Archive for the ‘International trade’ Category

DPRK grain imports from China fall

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

We earlier posted an article on how DPRK-China trade has fallen in the first quarter of 2014. The DPRK has apparently imported zero oil from China in the first quarter of this year.

Grain imports from China also fell.

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s grain imports from China decreased by more than 50 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, data showed Sunday.

According to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), North Korea imported 26,263 tons of grain, including 23,636 tons of flour, 1,241 tons of rice and 1,192 tons of corn, from China in the January-March period.

The North’s imports during the first three months is equivalent to 48 percent of 54,178 tons imported during the same period a year ago, the data showed. Compared with the first quarter of 2012, the country’s grain imports from China decreased about 40 percent.

In terms of value, the North’s imports of Chinese grain amounted to US$11.93 million in the first quarter, down 52 percent from $24.71 last year.

“The drop in the North’s grain imports from China in the period compared with other years seems to be due to an increase in the country’s grain production last year,” said Kwon Tae-jin, a research fellow at the government-funded Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI). “However, the country may increase its grain imports in the future, as the amount of its grain production is not enough for its people.”

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) estimates the North produced 5.03 million tons of polished grain between November 2013 and October 2014, up 5 percent from a year ago.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s grain imports from China halve in Q1
Yonhap
2014-4-27

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DPRK – China trade: What is happening?

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Previous reports indicated that the execution of Jang Song-thaek has to date had little effect on DPRK-China trade. According to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (2014-3-12):

Trade between North Korea and China in January has increased roughly 16 percent against the previous year. After the December 2013 purge of Jang Song Thaek it was predicted that trade between the two countries would decrease; however, there is no visible sign of this yet.

According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association’s* data, trade between North Korea and China in February increased from 471 million USD to 546 million USD, up 15.9 percent compared to the previous year.

February also showed an increase in anthracite exports, North Korea’s main export to China, rising 21.3 percent to 102 million USD. Iron ore exports also showed a slight increase of 35 million USD compared to last year.

Chinese exports to North Korea, including leading export commodities such as cellular phones and other wireless radio/communication devices, increased 28 percent compared to January of last year, totaling 14.5 million USD. In February, goods exported through China to North Korea increased by 10.2 million USD, a 38.6 percent increase compared to January of last year.

The trade gains in this report are annual for the most part…comparing 2013 data with 2014 data. This reveals little about the change in trade volume from month to month.

Now a story in Yonhap offers January and February 2014 data, and journalists have reached the opposite conclusion. Jang’s execution has played a role in DPRK-China trade. According to the article:

“In January and February this year, North Korea significantly stepped up checks on its coal exports to China,” a source in Beijing said on the condition of anonymity.

“Such reinforced checks appear to be related to the execution of Jang Song-thaek,” the source said.

According to the latest data by the Korea International Trade Association* in Seoul, North Korea’s exports of coal to China in February fell 26 percent from a month ago to 920,000 tons. The North’s exports of iron ore to China also fell 23 percent in February from a month earlier to 197,000 tons.

The North’s total trade with China in February plunged 46 percent from a month earlier to US$255 million, the data showed.

In Dandong, the Chinese border city with North Korea where about 80 percent of bilateral trade is conducted, the flow of goods in and out of North Korea appears to be affected by the execution of Jang.

“In previous years, the North Korean authorities had usually set their annual targets for exports and imports, and given quotas to trading firms,” said another source in Dandong who is doing businesses with North Korea. “But, no quota has been given yet this year.

“Obviously, the mood is different than previous years,” the source said.

No progress has been made on special economic zones, including Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa, set up by the North on the border with China, according to the source.

“Under the current circumstances, Chinese investors will not invest in the North’s special economic zones,” the source said.

Does this mean anything?  Well, we don’t know enough about these numbers, or the cause for such dramatic change in trade patterns, so we will need to continue to watch the data.  Even before the February numbers came out, Scott Snyder reminded us that DPRK-China trade has taken a dip between January and February for each of the last three years!

Snyder-DPRK-China-Trade-2011-2013

Then there are the caveats: 1. This only counts legitimate trade (no illicit, secret, or military trade) 2. No aid 3. No official or unofficial transfers 4. No capital flows.

*Presumably the Korean Foreign Trade Association and the Korea International Trade Association are the same thing.

