Archive for the ‘CNC’ Category

Factory automation actively being promoted

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-12-13

Recently the benefits of unmanned factories that do not require much manual labor are being largely advertised in North Korea. The propaganda for automated factories are analyzed to have strengthened from this year.

The Kim Jong Un regime has continuously emphasized the need for factory automation to achieve economic results and is actively publicizing that it is improving the working life for the workers.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on November 19 that the full automation of the production process of bread and confectionaries manufatured at the KPA Food Factory No. 354 was accomplished. It stressed, “The results of the modernization of production plants brought the cost of labor and production down while enhancing the quality of production efficiency and the quality of the products.”

In particular, it boasted “The work experience for female workers without hand labor is bringing them joy and merry tunes.”

On November 16, another North Korean media reported that Kim Jong Un had made an onsite inspection to this factory and commented, “What I find most pleasing is that by automating all production process, hand labor was eliminated and liberated the workers from hard labor.”

The Rodong Sinmun, official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, reported on November 19 about the productivity of the Sinuiju Knitting Factory and described that, “through mechanized work processes of hand labor, it is contributing to the improvement in quality and productivity.”

Then on November 12th, the Rodong Sinmun also reported on Kim Jong Un’s onsite inspection to the 11. 2 Factory that supply food items to soldiers and he is reported to have instructed to make the production processes computerized and automated.

In March this year, Kim Jong Un delivered a speech at the State Light Industry Convention where he mentioned to incorporate CNC (computer numerical control) into production and machine equipment and stressed the automation process. He recognized Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory as an exemplary factory for its achievements in automation.

The added emphasis on the factory automation reflects the Kim Jong Un regime’s aspirations in science and technology achievements.

In the Kim Jong Un regime, knowledge economy era places higher importance on knowledge, information, science and technology than physical labor. The current effort in promoting the state-of-the-art technology, including computers, in the unmanned factories demonstrates this point.

In addition, the automation of factories is analyzed to be associated with the new economic improvement measures.

The North Korean media’s coverage on the advantages of the automated factories are named as improved production costs and production efficiency and these concepts are an important market economy components used with the intention of dissemination competition in economic units.

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Kim Jong-un details issues facing light industry [consumer goods] sector

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-3-29

On March 18, Kim Jong-un opened North Korea’s first national light industry convention in ten years, calling for efforts to be focused on the development of light industry. The hosting of this national meeting of light industry workers is somewhat atypical behavior for the leadership, as this event was held amidst military exercises aimed at demonstrating North Korea’s combat readiness.

In his speech, Kim Jong-un pointed out a number of issues which are currently affecting North Korea’s light industry sector including supply shortages, low quality, a high level of dependence on overseas suppliers of raw and other materials, workers’ ‘defeatism’, and a preference for imported goods.

He also emphasized the need for economic improvement through the development of light industry, promoting the production of consumer goods for the public, and modernization of the light industry sector on a scientific basis. In touching on these areas, Kim reiterated points made in his New Year’s address earlier this year.

Kim Jong-un’s itemization of the issues negatively impacting the light industry sector is receiving particular attention. During the Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il eras, progress reports tended to exaggerate positive results, with positive assessments of current performance and rosy projects for the future. Comparatively, Kim Jong-un’s unfiltered account of the state of the light industry sector in North Korea seems somewhat unconventional when juxtaposed against the propaganda of past regimes.

In Kim Jong-un’s words, “in the struggle to enhance livelihoods and to build an economically powerful country, the light industry and agriculture sectors must adopt the course of combining their fire power to deliver a decisive strike.” He further said, “Despite the current precarious situation, light industry, as this year’s first priority for economic development, will quickly solve the issues affecting livelihoods. Through the light industry, we will demonstrate the superiority of the socialist system and our ability to maintain livelihoods. This will be done in the name of advancing the great revolutionary event of national unification.”

Kim Jong-un indicated that the greatest issues facing North Korean light industry today are supply shortages and low quality. “Currently at light industrial factories, we are unable to accomplish the teachings left by Kim Jung-il. Whether exhibiting a new product or sample or displaying products in a store we must mass produce items and return them to the people.”

