Archive for the ‘Special Economic Zones’ Category

Pyongyang Times: Tourism regulations in EDZ instituted

Monday, February 15th, 2016

According to the Pyongyang Times (2016-2-15):

Tourism regulations in EDZ instituted

The government has set new regulations to control tourism in the economic development zones.

Tourism regulations were adopted by decision No. 90 of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly on December 23 2015.

The regulations containing 32 articles in five chapters are applicable to EDZs established for tourism.

The DPRK citizens, overseas Koreans and foreigners can tour EDZs in various styles and methods including visit, sightseeing, vacation, amusement, sports, experiencing and medical treatment.

Personal safety, human rights and property of tourists in EDZs are protected by the law of the DPRK.

Management of tourism is undertaken by the managing authorities of EDZs.

The zones encourage planned development and protection of tourism resources such as scenic attractions, historic relics and remains and natural monuments.

Investors can invest, establish and run businesses in such fields of travel, lodging, restaurant, amusement, welfare services, production and sale of souvenirs and development of tourism resources in the zones with the approval of the management authorities of EDZs.

In case of establishing a travel company in the zones, license of the central tourism guidance organ should be gained through the management authorities. After receiving the license, the travel company should register its business with the management authorities and receive business registration certificate.

When an investor wants to set up and run a tourism service business in EDZs, he or she should obtain the approval of the management authorities following relevant regulations.

Tourists who want to travel EDZs should apply for tourism directly or via local and foreign travel companies outside relevant EDZs.

Anyone, who did any harm to personal safety, health and property of tourists, failed to provide proper service obliged by contracts, destroyed tourism resources or caused any damage to businesses and individuals, bears such civil liabilities as to restore them to their original state, or pay compensation, penalty and arrears.

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2016 closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Friday, February 12th, 2016

UPDATE 7 (2016-5-12): Yonhap offers some postmortem statistics on the Kaesong  Industrial Complex:

The total value of products churned out from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea reached US$3.23 billion in the 11 years of its operations before it was shut down earlier this year, a report by South Korea’s unification ministry said Thursday.

The joint factory park that began production in 2005 as part of a deal reached between the leaders of the two countries in June 2000, had been the last remaining economic link between the two countries. On Feb. 10, Seoul announced the closure of the joint venture as punishment for North Korea’s defiant nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch in February.

The ministry’s white paper said in 2015, the annual production volume reached its peak at $563.3 million. Last year also marked the first time yearly production numbers exceeded the $500 million threshold, data showed.

In the first year of operations in 2005, the corresponding number stood at $14.9 million before it grew steadily to $323.3 million in 2010 and $469.5 million in 2012, according to the findings.

A four-month suspension of operations, amid escalating inter-Korean tensions, caused annual production to drop to $223.8 million in 2013 before numbers rebounded to $470 million the following year.

As of the end of 2015, a total of 54,988 North Koreans were employed at the factory park designed to combine South Korea’s capital and the North’s cheap labor force. The numbers marked a growth of more than 1,000 workers from a year earlier.

Spurred by last year’s biggest-ever production at the factory, trade volume between the South and the North reached $2.71 billion, the highest figure recorded to date, the white paper also showed.

The brisk performance helped push up the number of travelers between the countries in 2015, with the figure rising to an eight-year high of 132,101.

The unification ministry’s report then said South Korea’s humanitarian assistance to the North soared to a six-year high of 25.4 billion won (US$21.8 million) in 2015.

In the same year, the number of North Koreans defecting to the South reached 1,276 last year, the smallest tally since 2001 when the figure stood at 1,043, according to the ministry.

The annual addition of North Korean defectors took the total population of North Korean defectors in South Korea up to 28,795 as of the end of last year, with about 70 percent of them being women.

“Based on the principle of maintaining solid security, the government has strived to normalize South-North relations and bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the ministry said in assessment of its performance in 2015.

“The government is keeping the Kaesong factory park venture closed and taking stringent sanctions in collaboration with the international community,” the ministry said, denouncing North Korea’s defiant nuclear test in January that was followed by numerous military threats.

UPDATE 6 (2016-2-24): Korean firms claim huge losses from factory shutdown. According to Yonhap:

South Korean firms based in a jointly run industrial park in a North Korean border city have suffered more than 815 billion won (US$660 million) in losses from its shutdown, their association claimed Wednesday.

Earlier this month, North Korea expelled South Korean workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex and froze the assets of companies operating there, a day after the South suspended operations in retaliation for Pyongyang’s rocket launch.

The shutdown of the industrial park, regarded as the top achievement of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation efforts, is feared to deal a heavy blow to the South Korean firms involved.

A total of 124 South Korean companies have been operating in the zone, some 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul, employing more than 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and utensils.