Read the full Yonhap story here:
N. Korea’s trade with China shaken after Jang’s execution
Yonhap
2014-4-4

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On the business of exporting coal…

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Taean-Port

 Pictured above (Google Earth): The coal-covered Taean Port on the Taedong River

Who knew that Rodong Sinmun was involved in the coal export business?

According to the Daily NK:

Gwangbokseongdae Co. [광복성대?], a hard currency-earning arm of the operator of the Party daily Rodong Sinmun, recently resumed coal exports through the West Sea port of Nampo, Daily NK has learned. Exports had been halted upon the orders of the Chosun Workers’ Party in October 2013.

The Kim regime is believed to have resumed exports to open up additional flows of hard currency for accounts earmarked for regime maintenance. Coal is one of North Korea’s biggest export industries, with almost all the coal produced in the country sent to China (though a percentage of it is coked and returned for use in North Korean power stations).

A source from South Pyongan Province reported the story to Daily NK on the 3rd, explaining that “Gwangboksongdae Co. has started exporting coal again; it was originally stopped by the Party last October.”

The source then went on to add, “So as to match the timing of [incoming] vessels and increase export volumes, the company is leasing its trucks to people.”

“It costs US$350 per day to lease the trucks. They travel from storage yards [owned by people who lease land from farms and use it for the storage and sale of coal] in mining areas of South Pyongan Province to Daean Port in Nampo. Vessels start coming in March, so leased trucks are again transporting coal for export.”

Companies exporting coal to China must have an export trade license from the North Korean authorities. Then they can use planned exports to China as security against the cost of leasing the trucks. From the point of view of the company, subcontracting in this manner, a practice that began in the mid-2000s, makes more sense than employing drivers directly.

There are many conditions attached to truck rental from Gwangboksongdae Co., however. According to the source, not only must lessees prove that they have $3000 with which to purchase coal; they must also have ten years of trucking experience and, of course, good connections in the Central Party.

But it is worth it. “The original price of a ton of coal is roughly $12,” he said. “This can then be sold at the storage yards in Nampo and Taean Port for $32, giving the driver a clear profit of $20 on each ton. If he carries an average load of 30t, he will earn $540. If we factor in the lease fee of $350 and cost of fuel, there is around $100 left per load.”

“Normally, drivers make around three trips per week,” he went on. “But truck repair costs are born by the lessee. If a vehicle is damaged, the lessee ends up with a significant burden as they can be held liable for compensation.”

According to trade statistics compiled by the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) in January 2014, North Korea exported 16.5 million tons of anthracite to China in 2013. This total, which marked a year-on-year increase of 39.7%, brought in approximately US$ 1.373bn, a 15.5% increase over 2012.

Read the full story here:
Trucks for Rent as Coal Exports Soar
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-4-3

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Deforestation: Stats, costs and attempted remedies

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

First the bad news. According to Yonhap:

North Korea has destroyed forests about 18 times the size of Manhattan for more than 10 years, data showed Tuesday, in the latest sign of deforestation in the communist country.

Global Forest Watch, which is run by the Washington-based World Resources Institute, said on its website that a total of 160,515 hectares of forest were destroyed between 2000 and 2013.

It also said North Korea created 13,680 hectares of forest between 2000 and 2012.

The development illustrates the rapid deforestation in North Korea as people cut down trees for fuel and turn forests into farmland to grow more food.

Experts have said severe deforestation is one of the reasons behind devastating floods that hit North Korea in recent years.

North Korea’s total forest area stood at 5.2 million hectares, with its output estimated at US$300 million as of 2006, or 2.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

You can see a visualization of the DPRK’s deforestation with Global forest Watch here.

Of course the problem is the a classic “tragedy of the commons“.

And according to the Donga Ilbo:

According to the Korea Forest Service’s report on the “cost for reforestation in North Korea” that the Dong-A Ilbo obtained on Tuesday, as of 2008 deforested mountains accounted for 32 percent of the total land of North Korea, about 2.84 million hectares. To restore the area, about 32 trillion won (about 30 billion dollars) is estimated to be required.

