadays, they will also ask for Apple computers, iPads, cell phones, Japanese washing machines and brand-new fridges, though the consumers of these luxury goods are mostly officials. Even senior officials in Pyongyang are using tablet computers bought from us,” Deng said proudly.

Such gray trade between China and North Korea has been an established fact for a long period, Lü Chao, a Korea expert with the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

He noted that it was quite commonly seen at border areas that people throw a pack over from one side of the border and those on the other side would pick it up and go away on a motorcycle, hence “gray trade” is also known as “bag-throwing trade.”

Given the long border between China and North Korea and the common language people living around the border share, it is hard to eliminate such trade, Lü noted.

However, although gray trade was not fully legal, it was indeed a supplement to the North Korean economy and a market always short of goods, especially for people’s daily lives, Lü said.

“Those engaged in the border trade are definitely not ordinary people,” Cui Mingxuan, a Dandong businessman who has retired from border trade for more than a year, told the Global Times.

Read the full story here:
Gray trade
Global Times
2014-1-14

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Black market home prices falling

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

According to Radio Free Asia:

Houses in impoverished North Korea are fully owned by the government and trading on them is forbidden. But some dwellers “sell” their homes illegally with the approval of corrupt officials to cash in on the acute shortage of homes.

Sources in provinces along North Korea’s border with China told RFA’s Korean Service that the value of their home transactions had fallen by as high as 85 percent from last summer.

“Housing prices in Gilju-gun, North Hamgyong province, dropped to around U.S. $500 from what was U.S. $3,300 last summer,” a source from the province told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity.

He said that in North Hamgyong’s Cheongjin city, the trading price for a two-bedroom home had plummeted to around U.S. $3,300 from U.S. $8,300 in the summer last year, and yet no buyers were showing any interest.

Another source from Yanggang said housing prices in his province had been similarly affected in the last several months.

“I was barely able to afford my house near the Yalu River [separating North Korea from China] at around U.S. $3,300 early last year,” he said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The trading price of my house, which was still U.S. $3,300 in August last year, has now dropped to about U.S. $990.”

The Yanggang source said the housing crash began in the fall in the capital Pyongyang and had led to widespread unease because the cause of the depreciation remained unknown.

He added that it was impossible to guess how far prices would drop.

Other sources said that the market crash had led to increased tension in the affected areas.

Read the full story here:
Housing Prices in North Korea Plunge on Black Market
RFA
2014-1-9

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North Korea’s ‘New Economic Management System’: Main Features and Problems

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Korea Focus
Park Hyeong-jung
Senior Research Fellow
Korea Institute for National Unification

Here is the summary/assessment:

The objective of the New Economic Management System in North Korea is the building of an “unplanned socialist economy,” or something similar to the “socialist commodity economy” China implemented between 1984 and 1992. Agricultural, industrial and financial measures that North Korea is trying to introduce along with the installation and expansion of special development zones under the New Economic Management System are mutually connected and therefore need to be simultaneously implemented.

North Korea has the conceptual blueprints for each economic measure and its leadership includes individuals who are interested in promoting the areas where they are specialized. However, the country apparently lacks the capabilities to create the proper economic and political conditions for these measures. Against this backdrop, production increase and overall economic growth cannot be expected and confusion would intensify.

North Korea had not made sufficient preparations economically and politically before the introduction of the New Economic Management System. Introduction of new measures inevitably affects the interests of those who had been active under the old system. Transitional imbalance may arise in the process of putting the new system into practice. Reserve resources are necessary to address such problems.

The sub-unit management system in the agricultural sector showed how the reform effort can be stymied. This new system spurs independent efforts of farmers and stimulates their motivation for production increase but it invited the resistance of agricultural bureaucrats. When the state and farmers begin to share products by a ratio of 7:3 instead of the previous ratio of 9:1, imbalance will emerge somewhere in the distribution of farm products. Reserve resources are necessary for such a sudden change. The same is expected of the industrial management system. Factory enterprises were given autonomous operation rights but the new system did not result in production increase. Reserve resources are needed here, too.

