Archive for the ‘Foreign direct investment’ Category

Russia reportedly exporting coal from Rason to China

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

2013-12-1-Russian-pier-Rason

Pictured Above (Google Earth): A December 2013 satellite image of the Russian Pier in Rason Port

UPDATE 1 (2014-4-14): This Russian-language source has different information.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-4-8): According to the Moscow Times:

Russian Railways has put to use the North Korean port it helped to upgrade recently.

The state-owned railway operator said Tuesday it had started carrying Siberian coal to the port of Rajin, in what may be the first attempt to utilize the harbor after it reopened in September.

“The company has started to provide a full suite of services to ship coal through Rajin to Asia-Pacific countries,” said a statement from Russian Railways logistics subsidiary, RZhD Logistika.

A joint venture between Russian Railways and the North Korean Ministry of Railways has rebuilt one of the port’s wharfs and a rail link connecting it to Russia in a rare example of foreign involvement in the economy of the isolated dictator state. The joint venture, RasonKonTrans, where Russia holds 70 percent, sought to relieve the congestion at Russia’s Pacific ports.

Coal miner and steelmaker Mechel is the sender of the coal consignments, according to Nadezhda Malysheva, chief editor of port industry portal PortNews.

Both Mechel and RzhD Logistica spokespersons declined to comment.

Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin traveled to Rajin for a grand opening of the rail service and the wharf in September. The company invested 9 billion rubles ($250 million) to upgrade both. Russian engineers supervised the work, while Koreans largely contributed with unskilled labor.

The Russian terminal at Rajin, Asia’s most northerly all-year ice-free port, will at first handle just coal freight from Russia to ship it further to China’s eastern and southeastern provinces. Further plans are to equip it to be able to provide container services.

RZhD Logistika loaded a total of 9,000 metric tons of coal on two freight trains of 130 cars each to carry to Rajin at the end of last month, it said in the statement. The cargo will next go to China’s ports of Shanghai, Lianyungang and Guangzhou.

Current load capacity of port Rajin is 4 million tons of coal a year.

Russia’s biggest coal export port, Vostochny, which sits on the Pacific coast, has the capacity to handle 18 million tons a year, Malysheva said. It and the other key coal port of Vanino operate at the top of their capacity, as exports of the fuel to Asia have increased, she said.

Coal remains the principal fuel for electricity generation at power plants in China. But its coal price declined 10 percent last year because of strong rivalry among Russian suppliers and competition from Australia, the RZhD Logistika statement said.

Even so, the government last week backed a plan to boost development of the coal-mining industry in the country’s Far East to cater to Asian markets. The idea is to have a shorter transportation leg for the shipments, compared with the distance that the coal travels from Siberia.

Additional Information:

China has  a coal terminal at Rason as well and has used it for intra-Chinese coal shipment.

South Korea also has an interest in the Rason Port.

Read the full story here:
First Russian Coal Heads to North Korean Port
Moscow Times
Anatoly Medetsky
2014-4-8

Share

Sinuiju-Kaesong high-speed rail project (UPDATED)

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Sinuiju-Kaesong-high-speed-rail

Pictured Above (KBS):  A map of the planned high-speed rail project

UPDATE 2 (2014-4-7): KBS has a report (in Korean) on the project. See the report here. Seoul Village has translated some of the details.

Construction would last 6 years, with two waves that have not been fully detailed yet:
1st stretches: 80 km
From the North: Sinujiu Station – Tongrim Station (Sinujiu-Dongnim, 40 km)
From the South: Kaesong – Yonan (Gaesong-Yeonan, 40 km)
2nd stretches: 296 km

From the North: Tongrim – Chongju – Sinanju – Pyongyang (Dongnim-Jeongju-Sinanju-Pyongyang, 147 km)
From the South: Yonan – Haeju – Sariwon – Pyongyang (Yeonan-Haeju-Sariwon-Pyongyang, 149 km)

UPDATE 1 (2014-4-7): Korail may be involved in the high-speed rail project. According to the Hankyoreh:

News of a recent agreement between North Korea and China to build an international high-speed railroad and highway between Sinuiju (a city on the Chinese border) and Kaesong is raising questions about the fate of a scheduled North Korea visit on Apr. 24 by Korail CEO Choi Yeon-hye.

If Korail does participate in the project, it would bring South Korea one step closer to the Asian continent via the North Korea-China high-speed rail project, which comes on the heels on North Korea‘s Rajin-Hasan development project with Russia.