The estimated financial damage breaks down to some 569 billion won in investment and facilities, and some 245 billion won in inventory.

The association said any potential losses stemming from compensation to their customers and the stoppage of their operations was not included in the tally.

According to the association, 49 companies largely rely on their factories in the industrial park for their production. “Actual damage should be counted more accurately, and will be revealed later,” it said.

South Korean companies at the inter-Korean industrial park have been urging their government to roll out full support measures as their losses from the park’s shutdown are unimaginable.

When the industrial park was closed in 2013 for 160 days, South Korean firms reported a combined loss of 1.05 trillion won.

The companies, however, claim the actual damage will be greater considering the loss of business partners and credibility.

“We strongly demand that the government fully compensate our losses in investment and other assets as insurance coverage is very limited,” it said.

In order to minimize South Korean firms’ possible losses, the country’s financial regulator earlier said it would provide financial aid to the firms operating there.

The complex, which opened in 2004, had served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea had benefited from cheap but skilled North Korean labor.

The complex had been recognized as an exception to Seoul’s sanctions against Pyongyang designed to punish it for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010.

UPDATE 5 (2016-2-12): Seoul cuts off power supplies to factory park in North Korea (AP)

South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals.

UPDATE 4 (2016-2-11): NK Leadership Watch posts CPRK statement.

UPDATE 3 (2016-2-11): North Korea freezes Gaeseong assets, expels South Korean workers (Korea Herald)

At about 10 p.m., the South Korean government confirmed that all of the 280 South Korean workers who had been at the facility returned home safely.

“The frozen equipment, materials and products will be managed by the committee of Gaeseong people,” Pyongyang’s statement said prior to the workers’ return to South Korea.

“From 10 p.m. (10:30 p.m., South Korean time) on Feb. 11, (the North) will seal off the industrial park and nearby military demarcation line, shut the western overland route and declare the park as a military off-limit zone.”

The South Korean firms operating in the complex sent one truck each to Gaeseong to bring to the South their finished products, production materials, equipment and other belongings, while Seoul authorities vowed to try their utmost to minimize possible damages to firms.

An additional 130 South Koreans entered the complex to prepare for the suspension of factory operations. There were 70 more South Koreans in the park from the previous day as more workers were sent to carry out the government’s withdrawal instructions.

Apparently in line with Pyongyang’s instructions, North Korean workers did not show up at the park, Seoul officials said. Some 55,000 North Korean workers worked at the complex through which Pyongyang raked in around $100 million annually.

UPDATE 2 (2016-2-11): North Korea to Freeze South’s Assets at Kaesong Industrial Park (New York Times)

North Korea said on Thursday that it would freeze all South Korean assets at a joint industrial complex the South shut down to retaliate for a recent nuclear test and a rocket launch by the North.

It also ordered all 248 South Korean managers in the factory park in the North Korean town of Kaesong expelled by 5 p.m. on Thursday, allowing them to return home with only their personal belongings. The North said it would sever all communication across the border after the last of the South Koreans left.

In addition, it said it was shutting down the only cross-border highway open between the two Koreas. The road has linked South Korea with the factory park since 2004, when it began operations just over the western inter-Korean border. The zone will return to the control of the North Korean military, it said.


South Korea’s action was “a declaration of an end to the last lifeline of the North-South relations” and “driving the situation in the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war,” said a statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a North Korean government agency in charge of relations with the South.

“The South Korean puppet group will experience what disastrous and painful consequences will be entailed by its action,” it said, calling the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, “a traitor for all ages.”

The corridor linking Kaesong and Seoul, the South Korean capital, was the main invasion route for North Korean troops during the 1950-53 Korean War and was at one time the most heavily guarded section of the 155-mile border.

After a historic inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000 in which the two sides agreed to promote reconciliation, the hard-line North Korean People’s Army grudgingly stepped aside as South Korean engineers removed barbed-wire fences, tank traps and minefields to build the highway across the border.

The Kaesong complex began as a pilot project to combine South Korean manufacturing skills with cheap North Korean labor. Eventually, more than 45,000 North Koreans worked for 123 South Korean-owned factories there. The plants produced more than $515 million worth of textiles, electronic parts and other labor-intensive goods last year, according to the South Korean government.

UPDATE 1 (2016-2-10):  South Korea Takes a Stand, Closes Kaesong Industrial Complex (RFA)

Until Wednesday, Kaesong was one of the few instances where the two countries cooperate.

Established in 2004, the industrial park is the last remnant of former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung’s Sunshine Policy, which also led to a historic summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000.

While Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for implementing the Sunshine Policy, his legacy was dismantled in 2010 when South Korea’s Unification Ministry declared the policy a failure.

