Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

DPRK to officially reintroduce taxation?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Choson Exchange points out this article in the Joongang Ilbo which makes an interesting claim (if true):

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is pushing for a plan to officially introduce a tax system for the first time in 42 years. The Communist state has not had a such a system since 1974, when it was abolished by the Supreme People’s Assembly.

According to a source familiar with the situation inside North Korea, Pyongyang is preparing to revive the tax system ahead of the ruling Workers’ Party convention in May in response to decreasing national finances, squeezed by sanctions from the international community.

After North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and subsequent long-range missile launch on Feb. 7, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted the toughest sanctions to date in an attempt to curb cash from flowing into North Korea.

“The central government will grant economic autonomy to local merchants, in exchange for collecting bills for utilizing land, water and electricity,” the source said.

He added that the North will expand the number of private merchants and the North’s private markets, jangmadang, and officially levy taxes on usage for factories and companies.

Under the new tax system, North Korea will collect individual income tax from the emerging donju, a term assigned to the country’s nouveau riche that literally means “master of money,” who have amassed sizable wealth through the private market.

The individual income tax rate has not yet been decided, though it is likely that it will be higher than the last 1.8 percent tax rate from 1974, particularly considering the rise in merchants.

The push for a tax system was Kim Jong-un’s idea, according to experts on North Korea, who said the young leader felt uneasy about the fact that his country didn’t have a tax system when he took power.

North Korea’s abolishment of taxes in 1974 was largely a propaganda move, intended to demonstrate the country’s superiority over other nations. However, although the country did not officially have a tax system, the impoverished state still collected a number of fees from its people in place of corporate and value-added taxes.

“North Korean professors at Kim Il-sung University and other experts have recently been studying the state’s tax system,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University. “North Korea will use the term ‘usage fee’ rather than ‘tax’ as it sees the tax system as a vestige of capitalism.”

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang considers reinstating its tax system
Joongang Ilbo
Ko Soo-suk
2016-3-16

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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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Ryugyong Commercial Bank

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Ryugyong-commerical-bank-ATM

Pictured Above (Tongil News): The new Ryugyong Commercial Bank ATM in the Changgwang Inn

UPDATE (2016-2-1): I stumbled on an article from last year the mentions the Ryugyong Commercial Bank. Apparently they have a pre-pay card as well. According to Reuters:

Foreign investors can also set up banks in North Korea and are allowed to lend money and provide credit-based financing schemes to North Korean companies, according to a bilingual book of North Korean law available to foreign investors.

Ryugyong Commercial Bank, for instance, offers shopping discounts as well as gold or silver card options for its customers. As with the Narae card, customers are encouraged to top up their accounts with dollars.

ORIGINAL POST (2016-1-26): Tongil News reports:

Pyongyang, the capital city in North Korea, installed an ATM (automated teller machine) so that people can deposit and withdraw foreign exchange.

A foreigner staying in Pyongyang uploaded a picture of the machine to Instagram three weeks ago with the comment, “I saw an ATM inside of Changgwang Inn near Koryo Hotel for the first time in North Korea”.

The large-screen ATM is operated by the Ryugyong Commercial Bank  (류경상업은행). In Chinese it is called 柳商銀行, which translates to Ryusang Bank (류상은행). Although neither name is generally known, they are appeared to be a joint (cooperative) bank with partners in North Korea and China.

According to this foreigner’s post, the machine allows people to withdrawl various foreign currencies, but not North Korean won. Most users of this ATM tend to draw from accounts abroad.

Some netizens reacted to this post with comments such as “Oh my god, I cannot believe that Pyongyang changed this much.”

“This is the first case that an ATM is found in North Korea,” Professor Im Ul-chul at Kyoungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies said. “China actually asked North Korea for some help transferring funds for those who travel in North Korea, and it has apparently been realized.”

“It must be a measure for meeting demands of tourists in the country even though it is limited, but it could be improve the quality of banking and finance services inside of North Korea if these types of projects are expanded,” Professor Im told.