South Korean businesspeople in China who are closely involved in the high-speed rail project said on Apr. 6 that a contract for the railway/highway construction was signed in Beijing on Feb. 24 by North Korea’s State Economic Development Commission, chaired by Kim Ki-sok, and a Chinese consortium headed by the Shangdi Guanqun investment company. The line would be 376 km in length and connect Sinuiju with Chongju, Sukchon, Pyongyang, Haeju, and Kaesong, with the five-year construction beginning in 2018 with a budget of US$21 billion, or around 22 trillion won. The method would be a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement, with an international North Korean-Chinese consortium providing the investment and delivering the line to North Korea once the costs are recouped. A survey team for the Chinese consortium is reportedly scheduled to visit North Korea in late April.

The chances of South Korea participating are higher in the wake of President Park Geun-hye’s speech in Dresden on Mar. 31. There, she declared that an “organic linkage between South Korean capital and technology and North Korean resources and labor could contribute to building a future economic community on the Korean Peninsula.”

She also said she planned to “achieve shared development for the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia both through collaborations with North Korea and Russia, as with the current Rajin-Hasan distribution project, and collaborations with North Korea and China focusing on Sinuiju.”

Further increasing the possibility of South Korean participation are guidelines handed down in January by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who said North Korea should work with China and South Korea on an international line through a privately funded BOT arrangement.

Meanwhile, Korail is awaiting Ministry of Unification approval on a request to allow CEO Choi Yeon-hye to travel to North Korea to attend a general directors’ conference for the Organisation for Co-Operation between Railways (OSJD), which is scheduled to take place on Apr. 24.

“Our basic position is to approve visits to North Korea in cases of international events,” said an official from the ministry on condition of anonymity, adding that a final decision would be made “after discussions with the other agencies.”

But Korail remains cautious about the possibility of future cooperation, whatever the outcome for Choi’s visit ends up being. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source there said, “We’re preparing data on things like a plan to expand cargo transport for different continental rail zones, which is one of the topics on the agenda at the OSJD meeting.”

“We’ve never officially examined the North Korea-China high-speed rail project, and it doesn’t look like it would be economically feasible anyway unless a section is opened between Seoul and Kaesong,” the source added. “Anyway, the government has not decided on participating, and that‘s not a matter that KORAIL can weigh in on by itself.”

ORIGINAL POST (2013-12-20): High Speed Rail and Road Connecting Kaesong-Pyongyang-Sinuiju to be Built
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-12-20

On December 8, 2013, North Korea reached an agreement with a consortium of international companies to construct highways and high-speed railroad connecting Kaesong, Pyongyang, and Sinuiju.

The agreement between North Korean authorities and a consortium representing the Chinese companies was signed in both Chinese and Korean by Kim Chol Jin, Vice-Chairman of State Economic Commission of North Korea and representatives from state-owned enterprises of China’s Commerce Department.

The construction period was designated as five years and businesses will operate the rail for 30 years and return the operation rights to North Korean government in the form of a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project, worth a total of 15 trillion KRW. The high-speed rail will be a double-track system with a speed of more than 200km per hour, and the construction of four-lane highway will be built adjacent to the railway. Fence will also be built to prevent unauthorized access to the railway.

The construction zone will cover the areas of Kaesong, Haeju, Sariwon, Pyongyang, Sinanju, Jongju and Sinuiju, approximately 400 km in total length and from Sinuiju will connect to Chinese cities via railway while from Jongju will connect with the Rajin-Sonbong SEZ (special economic zone) to the Russian Khasan railway to be linked with the Eurasian railway.

The consortium working group is planning to visit North Korea to confirm the specific construction plans. It was tentatively decided that the formal contract be signed in Pyongyang based on the proposal submitted by the consortium.

The subject of agreement is a multinational consortium of international investment group, which also includes a South Korean company, which is known as a company involved in North Korean mineral resources development. Once the project is in progress, there are plans of bringing other South Korean companies into the project.

In exchange, businesses will obtain the development rights of extracting gold from Hyesan City (Ryanggang Province) and iron ore in Musan (North Hamgyong Province). North Korean officials are claiming that this project was the legacy of Kim Jong Il and welcomed the participation of South Korean companies.

In March 2011, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is reported to have instructed that inter-Korean exchange programs be continued. Upon the completion of the railways and highways, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly will proclaim international road operations to ensure its stable operation.