Closing Kaesong now snuffs out what remains of North-South cooperation and closes a window through which some North Koreans could get a taste of life in the south, Lankov said.

“I have supported the continued operation of the Kaesong complex because of the enormous effects of South Korean Choco Pie cookies on the North Korean workers, which the North Korean regime banned distribution of some time ago,” Lankov said.

“The Kaesong Industrial Complex has served as sort of a window through which its North Korean workers can get a glimpse of life in South Korea,” he added.

Labeled a special administrative industrial region of North Korea, Kaesong operated as a collaborative economic development zone that hosts South Korean companies attracted by its access to cheap labor. Kaesong is only six miles inside North Korea, with direct rail and highway access to the south.

The industrial park has been controversial in South Korea, as some conservative South Koreans argue that it extends a lifeline to the North Korean leadership, undermining United Nations sanctions.

Kaesong has been closed before.

In 2013, North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers from the plant in a show of strength during an earlier time of rising tensions between the two nations. At the time, North Korea said it “gets few economic benefits from the zone while the South side largely benefits from it.”

While the earlier closure did not last, the closure announced Wednesday looks set to become permanent.

ORIGINAL POST: Here is a statement from the Ministry of Unification:

Government Statement regarding the Complete Shutdown of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex

North Korea has pushed ahead with the extremely provocative act of launching a long-range missile on the heels of its 4th nuclear test, showing disregard for the repeated warnings of the international community and the suffering of its people.

North Korea’s provocations are a direct challenge to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community and its actions are absolutely unacceptable. Notwithstanding international efforts to deter North Korea from developing its nuclear capabilities and long-range missiles,

North Korea has declared that it would follow up on its recent provocations with additional nuclear tests and missile launches, thereby not even showing the slightest intent to forgo the development of its nuclear and missile capabilities.

The status quo is not static, as North Korea’s nuclear capabilities will be upgraded, all but leading to a catastrophic disaster. If left unattended, North Korea’s nuclear and missile development will lead to a fundamental imbalance in and threat to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, not to mention the Korean Peninsula, and the countries of this region will be left with no choice but to take measures to ensure their own survival and shore up their security, and there are concerns that this could eventually even lead to a nuclear domino effect.

Under these grave circumstances, it is clear that the existing approach will not work in discomfiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile development plans. Accordingly, what is in order is a vigorous response together with the international community that, for sure, exacts a price for North Korea’s misguided actions, as well as extraordinary measures that compel North Korea to give up its nuclear capabilities and change its ways.

At a time when the international community is seeking sanctions in the wake of North Korea’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions with its nuclear test and long-range missile launch, there is a need for Korea, as a key party, to show leadership in taking part in these moves.

Over the years, our Government has been working to continue maintaining the Gaeseong Industrial Complex despite North Korea’s repeated provocations and under extreme state of affairs, all with a view to assisting the lives of the North Korean people, providing impetus to lifting up the North Korean economy, and achieving the shared progress for both South and North Korea. We have also made every effort to move the Gaeseong Industrial Complex forward under the position that it should be developed in conformity with international norms.

However, such assistance and the efforts of our Government have ultimately been wrongly harnessed in the service of upgrading North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

To date, the total amount of cash that flowed into North Korea through the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is 616 billion won (560 million dollars), with 132 billion won (120 million dollars) in cash having flowed into North Korea last year alone, and the Government and the private sector have invested a total of 1.019 trillion won. It appears that such funds have not been used to pave the way to peace as the international community had hoped, but rather to upgrade its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

This tramples on the efforts of the Korean Government and the 124 businesses that have set up shop in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, and puts at risk the lives and safety of the Korean people.

Today, in order to stop funds of the Gaeoseong Industrial Complex from being used to support the development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, and to prevent our businesses from suffering, the Government has decided to completely shut down the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

We have notified the North Korean authorities of this decision and called on them to extend such cooperation as is rendered necessary by the complete shutdown of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, including the safe return of our citizens.

The Government will move expeditiously forward with all steps to ensure the safe return of our citizens, and will set up a Government Task Force under the Office for Government Policy Coordination to provide the necessary whole-of-government assistance to our businesses.

We ask for the full understanding of our people that the Government’s complete shutdown of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is an unavoidable decision, which takes into account the seriousness of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and we call upon the people to stand with us as we seek to overcome such challenges.

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How bad is the Kaesong shutdown for the North Korean Economy?

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

The Ministry of Unification in Seoul announced today that the industrial park in Kaesong be closed as a form of retaliation for North Korea’s recent rocket launch, alleging that funds from the park have been used to finance the north’s arms buildup. Wall Street Journal (with my emphasis):

A representative of South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the move to shut down Kaesong was an effort by South Korea, “as a key party, to show leadership in taking part in these moves.”