“It was observed that Chinese now can use their check cards in North Korea,” a North Korean Tourism specialist pointed out, “the Chinese yuan and the U.S. dollar will grow to dominate North Korea’s society soon.”

This foreigner also introduced the Kwangbok Commercial District (광복상업지구) “loyalty card” and explained “I can get points using this card and purchase goods with those points.” Additionally he mentioned that this card is quite similar to the “Narae” cash card, but it is only used in the Kwangbok Commercial District.

He also replied to another netizen’s question, saying that North Korea sells imported goods in hard currency shops, but there is no case of selling them in its national (state) shops.

Meanwhile, a number of photos featuring North Korea’s official exchange rate and street scenes in Pyongyang on Instagram have been constantly updated. These photos change the past image of closed society.

And in the event that you don’t trust the work of my handy translator, here is the original Korean:

북한의 수도 평양에도 ATM(automated teller machine, 현금 자동 입출금기)이 설치돼 외환을 입출금할 수 있는 것으로 확인됐다.

평양에 주재하고 있는 한 외국인은 3주 전 SNS(사회관계망) ‘인스타그램’에 “고려호텔 인근 창광 숙소에서 처음으로 ATM을 보았다”며 사진을 함께 게재했다.

ATM은 한자로는 ‘류상은행(柳商銀行)’, 영자로는 ‘류경상업은행(Ryugyong Commercial Bank)’이 운용하는 것으로 돼 있으며, 큰 화면을 제공하고 있다. ‘류상은행’이나 ‘류경상업은행’은 알려져 있지 않지만, 류경이 평양의 옛이름인 점으로 미루어 보아 북중 합작은행일 가능성이 높아 보인다.

이 외국인은 북한 원화를 제외한 다양한 외화를 교환할 수 있고, 대부분 이용자들은 해외로부터 송금을 받는 용도로 사용한다고 밝혔다.

이 포스팅에는 “이럴 수가, 평양이 엄청 변하고 있네요. 믿을 수가 없군요”라는 댓글이 달리기도 했다.

임을출 경남대 극동문제연구소 교수는 “북한에 ATM이 등장했다는 것은 처음 접한다”며 “지난해부터 중국 측에서 북한 여행객들을 위한 송금 편의를 북측에 요구한 것으로 아는데, 이것이 실현된 것으로 보인다”고 말했다.

임 교수는 “제한적이기는 하지만 늘어나는 관광객 수요에 부응하기 위한 조치로 받아들여지고, 이러한 추세가 확대되면 북한 내에서의 금융 서비스의 질을 높일 계기가 될 수 있는 새로운 변화”라고 평가했다.

한 북한관광 전문가는 “중국인들이 주로 사용하는 현금(체크)카드를 북한에서도 쓸 수 있게 된 것으로 관측된다”며 “북한에서 달러화와 함께 위안화의 지배력이 커져 갈 것으로 예상된다”고 짚었다.

이 외국인은 다른 포스팅에서 ‘광복상업지구’ 회원카드(loyalty card) 사진을 게시하고 “포인트를 모을 수 있고 포인트로 구매도 가능하다”고 소개했다. 아울러 이 카드는 북한에서 통용되고 있는 ‘나래’ 현금카드와도 유사하지만 광복상업지구에서만 통용된다고 덧붙였다.

또한 다른 유저의 질문에 북한에서 상품 홍보를 위해 수입상품 등을 할인판매도 하지만 국영상점에서는 할인하는 경우가 없다고 전했다.

한편, 인스타그램 등 SNS 상에는 북한의 환율과 평양 풍경 등이 거의 실시간으로 올라오고 있어, 폐쇄된 북한의 이미지도 과거에 묻히게 됐다.

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Kim Jong-un announces need for financial reform

Monday, December 14th, 2015

(Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein)

The first meeting for 25 years of North Korean banking and finance officials was held a few weeks ago, Yonhap reported:

The Third National Conference of Financial and Banking Officials held on Sunday at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang was reported by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and Korean Central TV, monitored in Seoul.