He continued, “The culture- and lifestyle-related demands of our people are rising by the day. No matter how many consumer goods are produced, if they are not of a quality high enough to meet the demands of the people using them, they are useless. We must produce consumer goods favored by the people and that receive good reviews. We must produce goods impeccable in the global marketplace.”

Kim Jong-un also pointed out that “high dependence on imports of raw materials and construction materials was another serious problem currently facing the light industry sector.” He said that “in order to realize domestic production of raw and other materials, the chemical industry must play a major role.” Kim claimed that “an economic business network must be established among factories and enterprises in the chemical industry” and that “a variety of chemical products composed of high quality textiles and plastics must be produced.”

“Currently, the most significant problem is that our workers do not feel responsible for the failures of their work sector and work units. Instead they have succumbed to defeatism and no longer put forth their greatest effort.” Kim added that “a preference for imports among workers stands as an obstacle to development of light industry.” He went on to say that “we must do away with the tendency to buy from other countries which have different facilities and the tendency to bring in foreign currency while claiming that we must import because our factories are modernizing.”

Since the 2003 ‘National Light Industry Sector Workers’ Conference’ which ran from March 23-24, North Korea has not held a national meeting of local light industry workers.

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Abrahamian with a CNC update

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

 

Pictured above: the DPRK’s two CNC plants mentioned in the post below. (L) Ryonha Factory in Pyongyang, (R) Ryonha Factory in Huichon

From the Choson Exchange web page:

The company that is tasked with producing and selling CNC is Ryonha, through its subsidiary, Unsan. The company had a booth at the recent International Trade Fair in Rason, held in North Korea’s Special Economic Zone in the far Northeast, bordering Russia and China. Their booth was staffed by a Vice President and – as one might expect – attracted lots of attention from the locals in attendance.

The president claimed annual exports of 30,000,000 euros to Europe, South America and South East Asia. He didn’t have exact details on profits, but mentioned that Unsan imported 10,000,000 euro worth of parts, mostly from Europe, such as control units and electronic relays Siemens and Arno. Their main CNC factory is 40,000 sq. meters and the “biggest in the world” according to the manager. They have two facilities, one in Pyongyang and one in Jagang with 12,000 employees in total. They want to open a factory in Rason, ideally without investors. Prices were said to be: 150,000 EUR for a European made CNC machine but only 52,000 EUR for an equivalent machine made in the DPRK, with the “same quality”.

Unfortunately for Ryonha, it seems to be a subsidiary of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which is under UN sanctions as a WMD proliferator. This no doubt impacts Ryonha’s ability to market itself to customers abroad. Ryonha also doesn’t seem to have a website, which can’t help, either.

Should Ryonha’s parent corporation be taken off the UN’s list of designated proliferators, it will find easier access to a global CNC market that was $6.1 billion in 2007, before the financial crisis hit. The market has contracted since then, as the crisis left a global glut in inventory in 2009, which has taken well into 2011 to clear. The sharply reduced demand, particularly from automakers, has made the CNC market particularly competitive, though a sustained economic recovery would eventually drag the industry back up to pre-crisis levels.

It’s difficult to know what kind of impact Ryonha might have on the global CNC industry, as customers and vendors alike are probably reluctant to trumpet where their machines are made. One of the effects of sanctions has been that companies try to hide their tracks when conducting business with the DPRK, even when the industry is unrelated to sanctioned items. This is sometimes done through an extra layer (or two) of outsourced contracts, or with textiles, sometimes just label-switching. This is tough to do with bigger machines, of course, leaving North Korean CNC machines facing perhaps understandable prejudices.

Its impact on the domestic market will be more significant, of course, reducing the need to spend hard currency on imported CNC machines from China and elsewhere. Perhaps then, this import substitution will allow the DPRK to use that unspent capital on projects that actually benefit the daily lives of its citizens.

Read the full post here.

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Kim Jong-un makes over 61 onsite inspection visits

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-2-1

Since Kim Jong-un’s first election as the vice-chairman of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Military Commission (CMC) on September 28, 2010, Kim Jong-un was reported to have made 33 accompanied onsite inspections with Kim Jong-il and a total of 61 visits at industrial sites.