Kaesong is an important source of income for Pyongyang. The regime received $120 million last year, and a total of $560 million since 2004, in workers’ wages directly from the South Korean side, according to the Unification Ministry. Those payments are made directly to the regime, which is then charged with paying the workers themselves, a system that critics say allows the regime to pocket most of the money.

“It appears that such funds have not been used to pave the way to peace as the international community had hoped, but rather to upgrade its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles,” the Unification Ministry said on Wednesday.

Naturally, this is bad news for the North Korean economy. But how bad exactly?

Here are a few other figures to give some sense of the proportions:

  • The volume of trade between North Korea and China only in the January-May period of last year totalled $1.1 billion, with North Korean exports accounting for $954 million.
  • Between January and November last year, the value of North Korea’s exports to China was $2.28 billion.
  • Textile exports to China from North Korea brought in around $800 million in 2014.
  • North Korean guest workers in China’s border provinces are estimated to be raising between $140-$170 million per year.

In the overall context, it seems like losses from the closure of Kaesong could be potentially bad, but not catastrophic.

 

 

Full reference to the Wall Street Journal article quoted above:
South Korea, Japan Take Steps to Penalize North Korea
Wall Street Journal 
Jonathan Cheng
02-10-2016

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Labour regulations in EDZ modified

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

According to the Pyongyang Times (2016-2-3):

The DPRK has modified its labour regulations for the economic development zones, which were worked out according to a decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly on December 12 2013.

According to them, a foreign investment business is encouraged to employ local manpower as much as possible but it may hire foreign management staff, specialists and technicians.

The fixed monthly minimum wage is set by the central agency for the special economic zones guidance in consultation with relevant provincial-level people’s committees and EDZ management agencies.

An employee is supposed to work 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week on average.

A business shall make sure that employees take rests on local holidays and Sundays.

The forms of payment to the employees involve wage, incentives and bonuses.

According to the quality and amount of work, payment should be done correctly and employees who have carried out the same amount of work are to be paid evenly on an equal footing irrespective of gender and age.

The monthly wage is up to a business. In this case, it cannot be set lower than the fixed minimum wage.

While making preparations to start operation, a business may set the salary for employees, apprentices and unskilled hands within the scope of over 70 per cent of the fixed minimum wage.

A business shall pay for its employees’ regular and supplementary leaves in accordance with the number of their days off.

Female staff on maternity leave shall be paid over 60 per cent of the leave allowances.

If a business works an employee while on leave, it shall pay him or her the equivalent of 100 per cent of the wage per day or hour, as well as their leave allowances.

A business shall give supplementary living allowances that account for over 60 per cent of their wages per day or hour to those who are under training or out of work due to the management.

When it works an employee late at night or overtime, the business shall pay him or her 150 per cent of the wage per day or hour.

If the work is done overtime late at night, 200 per cent of the wage per day or hour shall be given to the worker.

If a business works an employee on holidays or Sundays without compensatory days off, it should pay 200 per cent of the wage per day or hour.

The wage is given in cash, and the bonuses and incentives may be paid in the form of notes or goods.

The DPRK citizens and their families in the EDZ are to benefit from the social and cultural policies of the government, namely free education and medical service, social insurance and social security.

If any breach causes damages to the lives, health and properties of a business or employee, it shall be restored to their original state or compensated duly for the damages.

By Cha Myong Chol PT

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Insurance products promoted to target foreign investment enterprises

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea is promoting insurance products targeted at foreign-investment companies with increasing efforts to attract foreign capital through special economic zones.

On January 19, 2016, the state-run Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) made an official announcement on its website on new insurance products for the economic development zones. It announced that KNIC is promoting various insurance products to protect life and property for foreign investment companies, including fire insurance and accident liability insurance for gas accidents, third party automobile liability insurance, and third party construction liability insurance.

In addition, KNIC announced that it will offer a variety of insurance products according to personal and business demands. The website elaborated, “in order to meet the growing insurance need in the economic development zones, KNIC is introducing development of various insurance products and to realize the international insurance trends and the diversification of the insurance sector to ensure the prompt insurance coverage to remain as credible institution among foreign companies.”

The KNIC first began to operate fire, automobile, gas accident liability insurances to tenant companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex from 2005.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) adopted the insurance regulation along with property regulation for the Economic Development Zone (EDZ) last July. The insurance regulation consisted of four chapters and 52 articles, but specific details were not disclosed. However, details on insurance contracts, insurance offices, as well as installation and operation of the insurance office were revealed.