“The conference reviewed successes and experience gained by those in the field of finance and banking in the past,” the KCNA said in an English report carried on Sunday.

The meeting also discussed ways to ensure “the financial guarantee for building a thriving nation,” according to the state media.

In a letter sent to the conference, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un highlighted the important role of the financial sector for national development.

“To improve financial and banking work is an inevitable demand for hastening the building of a thriving nation,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter. “Reliable financial resources are necessary to build the people’s paradise featured by strong national power and great prosperity.”

Kim also ordered “revolutionary measures for steady development” of the financial system, as well as “fluent circulation of currency.”

It was North Korea’s first meeting of its kind since the last second session was held in September 1990 under the leadership of late leader and North Korean founder Kim II-sung.

Read the full article:
N.Korea hosts 1st bankers’ meeting in 25 yrs
Yonhap News
2015-12-14

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3rd National Conference of Financial and Banking Officials Held

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

UPDATE 1 (2015-12-13): According to KCNA:

There took place the third national conference of financial and banking officials at the People’s Palace of Culture on Sunday.

The conference reviewed successes and experience gained by those in the field of finance and banking in the past and discussed the tasks for reliably ensuring the financial guarantee for the building of a thriving nation and ways to do so.

Present at the conference were Pak Pong Ju, Pak Yong Sik, O Su Yong, Vice-Premiers of the Cabinet Ro Tu Chol, Ri Mu Yong and Ri Chol Man, Minister of Finance Ki Kwang Ho, President of the Central Bank Kim Chon Gyun, President of the Foreign Trade Bank of the DPRK Kim Song Ui, leading officials of commissions, ministries, national institutions, provinces, cities and counties and exemplary financial and banking officials and persons of merit.

Pak Pong Ju, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and premier of the Cabinet, read out the letter of Marshal Kim Jong Un to the participants in the conference “Let Us Dynamically Accelerate the Building of a Thriving Nation by Bringing about a Turn in Financial and Banking Work”.

In the letter Kim Jong Un said the financial and banking work in the DPRK has steadily developed, financially guaranteeing the socialist construction and the people’s material and cultural life under the deep care and leadership of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

The President set forth the unique idea of finance and banking which embodied the principle of the Juche idea and established the advantageous Korean-style financial and banking management system for solving all the problems arising in the financial and banking work in line with the independent demand and interests of the popular masses, the letter said, and went on:

Kim Jong Il developed in depth the Juche-oriented idea and theory of finance and banking of the President to provide the guidelines for improving the financial and banking work and established the party’s leadership system on the work and took revolutionary measures for the steady development of the financial and banking system.

To improve the financial and banking work is an inevitable demand for hastening the building of a thriving nation. Reliable financial resources are necessary to build the people’s paradise featured by strong national power and great prosperity.

It is necessary to financially guarantee the party’s Songun revolutionary leadership and the building of a thriving socialist nation by consolidating the financial foundations of the country and ensuring fluent circulation of currency. This is the general task for the financial and banking field.

The financial and banking officials should always bear in mind the deep trust and expectation of the party and successfully fulfill their lofty duty before the country and people and bring about a fresh turn in the financial and banking work.

Ro Tu Chol, alternate member of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and vice-premier of the Cabinet and chairman of the State Planning Commission, made a report.

He said that Kim Jong Un saw to it that the conference was held, and sent the letter to indicate the orientation and ways for improving the financial and banking work.

All the successes in the financial and banking work are a precious fruition of the undying efforts of the great leaders and the wise leadership of Kim Jong Un, the reporter noted.

He called for firmly establishing the monolithic leadership system of Kim Jong Un and orientating the financial and banking work to implementing the line and policy of the party.

Speeches were made at the conference.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-12-18): North Korea to Hold National Financial Bank Workers Assembly for the First Time in 25 years (Institute for Far Eastern Studies):

North Korea will host the “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly” for the first time in 25 years. This may be interpreted as the regime’s effort to pursue economic development through restructuring the financial system, as living conditions for the people and financial situation have improved since the start of the Kim Jong Un regime.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 10, “Participants at the third National Financial Bank Workers Assembly paid respect to comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.” The news did not mention the date, place, or the size of this event.

