The construction of the New Yalu River Bridge, the new suspension bridge over the Yalu River, connecting China’s Dandong city (Liaoning Province) and North Korea’s Sinuiju city (North Pyongan Province) is in its final stages.
Currently, the volume of trade between Sinuiju and Dandong is heavy, and the Yalu River Railway Bridge is saddled with transporting goods. It is hoped that the new bridge will help ease that burden. Several hundred workers are involved in its construction.
According to one Dandong resident, “Despite North Korea’s nuclear test and China’s decision to impose sanctions against the North, construction of the New Yalu River Bridge has been relentless.” The new bridge is considered as an important symbol of Sino-DPRK economic cooperation. Its construction is believed to be well on track.
The total project cost of the construction is estimated to be 2.22 billion CYN (about 390 billion KRW or 3.6 million USD). China is covering the bridge’s construction costs and has reportedly introduced a variety of new technologies to improve the precision and safety of the structure. Once completed, the bridge will be 3 km in length, with the height of its two pylons at 197 meters and the distance between pylons to be about 636 meters.
Travel from Pyongyang to Dandong currently takes 4 hours; that time is expected to be cut in half as the new suspension bridge is located 8 km downstream from the existing railway bridge.
If the construction progresses smoothly, the bridge should open for operation by July 2014. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on August 23 that the new bridge should accommodate over 3,000 55-tonne freight cars per day, and 3,000-tonne ships will be able to pass under the bridge.
Along with the new bridge, China and North Korea are also engaged in joint development of a new district in Dandong and the Hwanggumpyong Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Despite the lingering concerns over the development of these areas after the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the development has reportedly continued uninterrupted.
Despite the continued international and other sanctions against North Korea, the development of Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is speculated to pick up speed after the completion of the bridge. The Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is a project that North Korea put forth in response to the “May 24 Sanctions” imposed by the South Korean government after the sinking of ROKS Cheonan. These sanctions essentially had brought an end to all inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges (with the exception of the operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex).
Last September, a groundbreaking ceremony for the administrative building in the Hwanggumpyeong SEZ was held. Since then a customs building, security facilities, management office, street lights, and transport inspection office are reported to have been built or are currently under construction.
UPDATE 5 (2013-6-4): I wrote an update on the construction of the bridge at NK News.
Construction on the new bridge, with an investment of 2.22 billion yuan, began at the end of 2011. According to the Dandong government, the main structure of the bridge has been completed. It is expected to become operational in July 2014.
UPDATE 3 (2011-6-25): Adam Cathcart took some pictures of the new bridge construction–so it is progressing!
UPDATE 2 (2011-2-2): For some time I have been trying to track down the location of the proposed new Yalu River bridge which will connect the DPRK and China. Thanks to a story in the Daily NK, I was able to map it out on Google Earth:
Pictured above: Location of the proposed Yalu Bridge (Google Earth)
According to someone inside the construction company responsible for the bridge’s development, “The development of Xinchengqu has been on the drawing board for two years. This time, the construction of the New River Yalu Bridge was confirmed between China and North Korea. This is a very good chance for us, from now on Xinchengqu will become the center of China-North Korea trade.
According to Dandong’s urban development plan, the bridge will connect Busan-Seoul-Pyongyang-Dandong and Beijing in the future, implying that future trade and cooperation between a reunited Korea and China is being taken into account.
China is providing the construction costs for the New Yalu River Bridge; an estimated one billion Yuan (approximately $145 million).
This particular location is interesting because it completely bypasses the city and county of Sinuiju–where earlier reports (below) described its location. The bridge actually crosses from China into Sopuk-ri, Ryongchon County (서북리, 룡천군)—in the middle of nowhere. There is absolutely no infrastructure at this location for administering trade between the DPRK, China, and prospectively South Korea, so it will all need to be built from scratch or moved from Sinuiju. Either way, this is bad news for Sinuiju which today benefits financially as both the capital of North Pyongan Province and as the gateway for the majority of trade between the DPRK and China. It looks like Ryongchon may be taking some of their business!
In addition, the North Koreans have been widening the Sinuiju highway and “beautifying” all of the surrounding residential areas in anticipation of greater loads of traffic coming from China. See more about this here. This could all be for naught if the Chinese end up building a trade artery south of all this construction!
UPDATE 1 (2010-12-31): (KCNA h/t Aidan Foster-Carter) The ceremony did take place to mark the launch of the bridge’s construction:
Pyongyang, December 31 (KCNA) — A ground-breaking ceremony for a DPRK-China bridge across the River Amnok took place in Dandong City, China, on Friday.
Present there from the DPRK side were its government delegation headed by Kim Chang Ryong, minister of Land and Environmental Conservation, and from the Chinese side Li Shenglin, minister of Transport, Hu Zhengyue, assistant to Foreign Minister, and Chen Zhenggao, governor of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government, and other officials concerned of the central and local governments of China.
