Archive for the ‘Light Industry’ Category

North Korea considers nuclear test a driving force of economic development

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Following North Korea’s self-proclaimed hydrogen bomb test on January 6, 2016, which highlighted the fact that North Korea is a nuclear-armed state, daily mass rallies have been held in order to stimulate economic development and cement national unity. The Korean Worker’s Party (KWP) mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun proudly announced on January 8th that the fourth nuclear test had been a ‘success’. It has been reported that mass rallies were held in North Phyongan Province, Jagang Province, Kangwon Province, North Hamgyong Province, Ryanggang Province, Rason City, and other regions as part of the effort to continue building a strong and prosperous nation.

Each of these mass rallies included discussions on how to develop the economy so as to “achieve a golden age through the building of a strong and prosperous nation.” The purpose behind these daily mass rallies can be interpreted as both taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the nuclear test to strengthen solidarity of the people while also paving the way to maximize economic productivity ahead of the upcoming 7th Party Congress that is scheduled for May.

In fact, the North Korean media is asserting that the recent nuclear test was a measure to deter war in order to bring about a domestic economic revival. A front page editorial in the Rodong Sinmun encouraged the nation, saying “We will go full-speed ahead to raise North Korea’s human dignity, vigor, and glory, which are already well-known in the international community. With the success of our hydrogen bomb test as the main driving force, we will show off the mighty power of our nation, and we must aggressively take on the struggle of improving the lives of the people and building an economically strong nation.”

The Chosun Sinbo, which is the mouthpiece of Chongryon (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan) serving as the representative for North Korea in Japan, emphasized that, “We must have a powerful deterrent to endless warfare in order to have a peaceful environment that will enable us to build up our economy. Focusing all of our efforts on building an economically powerful nation and creating a new paradigm shift in which to develop our economy and improve the lives of the people is the most important task of this year.”

Meanwhile, North Korea’s propaganda outlets are stating that food processing plants and other sectors are producing a flood of globally competitive products. North Korea’s propaganda website aimed at the outside world (Chosun Today) stated on January 7th that “Recently, many North Korean food processing plants have been modernizing their manufacturing processes to produce foodstuffs that meet global quality standards, actively contributing to the improvement of the living standards of the Korean people.”

The Sonhung Food Processing Plant was introduced as a model case example. According to North Korean media, the foods produced at this plant are all globally competitive goods, and the best products of the country. Although the plant has only been in operation for 10 years, the media claims that current annual net operating profits per employee are a staggering 350 times higher than those of their first year of operation, and the plant is known for this remarkable record-setting achievement.

These formidable efforts also encompass the development of approximately 90 health products with high nutritional value over the past four years, including healthy danmuk. The news outlets also boasted that nine North Korean factories have received ISO 22000 (food safety management system) certifications.

In addition, 60 products were registered as ‘February 2nd products’, and not long ago five food products, including fruit bread, coffee sweetener, and healthy danmuk, received ‘December 15th quality medals’.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address emphasized “improving the lives of the people” and encouraged various factories to achieve success. The propagation of these successes through the North Korean media outlets demonstrates Kim Jong Un’s intentions of inspiring loyalty from the people through intensive efforts to increase the quality of their diets.

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North Korea’s self-assessment of its economy in 2015

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, released an article on December 18 that evaluated North Korea in 2015 and commended it for “achieving a remarkable leap that reached 10 years achievement in just one year.”

The newspaper commented that many monumental works had been created in 2015 that changed the country. The newspaper also introduced the recently completed constructions of Mt. Paekdu Hero Youth Power Station, multi-tier power stations on the Chongchon River, Future Science Street, Mangyongdae School Children’s Palace, Pyongyang Nursing Home, Mansudae Fountain Park, and “Mujigae” ferry on the Taedong River.

In addition, the Sonbong region in Rason City which had suffered severe flood damages in August was reported to have achieved great changes in only 30 days, turning the village into a “socialist fairyland.”

The newspaper added that “this year, Choson [North Korea] embarked on the advancement of science and technology and emphasized ideology, weapons, and technology as three pillars for constructing great and powerful socialist nation.” It also stated that “in accordance with the party’s policy to turn all people into science and technology talents, institutions, factories, enterprises, and cooperative farms across the country were equipped with over 2,000 science and technology resource rooms.”

A corn processing plant and a catfish farm were discussed as examples: “Pyongyang corn processing plant has achieved automation, and dust and bacteria-free conditions in the entire production process, from raw material to the packaging stage”; “Pyongyang Catfish Farm established the comprehensive production system that integrated intellectualization, informatization, and magnetization in the factory.”

In particular, the newspaper mentioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s onsite field guidance visit to the Pyongyang Catfish Farm where he emphasized the modernization of farm, noting that “the modernization of the catfish plant did not simply bring in power and technology from outside but is based on our independent technology and facilities.”