However, it is customary for participants ahead of a big event to visit and pay respect to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il by visiting the palace.

The “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly” was last held in September 1990 during the Kim Il Sung era. It was never held during Kim Jong Il’s rule.

It is likely that North Korea is holding this assembly as the food security issue has improved relatively over the last 25 years, and it seems to reflect the regime’s intention to establish the official financial system.

The North Korean economy has demonstrated modest growth after Kim Jong Un’s decision to expand economic zones and acknowledge enterprise management autonomy, among other market-related measures.

In particular, with the emergence of the nouveau riche or ‘donju’ (meaning ‘masters of money’), financial transactions have been increasing, hence the need for new measures to bring about improvements in banking institutions.

For the upcoming 7th Party Congress in May 2016, tangible results in sectors of the economy must be made and this may be a contributing factor to hold the “National Financial Bank Workers Assembly,” as the regime may seek to construct large buildings and various infrastructures through the use of finances from banks.

North Korea has reportedly been promoting computerization of the financial system. The country has also sent more than 40 people from the Ministry of External Economic Affairs to Southeast Asia to receive training in microfinance.

The function of banks has weakened since the late 1990s’ “arduous march” period. But with the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, the need for normalization of the financial system was proposed along with gradual improvement in the economy. However, it is uncertain to what degree banks will earn people’s confidence. Nevertheless, through this assembly, North Korea is likely to create a means to strengthen the role of official financial institutions.

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Kim Jong Un pays ‘special incentive’ to entire North Korean people

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

With the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party ahead, Kim Jong Un has decided to pay every North Korean soldier and civilian a ‘special incentive’ amounting to 100% of their salary. Unlike past major anniversaries, in which the government paid citizens goods like blankets or wall clocks, this time it is distributing cash. This is seen as a reflection of the deepening marketization in North Korea.

On September 25, 2015, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, “As the Workers’ Party of Korea reaches its 70th anniversary, all workers, military personnel, and recipients of scholarships, subsidies or pensions will be granted special prize money amounting to 100% of their monthly living expenses.”

Thus, it appears a special incentive will be issued not just to soldiers and working citizens, but to college students, retirees with pensions, and people like the unemployed who receive a basic living subsidy. In short, it will be paid to every adult citizen, excluding those in high school and younger.

This is the first time since the establishment of the regime that North Korean authorities have paid such an incentive to all citizens and soldiers instead of an unspecified large number of individuals.

One similar instance in which North Korea distributed a special incentive to the people was the 1989 World Festival of Youth and Students. In celebration of the results of the ‘200 Day Battle’ to prepare for the festival, the government presented a special incentive to laborers, technicians, college students with scholarships, and office workers such as clerks. However, the army was excluded from this benefit, as well as retirees and the unemployed.

The offering of special prize money to an unspecified large number of people is not unprecedented. However, the extension of this money to soldiers is seen as a new characteristic. While in the past the government has paid special incentives to individuals or entire farms or corporations that exceeded the regime’s economic plans, until now the government has never extended such incentives to all citizens and soldiers.

Kim Jong Un’s decision to distribute this money to every citizen and soldier ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party is viewed as an attempt to gain public support and strengthen internal unity.

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Sangyon e-commerce system introduced (and Jonsong Card)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

KCNA issued a story today that raised some eyebrows:

Electronic Commerce System ‘Sangyon’ Introduced in DPRK

Pyongyang, September 8 (KCNA) — The Institute of the Commercial Science in the DPRK developed “Sangyon”, an electronic commerce system.

The system makes it possible to ensure business through local network with credit card issued by the Central Bank.

This 24-hour service system has already been introduced to the West Pyongyang Department Store and many other commercial units, winning popularity among its users.