Speeches were made by Kim Chang Ryong, Kim Song Gi, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and Choe Jong Gon, chairman of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee, from the DPRK side and Li Shenglin, Hu Zhengyue, and Chen Zhenggao from the Chinese side.
They said that two rounds of General Secretary Kim Jong Il’s visit to China this year marked historic events of epoch-making significance in developing the DPRK-China friendship on a fresh high stage.
They expressed belief that the bridge would make a contribution to demonstrating once again the great vitality and invincible might of the DPRK-China friendship steadily growing stronger.
The bridge will be successfully built as a symbol of the DPRK-China friendship and a structure of the two peoples, they added.
Then followed a ceremony of the ground-breaking for the project.
The Ministry of Transport, the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the Communist Party and the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government of China arranged a reception in connection with the ceremony.
UPDATE 2 (2013-4-25):Yonhap reports on the DPRK’s plans for the Tanchon Port:
North Korea is scurrying to develop the resources-rich city of Tanchon on the east coast as part of the country’s efforts to make it a source of foreign currency income, recent news reports from the North showed.
Tanchon will become a key transit point in shipping goods to and from Russia’s Siberia, the northeastern part of China and Mongolia, said the Wednesday issue of the Choson Sinbo, a Korean language newspaper published by North Korean nationals in Japan.
The newspaper, a mouthpiece of North Korea, said the port city of Tanchon should become the source of finance for the country’s broader policy line of pursuing both economic development and nuclear capacities.
In a bid to boost exports, the country completed the construction of a port in May last year in the city with rich reserves of magnesite, zinc and other mineral resources, which sits about in the middle of the country’s east coast line. the Choson Sinbo said the city has about 5.4 billion tons of magnesite deposit, possibly the third biggest reserve in the world.
The news outlet also highlighted the country’s planned ways to increase earnings in the resources-rich city from which the country used to export mineral resources to China for meager profits.
“North Korea will move to manufacture processed magnesite goods in order to make high-value added goods,” the Choson Sinbo noted. “To that end, many plants will be built in the Tanchon region and the areas will become a new industrial zone.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also underlined the country’s plan to boost profits from the Tanchon development, saying in a national meeting of light industrial workers last month that profits from Tanchon development should be exclusively used to prop up the livelihood of North Korean people.
UPDATE 1 (2012-5-3): KCNA announces the completion of the Tanchon Port:
A modern trading port made its appearance in the area of Tanchon in South Hamgyong Province on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of President Kim Il Sung’s birth.
The construction of the port with a cargo traffic capacity of millions of tons provides a guarantee for greatly contributing to developing the nation’s foreign trade and improving the people’s living standard.
A ceremony for the completion of the construction was held on the spot Thursday.
Present there were Choe Yong Rim, Kwak Pom Gi, Ro Tu Chol and other officials concerned, officials of the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport, builders and working people of industrial establishments in Tanchon City.
Read out there was a joint congratulatory message sent by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Cabinet of the DPRK to the officials and members of shock brigades who performed labor feats in the construction of the port.
The message highly praised them for successfully building another giant structure in the era of Songun greatly conducive to building an economic power true to the life-time desires and last instructions of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.
It expressed belief that they would perform greater feats in the efforts for the country’s prosperity united close around the WPK Central Committee headed by the dear respected Kim Jong Un.
Minister of Land and Marine Transport Kang Jong Gwan, in his speech made for the occasion, said the construction of the port was a brilliant fruition of the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il who initiated the construction of the port and worked heart and soul to translate the desire of the President into a reality till the last moments of his revolutionary life and the clear-sighted guidance and meticulous care of Kim Jong Un.
Speakers at the ceremony pledged themselves to carry out their tasks including dredging in a short span of time in the same spirit as displayed in the construction of the port.
At the end of the ceremony the participants looked round different places of the port.
Just a few days ago, the Choson Sinbo reported the following (via Yonhap):
The North is estimated to have 15 billion tons of anthracite coal, a key mineral Pyongyang uses to produce steel, the Choson Sinbo newspaper said.
The North also has an estimated 5.4 billion tons of magnesite in Tanchon, a home to mines in South Hamgyong province, and other areas, according to the newspaper.
North Korea is set to open Tanchon as a modern trade port, the newspaper said, without giving any specific time frame for the opening.
ORIGINAL POST (2010-12-9): On December 2, KCNA announced that Kim Jong-il visited the port in Tanchon County, South Hamgyong County (40.412522°, 128.917731°) where he gave guidance on the port’s reconstruction.
Judging by the satellite imagery of the area on Google Earth, it appears that the project had already begun by May 13, 2009, where we can see concrete blocks ready to be used to extend the jettys (breakwaters). I have outlined the proposed port project on Google Earth imagery below and provided a picture of the completed project from KCTV:
After the jettys are extended, the major construction work and dredging can begin. Below are images of the port’s main construction site as it appears on Google Earth and a prediction of the project’s conclusion from KCNA:
It appears from the picture that the port will be connected to the railway system—likely via the nearby Tanchon Smeltery and Magnesia Plant (both recently renovated) whose products will probably be exported from the port.