Out of the 61 total visits, Kim Jong-un inspected the following industries: power/electricity (5 times); metal (3 times), machinery (12 times); agricultural (4 times); light (5 times); food (14 times); and industrial (4 times). Construction sites of Huichon Power Stations were visited four times while the Huichon Ryonha General Machinery Plant and the Kanggye General Tractor Plant were also visited multiple times.

Kim Jong-un’s “economic learning” began while accompanying his late father Kim Jong-il on onsite inspections. Even when Kim Jong-il was alive, Kim Jong-un was most likely to have made preliminary visits to these industrial sites for a closer assessment as a part of his duty as the vice-chairman of the CMC.

The significance of the recent visits mainly lie with inspections to the Huichon Power Stations (located in Jagang Province) equipped with 300,000 kW of power generation capacity. Huichon Power Station was an important national strategic project which was often emphasized by Kim Jong-il, “The construction of the power plant must be completed before the centennial birthday of the Great Leader (Kim Il-sung) with great efforts from the entire party, military and the people.”

The electricity produced at the Huichon Power Station is likely to be distributed primarily in the Pyongyang area around the two national holidays, the Day of the Shining Star (Kim Jong-il’s birthday) and the Day of the Sun (Kim Il-sung’s birthday). Currently, power line constructions are still underway in Pyongyang.

At Huichon, constructions of additional terraced power plants are under planning using the currents from the Yangtze and Cheongcheo Rivers. The electricity produced from these plants is likely to be distributed to the industrial areas in Jagang Province, which is central to the machinery and national defense industries.

Important policy implications can be found from Kim Jong-un’s past accompaniment to the Huichon Ryonha General Machinery Plant with Kim Jong-il. This plant is currently emphasized as Kim Jong-un’s accomplishment and revered as, “the industrial revolution of the new era,” and a “site of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) breakthrough.” In addition, Kim Jong-un’s economic leadership is acclaimed for placing prominence on the state-of-the-art technology and “knowledge-based economy.”

Kim Jong-il visited the Huichon Ryonha General Machinery Plant on October 28, 2011 with Kim Jong-un and inspected the CNC assembly line, CNC processing plant, and CNC machineries. He stressed, “Modernization must be promoted in all sectors and levels founded on the state-of-the-art technology. The achievements in the CNC technology should serve as the stepping stone to move forward toward a higher level of science and technology.”

Similarly on October 27, 2011, Kim Jong-il visited the Yangtze River Machinery Plant* with the younger Kim and stressed, “Powerful economic nation that we are seeking is knowledge-based economy which is only possible when CNC technology and automation is realized that can create material wealth through little resources, efforts, and energy.”

The “knowledge-based economy” will likely become the trademark of Kim Jong-un and esteemed as following the “teachings of Kim Jong-il.” Kim Jong-un’s recent industrial site visits were concentrated on the cutting edge production facilities equipped with modernized and automated production processes.

* NKeconWatch: I believe this name is an error and the correct location is the Jangjagang Machine Plant.

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Koryo Tours launches “Heavy Metal” Tour of the DPRK

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

According to the latest Koryo Tours newsletter:

For the past two decades, Koryo Tours has been opening North Korea to tourism, and in 2012 we are once again breaking new ground. After working closely with our Korean partners, we are proud to offer both our group and independent tourists the chance to go where no visitor has ever been, namely factories and similar sites around Nampo, the west coast port city not far from Pyongyang. Here’s a brief introduction to what is on offer:

Chollima Steelworks – A major heavy industry site for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), this place was built by the Japanese and is known to Koreans as the birthplace of the Chollima movement, which even today drives the country. If you’ve always wanted to witness the making of ‘Juche Steel’ in a giant facility, come to Nampo with us. This is the DPRK’s most famous factory, and as always, Koryo Tours are the first company to be allowed to take tourists inside. But Koryo has its own Chlima connection; we can tell you about the art project we arranged at the steelworks as well as the scenes we shot there for our new feature film!

Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex – This enormous complex boasts a number of hangar-sized buildings; we will see the vast range of machine tools, lathes and so on that the workers use to make shaped steel, turbine components, and other products.