The new policy under the Kim Jong-un rule lacked consistency and often exposed zigzagging directions. Officials responsible for the implementation of the new policy were unable to win over dissenters and failed to secure reserve resources needed to overcome the material imbalance in the transition period.

Eventually, the management reform at factory enterprises and experiments with sub-units in farming areas were virtually abandoned. The sub-unit management failed because of resistance from agricultural bureaucrats, the authorities` unease about relaxation of peasant control and uncertainty about the food security for the privileged class. The sub-unit management system most seriously threatened the stockpiling of food grain for the military and the power elite. It is certain that the military was the biggest opponent to the new agricultural management system.

The New Economic Management System accompanied policies that reduced the privileged role of the military in the economy. Similar problems were certainly exposed in the reform of industrial and financial management, such as non-cooperation from the privileged group, concerns about loosening control of workers and managers, and lack of guarantees for special interests.

Yet, the sub-unit management in farms and increased autonomy of factory enterprises were not entirely meaningless. Interestingly, some in North Korea`s leadership believed that the sub-unit system with incentives to individual farmers was necessary despite many problems attached to the farmers` self-interests. Although it was not successfully implemented, it did help farmers gain more independence from state control.

The unavoidable trend of changes in the North calls for systemic reforms like the sub-unit management just as youths grow up to become adults and then to the middle age. The problem is how to operate the changed system to achieve production increase. To be successful, those in the North Korean leadership who advocate the New Economic Management System should be able to politically suppress those opposing it or win them over economically by assuring them of the distribution of surplus. What has happened to date shows that the new system has failed to make much progress in that direction.

Concerning the projects of building special economic development zones, similar problems have been detected. The Workers` Party Central Committee decided in a plenary meeting in March 2013 to take measures to diversify foreign trade, develop new tourist zones, and build special economic zones suitable for the specific conditions of each province. The Economic Zones Development Act was enacted in May and, as of October 2013, each province is boosting efforts to attract foreign investment and create new economic development zones.

The concept of special economic development zone can be defined as conforming to the “unplanned socialist economy” or the “socialist commodity economy.” But the success of special economic zones needs the three steps that were required to tackle the problems faced by the sub-unit farm management and the autonomous operations of factory enterprises as observed above.

MY NOTES:

This paper is the most comprehensive assessment of the origination and implementation of the DPRK’s “June 28″ policies.

The author classifies the June 28 policies as an attempt to transform the DPRK from a system composed of KWP rule + decentralized reform + state ownership of production means to KWP rule + coexistence of market and planned economies + state ownership of production means. This state is called “socialist commodity economy” or “unplanned socialist economy”. The transition involves moving management to enterprises and farms where production is carried out on the basis of contract and state planning.

The plan was carried out by a group under the cabinet led by Ro Tu-chol.

ENTERPRISE SECTOR:
* No more production quotas/Enterprises make own plans and profit distribution
* Raw materials are traded firm to firm via “direct supply centers” (intended to provide nominal state oversight of firm-to-firm transactions)
* Enterprise officials appointed/fired by KWP
*30% profit tax

AGRICULTURE SECTOR
*70/30 split of output (previously state took fixed share regardless of output)
*Smaller collective farm sub ubits
*Smaller private plots and kitchen gardens.

FOOD MANAGEMENT:
*PDS do be abolished but increased control of markets
*Government employees (teachers/doctors) to buy food at “food supply centers” (where all food producers sell supplies).
*military personnel are to buy food at subsidized/fixed price
*”Independent accounting enterprises” (August 3rd?) employees are to be paid in cash and buy food. Enterprises still controlled by state to get rations.

Stephan Haggard wrote about the paper here and here.

All posts on the June 28 policy can be found here.

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Data on the DPRK’s informal economy

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The belief that money can buy anything is rife in North Korea. Farmers can buy membership of the Workers Party, the gateway to the elite, from a senior party official for about $300. Factory or company workers or soldiers have to pay about $500 for party membership. College admission can also be bought with a bribe.