The operation rights will be given to the consortium for 30 years while the ownership rights will be shared by the North Korean government and the consortium.

China is also building new railway lines up towards the North Korean border.

Share

Russia and DPRK discuss economic opportunities

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

What are the opportunities? Rason port, Iron Silk Road (Rail), Kaesong Industrial Complex, gas pipeline.

According to RIA Novosti:

Russia and North Korea have signed a new protocol to transition to using the ruble for payments between the two countries as part of an effort to boost annual bilateral trade to $1 billion by 2020, Russia’s Far East Development Ministry said Friday.

The announcement came as Russian officials have expressed a desire to explore new markets for the country’s businesses, following the introduction of sanctions by the West in reaction to Moscow’s stance over Crimea. Russian leaders have simultaneously reassured international investors the country remains open for business, and there are no plans to restrict international commerce.

The protocol announced Friday came following a visit of a Russian delegation to the Asian country for a meeting of a standing bilateral commission, timed to mark the 65th anniversary of a cooperation agreement between the Soviet Union and North Korea.

The parties agreed to move towards settling payments in rubles as well as adopting further measures to boost bilateral trade, including easing visa procedures and providing for Russian access to proposed special economic zones in the country, the ministry’s statement said.

The ministry reaffirmed the countries’ mutual interest in joint projects with South Korea, including international connections for railways [Iron Silk Road], gas pipelines and power lines.

The Russian delegation also proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers.

The two sides identified areas for further cooperation, including a transshipment complex at the port of Rason and technical cooperation for the modernization of North Korea’s mining sector, automobile industry and electric power plants.

According to the statement, during the talks Russian Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka emphasized that achieving such goals would only be possible if stability is maintained on the Korean peninsula.

The next meeting of the bilateral commission is scheduled for June in Russia’s far eastern Vladivostok.

Here is what Yonhap reports:

North Korea and Russia have agreed to boost economic ties by pushing for trilateral projects involving South Korea, including a plan to support Russian companies’ entry into an inter-Korean industrial complex, a media report said Saturday.

The agreement between the two was made earlier this week when Russia’s Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka visited the North for a five-day run until Friday to explore ways to boost bilateral economic cooperation, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“The Russian delegation proposed the entry of Russian businesses into the Kaesong Industrial Park, a special economic zone in North Korea just north of Seoul where South Korean companies are allowed to employ northern workers,” the RIA Novosti reported, citing the ministry.

Officials of Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, welcomed the agreement between the North and Russia, while stressing the importance of Russia’s prior consultation with the South.

“Russian companies’ making inroads into the Kaesong park is desirable in terms of the internationalization of the complex … It would also prevent the North from unilaterally reversing its agreement with Seoul over the Kaeesong operation,” the ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Internationalization of the enclave, a symbol of inter-Korean detente, is one of the key topics for inter-Korean meetings aimed at ensuring its normal operations and further invigorating the complex. The Kaesong park resumed operations in September, more than five months after the North unilaterally closed it in anger over Seoul-Washington joint military exercises.

“But it is crucial for Russia to discuss the matter with our side first as it is basically operated by the South Korean authorities,” he added.

A handful of companies from China, Australia and Germany have so far expressed interests in making an investment in the Kaesong complex, prompting the Seoul government to review holding joint presentation sessions with the North to lure investors from overseas, according to another ministry official.

Here is additional information from Yonhap on recent shipments from Russia to the DPRK:

Russia exported US$21.16 million’s worth of jib cranes, machinery used mostly for cargo handling at ports, to North Korea last year, accounting for nearly 22 percent of its total exports to the North, according to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). The amount surpasses that of Russia’s traditional export goods such as coal, petroleum and bituminous oil.

There were no records of the machines being exported to North Korea the year before, with the 2011 amount standing at $139,000.

North Korea and Russia maintain economic relations that include a project that would make North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rajin a logistics hub by connecting it to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. North Korea is said to have agreed to a long-term lease of the No. 3 dock at Rajin port to Russia and that it is modernizing facilities there. The cranes may be for such modernization efforts, the KOTRA report said.

Also noteworthy is Russia’s exports of ambulances to the North, amounting to approximately 10.1 billion won ($9.45 million), the fourth largest in terms of value. Ambulances are a relatively new product on the trade list.