Deforestation is proceeding at a rapid pace in North Korea. It appears even faster in areas with high population density. The Korea Forest Research Institute has recently analyzed photos taken by a German commercial satellite and found deforestation progressed in North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Gaesong more rapidly than rural areas of Hyesan and Bongsan over the same period of time. The institute concluded that such discrepancy is cause by reckless lumbering and reclamation in urban areas. Besides, some reclaimed lands are not used for cultivation and just wasted because of the spread of crop theft, further exacerbating deforestation. In this regard, many argue that reforestation in North Korea should be beyond planting trees and in line with measures for food, fuels and income.

The Donga Ilbo also reports that an organization called the Green Asia Organization has been created to try and help resolve the problem:

Private organizations of South Korea, North Korea and China have started to make systematic efforts to reforest bare mountains in North Korea. The Green Asia Organization, which seeks to grow trees in mountains and nurture forest farmers at the same time, is to be launched and hold an international symposium on “international cooperation measures for reforestation on the Korean Peninsula” on Wednesday.

The organization is established based on the understanding that reforestation of North Korea costs trillions of won (billions of U.S. dollars) now and the cost will increase even further as time goes. Deforestation in North Korea not only directly affects the ecosystem of South Korea but also increases the cost for reunification. Besides, it can evolve into a more serious environmental issue in East Asia.

This organization does not have an English-language web page (or any at all as far as I can tell). If you are able to find out more about this group, please let me know.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea destroyed forests about 18 times the size of Manhattan
Yonhap
2014-3-18

Reforestation of N. Korea is precedent for ‘Green Reunification’
Donga Ilbo
2014-3-19

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Hyundai Research Institute: DPRK economic report for 2013

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The North’s per-capita GDP for last year is estimated at US$854, up $39 from a year earlier, according to the report released by the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI), a South Korean private think tank.

The North’s 2013 per-capita GDP amounts to a mere 3.6 percent of South Korea’s per-capita GDP of $23,838 for the same year, it said

North Korea’s grain production improved on the back of favorable weather conditions, while the country also expanded its investment in various industrial sectors, the report said.

The communist state’s grain production is estimated to have grown some 5 percent last year from a year earlier. The country saw an 8.5 percent on-year rise and 10 percent gain in its grain production, respectively, in 2011 and 2012.

Also, the reclusive nation increased its budget spending for railroads, metal and power generation sectors, which contributed in boosting its economy, the report showed.

Trade between North Korea and its strongest ally China jumped 10.4 percent on-year to reach $6.5 billion last year, while inter-Korean trade sank 42 percent to $1.1 billion due to a five-month halt of an jointly run industrial park.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade figure is the lowest since 2005 when the comparable figure was $1.06 billion.

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

Assistance from the international community to the North also dropped 47 percent on-year to reach $63.1 million last year, the report said.

Though the story does not cite the article from which the data is drawn, you can download the original report by the Hyundai Research Institute here (PDF in Korean).

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s per-capita GDP grows 4.8 pct in 2013: report
Yonhap
2014-3-16

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Kaesong Industrial Complex recovers to pre-halt level

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

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

According to Yonhap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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North Korean oil tanker in Lybia (UPDATED)

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

UPDATE 4 (2014-3-17): US Navy Seals have boarded the Morning Glory.According to the BBC:

The raid by Navy Seals took place in international waters south of Cyprus, said spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby.

The Morning Glory’s evasion of a naval blockade at the eastern port of Sidra prompted Libya’s parliament to sack Prime Minister Ali Zeidan last week.

The oil terminal has been under the control of militia wanting autonomy for eastern Libya since July 2013.

Meanwhile, there has been a deadly attack on the barracks in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

This was their first attempt to export oil from rebel-held areas. It is not clear where the tanker was headed.

Adm Kirby said the operation had been authorised by President Barack Obama and that no-one had been hurt.

“The Morning Glory is carrying a cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company. The ship and its cargo were illicitly obtained,” he said, adding that it would now be returned to a Libyan port.

The vessel was flagged in North Korea but officials in Pyongyang said it had been deregistered because of the incident.

It was said to have been operated by an Egyptian company.

More in the Washington Post here.

See Marcus Noland’s comments here.

UPDATE 3 (2014-3-13): Morning Glory is on the run! According to The Diplomat:

…The Libyan government didn’t take kindly to this and threatened to attack the tanker, threatening airstrikes against it. Eventually, the tanker was intercepted and taken to Misrata where it was held by Libyan warships.