Tanchon is also home to the DPRK’s Komdok and Taehung Youth Hero Mines (among others). As is well known to readers, raw materials exports are the DPRK’s most significant (legal and transparent) source of hard currency. According to Yonhap’s North Korea Handbook 2002:
Geomdeok [Komdok] Mine is a special company in Bonsan-dong, Dancheon, South Hamgyeon Province, and is very famous for about 300 million tons of deposited leads and zincs. This mine annually produces 52,000 tons of lead, 124,000 tons of zinc, both of which account for 47% of total production in North Korea, and more than twice as much as the production of Eunpa Mine, North Korea’s second largest mine, in Eunpa-gun North Hwanghae Province. Concentrates of lead and zinc produced from Geomdeok Mine are processed into electric zinc at Dancheon refinery. Opened in 1932, this mine produces 14,200 tons of raw ore annually with three ore dressing plants. Annual production capacity can reach up to 11 million tons. The first dressing plant was completed in July 1953, near the end of the Korean War. It now processes a million tons of ore a year. The second dressing plant was opened with a production capacity of 3,200 tons of ore. The third one constructed in September 1983 can process 10 million tons of ore.
Renovation on this bar began sometime after Feb 2012. The interior (pics by Koryo Tours) looks like any of the bars in Dupont Circle:
According to Koryo Tours, beer costs 1.5 Euros (per pint/half litre). There are seven taps along the bar. I assume they serve various brands of Taedonggang Beer.
Koryo Tours also posted this image of a new shopping center under construction in downtown Pyongyang:
Plastered to the wall is a map of what the site will look like when construction is completed, however, it is too small to make out with any specificity with this image. Currently we do not know any details about this facility (or even its proper name), but hopefully it will appear in the official North Korean media before too long. Here is the location of the new facility:
The construction site sits on the former star-shaped fountain of the Mansudae Fountain Park….between the Mansudae Assembly Hall (Supreme People’s Assembly), Pyongyang Student’s and Children’s Palace, Mansudae Art Theater, and new Mansudae Street housing.
UPDATE: In this post I initially misidentified the location of the construction site. I have fixed it now. Also, someone has informed me that this lot will not be a shopping center but rather another skate park like we have seen in other parts of Pyongyang.
Unfortunately, Kwan-li-so No. 14 is not the only facility to see growth. New Google Earth satellite imagery of Kwan-li-so No. 25 (Chongjin) show that this facility has expanded as well. Here is an initial overview:
Pictured Above (Google Earth) are two pictures of Kwan-li-so 25. The top image is dated 2006-8-29. The lower image is dated 2012-5-18.
As you can see, in the lower image, the security perimeter has been expanded on nearly all sides. There are additional guard posts around the perimeter.
There has also been quite a bit of construction within the facility. The entrance to the compound has been moved to the main road. A few of the buildings have been renovated. There also appears to be a new green house.
The largest construction project at the camp remains a mystery to me:
The visit itself did not strike me as very interesting (the animal farm has been around since at least 2002), but the mention of the “Ungok Area” did.
I have many North Korean maps which I have already transferred to Google Earth: A 1997 North Korean atlas (thanks Michael), a 1978 North Korean atlas (thanks Steve), North Korean atlas software (thanks PSCORE), and a North Korean atlas published by the Chongryon in Japan (thanks Steve). None of these sources mention the “Ungok Area”.
The only source I have that does mention the Ungok Area is from South Korea and was published in 2005. I used that source to map out the Ungok Area on Google Earth:
The Ungok Area (above in Green) composes nearly all of southern Anju and a small western portion of Sunchon City (Sinhung-ri). It is bordered on the west by Mundok County, on the south west by Sukchon County, on the south east by Sunchon County, and on the North by Kaechon and Anju Cities.
I am, however, unsure as to whether the Ungok Area has its own administrative apparatus or whether it is under the administration of Anju (and Sunchon?). Ungok does seem to be of particular interest to some group of North Korean policy makers. Judging from satellite imagery it appears to receive a disproportionate quantity of resources aimed at rezoning farm land, reconstructing meat and vegetable farms, as well as building new homes. Looking at the area one is reminded of idealized versions of North Korean village life depicted in official publications. Even the other parts of Anju do not look as “neat and tidy” as the Ungok Area.
If any readers have access to better information than me (my Korean is not very good), I would appreciate knowing more. On a side note, these questions could also apply to Mundok County’s “Chongnam Area” which appears to have been granted many different administrative designations over the years.
On a final note, I plan on publishing all of this geographic data soon. I just need to sort out some politics and programming issues.
Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction of the Sporting Center on Tongil Street ( 38.979300°, 125.702961°)
I watched a documentary of Kim Jong-un’s guidance trips in May 2012 and noticed that there was a visit in the video that was never reported in KCNA (neither the .kp nor the .jp versions) . The visit was to the “Sporting Center in Thongil Street”. I have posted the relevant video to YouTube:
According to the chronology of the video, the guidance trip took place sometime between Kim’s attendance of a performance by the Unhasu Orchestra (2012-5-1) and his guidance trip to the Mangyongdae Funfair (2012-5-9). The visit was unlikely to have taken place on 2012-5-2, however, since Kim is reported to have visited the command of the KPA Air Force (which was not reported in the documentary).
I was unable to recognize the people who attended the guidance trip with Kim, so I asked Michael Madden (NK Leadership Watch), who is quite good at this sort of thing, for some assistance. Here is his response:
[Kim Jong-un] was accompanied at that visit by VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, VMar Hyon Chol Hae, Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, Col. Gen. Son Chol Ju, Pak To Chun, Hwang Pyong So and VMar Ri Yong Ho. Also in attendance were members of the Guard Command and KJU’s personal secretariat.
Interestingly, KCNA did report that Choe Ryong Hae visited this facility on May 30 and hinted at the earlier Kim Jong-un visit:
Choe Ryong Hae Makes Field Survey of Sporting Center in Thongil Street
Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, on Wednesday made field survey of the Sporting Center in Thongil Street.
The construction of the modern center for the promotion of the people’s health started at the initiative of the dear respected Kim Jong Un and under his plan. It is now nearing its completion.
There are in the center with a huge plottage hundreds of sports apparatuses of various kinds, recuperation rooms, table tennis halls, a supersonic wave wading pool, etc.
Choe Ryong Hae went round various places of the center associated with footsteps left by Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un with loving care for the people.
Choe underscored the need for builders to fully display the serve-the-people spirit in building, bearing deep in mind the intention of the supreme commander to make the people fully enjoy wealth and prosperity under socialism.
Each sports apparatus is associated with the warm loving care of the supreme commander, Choe said, calling for managing apparatuses and equipment well to provide convenience to visitors on a priority basis.
Going round the meat and fish shop conducive to improving the diet of people, he underscored the need for the officials and servants of the center to fufil their responsibility and role, deeply cherishing their mission as the servants of the people in hearty response to the party’s slogan “We Serve the People!”
He stressed the need for the soldier-builders to thoroughly implement the order of the supreme commander and successfully complete the center as early as possible.
So I am unsure why KCNA never reported on this particular Kim visit. Theories welcome. It makes me wonder what other visits go unreported!
[U]nder the terms of the [Kyoto] protocol, North Korea, as a developing country and a member of the United Nations, has the right to build clean energy projects that may apply for Certified Emission Reductions, or CERs, popularly known as carbon credits. The North Koreans can then sell them to a rich country or company that needs the credits to offset its own greenhouse gases. Dig into data from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, and you will find seven North Korean projects registered for carbon trading.
This is where Miroslav Blazek comes in. Blazek, director of Czech company Topic Energo, acts as a link between North Korea and potential carbon credit buyers. He says his experience as manager of a tractor factory in socialist-era Czechoslovakia is invaluable for doing business with the communist North Koreans. “I can work with them because I understand how their system works,” he says. “If I send an e-mail and still don’t have a reply in several days, I know it’s not because they didn’t see it but because it had to work its way through the chain of command. For me it’s like a trip down memory lane.”
North Korea is now building seven hydroelecrtric plants, which provide some of the cleanest energy going. Most can earn tradable carbon credits. Blazek says the North Koreans “jumped” at the opportunity to get into carbon trading: “They immediately grasped that this is a way to make money.” Korea’s seven dams may generate as many as 241,000 CERs a year, worth almost €1 million ($1.3 million). “The projects are already in a relatively advanced phase,” says Ondrej Bores, director of carbon advisory services at Virtuse Energy in Prague, who’s worked with Blazek on other deals.
Still, selling anything made in North Korea has its challenges. More than 30 potential buyers pulled out because of the U.S. embargo on trade with North Korea. Blazek finally struck a deal with a Chinese-controlled conglomerate that needs credits to offset emissions from facilities in Europe. He won’t name the company, citing a confidentiality clause.
UPDATE 8 (2012-2-14): I have been notified that the certification program is proceeding. From a reader:
There has been a statement by the 1718 committee (on sanctions) that CDM projects in NK do not violate UN rules.
[Seven] hydropower plants did get their validation and underwent a process of “clarifications and corrections” as foreseen by UN rules. After the final report (which might have been already issued or might be issued soon) they will go for final vote to the UNFCCC.
Currently, North Korea works on projects as diverse as methane gas from coal mines, biogas and electricity-saving light bulbs.
UPDATE 6 (2011-7-11): It looks like none of the DPRK power stations have been approved by the UNFCC for the CDM program as of this date. A reader notes:
[I] just searched through the entire CDM database with the category numbers for these projects, and as far as I can see none of these has got beyond validation phase['s] comments phase, and judging by some of the comments – “It is evident from the PDD [Project Design Document] that the values are consistent and it is definitely forged and cooked up values to show a non CDM project as a CDM project” – being one of the more polite, that I’d be amazed if they make it beyond that. [It] looks like the DPRK hasn’t got its environmental and managerial audit systems quite up to date yet.