KCNA’s reporting of the meeting was much more muted:

DPRK Premier Meets Minister of Development of Far East of Russia

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Pak Pong Ju, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, met Alexandr Galushka, minister of the Development of Far East of Russia who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and his party.

He had a friendly talk with them who paid a courtesy call on him at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

Minutes of Talks between Governments of DPRK, Russia Signed

Pyongyang, March 26 (KCNA) — Minutes of talks on cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology between the governments of the DPRK and Russia were signed here Wednesday.

Present at the signing ceremony were Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade who is chairman of the DPRK side to the Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology between the DPRK and Russia, and officials concerned, Alexandr Galushka, minister for the Development of Far East who is chairman of the Russian side to the Inter-governmental Committee, and his party and Alexandr Timonin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK.

Ri Ryong Nam and Alexandr Galushka signed the minutes of the talks.

Read the full story here:
Russia, North Korea Agree to Settle Payments in Rubles in Trade Pact
RIA Novosti
2014-3-28

N. Korea, Russia to discuss supporting Moscow firms’ advance into Kaesong park
Yonhap
2014-3-29

Share

Hong Kong firm signs onto Sinuiju Economic Development Zone

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Sinuiju-SEZ-2014-2

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The approximate borders of the Sinuiju Special Economic Zone.

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has joined hands with a Hong Kong-based company to develop the country’s northwestern border city of Sinuiju into a special economic zone, a North Korean official said.

Sinuiju, which borders China’s Dandong city, has drawn much attention from foreign investors for its geographical advantage as North Korea’s western gateway to China, Ri Chol-sok, the vice chairman of North Korea’s economic development committee, said in an interview in the March issue of Kumsugangsan magazine, a North Korean government mouthpiece.

“Now a joint development company has been established for the development of (Sinuiju) and is striving to win back lost opportunities,” said the North Korean official.

Hong Kong-based conglomerate Great China International Investment Groups Ltd. reportedly signed the deal with North Korea.

North Korea is also making efforts to lure foreign investment to other special economic zones, including one in the Rason area in the northern tip of the country, according to Ri.

The foreign company already has deep ties with the North, having joined the country’s project launched in January to renovate the eastern part of the capital Pyongyang.

The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reported the following:

It has been reported that North Korea has established relations with a Hong Kong-based company with the goals of developing Sinuiju, a city bordering China in the northwest region of North Pyongan Province, into a special economic zone (SEZ). Vice Chairman of North Korea’s Committee for Economic Development Ri Chol Sok emphasized the nation’s efforts to attract foreign investors to the Sinuiju economic zone in an interview in the March issue of Kumsugangsan, a North Korean government magazine.

Vice Chairman Ri specifically mentioned that, in the past, Sinuiju garnered praise and attention from foreign investors due to its geographically advantageous location along the western border. Ri also announced the establishment of the Sinuiju-Great China joint venture development company, which plans to draw further interest and investment from abroad.

It is reported that the Sinuiju-Great China joint venture development company was created alongside a Hong Kong-based finance conglomerate known as Great China International Investment Groups, Ltd. (“Great China Groups”). Great China Groups has recently shown great interest in investing in North Korea and recently began the construction of East Pyongyang Commercial Street this past January.

Recent reports from other foreign media outlets have shown that Great China Groups had intentions to invest in the development of the Sinuiju region for some time, but Vice Chairman Ri’s announcement marks the first time that North Korean state media has officially recognized their joint development plans.

Meanwhile, the North Korean foreign publicity website Naenara announced that development of an additional economic development zone (EDZ) in North Pyongan Province along the Amnok (Yalu) River began on January 27 of this year. The Amnok (Yalu) River economic development zone will extend 6.6 square kilometers, with construction taking place in Ryongun-ri and continuing up to the Guri and Ojok Islands, where the North Korean border meets the city of Dandong and the Hu Mountain in China’s Liaoning Province.

North Korea plans to draw in tourists visiting China’s Hu Mountain to Ojok Island, where an “international services station” will offer food, entertainment, and tourist attractions. There are also plans to develop a modern agricultural sciences research complex on Guri Island that will specialize in flower and vegetable production.

North Korea specifically pushed for this location for the development of the Amnok (Yalu) River economic development zone — which will operate autonomously in Pyongan — due to its border location with China. In addition to its desirable geographical location, convenient transportation between the two nations will likely attract more attention from Chinese foreign investors, giving the Amnok (Yalu) River EDZ a higher chance of success compared to other economic development zones.