Previously, North Korea enacted new EDZ laws in May 29, 2013 which guaranteed special privileges for economic activities conducted in special economic zones as specified in the law. On November 6, 2013, three EDZ Operational Regulations were adopted (management institutional regulations, establishment regulations, and business establishment and operational regulations) by the Presidium of the SPA.

This new property insurance policies and regulations appear as a new measure to ensure added legal protection to improve investment environment of foreign capital from the three existing operating regulations.

In February 2015, Ri Sun Hak, department director of the Ministry of External Economic Relations, stated in an interview with the KCNA, “Our country is fully equipped with the legal environment to protect the legitimate rights and interests of investors.” The news also depicted ‘foreign investment law,’ ‘economic development law,’ and ‘external economic arbitration law’ were newly enacted or revised. The foreign investment laws was revised to streamline investment formalities and to provide various services for foreign-investment companies.

However, the question still remains as to gauge the effectiveness of North Korea’s insurance operations. As the international community, including the UN Security Council, is likely to impose stronger sanctions to condemn North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, the solvency of North Korea’s insurance companies remains uncertain and unreliable.

In addition, the KNIC’s Germany branch and President So Tong Myong (Seo Dong-Myung) are both on the EU’s list of sanctions, which is likely to act as an impeding factor for smooth insurance operations. The EU listed six KNIC senior employees to the sanctions list subject to an EU-wide asset freeze and travel ban.

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North Korea’s H-Bomb Test: The (Impossible) Economic Context

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Who decides what in Pyongyang? Do fierce political battles rage between hardliners and reformers, where the former group struggles to replace nuclear belligerence with liberal market economics and trade? Whenever a purge or suspicious death occurs in Pyongyang, speculations come alive about potential policy changes by the regime.

It is a fool’s errand to make guesses about how North Korea’s claimed (but unlikely) hydrogen bomb test fits into the speculative dichotomy of modernizers versus conservatives. After all, such simple divisions are rare in the political life of any country. But looking at the test in the context of the past year makes it clear that Pyongyang is pursuing a messy mix of policies that are mutually exclusive.

At the same time as one “hand” of the regime attempts to draw foreign investment, diversify its investor base to include other countries than China, and take its industrial zones from plans to reality, the other “hand” is actively working against economic progress by nuclear tests and diplomatic belligerence. Either the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, or it does, but just doesn’t want it to succeed.

Perhaps this is the way that Byungjin – Kim Jong-un’s strategy of parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy – was intended to work. (If so, the regime seems to be dedicating much more resources and energy to the nuclear part, while the economic one still mostly consists of words.) In any case, Pyongyang is trying to achieve two goals at the same time, and it isn’t working.

For example, in 2013, the North Korean regime announced the creation of over ten special economic zones, with more added in both 2014 and 2015. Progress has been uneven. Still, the North Korean regime has continuously indicated that the zones are a priority and will continue to be improved. Just in November last year, new regulations were announced for the special economic zones. Visitors and analysts report that elite businesses have been doing better and better in North Korea, and that the economic environment has become increasingly freer.

Whatever the list of Pyongyang’s priorities may look like, January 6th was not a good day for those North Koreans tasked with planning, building and administering the country’s special economic zones and projects. North Korea is already an unlikely destination for most foreign investors. Many low-wage competitors already sit relatively close by the country, such as Vietnam and Cambodia. North Korea’s comparative advantages are really quite few. Things are already difficult and the claimed H-bomb test certainly won’t help.

The international sanctions are just one part of the problem. Even with knowledge of what the current sanctions regime permits investors to do, the test is a stark reminder that legal hurdles will keep being added as nuclear and missile tests continue. This should deter any investor without special connections, political motives or a financial death wish. Not to mention the terrible PR and public criticism that would follow any (at least western) company deciding to invest in North Korea.

And then, there is of course the China factor. Sure, Beijing doesn’t comply with sanctions the way it is obligated to do. Moreover, as the Choson Exchange blog points out, North Korean and Chinese businesses tend to find a way to get around the sanctions. Last but not least, to a large extent, Chinese investment and cooperation with North Korea is a regional issue, with much of it driven by the northeastern border regions that depend on trade and exchange with the country.

But this doesn’t mean that Beijing won’t ever take concrete action felt by Pyongyang. China’s worries about North Korea’s nuclear tests are arguably more warranted than those of any other country. Residents in Yanji, a Chinese city on the North Korean border, even felt tremors from the bomb test, and teachers and students were reportedly evacuated from schools near the border. A trend is only a trend until it is no more. At the very least, events like the nuclear test don’t exactly make Chinese officials more prone to want to facilitate economic cooperation and infrastructure investments for North Korea.