Tae’an Glass Factory – This opened in 2005 with heavy Chinese investment, in fact, the Peoples’ Republic of China President Hu Jintao attended the opening ceremony along with DPRK leader Kim Jong Il. Tae’an produces glass and glass products for the domestic market. Koryo tourists will be the first visitors ever to watch the process from smelting to sheet-cutting, and even try to break a sheet of strengthened glass!

Nampo Taekwondo School – Many of the DPRK’s champion martial artists have been educated at this school, despite looking from the outside like it badly needs some maintenance the demonstration put on by the students here (aged from 6 – 16) is a mind-blowing masterpiece of the indigenous Korean fighting style – it’ll make you think twice about arguing with little girls in future!

Nampo Park – With a scenic view over the mouth of the Taedong River, as well as a fresh-water swimming area ideal for warmer months, this is a great place to relax or have a picnic. A popular wedding photography site, this picturesque park makes a pleasant diversion after the heat and noise of the factories.

As if factories, martial arts schools and rustic settings aren’t enough, we can also take you to a local restaurant in the city centre, an orphanage, and you can cap off the trip by visiting the nearby 8km-long West Sea Barrage and staying overnight at the Ryonggang Hot Spa Guesthouse

Keeping with our tradition of travel innovation, Koryo Tours would love to show you the face of DPRK no visitor has seen before. Come see the world’s most mysterious country with the only DPRK specialists around; contact us on info@koryogroup.com or pop in and see us if you’re in Beijing or Shanghai. For anyone planning a DPRK trip, whether it’s your first visit or you’re coming back for more, Koryo Tours is glad to offer you the chance to do and see more than ever before. We look forward to hearing from you!

We are adding these new attractions to the following tours, so if you’ve ever wanted to see Juche Steel (it’s a real thing!) being made, watch a load of sand turn to glass, see North Koreans operating lathes of all kinds, and see a young child beat up several surly attackers then one of these tours could be perfect for you!

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Lankov on CNC technology

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): a Pre-renovation satellite image of what is now the Huichon Ryonha General Machine Plant, one of two known factories which produce CNC machines.

I have posted several times on the DPRK’s growing use and promotion of CNC technology (here and here). In his most recent column in the Asia Times, Andrei Lankov mentions his exposure to this technology from his younger days in the Soviet Union:

An interesting confirmation of the trend is the current fad for CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technologies – computer automation at factories. The CNC craze is often associated with Kim Jong-eun, the most likely heir to the North Korean throne. Indeed there is good reason to believe that this is the case, but it doesn’t really matter whether this fad is sponsored by Kim Jong-eun or someone else. Rather, what is important is that this naive belief in the power of intelligent machinery that will miraculously transform the North. (See Happiness rolls over us like a wave, Asia Times Online, Feb 26, 2010)

Incidentally, when the present author was a Soviet teenager, back in the 1970s, he frequently read similar stories in the then-Soviet media. The Soviet leadership of the Leonid Brezhnev-era also invested some hope in the miraculous power of CNC technology. CNC is actually quite a sound idea and works very well if used in the right social and economic conditions.

However, such conditions were absent in the Soviet Union of the 1970s and are also seemingly completely absent from North Korea of today.

So, Pyongyang’s expectation for CNC, mobiles and computers are unfounded. These technologies, or for that matter any other technology, are unlikely to have any serious impact on the future of North Korea as long as the country’s social and political system remains unchanged. However, North Korea’s leadership cannot see or accept this.

The heavy official promotion of CNC stems from what Lankov calls “technological fetishism” (which would be a good band name), a condition he describes this way:

The logic behind technological fetishism is not that difficult to understand. The root cause of economic stagnation experienced by Stalinist regimes is the intrinsic inefficiency of the Stalinist economic model. But the potentates of such regimes as well as their henchmen could not admit such things – at least, openly.

For Stalinist leaders, the social system was perfect, or at least had to be presented as such. Therefore the only conceivable reason for obvious economic difficulties had to be technological issues. Being hard-core modernizers, Stalinists shared the modern belief in the power of technology as a force that could change people’s lives.