Investments reaching upwards of 240 million USD (approx. 260.3 billion KRW) make the Amnok River EDZ the largest in scale among the 13 total development areas.  In terms of actual size, however, the largest economic development zone in North Korea is the Shinpyong tourist development zone (8.1km2), located in North Hwanghae province.

Apart from the EDZs in the North Pyongan region of Sinuiju, the central government has announced their plans to push forward with two other special economic zones. The Hwanggeumpyong and Wihwa Islands SEZ was announced in June 2010, and in November of last year, plans were revealed to develop an additional special economic zone in the Sinuiju region.

All the economic development zones are listed here. Some people say there are 13 of them. Some people say 14 because they consider the Sinuiju Special Economic Zone an economic development zone. I am in the 14 camp. There have also been at least three other zones proposed that did not make the final list. 

The Sinuiju Special Economic Zone was announced on 2013-11-21 (the same day as the other 13 EDZs were announced–though in a different article).

Besides the Sinuiju Special Economic Zone, the only other EDZ to have reportedly made any progress is the  North Hamgyong Provincial Onsong Island Tourist Development Zone.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean, Hong Kong firms to develop border city of Sinuiju
Yonhap
2014-3-12

Share

North Korea seeks investments from overseas Koreans

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-3-7

North Korea has been showing increased efforts in attracting economic investment from overseas Koreans. In particular, recent foreign media outlets run by overseas Koreans are showing increased emphasis on economic cooperation with North Korea.

In the March issue of the monthly magazine Joguk (Homeland) published by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (a pro-North Korea association), featured an interview with Park Kyung Jin, the director of Economic Cooperation Office for Overseas Koreans.

In the interview, Director Park described the plans for the organization: “We are diligently working to create an environment where overseas Koreans can successfully do business with North Korea.” He also emphasized that they are continually working to protect the rights and provide special legal treatment for overseas Koreans.

On February 24, US-based pro-North Korean website Minjoktongsin (Minjok Thongsin) introduced Kim Ji Hyuk and Ri Hak Song, department heads of the (DPRK) State Economic Development Commission in an article, “Where Is the North Korean Economy Heading?”

In the article, the officials stressed that North Korea is actively looking to foster economic experts and said, “We welcome the participation of experts, businesses, and organizations of overseas Koreans who wish to invest in North Korea.”

In addition, in order to increase economic cooperation with overseas Koreans, the commission introduced future plans of easing the travel process to and from North Korea including visa and other entry requirements.

North Korea is subject to international sanctions that limit its trade with most of the world and appears to be turning to overseas Koreans to overcome the country’s economic crisis. Rather than reaching out to other foreigners, North Korea is likely to be reaching out to overseas Koreans who share a common language and ethnicity, with relatively easier access.

Since the establishment of the Joint Venture Act in 1984, North Korea has worked extensively with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan and with ethnic Koreans living in China. Since the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, economic development zones (EDZs) are being set up across the country and ties with overseas Koreans are likely to be strengthened in efforts to further attract foreign investments into North Korea.

Share

The rise and fall of the Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant (a case study in inter-Korean business)

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

UPDATE 4 (2014-2-18): Western tourists are still visiting the restaurant (meaning it has a contract with KITC). The restaurant still has the sign “Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant”, though it is a different color than the original. See tourist video here and here.

UPDATE 3 (2014-2-17): The Hakyoreh updates us on the fate of the inter-Korean chicken restaurant:

In 2005, Choi made his first trip to North Korea to inquire about chicken imports. Soon he had changed plans: he would open his own restaurant there selling South Korean-style chicken. Acquaintances tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined. “I went to Pyongyang and I could see there was money in it,” he recalled. And with economic cooperation between South and North at an all time high, he didn’t see much of a political risk either.

He went back and forth to Pyongyang a few times looking for partners. Finally, in June 2007, he opened up the Rakwon Chicken Restaurant, selling South Korean-style chicken on Puksae Road in the Kaesonmun neighborhood of Moranbong District. His North Korean partner provided the building and staff; Choi was responsible for the interiors, ingredients, recipes, and management system. He reached a deal where he took 70% of profits with a total investment of 500 million won (US$470,000). The opening drew a lot of media attention at the time, with write-ups in the South Korean press and foreign outlets like the Washington Post and Japan’s NHK.