The reason this story raised eyebrows was the mention of a “credit card”. I had to go to the original Korean article to see if the word “credit card” was ever used.  Here is the original Korean:

(평양 9월 8일발 조선중앙통신)

조선에서 전자상업체계 《상연》이 개발되여 봉사활동에 도입되고있다.

상업과학연구소에서 내놓은 이 체계는 국가콤퓨터망을 통하여 상품소개 및 판매,상업정보소개를 진행하는 전자결제방식의 상업봉사체계이다.

이 체계는 중앙은행에서 발행하는 《전성》카드를 리용하여 손님들이 상점에 가지 않고도 필요한 상품에 대한 검색과

주문,카드를 리용한 전자결제와 송달을 받을수 있게 한다.

손님들의 상품수요를 실시간적으로 장악하여 생산단위들에 맞물려준다.

전국적범위에서 상업발전추세에 맞게 무현금류통을 늘이고 상품구입의 편리성을 도모해주는 전자상업체계는 24시간 봉사하고있다.

서평양백화점을 비롯한 많은 단위에 도입되여 사용자들로부터 호평을 받고있는 전자상업체계는 계속 확대도입되고있다.(끝)

The Korean report is quite different from the English version. It says that they have developed an e-commerce system called Sangyong 《상연》. On this system, available 24-hours a day no less, companies can list products, provide information, and consumers can actually make purchases for delivery. This system accepts the Jonsong card [《전성》카드] (a pre-pay card issued by the Central Bank in local currency) for payment.

UPDATE (2016-3-10): Simon Cockerell has posted a photo of a Jonsong Card to his Instagram Account:

Jonsong-Card

The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (2015-8-28) had this to say about the Jonsong Card:

Use of electronic payment cards expands in North Korea

It appears that the use of electronic payment cards in North Korea is spreading as North Korea’s central bank releases a new payment card. Photos of the card (called ‘Jonsong’) have been uploaded to social networking sites like Instagram and Facebook by foreigners currently in North Korea. The card is issued by the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (hereafter ‘North Korea Central Bank’).

Until now, North Korean’s primary credit cards have been the ‘Narae’ card, issued by the North Korea Foreign Trade Bank in 2010, and the ‘Koryo’ card, issued by Koryo Bank in 2011. ‘Narae,’ a foreign currency debit card, can be used at locations like hotels or foreign currency shops after card-owners load it with foreign currency at a bank; the affiliate card ‘Koryo’ can be used when paying for services or products at shops that have a payment system and deal in foreign currency.

Recently, Yonhap News released a photo of the electronic payment card ‘Sonbong,’ reporting that the card is now in use. The card is issued by the Golden Triangle Bank and can be used in the Rason Special Economic Zone. Both the Sonbong and Narae cards feature a yellow electronic chip on the front of the card. In contrast, North Korea Central Bank’s recently confirmed Chonsong card does not display such a chip and contains a red and blue diamond-shaped design in the lower right-hand corner.

It has not yet been confirmed whether this is a general electronic payment card or if it is intended for specific purposes. In a February 2015 interview with the Japan-based Choson Sinbo, the president of North Korea Central Bank revealed, “North Korea Central Bank is focusing on satisfying the capital requirements that arise in a country’s economic construction by turning over domestic funds more smoothly […] As part of that effort, it is pushing forward the development of new financial products as well as the use of cards in people’s daily lives.”

It is estimated that approximately 4 billion dollars are circulated and held privately by North Korean citizens. As a step to legalize that currency, it is widely known that North Korea implemented the ‘cooperative currency system’ (effective March 1, 2013), inducing individuals and agencies to open and use foreign currency accounts and actively encouraging the use of cards.

These days, foreigners visiting North Korea pay for hotel rooms, taxi fares, and other products with the Narae card after charging it with foreign currency.

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DPRK insurance market updates

Monday, August 17th, 2015

UPDATE 2 (2015-10-23): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on additional developments in the DPRK’s insurance industry:

North Korean Insurance Company to Expand Insurance Offerings

On October 14, 2015, the state-owned North Korean insurance company, Korean National Insurance Corporation (KNIC), promoted its ongoing insurance programs at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, revealing that it will offer more types of insurance if North-South economic cooperation expands in the future.