It’s almost painful to think of all those hours spent in the North Korean administration, drawing up plans for new economic development zones and projects, new laws for investments and other institutional changes to improve the economy, only to see their colleagues in another part of government work in the opposite direction. If (and this is a big “if”) there are indeed policy factions in the government, with modernizers and conservatives, the latter have scored a victory on January 6th, at the expense of the former.

UPDATE 2015-01-07: James Pearson and Ju-Min Park at Reuters have done a very interesting overview (with Michael Madden of NK Leadership Watch) of the people behind North Korea’s nuclear program. It’s an important illustration of the fact that interest groups are not just a thing of business, but also of politics and ideas. Read it here.

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The Kaesong Industrial Complex and inter-Korean tensions (2015)

Monday, December 21st, 2015

UPDATE 5 (2015-12-24): Koreas reach deal on land use fee at Kaesong complex. According to Yonhap:

South and North Korea have reached an agreement on the land use fee amount for South Korean firms operating a joint industrial park across the border, the Unification Ministry announced Thursday.

The deal calls for South Korean firms at Kaesong Industrial Complex to pay US$0.64 per square meter every year, it said.

The complex in the North’s border city of Kaesong opened in 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. A total of 124 South Korean firms are running factories with about 54,000 North Koreans working in them.

Kaesong has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea has benefited from cheap but skilled North Korean labor.

The South’s firms were exempted from land use fees for a decade under a 2004 deal. The two sides launched talks over the issue again in late 2014.

“The government hopes that the agreement will help South Korean firms focus on their businesses in a stable manner,” said a ministry official, asking not to be named.

The North initially claimed that the South should pay $1 per square meter for all areas that were supposed to be developed under the 2004 agreement, according to an industry source.

But Seoul insisted that it will pay only around half of the North’s offered price for the land that the South’s firms are actually using. They are currently using about 25 percent of the 1 million square meter land.

“The government hopes that the two Koreas could resolve other pending issues related to the operation of the factory zone through dialogue,” the official added.

The operation of the complex has been affected by the ups and downs of inter-Korean ties. In April 2013, the North abruptly suspended the operation of the complex for about five months, citing inter-Korean tensions.

Ending a months-long wage dispute, the two sides agreed in August to raise the minimum wage for the North’s workers by 5 percent to US$73.87 per month.

UPDATE 4 (2015-12-21): North and South Korea cannot agree on land use fees. According to Yonhap:

South and North Korea have been sharply divided over how much South Korean firms operating at a joint industrial park in the North should pay for land use, government officials said Monday.

The two Koreas are in talks over the payment by 124 South Korean firms over land use fees at Kaesong Industrial Complex where about 54,000 North Koreans are working, according to the officials at the Unification Ministry.

The complex in the North’s border city of Kaesong was opened in 2004 as a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. It has served as a major revenue source for the cash-strapped North, while South Korea has utilized cheap but skilled North Korean laborers.

The South has been exempted from land use fees for a decade, but the measure is set to expire this year.

The North claims that the South should pay US$1 per square meter for the total land that was supposed to be developed under the 2004 deal, according to an industry source.

But Seoul insists that it would pay around half of the North’s offered price for only the land that the South’s firms are currently using.

“The two sides are seriously involved in talks over the matter,” said a ministry official, declining to elaborate.

On Nov. 4, North Korea denied the entry of two South Koreans to the factory park amid speculation that it may be trying to gain leverage in the talks on the land use fee.

Two days later, the North averted its ban on the entry of the two including a vice chairman of the South’s committee on the inter-Korean facilities.

Ending a months-long wage dispute, the two Koreas agreed in August to raise the minimum wage for the North’s workers by 5 percent to US$73.87 per month.

UPDATE 3 (2015-8-25): Yonhap with additional information on the agreement:

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said Tuesday that an inter-Korean deal struck earlier in the day marks the first time that North Korea had expressed regret over its provocations.

In the agreement, the North “expressed regret” over the recent injury of South Korean soldiers in the explosion of land mines laid by North Korea in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

“It is the first time that the North offered an apology and expressed regret after using the subject of North Korea (in its statement),” Hong said at the ruling Saenuri Party’s workshop.

“The biggest strength that led to this meaningful agreement was that the people stayed together,” Hong said.

The South also technically secured the North’s promise not to repeat such an attack, putting a clause into the deal that it will resume loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the DMZ if an “abnormal case” occurs.

“When North Korea did not show responsibility or demanded something unfair during the course of the dialogue and the negotiation, I mostly used a phrase that said ‘the people are watching,'” Hong said.

UPDATE 2 (2015-8-25): South Korean business community welcomes deal. According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s business community welcomed a landmark deal Tuesday on defusing inter-Korean tensions, pledging to rev up efforts to expand economic ties with North Korea.