UPDATE 5 (2011-7-11): I just checked the UNFCC web page, and it appears that in addition to the hydro power plants mentioned below, the North Koreans also submitted the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in Pyongyang Textile Factory” [sic] for carbon offsets on May 23, 2011. According to the UNFCC web page, the project is in the portfolio of the Carbon-Trade Division, GBCIO, Ministry of Foreign Trade.
UPDATE 4 (2011-7-11): DPRK begins construction of Ryesonggang Power Stations 3 and 4
Pictured above (Google Earth): Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (례성강청년발전소).
I have not had the time to pinpoint the exact locations of these power stations using Google Earth. Since the imagery is older, it will take some time to match up the mountain contours. However, we have a general idea where they are located: between the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 and 6. These are mapped out in the image at the top of this post. The satellite imagery is of Thosan (토산군) and Kumchon (금천군) counties.
Since I have a job, am in graduate school, am a landlord, and running this web page, I have not had time to follow up with the UNFCC to see if they have approved these projects for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). If there is an enterprising journalist or reader who cares to find out the answer, please let me know.
UPDATE 3 (3/23/2011): According to the UNFCC web page (select Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the “Host Party” box), these are the eight power stations that have been submitted for consideration:
The UNFCC web page does not mention the locations, size, or power generation capacity for most of the dams, but I am sure that information will trickle out over time. With the exception of the Kumya Power Station (See satellite image below), none of these facilities are visible on Google Earth–but related facilities are: the Paektusan Power Station 1 (See satellite image below) and Ryesonggang Power Station 1, 2, 6 (See satellite image below). The Hamhung Power Stations are probably in or near Hamhung, and the Wonsangumin project is probably near Wonsan.
And according to an email from the UNFCC:
This list contains all the projects which have already started and for which a notification of CDM prior consideration has been submitted. This notification is necessary to prove that the incentive of the CDM was a decisive factor for taking up the project when a project has started before a project design document (PDD) has been published for global stakeholder consultation or a new methodology in connection with the project has been submitted. However, kindly note that these projects have not yet entered the CDM project cycle as lined out in the CDM rules, requirements and procedures, and to submission for registration has yet been made.
Further details on the CDM project cycle are available here: http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/diagram.html
More information will be added here as time passes.
UPDATE 2 (3/11/2011): The DPRK has apparently registered eight power plants with the UNFCC. According to Reuters:
North Korea has registered eight hydroelectric plants with the United Nations, and if approved, could allow the world’s most reclusive state to sell carbon offsets to earn precious hard currency.
These hydropower projects were registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for prior consideration in getting carbon credits, some of which have a capacity of 20 megawatts, the UNFCCC website showed.
Prior consideration is the first step for accreditation toward the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism that allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions from clean-energy projects.
Bernhard Seliger, a messenger for North Korean officials on these projects, said the United Nations uploaded the information on Thursday after he submitted related forms on behalf of the North Korean government’s carbon trade division in late February.
“I have no idea when the U.N. makes a decision… North Korea has to finish the power plants, which up to now are only half-finished dams,” Seliger, Hanns Seidel Foundation’s representative in South Korea, told Reuters via email.
Analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, concerned the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.
North Korea hopes to earn much-needed hard currency by selling UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro-power projects, as the country faces sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.
If approved and registered by the UN, these would be the first projects for North Korea under a scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions reductions from clean-energy projects.
Some analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, with fears the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.
The government has asked the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, which focuses on humanitarian issues, to act as a go-between by working with UN-approved verification agency TUV Nord.
According to Bernhard Seliger, the foundation’s representative in South Korea, North Korea is initially looking at trying to get approval for three hydro power plants of 7-8 megawatts (MW).
Seliger visited the three hydro-plant construction sites in the north-east corner of the country in January.
In a statement, TUV Nord confirmed the foundation had engaged their services.
“In this respect, TUV Nord intends to verify hydropower dams in North Korea once pre-registered with United Nations framework conventions on climate change [UNFCCC] via the Beijing branch of its Chinese subsidiary TUV Nord Guangzhou,” it said.
If registered, the plants could yield millions of euros over several years.
Beijing-based lawyer Tom Luckock, who specialises in projects that curb greenhouse gas emissions, estimated that an 8 MW hydro plant could yield about 23,000 UN offsets a year.
The offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), are generated from registered CDM projects, such as wind farms, that are rewarded for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The offsets currently trade at nearly €12 (£10) each and are bought by governments in rich nations that need to meet UN emissions reduction targets.
Europe is the biggest buyer, with large polluting firms allowed to buy the offsets to meet a portion of their emissions reduction targets under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.