As North Korea’s market economy has expanded under the Kim Jong Un regime, insurance aimed at the ‘protection of assets’ has also increased.

“In order to actively ensure joint economic development projects between the North and South using the economic space of insurance, in 2005 we started insuring the assets of businessmen from the South who come to the Kaesong Industrial Region,” KNIC announced on its homepage on October 14.

The company explained, “The types of insurance currently implemented are fire insurance, car insurance, and gas accident liability insurance […] In the future several insurance sectors will grow further commensurate with the increasing variety and expansion of North-South economic cooperation projects.”

The company emphasized that in the future it will offer insurance programs more practical for South Korean businesses at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

KNIC has also recently introduced new insurance products covering things like cell phones and fruit orchards.

However, Kaesong companies have reportedly not been enthusiastic about the products offered by KNIC. Not only is it difficult to trust the ability of North Korean insurance companies to pay out insurance money in the case of an insurance claim, but the insurance money itself is small. As a result, South Korean companies at Kaesong have been reluctant to enroll.

Meanwhile, KNIC revealed that it is strengthening its fire insurance services in accordance with North Korea’s recent construction of a number of new buildings such as the Masikryong Ski Resort, the Mirim Horse Riding Club, and the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport terminal.

“As we work to realize fire insurance guarantees of newly built or remodeled buildings in a timely manner, we are ensuring that insured companies are equipped with fire alarms and fire extinguishing facilities and experience improvements in risk management,” the insurance company declared.

It added, “We are also bringing in internationally recognized appraisal companies along with domestic appraisers to make sure that risk assessments of new insurance subjects proceed normally on-site.”

UPDATE 1 (2015-8-20): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on developments in the DPRK’s insurance market:

New Insurance Products Appearing in North Korea

All sorts of insurance products, such as cell phone insurance and insurance against damage to fruit farms, are starting to appear in North Korea.

The Korea National Insurance Corporation (the state insurance company representing North Korea), revealed on its website on August 12, 2015 that the issue of cell phone insurance was discussed at the annual general meeting of provincial governors held in Pyongyang in February 2015.

“At last year’s meeting, provincial governors from all over, including Pyongyang, North Hamgyong Province, Yanggang Province, and Jagang Province, met and introduced new areas of business such as cell phone insurance. They discussed increasing the number of insurance policy holders and expanding coverage to raise insurance premium revenue,” the insurance company reported.

Recently, as the number of cell phone owners shoots up, the instances of lost or damaged phones have also risen. It appears that this new form of insurance is being offered against this backdrop to compensate cell phone owners for such incidents. As in South Korea, it is not yet mandatory for North Korean cell phone owners to purchase cell phone insurance.

Currently, North Korea’s primary mobile carrier, the Egyptian firm Orascom, owns a 75% share in North Korea’s mobile communications company Koryo Link. As of the end of June 2014, the company had 2.4 million cell phone subscribers in North Korea.

The Korea National Insurance Corporation is also preparing to offer insurance for fruit trees in order to compensate owners of fruit farms for damage caused by natural disasters or other events.

The company explained the background behind offering this insurance product on their homepage. According to the website, since Kim Jong Un came to power, a lot of effort has been put into the development of agriculture and fruit farms, but due to recent abnormal climate phenomena like El Niño, these fields have experienced a lot of difficulties.

The website reveals, “Based on experience accumulated in the testing phase, we plan on offering insurance coverage within several years for modern, large-scale fruit farms like Taedong River Integrated Fruit Farm and Kangwon Province’s Kosan Fruit Farm.”

In order to do this, the company has been performing risk appraisals since 2013 with international damage appraisers for each of the fruit farms. This suggests that it is keeping foreign reinsurance companies and contracts in mind.