Early on, he did strong business selling at fairly steep prices – the equivalent of US$11.30 for a single bird. His clientele came mainly from the city’s upper class and Chinese visitors. Sales of 100 million won (US$94,000) a year looked to be in sight. “My plan was to open up 100 restaurants in the North,” Choi said.

But in 2008, less than a year after he opened the restaurant, Lee Myung-bak took office as South Korean President. Lee’s administration put a stop to the previous decade’s policies of engagement and cooperation with North Korea, opting for sanctions and containment instead.

“There was a promise between the two sides, and I never thought that would be rejected completely,”Choi said. “Suddenly, that was the reality.”

Bit by bit, exchange ground to a halt. A March 2008 shipment of ingredients through Nampo turned out to be Choi’s last interaction. He had not yet received a single share of revenue.

Then came the announcement of the so-called “May 24 measures” in 2010. Following the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan warship the preceding March, Seoul had called a complete halt to all exchange and economic cooperation with North Korea.

“All the May 24 measures did was drive it home,” Choi insisted. “Most of the economic cooperation had been choked off long before that.”

For the next four years, Choi wasn’t able to set foot in North Korea. Without his support, the restaurant lost its chicken focus and began selling ordinary cuisine. Choi’s other business began to suffer too.
“I’d put my house and buildings up as collateral to borrow the 500 million won to invest in the North,” he said. “Then, to top it all off, there was the US financial crisis. Things began to go downhill rapidly in South Korea, and my business started to fall apart.”

UPDATE 2 (2009-1-1): The BBC offers an update of the new chicken restaurant:

The governments may not be on the best of terms but a South Korean businessman seems to have found a way to North Koreans’ hearts: their stomachs.

Choi Won-ho, the owner of a fried chicken chain, was told he was doomed to fail when he opened his first branch in the impoverished North last year.

But encouraged by his progress so far, he is already preparing to open another one.

Mr Choi runs a fast food franchise in South Korea with a total of 70 stores.

He opened one more last year – no real challenge you might think – except this extension to his fried chicken empire is in the heart of one of the most secretive and business-unfriendly places on the planet.

But Mr Choi says the citizens of Pyongyang have been queuing in front of his shop which is taking around $1,000 a day.

He is now preparing to meet North Korean officials in January to finalise the approval for a second outlet.

His customers are almost certainly all members of North Korea’s elite, a country in which the World Food Programme says up to 9m people will face urgent food shortages this winter.

Relations between the two Korea’s have been at a low since the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in the South in February.

North Korea has severed official contacts, stopped all cross-border tourism and restricted entry to a joint industrial zone built with southern money.

But despite the chill, Mr Choi’s fried chicken venture seems to be sizzling.

Read the full story here:
South Korea Chicken Success in NK
BBC
John Sudworth
2009-1-1

UPDATE 1 (2008-11-1): The restaurant is set to open in February 2008. According to Yonhap:

An inter-Korean joint-venture chicken franchise will open its first store in Pyongyang early next month, the head of the franchise’s South Korean partner said Friday.

The store set to open in early February will provide a food delivery service using motorbikes for the first time in the communist country, Choi Won-ho, president of the South Korean company said.

No North Korean restaurants offer food delivery service now, according to defectors from North Korea.

Fried, grilled and steamed chicken dishes as well as draft beer are available for delivery, he said, adding the food will be prepared in the North Korean style.

“I recently received a photo of the store’s interior design from our North Korean business partner, Rakwon General Trading Corporation, along with the offer to open the first store before the 66th birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il,” Choi told Yonhap News Agency by phone. “After opening, I will use radio and newspaper ads to promote the business.”

Kim’s birthday, which falls on Feb. 16, is the most festive holiday in the North.

The North Korean company will provide land, some 20 low-cost workers, chicken, and draft beer. The early-stage investment, equipment, cook and spicy chicken will come from the South Korean chicken franchise called “Matdaero Chondak,” Choi said.

The first “Rakwon” chicken restaurant in Pyongyang will have the capacity of seating about 200 people, he added.

The businessman said he will visit North Korea next week to discuss the opening of the store.

“I hope the business will thrive enough so that we can open store No. 10 in Pyongyang,” he added.

Read the full story here:
Inter-Korean joint venture chicken franchise to open first store in Pyongyang
Yonhap
1/11/2008

ORIGINAL POST (2007-11-3): A South Korean entrepreneur is investing in a new fried chicken restaurant in Pyongyang:

According to Reuters:

A South Korean businessman plans to begin a fried chicken delivery service in the North Korean capital, with the first foreign-run restaurant in a country that struggles to feed its own people.