“Finding ways to secure foreign currency is the priority for North Korea, which is linked to everything from food to raw material imports to boost reduced productivity,” said Cho Myung-chul, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.
Seliger said North Korea, which signed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact in 2005, was also interested in biomass power generation projects under the CDM.
The UN-approved national agency that assesses and approves CDM projects in North Korea was not available for comment.
Questions remained on demand for North Korean CERs.
“Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons programme?” said Choi Soo-young, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
Cho said the UN needed to prevent outside cash going into its nuclear development activities, while Luckock, of global law firm Norton Rose, said: “Their limited access to hard currency has to be a concern for buyers – the damages clauses will carry limited weight without some security there.”
Another challenge is that North Korea would have to make public its energy consumption and generation data and disclose information on the amount of energy linked to the hydro project.
“Annual inspection, constant measurement and energy flow posting on the [UNFCC] website – all these things are new for North Korea,” Seliger said.
“We are talking about eight power plants, with the smallest size about 7.5 megawatts. These are not big projects but small or medium-sized projects,” Bernhard Seliger told AFP.
None has yet been completed, he said.
“I saw some (construction) sites in South Hamkyong province but that’s not all. There are other plants in other regions,” Seliger said, adding that some of the projects are led by the UN Development Programme.
The Hanns Seidel Foundation has been working since 2003 to build the North’s development capacity, and in 2008 organised a seminar on carbon trading for Pyongyang officials at their request.
The tradeable credits, called Certified Emissions Reductions, are awarded for approved clean-energy projects such as hydropower plants or wind farms.
Big polluters elsewhere in the world can buy them as part of their efforts to cut emissions.
Seliger said his foundation is helping the North to prepare for the auditing process required to join the UN carbon credit trading system known as the Clean Development Mechanism.
“One good thing about this project is that it is very transparent, involving monitoring and auditing on an annual basis… I think it is very good for North Korea to participate in such an international regime,” said Seliger.
An official at a South Korean state agency, the Korea Energy Management Corp, said registration would take at least a year or two and it was unclear how much the North would be able to earn if approved.
The official, who declined to be identified, said a typical eight-megawatt hydropower plant could yield about 19,500 carbon credits each year, each of which was currently traded at 12 euros in global markets.
This would amount to around $327,000 a year.
But some buyers may shun the communist state, given its history of nuclear and missile development which has led to international sanctions.
“Government buyers will certainly shy away from dealing with the North,” said Koo Jung-Han, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance.
“But private companies have few reasons not to buy credits from the North as long as it can offer a competitively low price. However, the big question is whether the North will be able to build the plants without outside financiers.”
Koo said that countries hoping to buy carbon credits from upcoming overseas projects often encourage investment in the ventures by their own finance companies.
“But what kind of financial companies will take a plunge in projects in such a volatile, politically risky country like North Korea?”
The North suffers persistent power shortages even in the showpiece capital Pyongyang.
Many rural areas receive power only during key agricultural seasons, and must rely for the rest of the year on alternative fuels, according to a recent policy paper published by the Nautilus Institute think-tank.
I am not sure which hydro power stations the DPRK is planning to submit to the UN, but many have been been highlighted in North Korean “media” in recent years:
Kumya River Dam A dam is being constructed in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province, to provide electrical power. Kim Jong-il last visited in August 4, 2010. It is just one of several dams under currently under construction in the DPRK.
Here is a satellite image of the Kumya dam’s construction (Google Earth: 11/25/2008, 39.574232°, 127.104736°)
This new reservoir will flood the locations of three villages (리): Ryongnam-ri (룡남리), Ryongsang-ri (룡상리), and Ryongchon-ri (룡천리).
Estimates of the reservoir size are made by me, but it is fairly obvious where the North Korean engineers expect the reservoir to flood because they have already relocated the villages from their former locations in the flood zone.
Kumjingang River Power Stations
Beginning in 2000, the DPRK has constructed three power stations on the Kumjin River (금진강) in South Hamgyong Province. The first was the Kumjingang Power Station (금진강발전소). The second was the Kumjingang Hungbong Youth Power Station (금진강흥봉청년발전소). The third was the Kumjingang Kuchang Youth Power Station (금진강구창청년발전소). All three are pictured below on Google Earth:
It does not appear that these projects have resulted in dislocated villages.
Wonsan Youth Power Stations
Below is a satellite image of the Wonsan Youth Power Stations No’s. 1-4 (원산청년발전소). These projects required the construction of both the Kuryong Reservoir (구룡저수지) and an appx 8.5 mile (13.69km) tunnel to link the hydro power stations with their power source. The inaugural ceremony for these facilities was on January 10, 2009.
The construction of the Kuryong Reservoir resulted in the dislocation of three villages: Kuryong-ri (구룡리), Konja-ri (건자리), and Haerang-ri (해랑리).
Orangchon Power Station No. 1
Kim Jong-il offered guidance at the Orangchon Power Station (어랑천1호발전소) in February 2007. This facility will probably not be submitted to the UN for scrutiny because it lies just outside the security perimeter of what human rights groups assert is Kwan-li-so No. 16.