The company offers fruit farms insurance coverage for a variety of calamities and natural disasters. It covers fruit trees in the event of drought, landslides, or fire; fruit in the event of hail, drought, excessive moisture, extreme heat, or fire; and the quality of fruit in the event of hail, heavy rain, or storms.

The provision of insurance for fruit farms is seen as an extension of North Korea’s ongoing efforts to earn foreign currency through insurance companies.

The fact that various insurance products are appearing in North Korea has attracted attention in the context of North Korea’s recent economic developments. Since Kim Jong Un came to power, the regime has tried to recognize and protect private property as the market economy has expanded through the growth of companies’ independent management rights and the expansion of private profits. Especially in the case of insurance companies, it is believed that the regime is trying to maximize profits by generating additional income through insurance premiums.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-8-17): Elizabeth Shim reports the following at UPI:

On Tuesday, Pyongyang’s Korea National Insurance Corp. posted on its website information on annual meetings held in each province. Issues of mobile phone insurance were discussed during the meetings, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

The North Korean insurance firm said in statement that new businesses were being introduced to meet the increased demand for mobile phone insurance in Pyongyang and the provinces, South Korean television network SBS reported.

The mobile phone is becoming a central component of everyday life for many North Koreans, particularly for merchants who are on the road to sell wares around the country – but damage or loss of phones are raising the demand for insurance in the country.

Egyptian firm Orascom owns a 75 percent stake in North Korea’s main network, Koryolink, and offers services to 2.4 million North Koreans.

Other insurance mentioned include new policies for agriculture and protection plans for large-scale fruit farms by the Taedong River and in Kangwon province are being assembled, according to North Korea. The plans would provide protection against weather effects like “El Nino,” that is resulting in increased drought, torrential rain, high temperatures and other factors that are hurting crops.

The Korea National Insurance Corporation web page is here. Here are the two specific reports mentioned in the article:

Annual conference of provincial KNIC branches held

The annual conference of provincial branches of Korea National Insurance Corporation was held in Pyongyang on February 25th and 26th.

It was attended by head-office officials concerned and branch managers, and accountants thereof, of different provinces.

Its agenda involved review of last year’s insurance operations conducted by the provincial branches, and determination of their goals to be reached this year.

Great appreciation was shown in the conference for the branches including the ones in Pyongyang, North Hamgyong Province, Ryanggang and Jagang Provinces, all of which, last year, introduced new insurance products, like mobile phone insurance, into sale, and brought an increase in the number of the insureds and objects to result a rise in premium income, and made prompt indemnifications on a scientific basis thus contributing to the stabilization of operation, production of the insureds concerned and people’s lives, as well.

Stress was laid on adoption and development of effective business strategies plus further improvement and intensification of insurance operation upholding the slogan reading “ Let us all turn out in the general offensive to hasten final victory in the revolutionary spirit of Paektu!”, thus enhancing the role of insurance in line with the development of national economy and improvement of the livelihood of the people as befitting the significance of the year marking the 70th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Lectures were given on business practices involving accountancy and some insurance accounts during the conference.

Fruit Crop Insurance to be introduced in future

According to a far-reaching plan of Chairman Kim Jong Il and supreme leader Kim Jong Un to supply the people with fresh fruit in and out of season, Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm had been built as the best integrated base for fruit production, keeping production going on a high level, and furthermore, Kosan Fruit Farm has been expanded as a large-scale fruit farm with the introduction of scientific, intensive and modernized methods into fruit production.

At present, the farms have boosted production by applying the densely planting method of dwarf fruit trees following the world-wide trend of fruit farming development and growing several kinds of fruit trees including high-grade apple, pear and peach as befits the specific conditions of our country.

They grow apple trees of Korean original varieties such as Hwangju, Pukchong and Unryul together with dwarf apple trees of more than a hundred of varieties including Granny Smith, Fuji and Golden Delicious,and meet their own demand for young saplings by growing them on their own.

However, there have frequently occurred abnormal weather phenomena due to El Nino in recent years, causing negative effects on agriculture and fruit farming in our country and its surrounding countries.