So by DPRK official logic, now that the DPRK has overcome imperialist economic blockades of the motherland and acquired vital CNC technology, economic growth lies just around the corner. Unfortunately for the people of the DPRK, real economic progress is always just ahead–but never now.

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Pyongyang fireworks

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


On October 8, 2010, the DPRK held a large-scale fireworks show on the Taedong River.  The current Google Earth imagery of Pyongyang, taken on October 6, 2010, shows the infrastructure used in the fireworks show:

Click the image to see a larger version in a different window. On the left side of the river near Kim Il-sung Square is a series of new water jets (water cannons) these are used to shoot decorative patterns of water through the air (accompanied by colorful lasers!). The system is approximately 117 meters long, and according to satellite imagery, was installed sometime between December 19, 2009 and October 6, 2010—though footage on Youtube dates to July 18, 2010).  It appears to be a permanent installation which supplements the previously-built dual water cannons that were already in the Taedong River.

In addition to the new water jets, we can see three floating platforms (barges) from which the fireworks were launched. These are temporary structures which can be assembled and disassembled with relative ease. Each platform is approximately 119 meters long. Given available satellite imagery it is unclear where these barges are kept for the remainder of the year.

If any readers have the time or interest in finding out what this kind of hardware would cost in the US, I would be interested in knowing.

This new fireworks system is apparently made possible by the productive powers of CNC technology.  According to KCNA:

New Fireworks Developed

Pyongyang, October 6 (KCNA) — More than 100 kinds of new fireworks have been developed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

They, based on the three elements of the modern fireworks technology — software, ignition control device and firecrackers — have reached a high level in color, brightness and formative artistry.

All the technologies and materials needed for the new fireworks have been developed and made in Korea.

The fireworks, multi-dimensional in fire cycle, rhythmic display and bursting point and scope in the air, fully represent the feelings of the Korean people.

Meanwhile, a CNC-based fireworks displaying system has been established and a device developed to definitely guarantee fireworks display in any atmospheric conditions.

The new fireworks, which have been successfully tested on several occasions, will make their debut in the forthcoming holiday of the Korean people.

Here is what KCNA had to say about the fireworks show which tookplace two days after this picture was taken:

Firework galas celebrating the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea were held here Friday evening.

The bank of the River Taedong facing the Party Founding Memorial Tower and the plaza of the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace, the venues of the firework galas, and other areas of Mangyongdae District and different parts of the capital city were crowded with Pyongyangites who came to watch the nocturnal sky in October to be beautifully decorated with fireworks.

Speeches were made by Kim Ki Nam and Choe Thae Bok, who are members of the Political Bureau and secretaries of the Central Committee of the WPK.

The speakers said that the firework galas would be a festival of glory in glorifying the long history and immortal exploits of the party and a grand canvas of victory stirring up the pride and self-esteem of the service persons and people of the DPRK working fresh miracles and exploits in the era of Songun as befitting the descendants of President Kim Il Sung.

They noted that the firework galas would be held by use of Korean style modern means for displaying fireworks developed in such a unique manner as to ensure formative artistic effect as required by the Korean people’s ideological and emotional desire and sentiment.

Fireworks were displayed in succession in the air over the Party Founding Memorial Tower and the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace, gorgeously adorning the nocturnal sky of the capital city while songs “Long Live the Workers’ Party of Korea” and “Under the Banner of the Party” reverberated far and wide.

The spectacular sceneries presented by fireworks in the sky represented the highest glory extended by all the servicepersons and people to General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

An endless fire went up depicting the logo of the WPK to the tune of songs including “We Sing of the Party” and “The Care of the Party Is the House We Live in,” “The Workers’ Party Is Our Guide”.

Fireworks were ceaselessly displayed in the sky presenting fantastic sceneries demonstrative of the high level of formative art, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Watching the firework galas were senior officials of the party, army and state, chairpersons of friendly parties, delegates participating in the national celebrations of the 65th birthday of the WPK, anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters, officials of the party, armed forces and power bodies and working people’s organizations, servicepersons of the Korean People’s Army and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, officials in the fields of science, education, culture and arts, public health and media, heroes and heroines, those related to the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle, bereaved families of the revolutionary martyrs, persons of merit and other working people.