Anbyon Youth Power Stations No’s 1 & 2
The Anbyon Power Stations (안변청년1-2호발전소, 38.954400°, 127.538912°) are powered by waters from the Imnam Reservoir (임남저수지) via an underground tunnel nearly 45km in length. Much more here.
Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1-6
Some of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations (례성강청년1-6호발전소, 38.367696°, 126.781096°) appear to be under construction in North Hwanghae Province. The North Korean “media” has only broadcast images of the Ryesonggang Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (all completed), so I presume that power stations 3, 4, and 5 are too new to show up on available Google Earth Satellite imagery. Below I post images of the distance between power stations 1 and 6 as well as close-ups of both facilities.
Power Station No. 1 was completed in 2007 and most recently received media attention in South Korea in September 2009 when the DPRK released a massive amount of water from its dam (Hwanggang Dam), causing floods in South Korea that killed six people. An estimated 40,000,000 short tons (36,000,000 t) of water was dumped during the flood, causing the water level at the border of Gyeonggi-do to leap from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 15.1 feet (4.6 m).
Power Station No. 2 (38.324008°, 126.673366°) has been completed, but it is too new to appear on Google Earth satellite imagery. I have drawn it on Google Earth below:
Construction of Power Station No. 2 resulted in the dislocation of approximately 27 houses, but I have not been able to determine if any other villages were relocated due to construction of the other facilities.
Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations
The North Korean media has also done a lot of advertising for the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations (백두산선군청년발전소) in Paekam County, Ryanggang Province (41.716931°, 128.786163°).
These dams have resulted in the dislocation of two small communities as well as the severing of the old railway lines that connected Unhung, Kilju and Paekam with Musan. Maybe the railway lines have been moved to accommodate the new dams, but it is also unclear if these line were in use to begin with.
Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station
Up until recently I believed the Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station (북창룡산발전소, 39.596238°, 126.266478°) was a large-scale river-straightening project, but according to recent KCTV footage (which I posted to Youtube here) it is in fact a hydro power station. Work on this project began sometime around the spring 2002 (as best I can tell).
Huichon Youth Power Stations
The Huichon Youth Power Stations No. 1 & 2 have received the most attention in the North Korean media. I recently located them and will post something soon.
Since the DPRK will likely be subjecting several of these (or other) power plants to international scrutiny, I look forward to seeing that data published. KCNA is short on details and the disclosed information would facilitate more accurate assessments of the DPRK’s domestic hydro-power generating capacities.
A reader writes in with the following comments:
I would like to share some comments on the potential CDM projects in north Korea as i have been working on this field for many years now.
Concerning existing hydropower plants:
To be eligible to a CDM project, one of the first criteria is the additionality of the project. You have to prove (the rules are very stricts) that the project would not have been launched without the consideration of the revenues from the reselling of the CERs.
So the Dams that have already been buit are not eligible.
Concerning hydropower plants that are being implemented:
The first step of a CDM project is to notify to the UNFCCC secretariat and to Designated National Authority (in this case the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Committee of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Environment) that you are seeking to establish your project as a CDM project.
Up to now, no such notification has been received by UNFCCC so it would be quiet difficult for projects being implemented to ask for the CDM status (i mean nearly impossible).
Some facts concerning future hydropower projects:
From the day you send the notification that you are seeking the CDM status to the day you are actually given the status, it takes in average 2 to 3 years (they would have to build the plants during this period)
Then it can be at least another year before you receive the CERs.
The price of 12 euro for a CER is for secondary market. The price for primary CER (directly sold by the producer) would be much less than 8 euro.
The figure of 20 000 CERs/year is completely unpredictable for the moment, here is a simplification of the calculation:
One CER is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent that would be avoided by producing clean electricity. For example when you produce 1 MW electricity from coal, the process releases X tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but when you produce 1 MW from a hydropower plant, you do not release CO2.
In order to calculate what the CDM project would be able to claim, we would have to know the CO2 emission factor of the North Korean grid and then multiply it by the amount of MWh produced by the CDM project.
If most of the electricity produced these days in North Korea already comes from hydropower plants, then the national emission factor will be low and the CDM project will not avoid a lot of CO2 emission (and so not earn a lot of €)
Without the capacity of the future project and the national emission factor, it is impossible to estimate the amount of CERs the project could generate.
The CDM status seems quiet unrealistic to obtain for North Korean projects but other international agreements are discussed these days and their outcome may be more adapted.
Nuclear-armed but cash-starved North Korea has expressed interest in joining the world carbon market in an apparent bid to earn precious hard currency and avoid international sanctions, an expert told RFA.
But the secretive Kim Jong Il regime has to disclose critical information, such as energy consumption data as well as methods by which it derives energy, to be eligible for funding under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said the North Korea expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The CDM is aimed at encouraging companies or organizations in the developed world to invest in carbon dioxide emissions-saving projects in developing countries.