After days of intensive high-level talks, the Koreas agreed to ease tensions sparked by Pyongyang’s landmine attack that injured two South Korean soldiers early this month.

Calling the agreement a great relief, the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), the lobby for South Korea’s family-run conglomerates, said it will push ahead with overall plans for boosting economic cooperation with North Korea

“North Korea’s latest provocations were a source of concern because they could hamper inter-Korean economic cooperation,” an FKI official said. “We are greatly relieved at the news.”

Although it’s unlikely that Seoul-Pyongyang economic cooperation will make immediate headway, the FKI will gradually go ahead with the necessary steps, including the establishment of economic offices in the capitals of both Koreas, he added.

The agreement also came as good news to South Korean firms currently doing business at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

“The firms underwent a lot of troubles amid the worsened relations between the two Koreas, so (now that they have reached a deal,) we are hoping for improved business conditions down the road,” said Jeong Gi-seob, chairman of the association of 124 South Korean small and medium-sized companies operating at the zone.

The South Korean companies operate factories at the industrial park, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, employing about 54,000 North Korean workers.

The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) also promised to play its part in promoting economic relations with the North following the latest agreement.

“The business community will redouble efforts to lay the practical groundwork for the mutual development of the two Koreas,” a KCCI official said. “We also hope that a thaw in inter-Korean relations will lead to more exchange as well as the normalization of economic ties.”

UPDATE 1 (2015-8-24): The North and South Koreans have agreed to a solution to the situation. According to KCNA via Yonhap:

1. The north and the south agreed to hold talks between their authorities in Pyongyang or Seoul at an early date to improve the north-south ties and have multi-faceted dialogue and negotiations in the future.

2. The north side expressed regret over the recent mine explosion that occurred in the south side’s area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), wounding soldiers of the south side.

3. The south side will stop all loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the MDL from 12:00, August 25 unless an abnormal case occurs.

4. The north side will lift the semi-war state at that time.

5. The north and the south agreed to arrange reunions of separated families and relatives from the north and the south on the occasion of the Harvest Moon Day this year and continue to hold such reunions in the future, too and to have a Red Cross working contact for it early in September.

6. The north and the south agreed to vitalize NGO exchanges in various fields.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-8-20): The two Korea’s literally just finished hammering out a new agreement on “wages” for North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex. However, with the ink barely dried, a new round of escalating conflict between the Koreas is affecting operations at the KIC…

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Friday it will limit the entry of its nationals into a joint industrial park in North Korea following the exchange of artillery fire between the two sides.

The Unification Ministry said it will only permit South Korean businessmen directly involved in the operation of factories at the Kaesong Industrial Park to enter the complex.

But other South Koreans, including those working at subcontractors, will not be allowed to move in and out of the complex in the North’s border city of the same name, the ministry said.

South Korea fired back at North Korea on Thursday following the North’s firing of shells at a South Korean front-line military unit in the western area of the heavily fortified border. No damage was reported.

A total of 124 South Korean small and medium-size enterprises operate factories at the industrial park, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation. About 54,000 North Koreans work there.

South Korean businessmen safely returned to the South from the complex on Thursday despite the North’s provocation.

The ministry said it has taken measures to ensure the safety of South Koreans who are temporarily staying in the North.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to partially ban entry into joint industrial park
Yonhap
2015-8-20

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Rajin – South Korea water shipment

Monday, December 7th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

Containers carrying bottled water produced near North Korea arrived in South Korea on Monday via a North Korean port as part of a three-way logistics project involving the two Koreas and Russia, government officials said.

Ten containers full of bottled water produced at Erdaobaihe in northeastern China arrived at Busan, South Korea’s southeastern port city, earlier in the day after leaving from the North Korean city of Rajin bordering Russia, officials said.

The mineral water was produced at a factory run by Nongshim, South Korea’s largest noodle maker, in Erdaobaihe, a town close to Mount Baekdu in North Korea, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula.

The shipment is part of the two Koreas’ third pilot operation of the project, which calls for shipping some 120,000 tons of Russian coal to three South Korean ports from the North Korean port city of Rajin.

The coal, which was transported from Russia’s border city of Khasan on a re-connected railway, arrived in South Korea in late November.

The so-called Rajin-Khasan logistics project is a symbol of three-way cooperation and an exception to Seoul’s punitive sanctions against Pyongyang following the North’s deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010.

In November 2014, the first shipment carrying 40,500 tons of Russian coal arrived in South Korea without incident in the first test run of the project. The second test was conducted in April.

The project is also part of President Park Geun-hye’s vision for a united Eurasia, known as the Eurasia Initiative, which calls for linking energy and logistics infrastructure across Asia and Europe.