Remarkably, the North Korean tanker managed to escape its capture by the Libyan fleet in the middle of the night. It made its escape when the weather forced the smaller Libyan warships and patrol boats to sail close to the coast, leaving a gap in the convoy guarding the tanker. The Morning Glory made a run for the open seas and is now confirmed to be back in international waters according to Mohammad Hitab a spokesman for Libya’s al-Waha Oil Company, the state-run company running the Es Sider port.

It remains unknown the extent to which North Korea is communicating with Libya’s federalist rebels. In the case of the oil sale, the rebels were looking for buyers willing to purchase risky oil at rates far below the asking market price. Given North Korea’s energy situation, it appeared to be one of the few buyers interested in the deal. A report from the Libya Herald earlier this week noted that members of the federalist rebels were spotted on board the Morning Glory prior to its attempted departure from Es Sider port.

The tanker’s escape resulted in a no confidence vote on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s leadership in Libya. Zeidan lost the vote and had his travel barred. Libyan Defense Minister Abdallah al-Thinni was sworn in on Tuesday evening, according to Reuters.

The United States Department of State issued a statement where it said it was “deeply concerned by reports that a vessel sailing under the name Morning Glory is loading a cargo of illicitly obtained oil at the Libyan port of As-Sidra.” The statement does not mention North Korea but notes that the Morning Glory‘s ”action is counter to law and amounts to theft from the Libyan people.” The Italian Navy had reportedly assisted the Libyans in intercepting the Morning Glory but has since withdrawn from attempting to prevent the ship from leaving the Mediterranean.

UPDATE 2 (2014-3-12): Here is the full statement from KCNA on the tanker:

Spokesman for Maritime Administration of DPRK on “Oil Tanker Incident” in Libya

Pyongyang, March 12 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Maritime Administration of the DPRK Wednesday gave the following answer to the question raised by KCNA in connection with the recent DPRK-flagged “oil tanker incident” which occurred in Libya:

On March 8 the government of Libya informed the DPRK of the fact that the DPRK-flagged oil tanker Morning Glory made an oil contract with an individual armed group in Libya and illegally entered a port under the control of the group in the eastern part of Libya, and urged the DPRK to take a necessary measure for settling it through a formal channel.

As far as the oil tanker is concerned, it is a ship run by the Golden East Logistics Company in Alexandria, Egypt and is allowed to temporarily use the DPRK flag for six months in accordance with the contract made by the company with the DPRK at the end of February.

Right after being informed of the fact by the Libyan side, the DPRK strongly blamed the company side for the violation of the contract and demanded it let the ship leave the port at once without loading oil.

In addition to it, the DPRK formally notified the Libyan government and the International Maritime Organization that it cancelled and deleted the ship’s DPRK registry and invalidated all the certificates as the ship violated the DPRK’s law on the registry of ships and the contract that prohibited it from transporting contraband cargo and entering the warring, dispute-torn or natural disaster-affected areas.

Therefore, the ship has nothing to do with the DPRK at present and it has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the ship.

What matters is that some foreign media are making much fuss, deliberately linking the case with the DPRK, claiming that “the north Korean ship tried to purchase oil from Libya in an illegal manner” and “the government force of Libya opened fire on the north Korean flagged oil tanker.”

Some forces are misleading the public opinion, persistently linking the issue with the DPRK. This is obviously aimed at achieving a sinister political purpose to tarnish its image.

They should clearly know that with neither false propaganda nor mud-slinging can they damage the image of the dignified DPRK.

The AP reports on proof the DPRK provided to the western media to back up its claims:

North Korea offers its flag to foreign-owned ships in the same way as a number of other countries do.

Jon provided a document he said was the official deletion of the Morning Glory from the Maritime Administration’s registry. He also showed email correspondence he said was from IHS Maritime in London, a company that manages shipping information, that purportedly acknowledged the deletion of a vessel from the North Korean registry.

UPDATE 1 (2014-3-12): The DPRK has denied it owns the ship. According to the Wall Street Journal:

North Korea denied on Thursday it was illegally exporting oil from rebel-controlled eastern Libya, claiming that an Egyptian company was operating a North Korean flagged oil tanker in the center of an armed standoff since Saturday.