In return for funding and technology transfer, investors receive carbon credits, which can then either be traded on carbon markets or used to reduce their own emissions tally if they are subject to a domestic cap.
The Kyoto Protocol set emission caps for 38 countries through 2012, establishing the CDM as a worldwide carbon market. It is a cornerstone of the group’s efforts to tackle global warming.
The North Korea expert told RFA on Jan. 13 that Pyongyang intended to apply for funding via the CDM and that the regime might list its proposed hydro-electricity power projects under the U.N. mechanism.
UN refrains from comment
When contacted on the North Korea move, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the secretariat charged with implementing the global environmental treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, said it would refrain from commenting on individual country projects.
The North Korea expert estimated that one ton of carbon dioxide would trade for about U.S. $26 dollars and if a hydro-electric power project was registered under the CDM, depending on the carbon credit bid price, about U.S. $1 million dollars could be earned annually.
A hydro project registered under the CDM would need to be evaluated by U.N. inspectors for it to qualify for carbon credits. Usually, it would be evaluated continuously for about 14 years.
Details, including the amount of energy linked to the hydro project and potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, would have to be submitted.
North Korea has been mostly reluctant to share information about its energy generation activities.
According to the expert, North Korea has recently displayed “great interest” in the possibility of operating hydro-electric power stations to alleviate its domestic energy shortages and to acquire “carbon credits” that it could, in turn, sell on the international carbon market.
As North Korea’s economic crisis worsens, Pyongyang is seeking ways to earn hard currency following a failed currency reform and due to sanctions imposed by the international community over its nuclear and missile developments and provocations targeting South Korea.
The interest in the CDM is likely to be part of this search.
The North Korea expert also said that earning hard currency through “carbon credits” would not be subject to sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under UN Security Council resolutions, and that any North Korea’s application for participation under the CDM “may stand a chance.”
“For North Korea, this could be an opportunity to earn hard currency without engaging in illegal armament sales, while operating an electric power station in transparent fashion, and accepting strict monitoring by the UN, and abiding by applicable international standards.”
The United States has been pressing China to use its influence to persuade North Korea regime to end recent provocations and return to disarmament talks involving the three countries and South Korea, Russia and Japan.
The six-party nuclear talks were last held in 2008. The impoverished North has been seeking a restart to the nuclear negotiations, which propose to reward its gradual nuclear disarmament with phased infusions of economic aid.
In a bid to renew dialogue and ease chances of conflict, South Korea recently proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to prepare for high-level defense talks. On Friday, the North suggested parliamentary talks between the two sides.
Read the full story here:
North Korea Eyes Carbon Market Radio Free Asia 1/29/2011
3. The long-abandoned wading pools on Rungra Island have been filled in, but farther north on the island some new water slides are being built. Now some new, unknown construction appears to be taking place at the old location:
Kim Jong-un recently visited the new wading pool and water slides (not visible in the image). According to KCNA:
The next leg of his guidance was the construction site of the Rungra Wading Pool.
The pool consists of water slide with four tracks 18 meters high and more than one hundred meters long, a shower bath site, soft drink stands, dressing room, etc.
He was very pleased to picture to himself the happy school youth and children and working people who will laugh boisterously while fully enjoying wading at the wading pool when completed on the occasion of the day of the victory in the war.
He underlined the need to add a diving tower and different service facilities to the area around the wading pool so that it may be a cultural recreation place for people which will remain impeccable even in the distant future.
5. I tried creating a Google Earth overlay of this image for you to download, but for some reason I can’t get it to work. Only 1/4 of the picture appears on Google Earth. If anyone knows the cause of and solution to this problem, please let me know.
On April 27th, KCNA reported that Kim Jong-un “guided general tactical exercises of KPA Combined Unit 655 held on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the KPA.” NK Leadership Watchwrote about the demonstration here. Just by chance, I recognized the facility and was able to pinpoint it on Google Earth. This is rarely so easy.
Pictured above, the KPA observation facility (Google Earth: 38.948016°, 125.916006°) in Sadong-guyok (사동구역).
The building sits on top of a small mountain, and according to the Google Earth ruler, it is approximately 50m x 32m (at its widest). The oldest satellite image available of the facility (on Google Earth) dates to 2003-12-25. There are several support facilities located nearby, but I do not have any specific information on them.
Here is a layout of the facility in relation to the target area (Google Earth):
According to the Google Earth ruler, the observation facility is approximately 3km from the most distant portion of the test grounds.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this test is that an elite residential compound lies just on the other side of the mountains from the artillery testing area (about 1km away)! Who would have ever thought they would detonate explosives and projectiles so close to one of these compounds? Perhaps the presence of the elite residential compound explains why this observation facility has not been used for as long as I can remember (which admittedly is not a long time ago).
I have located several KPA demonstration areas on Google Earth and will include them in the next version of North Korea Uncovered, hopefully out in the next couple of months.