Choi Won-ho, head of a fried chicken franchiser that has about 70 restaurants across South Korea, said Friday he is opening a 50-table restaurant in Pyongyang on Nov. 15. It will also deliver chicken and draft beer to homes.

“I have wanted to be the world’s best chicken brand,” Choi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“But I thought it makes no sense to conquer the world without sharing food with our compatriots. That’s why I went there first,” he said. “I plan to get into the Chinese market via Pyongyang.”

He laughed off concerns his venture may be too risky in the impoverished and isolated country of 23 million, where the elite citizens of the capital are much better off than others.

“I don’t think that I’m going to lose money at all,” he said.

It will be the first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, according South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Choi, 48, who has been in the fried chicken business for 15 years, said he hired an ethnic Korean Chinese as the main cook for the Pyongyang outlet and taught him all his cooking know-how. About 20 North Koreans will also work at the restaurant and five scooters will be used for deliveries, he said.

Choi said he invested about 500 million won (US$551,339, ?382,264) in the joint venture with a North Korean trading firm that will take 30 percent of the profits from the business.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has relied on foreign food aid to feed the population for more than a decade since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy.

Relations between the two Koreas have improved significantly since their first-ever summit in 2000, spurring a series of exchange projects between the Cold War rivals that fought the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.

According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

South Koreans are making two very different attempts to improve the culinary life of impoverished North Koreans.

First, a South Korean fried chicken franchise will open the only foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, targeting family dining on special occasions.

Second, the labor union of a South Korean conglomerate has built a plant in Pyongyang to provide cheap corn noodles to northerners who suffer from food shortages.

Choi Won-ho, who runs Matdaero, a 70-store fried chicken franchise in the South, said yesterday he would open a restaurant in a joint venture with a North Korean state-run trading company, near the Arch of Triumph in central Pyongyang on Nov. 15.

The restaurant will both receive walk-in customers and deliver chicken and draft beer to homes. Such places are common in South Korea, but it will be the first chicken joint of its kind in North Korea.

Choi has invested 500 million won ($551,000) in the restaurant’s cooking facilities, interior decoration and delivery scooters. He will split the profit 70-30 with the North Korean firm.

Choi, 48, who has been a chicken entrepreneur for 15 years, said there should be sufficient demand despite North Korea being one of the world’s poorest countries, because he plans to offer lower prices to locals.

“I will charge about $3 for a whole chicken for North Koreans and at least $12, the same price as in South Korea, for tourists from the South and other countries,” Choi said yesterday by phone. “One whole chicken will be enough for a four-member family, so the price of $3 will not be too burdensome for special occasions.”

The store will hire about 20 North Koreans to take telephone orders, fry the birds and make home deliveries. It will have seating for 50.

Separately, the labor union of Hyundai Motor Company, Korea’s top automaker, said in a statement that it has completed an 1,800-square-meter corn-noodle plant in Pyongyang. The plant can produce two tons of corn noodles a day, it said.

Hyundai Motor’s 44,000 unionized workers agreed in August to help a South Korean humanitarian group build the noodle factory. Workers donated about 12,000 won each, 500 million won in total, for the facility.

“The plant will be a great help to relieve the food problems of North Koreans,” Chang Kyu-ho, a spokesman for the labor union, said. “Corn is a staple food for North Koreans.”

Read the full stories here:
Fried chicken franchise goes North
Joong Ang Daily
Moon So-young
11/3/2007

S Korean businessman to debut fried chicken at first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea
Reuters (Via DPRK Studies)
Jaesoon Chang
11/3/2007

Share

Kim chol-jin and the Economic Development Committee

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

ÝÁ °æÁ¦°³¹ß '¼ûÀº ½Ç¼¼' ±èöÁø ±¹°¡°æÁ¦°³¹ßÀ§ ºÎÀ§¿øÀå

Kim Chol-jin, the deputy chief of North Korea’s National Committee for Economic Development, is seen with North Korea head-of-state Kim Jong-un in Pyonyang’s water park (top left) and at the Masik Pass ski resort (top right). A Shanghai businessman uploaded the two lower pictures showing Kim meeting Chinese businessmen onto his blog in January 2012. (Yonhap)

According to the Korea Herald:

Kim Chol-jin is the newest influential economic policymaker in North Korea said analysts, after television images recently showed the bureaucrat accompanying head of state Kim Jong-un on multiple inspection rounds.