Invited there were members of congratulatory groups of overseas compatriots, delegations and visiting groups of Koreans from different parts of the world including the congratulatory group of Koreans in Japan, the chief of the Pyongyang mission of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front, delegations and delegates of groups for the study of the Juche idea and diplomatic envoys of different countries, representatives of international organizations, members of the military attaches corps and other foreign guests here.

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Friday Grab bag: a little bit of everything

Friday, June 17th, 2011

1. Google has uploaded some beautiful new satellite imagery of Pyongyang. Some parts of it are easier to see than others, and I have not gone through it all, but here are some fun, quick discoveries:

1. There appears to be a new aircraft runway in Ryongsong-guyok (룡성구역, 39.127835°, 125.777533°).  Maybe not, but maybe.

2. The Ryugyong Hotel is looking more and more like a space ship:

3. We can see 2012 building construction all over the place.  Below are the new apartments Kim Jong-il recently visited (L) at the foot of Haebang Hill and (R) behind the Central District Market (for artists).

Here and here are the KCNA stories about Kim’s visits to the sites.

Here is a photo of the artist-housing under construction.

The Haebang Hill apartments are built on the former location of the “Monument to the Fallen Fighters of the Korean People’s Army”.  See a picture of this former monument here.

 

2. DPRK TKD in USA. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, a North Korean Taekwondo team toured the northeastern US this week.  I wish I could have seen one of the shows…but here are some clips from the New York show on Youtube: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part4.

They did a great job and are tremendous athletes.  I hope they are able to return soon–and make it a little further south.

 

3. DPRK sand animation. This week KCNA posted some very interesting video of a “sand art” demonstration.  Very skilled performance. A viewer was able to rip the video and post it to YouTube.

Pictured above is the “Ryugyong Hotel fireworks” part of the performance.  Part 1 of the piece is here.  Part 2 of the piece is here.  The whole performance is well worth watching. If I could ever be a tourist to the DPRK again, I would want to see one of these performances.

UPDATE: A special thanks to Prof. Stephan Haggard for offering a helpful explication of the piece.

In a similar vein, this piece remains my favorite of the genre (from Ukraine).

 

2. Kim’s Train (Retro). Last week I posted recent video footage taken from inside Kim Jong-il’s train.  This week I post some retro footage taken in the 1970s(?):

You can see the video here.  The room set up is essentially the same, though Kim’s tastes have obviously changed!

 

3. The CNC backpack.

Here is the source.  Learn more about CNC here.

 

4. A North Korean artist reproduced da Vinci’s Last Supper for an art show in Russia. See the Russian-language version of the BBC here (picture-8 ). (h/t L.P.)

 

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DPRK appears to be manufacturing laptops

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Martyn Williams reports in PC World (2011-5-25):

North Korea might be an unlikely place to find a PC factory, but the country has started manufacturing three models of computers, according to a recent state TV report.

The three computers consist of two for educational use and one for office use.

The educational computers each run the same custom software and come in two versions: one is a netbook-sized laptop, and the other is a bland-looking box with a keyboard and mouse, that’s designed to be connected to a television.

“You can use multimedia educational materials,” said Pae Myong-sok, a factory representative interviewed in the TV report. “For example, you can view elementary and middle schools textbooks, do intellectual training exercises, view various types of dictionaries, edit documents and even learn foreign languages.”

The office computer is a laptop and runs productivity software and includes a web browser, Pae said. It’s also netbook-sized and has dual USB ports — something that’s not included on the educational machines — for data transfer. The battery lasts about two and a half hours, the report said.

No other specifications or details were offered in the report. The operating system was unclear from the TV images, but it didn’t appear to be Windows. North Korea has developed its own version of Linux called “Red Star” and it’s possible the computers are running that.

“The devices and programs of these computers were designed and developed purely using our own expertise,” said Pae. “These computers have low prime cost but are designed to carry out all the necessary functions without difficulty.”

The factory was identified as belonging to the “Information Technology Institute.” No other affiliation was provided, but the name matches a unit of Pyongyang’s Korea Computer Center (KCC). The KCC is one of North Korea’s centers for information technology study and learning and has successfully marketed a handful of software applications overseas.

