Archive for the ‘Kaesong Industrial Zone’ 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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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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European business leaders tour Kaesong Industrial Complex

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

More than 40 European businessmen in South Korea traveled across the heavily fortified border into North Korea on Tuesday for a rare trip to an inter-Korean factory park amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a unification ministry official said.

A 42-member delegation of the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Seoul plan to tour facilities and South Korean factories in the North’s western border city of Kaesong before returning home later in the day, the official said.

The delegation includes officials of the German engineering giant Siemens AG and BMW, a premium German automaker. It also includes Swiss nationals and Austrians, according to the official.

Separately, about 40 South Korean business leaders from around the world also plan to visit the factory park in Kaesong on Friday, according to the unification ministry official.

In December, about two dozen officials from the world’s G-20 economies toured the Kaesong complex on the sidelines of their global financial meeting in Seoul.

The sprawling enclave in Kaesong is home to 120 small South Korean plants producing garments and other labor-intensive goods. More than 44,000 North Koreans work in the complex.

Read the full story here:
European businessmen visit inter-Korean factory park in N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-4-29

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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

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Kaesong Industrial Complex recovers to pre-halt level

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

NOTE: There is LIKELY a misplaced decimal in this story. Output in Dec. 2013 was worth $35.29 million, compared to $36.42 million a year earlier. Yonhap actually says $352.9 and $364.2 million.

According to Yonhap:

Operations at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong have almost recovered to their level before the park came to a sudden halt early last year, data showed on March 9.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex was shut down in early April 2013 after the North pulled out all of its workers at 123 South Korean firms. It reopened in September after Pyongyang agreed not to repeat such a suspension.

According to the data compiled by Seoul’s Ministry of Unification, the output of the firms in the park totaled US$352.9 million in December, slightly lower than the $364.2 million posted a year earlier.

Around 52,000 North Korean employees worked there as of the end of last year, compared to some 53,000 people in March 2013, the ministry said, adding that all South Korean companies, except one, had normal operations as of last week.

Trade volume between the two Koreas in January also reached some 94 percent of that recorded in the same month a year earlier at $168.87 million, the data showed.

In accordance with the so-called May 24 sanctions South Korea imposed on the North for its sinking of one of its warships in the Yellow Sea in 2010, economic exchanges unrelated to the park are banned.

“We’ve seen some progress in the inter-Korean agreement to strive to boost the park by focusing on the three issues of launching Internet services, simplifying the customs process, and making South Koreans’ access to the park easier,” a ministry official said.

As the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, the Kaesong complex has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped communist country.

Read the full story here:
Inter-Korean factory park recovers to pre-halt level
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 304 (March 13, 2014)
Yonhap
2014-3-13

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Labor Standards and South Korean Employment Practices in North Korea

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Marcus Noland and the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins have published an interesting report on South Korean labor practices in the DPRK.

You can download the report here (PDF). Noland’s blog post here.

You can watch the paper release talk:

Here is a summary of the paper:

By 2012, South Korean firms employed more than 50,000 workers in North Korea. Survey data indicate that the North Korean government has successfully circumscribed exposure of North Korean citizens both to South Koreans and to more market-oriented economic practices. South Korean investment in North Korea may well be beneficial both for the firms and the workers involved, but evidence of the sort of broader spillovers that proponents of engagement sometimes assert is not evident.

In the new USKI report, “Labor Standards and South Korean Employment Practices in North Korea,” Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Adjunct Professor of Korea Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS, examines key questions about the nature of South Korean employment practices in North Korea both inside and outside the Kaesong Industrial Complex and whether this interaction is likely to encourage North Korean economic transition. He also examines the international legal obligations of both Koreas to implement fair and equitable labor standards and suggests ways to encourage better labor practices by South Korean government and firms in North Korea.

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2013 Inter-Korean trade

Monday, February 24th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Trade between South and North Korea fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations, data showed Sunday.

Inter-Korean trade reached US$1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year’s $1.98 billion, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

South Korean exports to the North nose-dived 41.1 percent on-year to $531.8 million, with imports from the communist country sinking 42.5 percent to $617.2 million.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade volume was the lowest since 2005, when the figure came to $1.06 billion.

In contrast to the plunge in trade with South Korea, the North’s trade with China, its chief ally and largest benefactor, jumped 10.4 percent on-year to a record high of $6.54 billion last year, according to the data.

Between 2009 and 2014, North Korea’s trade volume with China, the world’s second-largest economy, had been growing an annual average of more than 40 percent, the data showed.

 

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Inter-Korean trade fell to 18 percent of the North’s trade with China, the lowest since 2005.

South Korea’s imports of textile goods and electric and electronic products from the North fell 45 percent and 43 percent, while the North’s imports of mineral and textile products from China increased 15 percent and 33 percent.

Of course inter-Korean trade was down due to the DPRK’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Once the complex was reopened, trade began to recover.

More on China-DPRK trade in 2013 here.

Read the full stories here:
Inter-Korean trade hits 8-year low in 2013
Yonhap
2014-2-23

N.Korean Trade with China Grows
Choson Ilbo
2014-2-24

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A new electronic entry system launched for the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-2-6

A pilot operation of the new electronic entry system, or radio frequency identification system (RFID), to facilitate the travel to and from the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was completed on January 15 and pilot operation began from January 28, 2014.

According to a Ministry of Unification (MOU) official, “The construction of the system began from December 11 last year and it was completed this month on the 15th. The trial operation period will begin from the 28th.”

The RFID system was agreed upon last September at the second meeting of the South-North Joint Committee for the Kaesong Industrial Complex in order to improve the South Korean companies’ access to the KIC.

The new RFID system will replace the paper document inspection with an electronic card system and personnel screening will be reduced to 5 seconds from 13 seconds while vehicle screening time will be reduced to 7 seconds from 15 seconds.

In particular, the reduced inspection time will facilitate the travel and ease the heavy traffic during Monday mornings and Friday afternoons: for personnel screenings, from 17 minutes to 5 minutes; for vehicle inspections, from 19 minutes to 8 minutes.

However, the existing personnel and vehicle access to the KIC which requires a 3-day advance notice still remains in effect, and the mobility of personnel and vehicles will still be strictly monitored and chaperoned by the North Korean military.

On the other hand, the fourth round of the sub-panel meeting was held on January 24 to discuss the operation of the RFID system, Internet connectivity, and simplification of customs process at the KIC.

In regards to the streamlining of the customs process, the two countries agreed to change it from ‘complete’ to ‘selective’ examination, but differences still remain over the ratio to be applied to the selective probe.

As for the issue of Internet connection, it is still in the infant stage and the two sides agreed to resume the negotiation on February 7.

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