The North Korean Central News Agency broadcast images of Kim Chol-jin, the deputy chief of the National Committee for Economic Development, shadowing the North Korean leader to economically symbolic sites such as the Masik Pass ski resort last December. The ski resort opened last year as part of efforts to boost foreign tourism in the reclusive country.

“That deputy seat is actually closer to that of a minister here in the South,” said Ahn Chan-il, the head of the World North Korea Research Center. “He will likely have clout on North Korea’s economic policies.”

North Korea analysts expect Kim Chol-jin to spearhead much of the North’s recent economic plans to earn cash through foreign investment.

But the latest television images showing Kim Chol-jin do not include his immediate boss, the chief of the National Committee for Economic Development, implying that he is the de facto executive and his boss a mere figurehead, according to sources.

The deputy committee chief is an experienced trade official. He served at the North’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and at government agencies facilitating Chinese investment. Sources say he has extensive business connections in China and experience trading with South Korea in the mid-2000s.

Kim, along with Park Bong-ju [Pak Pong-ju], the Premier of North Korea and Roh Du-chol [Ro Tu-chol], head of the National Planning Commission, are expected to be the key members of North Korea’s economic policy team. North Korea experts consider Park and Roh to be market-orient reformists although one analyst voiced caution.

“Yes, (there) are changes on the margins, but they’re more for maintaining the current (political) system,” said Daniel Pinkston, the Deputy Project Director of the International Crisis Group’s North East Asia office.

The North’s economic development committee is the communist country’s key macroeconomic decision-making body. The committee oversees special economic zones, which lower taxes for foreign companies willing to invest there. Russia and China have been the main bidders.

Read the full story here:
New economic czar emerges in N. Korea
Korea Herald
Jeong Hunny
2014-2-3

Share

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.

Share

Social Science Institute on the DPRK’s Economic Development Zones

Monday, January 20th, 2014

According to the Hankyoreh:

The latest issue of the quarterly publication of North Korea’s Social Science Institute – published on Nov. 15, 2013, and viewed on Jan. 19 – included an article titled, “Major Issues Pertaining to Making the North Korean Economy Stronger by Establishing and Expanding Economic Development Zones.”

According to the North Korean article, there are five important tasks that must be accomplished if the new Zones are to be successful.

1. building infrastructure such as roads and railroads

2. enacting laws for the special economic zones that take into account the profit of the government and of investors

3. providing benefits for foreign investors

4. operating and managing projects in a way that is suitable to the characteristics of the zones

5. creating the right political and military environment

Read more here:
N. Korea connects politics and military to economic development
Hankyoreh
Choi Hyun-june
2014-1-20

Share

Economic Cooperation Office for Overseas Koreans

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

According to a recent article in Yonhap, the DPRK has established a new body to facilitate investments from overseas Koreans.

According to the article:

North Korea has established a government agency to facilitate investments in the communist nation by overseas Koreans, with its services to get into full swing by January, an official was quoted Sunday as saying.

Pyongyang established the “economic cooperation office for overseas Koreans” in August to provide support and guidance for investments from Koreans living overseas, the agency’s chief, Pak Kyong-jin, said in an interview with Minjoktongsin, a pro-North Korean website operated by a U.S.-based Korean.

The agency’s establishment is part of efforts to rebuild the economy, Pak said.

“An increasing number of overseas Koreans have been visiting the North to discuss investment issues. We have established the agency to handle these issues exclusively,” he was quoted as saying, adding that the agency will begin operation in earnest in January.

Pak said he would advise potential investors to focus on construction and light industries for the time being, rather than resources development projects that require massive amounts of capital.

I have been unable to locate any articles about this organization in KCNA or Naenara.

The DPRK also has the State Economic Development Commissio/Association for managing special economic zones/economic development zones (except for Hwanggumphyong, Rason, Kumgang, and Kaesong which have their own management committees), and the Joint Venture Investment Company for managing joint venture investments outside of the SEZs (presumably from non-Koreans). There is also a little known group called the Peach Economic Development Group which was recently announced. Their specific jurisdiction is unknown.

It is unclear what relationship (if any) this new organization has with these other offices.

You can read the full article here:
N. Korea establishes agency handling investments from overseas Koreans
Yonhap
2013-12-29

Share