I have posted the segment from the North Korean evening news that features the computers to YouTube.  You can watch it here (2011-3-10).

A reader later pointed out on Martyn’s blog that the DPRK computer is identical to a discount computer sold in the USA. According to Martyn:

Son has posted a comment noting the similarity of the office laptop to a $99 netbook sold in CVS stores in the U.S. The netbook carries the Sylvania brand of Siemens.

From the looks of the two machines, they are identical. It’s either the same or similar basic hardware.

The North Korean manufacturer could be supplying them to Sylvania, or both companies could be buying the laptops from another manufacturer, likely in China, and customizing them. (Just because the Sylvania model runs Windows CE, it doesn’t necessarily mean the North Korean laptop has the same software.)

Below are pictures of the two computers via North Korea Tech:

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Kim Jong-il actively making field guidance visits in the economy sector

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
(NK Brief 11-04-27)

Kim Jong Il is continuing to make field guidance visits around Ryanggang and the Northern Hamgyong Province.

The Rodong Sinmun reported on April 23 that Kim Jong Il visited Rajin Shipyard. Rajin Shipyard is known for producing ships necessary for advancing fishing, marine transportation, and foreign trade industries. Chairman Kim emphasized the importance of self-reliance, especially on the need to adopt the latest science and technology and partake in the mass technical innovation movement by implementing CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology into ship design, assembly, and manufacturing.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, Kim also gave field guidance at Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and newly built Susongchon General Foodstuff Factory in Northern Hamgyong Province. The Rodong Sinmun on April 22 also reported that the DPRK leader provided field guidance at Hyesan Youth Mine in Ryanggang Province. At the Hyesan Youth Mine, he said “The major project of the Party is to complete the technological modernization to radically increase the production of mineral ores.”

At the recent visitation to Songjin Steel Complex at Kim Chaek City, Kim once again emphasized self-reliance. Kim stated, “The self-reliance of the metal industry is the permanent path of our economy.” He further added, “Despite the imperialist’s sanctions and blockade, we reached the highest level of metal production from the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance. The Party’s traditional slogan of self-reliance is the only weapon of victory leading to our nation’s triumph and prosperity.”

North Korea announced that Songjin Steel Complex established Juche steel production system at the end of 2009. At the complex, Kim gave praise to the facility by saying, “The completion of steelmaking process of Juche steel with our own technology is a greater victory than the success of a third nuclear test.”

However, Kim Jong Un, the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and the named successor of the DPRK was not included in the list of entourage in the recent field guidance given by the senior Kim at Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex, Hyesan Youth Mine and Najin Shipyard.

Kim Jong Il is reported to have conducted 35 official activities in the first quarter of 2011. Although it is a decrease from last year’s number of 41, it is still higher than the average of 21(1999-2010) in the first quarter. The breakdown of the activities of Kim is as follows: 12 economy-related visitations, 10 attendances at performances, 9 inspections at military bases or other military related activities and lastly, 4 meetings with diplomatic delegations.

The economy-related inspections were the highest in the first quarter since 2009. This trend reflects Kim’s intentions of concentrating on inspecting the economic sectors early on in the year to encourage results in this sector. A notable point is that self-reliance and incorporation of CNC was mentioned at all industrial facilities that Kim inspected.

Among the entourage, Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui, director of the Light Industry Department of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), accompanied the leader 28 times on his recent inspections. Kim Ki Nam, the KWP Secretary and Director of Publicity and Information Department made 24 trips, Kim Jong Un and Tae Jong Su, KWP Secretary and Director of the General Affairs Department made 22 trips each, and Chang Song Taek (Jang Song Thaek), the husband of Kim Kyong Hui and vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, is known to have made 20 accompaniments.

Recently, North Korea has been making changes in the planned economy by naming the new Central Bank chief, upgrading the State Price Bureau to the State Price Commission, and establishing the State General Bureau of Economic Development.

Kim Jong Il has conducted a total of 161 official activities last year, his most active year since the official launch of the Kim Jong-Il regime in 1998.

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