North Korea said it had revoked the registry of the tanker, named “Morning Glory,” and demanded that Alexandria-based Golden East Logistics Company leave al-Sidra port without loading oil.

The tanker, carrying at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil, sailed from a rebel-controlled port into international waters on Tuesday.

A contract signed by North Korea with the Egyptian company prohibits the tanker from transporting contraband cargo and entering war or disaster zones, North Korea said through a report in its state media.

“The ship has nothing to do with the DPRK at present and it (North Korea) has no responsibility whatsoever as regards the ship,” the report said, using the abbreviation of country’s official name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Golden East Logistics Company couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The presence of a North Korean-flagged vessel in the Mediterranean is very unusual, although the country has been involved in trading arms in the region. Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at Seoul-based think tank Sejong Institute, said the rebels may have offered oil to North Korea at a fraction of market prices.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-3-6): According to IBT:

A North Korean oil tanker has tried to dock at Libya’s Es-Sider port which has been seized by armed protesters, Reuters reports.

It has not yet been confirmed whether the tanker wanted to take oil from the protesters, who have threatened to sell it independently unless they get political autonomy from Tripoli and a greater share of oil revenues, according to Libyan officials.

“The tanker came to Es-Sider but did not load oil,” said an official at the state-owned Waha Oil Co, which operates the port and connecting oilfields.

An official at National Oil Corp (NOC), which owns Waha, said he did not know whether the protesters, led by former militia leader Ibrahim Jathran, had tried to attract buyers with the tanker but said: “We know they have been trying to sell oil.”

It is extremely unusual for a North Korean-flagged oil tanker to operate in the Mediterranean region, shipping sources said.

Jathran’s group seized three oil ports which accounted for 600,000 barrels per day of export, before the protests started in 2013.

The Libyan government has tried to end the protests but little progress has been made so far.

Libya’s defence minister held talks with protesters blocking the 340,000-bpd El Sharara oilfield in the south, but NOC has not confirmed whether it will reopen in the near future.

The strikers are also demanding national identity cards and a local council; the ministers have promised to meet the requests.

Jathran’s group declined to comment.

The Libyan navy fired on a Maltese-flagged tanker which allegedly tried to load oil from the protesters in the port in January.

Libya’s oil output has fallen to little over 200,000 bpd from 1.4 million bpd in July when protests started across the country.

“The financial situation of the government is difficult,” Culture Minister Habib al-Amin, who acts as a government spokesman, said in February.

“Some ministries have been unable to pay for expenditures due to a lack of budget and liquidity.”

Read the full story here:
Libya: North Korea Oil Tanker Tries to Dock at Seized Es-Sider Oil Port
International Business Times
Ludovica Iaccino
2014-3-6

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Sino-DPRK trade booms in January 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-3-12

North Korea has been actively working to procure large quantities of fertilizer since the beginning of 2014 in an effort to increase production in the agricultural sector. According to statistics provided by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, North Korea imported 35,113 tons of Chinese fertilizer in January 2014.

In January and February of recent past years, North Korea imported small, insignificant amounts of Chinese fertilizer — for example, a mere two tons in January 2013. This year’s sudden increase comes as an unexpected surprise. January imports of Chinese fertilizer doubled that of imports procured in December 2013, increasing by 17,416 tons. This comes in spite of the fact that total imports of Chinese fertilizer decreased 18 percent from 252,789 tons in 2012 to 207,334 tons in 2013.

In the past, the North Korean pattern has been to import Chinese fertilizer from March and peak during the April-to-July farming season. Import figures show that North Korea has begun to procure its fertilizer earlier than usual, beginning in January and February. This vigorous importing of fertilizer could be directly connected to North Korea’s efforts to increase agricultural production to solve the nation’s chronic food shortages.

In his 2014 New Year’s speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to rebuild the country’s moribund economy, emphasizing the agricultural sector in this endeavor. In his letter to last month’s national conference of subworkteam leaders, he also emphasized the need to boost agricultural production in order to attain self-sufficiency.

Subsequently, it is expected that North Korea will actively scale up imports of Chinese fertilizer again this year in correlation with Chinese export tariff cuts.

Trade between North Korea and China in January has increased roughly 16 percent against the previous year. After the December 2013 purge of Jang Song Thaek it was predicted that trade between the two countries would decrease; however, there is no visible sign of this yet.