Moreover, the newspaper said, “This year, measures were devised to improve the dietary level of the people through focusing on advancing livestock, agricultural, and marine products.” It further announced that “Vegetable Science Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Science succeeded in cultivation methods of producing 300 tons per chongbo (1 chongbo = 9,917 square meters) through vigorous research that concentrated on scientification of greenhouse vegetable cultivation.”

In addition, the newspaper added that “scientification” was promoted in other sectors including education, sports, and culture.

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North Korean media continues promotion of domestic products

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IEFS)

North Korean media continues to promote the country’s domestic products and encourage North Koreans to buy them.

On November 29, 2015, much of North Korean media coverage was devoted to reporting on North Korea’s modern factories and encouraging North Koreans to purchase the products they produced.

Likewise, Korean Central Television (KCTV) aired a program on November 20, 2015 about the Mangyongdae Kyonghung Foodstuff Factory, describing it as “a place that produces an assortment of food products made by us and with our brand names.” The program went on to explain the factory’s products and latest facilities in detail for thirteen minutes.

North Korean media is not just promoting domestic food and daily commodities, but is actively promoting a variety of products, including heavy equipment like tractors.

On November 26, 2015, KCNA reported that the Kim Jong Tae Electric Locomotive Works has “achieved praiseworthy results producing and developing an ‘our-style’ subway train that meets the demands of the development era.”

The Rodong Sinmun is also participating in the promotion of domestic goods. It recently published an article entitled ‘Let’s Love Our Things and Honor Them’ in which it reported on North Korean-made goods such as tractors, cars, and bulldozers, and further warned that “If a country’s citizens rely on foreign powers and do not trust their own strength, eventually that country will fail.”

The article also praised a researcher who helped develop a type of ‘medicinal toothpaste’: “Through our strength and technology and with our raw materials, he developed an ‘our-style’ product.”

Furthermore, North Korea has claimed that all of the satellites the country has launched, including Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2 (carried by the long-range rocket ‘Unha-3’ and successfully launched into orbit in December 2012), were 100% composed of North Korean parts.

The Rodong Sinmun echoed this claim in an article on December 2, 2015: “There are many countries in the world that have their own satellites in space, but how many of those countries can honestly say that their satellites are 100% domestically-made?”

It added, “Mankind probably could not find an example of a successful satellite launch amidst such infernal sanctions, such harsh circumstances, such brutal and unfair challenges.”

In some sense, these reports can be interpreted as an attempt by the regime to stimulate the development of factory technology by increasing consumption of domestic products and to promote economic development by infusing energy into the industrial sector.

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North Korea heightens promotion of domestic light industry goods

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korean media is actively promoting the superiority of its light industry products, likening Pyongyang’s department stores to product exhibition halls.

North Korea’s external propaganda site, DPRK Today, posted an article on November 26, 2015 entitled, ‘Come Visit the Pyongyang Department Store No. 1, which is Gaining Popularity for its Domestically-Produced Goods.’ According to the article, “The display stands are so full of domestic products that the department store looks like a light industry product exhibition.”

Opened in 1982 after reconstructing Pyongyang’s former Hwashin Department Store, Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 is located in Pyongyang’s Jung-guyok and is North Korea’s largest department store. With nine floors above ground and one below, it sells numerous domestic goods as well as goods produced in China and other countries. Its most popular items are female beauty products.

According to the article, North Korea’s domestic goods enjoy great popularity with the North Korean people. The Cosmos brand hairpin and Bomhyanggi and Unhasu high-end cosmetics brands (manufactured by the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory) are reportedly well-received by women. Also said to be selling well are the Choltchuk socks produced by the Pyongyang Hosiery Factory, shoes manufactured by the Ryuwon Shoes Factory, and light-weight dishes made by Kyongsong Ceramic Factory. The article goes on to boast that people who purchase domestic brands like Rungna, Bombit Bread, Taedong River Bottled Beer, Pyongyang Soju, Raengchon Cider, and Kangso Mineral Water all say, “Our things are the best.”

Between January and February 2015, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Pyongyang’s cosmetics and shoes factories, where he directly mentioned famous overseas brands and repeatedly called for the production of world-class products. In early November 2015 North Korean media released a flurry of reports boasting about the improvement in the quality of its cosmetics.

On another note, Kim Jong Un is also reportedly visiting military-affiliated fisheries and urging an increase in production. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on November 25, 2015 that Kim gave field guidance to the No. 15 Fisheries Office, which is affiliated with the 549th Unit of the Korean People’s Army and is pushing forward a “massive fish harvest.”

To encourage the workers, Kim reportedly said, “I hope the laborers and warriors of the fishery offices do as the Party intends and welcome the 7th Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party by fixing and modernizing the offices magnificently and achieving more excellent fishing results. . . . The fishery offices must build on the results this year and set magnanimous goals in order to rapidly increase the yearly fish output in a short period of time.”