Read the full story here:
Containers carrying bottled water arrive in S. Korea via N. Korean port
Yonhap
2015-12-7

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Sinuiju International Economic Zone

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

No sooner do I publish an article on the Sinuiju International Economic Zone (read it here at 38 North) than the DPRK releases more information on it.

In the December issue of Foreign Trade (2015 No.4), the DPRK includes information on the zone, including this map:

Sinuiju-SEZ-Foreign-Trade-2015-4-scan

UPDATE: Dr. Haggard uploaded a nicer version of the image which you can see here.

The map indicates that the downtown area of Sinuiju and the western coast down to the new Amnok River Bridge will constitute the first phase of development. Space has been allocated for trade, industry, sewage, warehousing, and other designated areas. The map also indicates a new road is to be built linking the Wihwado Economic Zone (to the north east of the Sinuiju SEZ) with the new Yalu River Bridge (which has yet to be opened for business) and Ryongchon County.

Here is a satellite image of the specific areas being designated for the first phase of the zone with proposed roads added for visual effect:

Sinuiju-SEZ-Google-Earth-2015-12-1

This is what the article had to say about the zone:

Sinuiju International Economic Zone

Located in a border area, the zone has a bright prospect for the development of water and marine transport. Its development area is 40km2.

The Zone is a flat area composed of deposits of organic fine sand in the mouth of the Amnok. The average height of ground inside the bank is 45m, geomorphology is 0-.7% and the average height above the sea level is up to 100m.

Its annual average duration of sunshine 2,427 hours, annual percentage of sunshine is 58% and annual average precipitation is 1001.5 mm.

The first and second annual main winds are northeast and and north winds respectively. It has the northeast and north winds in winter and southwest wind in summer in the main.

The Sinuiju International Economic Zone will provide opportunity for bonded processing, bonded transportation, trade and financial business, tourism, hi-tech industry, and various other business activities.

To this end, it is planned to develop the zone into a comprehensive economic zone with a large-sized latest IT industry area, competitive production area, exports processing area, cargo area, trade and financial area, public service area, tourist area and a bonded port, and into an international city with an airport and trade port.

Encompassing the whole of Sinuiju and two ri surrounding it, the zone is already furnished with infrastructure. However, it is necessary to upgrade the existing infrastructure and expand its capacity and build in its suburbs on a preferential basis.

The items of the construction of infrastructure include port, airport, railways, roads, power station, heating, and gas-supply system, telecommunications (international, domestic, mobile and computer network), and water supply, sewage-treating and garbage disposing systems.

As the zone has rich and good workforce whose education level is higher than secondary education, and many competitive heavy- and light-industry factories and enterprises around it, the investment by foreign business will be cost-effective and conducive to its development.

Previous posts on the Sinuiju International Economic Zone can be found here. Previous posts on the Sinuiju Special Administrative Region can be found here.

The North Koreans have also set up the Sinuiju-River Amnok Tourist Zone which you can read about here.

The JoongAng Ilbo has additional information here.

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New report on North Korea’s Special Economic Zones

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Curtis Melvin and Andray Abrahamian have published a new report on the progress (and lack thereof) of North Korea’s Special Economic Zones. Overall, the message seems to be that things aren’t exactly proceeding smoothly. One of the main impediments is still that North Korea’s institutional environment isn’t showing signs of improving much. But not all hope is lost. Particularly on the local level, there seem to be a strong ambition to make the zones work:

Overall, although the Kim regime may be promoting special economic zones as a key piece of its economic development strategy, there is still a long way to go to make these zones successful. Certainly, the North’s strained political relations bring about serious financial and reputational challenges to attracting foreign investment; however, it is not the only impediment to success.

Inconsistent and unreliable communication about plans for the zones and a lack of strategic planning for attracting either domestic or international investment reflect limitations of the North’s domestic economic policymaking capacity. Despite these structural challenges, localized efforts are underway to try to make individual zones work. For instance, teams from Wonsan and Unjong have begun experimenting with outreach and marketing. They are also trying to create more comprehensive development plans and organizations. Around Sinuiju, there are at least two significant construction projects well underway, reflecting a desire for cross-border cooperation in that region.

The unfinished new Yalu Bridge, however, stands as a reminder that the success of most of these zones depends heavily on the DPRK’s relations with its neighbors. In particular, Wonsan and Rason eagerly await better days. Until they arrive, Rason will continue to putter along; domestic capital and visitors may have only a small impact on the Wonsan area; and smaller projects, like the newly announced Kyongwon Economic Zone, will likely remain largely undeveloped for the foreseeable future.

Read the full report here:
North Korea’s Special Economic Zones: Plans vs. Progress
11-24-2015
Andray Abrahamian and Curtis Melvin
38North

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