“Anybody can buy admission to Pyongyang Medical University for $10,000 and to the law or economics departments of Kim Il-sung University for between $5,000 and $10,000,” said a South Korean government source.

The opportunity to work overseas costs $3,000, plus an extra $1,000 if workers want their stay extended another year.

Currently, a U.S. dollar is worth about 7,000 North Korean won. Would-be defectors pay border guards $40 to cross the Apnok or Duman rivers, and $60 to carry old or feeble people on their back.

Asked about the monthly average household income, 31.7 percent said they earned up to 300,000 North Korean won. Next came up to 100,000 won for 16.6 percent, up to 500,000 won for 13.7 percent, and up to 1 million won for 13.2 percent.

But their official salary for their work is a mere 3,000 to 5,000 won, meaning they earned the rest of their income chiefly in the informal economy.

The most popular means of earning money are small shops or restaurants, cottage industries like making clothes and shoes, and private tutoring and private medical services.

Farmers can earn 60,000 to 80,000 won a month by harvesting 700 kg of beans and corn annually from their allocated field and raising five chickens and a dog.

Recently, a growing number of people are getting into the transportation business by illegally registering vehicles or boats, which are banned from private ownership, in the name of agencies or companies and appropriating their profits.

They also make money from smuggling. Repairing computers or mobile phones has become a popular job as well as repairmen can earn $5 to $10 per job.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea’s Informal Economy Thrives
Choson Ilbo
2013-11-16

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New info on the DPRK’s exchange rates and Economic Development Zones

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

James Pearson writing in Reuters updates us on the state of the DPRK’s domestic currency:

In a dimly-lit Pyongyang toy shop packed with Mickey Mouse picture frames and plastic handguns, a basketball sells for 46,000 Korean People’s Won – close to $500 at North Korea’s centrally planned exchange rate.

Luckily, for young North Koreans looking to shoot hoops with Dennis Rodman, the new friend of leader Kim Jong Un, the Chinese-made ball actually costs a little less than $6 based on black market rates.

Once reserved for official exchange only in zones aimed at attracting foreign investment, and in illegal underground market deals elsewhere, black market rates are being used more frequently and openly in North Korean cities.

Publicly advertised prices at rates close to the market rate – around 8,000 won to the dollar versus the official rate of 96 – could signal Pyongyang is trying to marketise its centrally planned economy and allow a burgeoning “grey market” to thrive. This could boost growth and capture more of the dollars and Chinese yuan circulating widely so that North Korea can pay for imports of oil and food.

Unofficial market rates could become more widespread following an announcement last month of 14 new special economic zones (SEZs) aimed at kickstarting a moribund economy where output is just one fortieth of wealthier South Korea’s. A spokesperson for the Korea Economic Development Association, a local organization tasked with communicating policy in the new SEZs, told Reuters that exchange rates in the new zones are to be “fixed according to (local) market rates.”

“The official rate for the won is like a placeholder,” said Matthew Reichel, director of the Pyongyang Project, a Canadian NGO that organizes academic exchanges with North Korea. “We all know that the value of the won is not this.”

UNDER STRAIN

An estimated 90 percent of economic transactions along North Korea’s border with China are in yuan, an embarrassment for a country whose policy stresses economic independence, and something that reduces the grip that authorities attempt to exercise over its people and economy.

Pyongyang does not publish economic data, but is believed to have run a sizeable current account deficit for years, straining its ability to pay for imports in hard currency.

An attempt in 2009 to revalue the won and confiscate private foreign currency savings prompted protests from market traders and forced a rare policy reversal and public apology from state officials.

“Due to its lack of foreign currency, the North Korean government will have to tolerate black market rates, even if it has difficulty in officially recognizing them,” said Cho Bong-hyun, a North Korea economics expert at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul.

Read the full story here:
Insight: Won for the money: North Korea experiments with exchange rates
Reuters
2013-11-3

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