According to the Korean Foreign Trade Association’s data, trade between North Korea and China in February increased from 471 million USD to 546 million USD, up 15.9 percent compared to the previous year.

February also showed an increase in anthracite exports, North Korea’s main export to China, rising 21.3 percent to 102 million USD. Iron ore exports also showed a slight increase of 35 million USD compared to last year.

Chinese exports to North Korea, including leading export commodities such as cellular phones and other wireless radio/communication devices, increased 28 percent compared to January of last year, totaling 14.5 million USD. In February, goods exported through China to North Korea increased by 10.2 million USD, a 38.6 percent increase compared to January of last year.

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Zimbabwe signs $5m contracts with DPRK for statue and museum

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The cost of Bona Mugabe’s wedding on March 1, attended by the heads of state of South Africa, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea at Mugabe’s private home in Harare’s plush Borrowdale suburb, cost $5 million.

Just after the wedding, plans leaked out that Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) government clandestinely signed North Korea, one of its old friends, to build two statues of Mugabe at an estimated cost of $5 million.

The statues were commissioned by the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo.

One is a nearly 30-foot high bronze image worth $3.5 million to be placed in Harare; the other is a $1.5 million version to be placed in a $3.8 million museum to be built in Mugabe’s rural Zvimba home, in Mashonaland West. Building statues of leaders is something North Korea has considerable experience doing.

Read more about the story at Bloomberg and Bulawayo 24.

I have documented many of North Korea’s Africa projects on this web page.  See here.

Read the full story here:
Mugabe splashes $5m on N. Korea statues
Christian Science Monitor
Mxosili Ncube
2014-3-12

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DPRK as e-waste conduit

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

According to Bloomberg:

How did North Korea become the conduit by which thousands of tons of old junk moved from the developed world into China’s bustling e-waste recycling industry?

As with any smuggling story, the tale starts with a prohibition. In this case, Chinese laws and regulations prohibit e-waste — most commonly understood as old, non-working electronics like laptops, monitors and mobile phones — from being imported into the country. The reasons are several, including a government interest in keeping used foreign goods from competing against new ones, and environmental concerns about how some of those goods are recycled. Nevertheless, China’s national-level environmental and customs authorities have long struggled to maintain those prohibitions against local ports and authorities — especially in south China — who view e-waste recycling as a good source of jobs, tax revenue, and used components to drive local industry. Of the several conduits through which e-waste has traditionally been smuggled, the most common and long-standing was over the Hong Kong-China border.

That all changed in February 2013 when — for reasons that are still unclear — Beijing announced “Green Fence,” a high-level crackdown on the import of prohibited waste and recycling exports, including old electronics. Nonetheless, here and there, imported old electronics still turned up in Chinese recycling facilities (I personally saw them).

The likely means, as described in state media after the North Korea bust, was convoluted. A Hong Kong “gang” allegedly received containers of used electronics from abroad. They arranged for them to be placed them on smaller ships bound for a “country in Northeast Asia.” The culprit’s identity is clear from the awkward phrasing. Criticism of North Korea in the Chinese press is exceedingly rare and -– needless to say — connecting the country to an e-waste smuggling ring qualifies as criticism. Were the country Japan, or even South Korea, it would have been named.

In fact, North Korea has long been rumored to be an e-waste recycling center. Since January 2008 a Chinese company based in Liaoning Province along the border has advertised for scrap to feed its e-waste recycling operations in North Korea itself. The facilities are located, according to the ad, in the port of Nanpo, and “take advantage of North Korea’s environmental policies and inexpensive labor resources.” There, the ad promises, prohibited e-waste can be dismantled and transformed into a product acceptable for export to China.

The smuggling ring was allegedly doing something similar, although its “transformed” e-waste clearly did not meet environmental standards. In North Korea the bulky e-waste was dismantled (steel cases would be removed from old desktop PCs, for example), segregated into marketable components like computer chips for re-use, and then sent to Dandong, a Chinese city and port on the Yalu River, directly across from North Korea. From there, the goods were trucked south, to recycling and re-use centers in Guangdong Province, a straight-line distance of roughly 1,800 miles.

Read the full story here:
Did North Korea Recycle Your Laptop?
Bloomberg
Adam Minter
2014-3-6

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