As far as fruit farming is so greatly influenced by the nature and terrain and weather conditions as agriculture, Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) has intention of newly underwriting insurance contracts with fruit farms in our country so as to put production on a normal basis under the adverse weather conditions recently occurred.

The subject matter insured under Fruit Crop Insurance shall be fruit and fruit trees cultivated by fruit farms in DPRK, and the covered risks are as follows;

– Yield Loss Coverage

Drought, freezing, landslide, fire,

– Fruit Tree Loss Coverage

Hail, drought, excessive moisture, extreme heat, fire,

– Quality Loss Coverage

Hail, torrential rainfall and windstorm.

In 2013, KNIC conducted a risk survey on some fruit farms in our country in cooperation with international loss adjusters, and since then KNIC has underwritten insurance contracts with those farms.

KNIC, on the basis of practical experience gained at that pilot stage, shall cover against the risks mentioned above modernized and large-scale fruit farms including Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm and Kosan Fruit Farm within a few years to come.

Although KNIC has a dubious history, today the group still posts regular financial information which (if accurate) would make it one of the most financially transparent organizations in the DPRK (Congrats to them for at least trying). See tables here, here, and here.

Previous posts on the Korean National Insurance Corporation here.

Once they figure out crop insurance, the next step should be a commodity futures market!

Read the full UPI story here:
North Korea to provide insurance for drought, lost phones
UPI
Elizabeth Shim
2015-8-12

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Golden Triangle Bank pre-pay cards

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Aram Pan visited the new Golden Triangle Bank building (it has recently moved offices) in Rason and took some interesting pictures of the interior.

DPRK-360-golden-triangle-1 DPRK-360-golden-triangle-2

DPRK-360-golden-triangle-3 DPRK-360-golden-triangle-4

However, my favorite is probably the giant pile of new US $100 notes:

GTB-DPRK-360-cash

That looks like $1.8 million to me. When was the last time you saw that much cash sitting on a counter?

Mr. Pan also shows that the Golden Triangle Bank has established a pre-pay card (similar to the Narae Card or the Koryo Bank Card). I say “pre-pay card” (not debit card) because a debit card is linked to a personal account whereas a pre-pay card is drawn from a bank-owned account. I do not suspect that card holders have actually opened personal accounts at these banks but have instead topped off a card that draws from a bank-owned account (In other words, I don’t think it is easy to get your cash back, and the bank earns the float from investing the currency while the card holder carries a positive balance).

GTB-card-DPRK360-2015

Mr. Pan claims to have put RMB25 into his account, which can be spent in the Rason SEZ, but not outside of it.

Here is a closeup of the front and back of the card:

Golden-Triangle-Bank-Debit-card-2015-edited

 

Here is a translation of the card:

GTB-debit-card-translation

“Seon Bong” is how a South Korean translates “Sonbong”.

The card appears to be equipped with an EMV chip. I am not sure how that works.

UPDATE (2015-8-17): The Daily Mail did a follow up piece here.

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US marine insurance company fined for North Korea dealings

Friday, August 7th, 2015

According to UPI:

A New York marine insurance firm has agreed to pay fines for violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea, Cuba and Iran.

Insurance provider The Navigators Group, Inc. admitted the company provided North Korea vessels with marine insurance, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Thursday.

OFAC said Navigators had committed a total of 48 violations: The firm was found in violation of North Korea sanctions including Executive Order No. 13466 and various sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan.

The firm has agreed to pay a reduced fine of $271,000 — down from an initial penalty of $750,000. Of the $750,000 amount, $570,000 was a fine for North Korea sanctions violations.

OFAC said the penalty was reduced after Navigators voluntarily disclosed information of its violations and cooperated with investigators.

Navigators earned $1.1 million in insurance premiums between 2008 and 2011 from 24 individual policies for North Korea vessels.

Between 2009 and 2010, the firm delivered $12,000 in payouts.

Despite sanctions, North Korean ships remain active at sea.

Read the full story here:
New York marine insurance company fined for North Korea dealings
UPI
Elizabeth Shim
2015-8-7

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