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North Korea boasts of ‘world-class cosmetics’

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

As reports in North Korea continue to pour out boasting about the improvement in the quality of its cosmetics, it appears that Kim Jong Un’s instructions to raise the quality of cosmetics suited to the tastes of consumers have achieved some results.

On November 5, 2015, the North Korean external propaganda site ‘DPRK Today’ posted an article about the 26th National Exhibition of Consumer Products, which was held in Pyongyang from October 26-30. The website reported, “The Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory submitted more than 80 types of cosmetics and hundreds of products to the exhibition, which felt like the site of a fierce technology competition.”

‘DPRK Today’ cited products on display such as soap, beauty cream, shampoo, and conditioner. “The brands were very distinctive, and the packaging has also changed. There were also many new eye-catching products,” the website reported.

The article also referenced the cosmetic industry’s slogan, ‘World-Class Cosmetic Products—More, Better, Faster,’ and emphasized that the “goals and rate of progress of our cosmetics industry have changed. Those dreams were placed on many products displayed at the exhibit.” In order to achieve these goals, the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory as well as the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory are “constantly shortening the technology renewal cycle by modernizing the production process and better managing technological capabilities,” the website explained.

Back in May 2015, the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, reported that the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory was producing functional cosmetics with ‘natural’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ qualities. It mentioned the ‘Unhasu’ brand and stated that products such as beauty cream, lotion, and foundation had already been developed.

The newspaper also claimed that the biotechnology division of the State Academy of Sciences had used stem cells to develop cosmetics with anti-aging, moisturizing, and whitening effects.

Prior to this Kim Jong Un had visited the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory in February 2015, where he issued instructions to raise the quality of cosmetics. “We need to make it so that our people prefer Unhasu products to foreign-made cosmetics, and further, so that Unhasu cosmetics become the talk of the global market,” he exhorted factory employees.

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The recent consumer goods exhibition reveals qualitative change

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

According to the KCNA, the 26th National Exhibition of Consumer Goods, the National Exhibition of 206 Sundry Goods, and the National Exhibition of August 3 Consumer Goods were held in Pyongyang from October 26 to 30.

The news evaluated these exhibitions to “feature a growing number of varieties in consumer good than in the past, with noticeable qualitative change.” At the exhibition, hundreds of thousands of products were showcased that included knitted products, footwear, and food products.

Among the displayed products, Ryuwon Shoe Factory and Pyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory were acclaimed for their products with 1.25 times more shoes compared to last year’s exhibition. In recent years, factories under the guidance of the Shoes Industry Management Bureau in the Light Industry Ministry create new factories or modernized the existing factories and are reported to be producing high-quality footwear with new products under development.

In addition, the exhibition presented new technology registration review process, to shorten technology updating cycle and to speed up new product development.

Various products made by the branch academy of Light Industry and the Nonferrous Metals Research Institute under the National Academy of Sciences were newly registered under the new review process that included functional cosmetics, antibacterial wipes and other antibacterial goods, and “high-purity” silver goods, etc.

On the other hand, as the living standards of North Koreans are improving, more and more North Koreans are now seeking goods that are eco-friendly, tech-savvy, and health-conscious. Medical goods were popular items in North Korea in the past but today health foods are more in demand. This year there were more high-tech products, such as diesel engines that feature energy-saving and environment-friendly goods, than everyday items.

In the past, North Korean ginseng, sea cucumber, honey and other traditional products were mainly exhibited in these exhibitions. But now, there are more companies that are displaying goods that demonstrate advancement in science and technology and locally produced products.

While commercial advertisements are rare in North Korea, the annual spring and autumn consumer good exhibitions are an exception to this. There are a great number of ads on these exhibitions and many North Koreans are seen taking a souvenir photo next to their favorite ads.

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Factory owners rent out unused space

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

Recently in South Pyongan Province, the practice of renting out sections of state-run factories to individual entrepreneurs is taking off. This latest development is further evidence of de facto private enterprise flourishing on the back of state facilities.

“There is a factory that manufactures coal mining equipment located in a building that is now partially rented to a donju [literally ‘money masters,’ or new affluent middle class] who is making shoes there. By renting out the building, the authorities can also make ‘a little extra’, which is a nice benefit for them,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on October 27.

“‘A little extra’ refers to profits falling outside of enterprise work quotas utilizing state labor and raw materials.”

An additional source in the same province corroborated this news.

She added that the officials in charge of the factory must first make sure that they will be able to sell enough of the extra goods manufactured by the donju on the market to make it worth their while. If they calculate that it will be a profitable good to sell, they go ahead and agree to rent out part of the factory warehouse.

Winter is, without fail, a busy season for shoe markets in North Korea. Demand explodes for cotton wool and fur shoes to prevent frostbite. North Koreans put cotton wool into black or army green cloth to make shoes known as “Tong (a mispronunciation of the word Chinese-derived word in Korean meaning ‘winter’) Shoes”. Fur shoes are boots made of synthetic leather and stuffed with compressed cotton wool or sheep wool.

As North Korea’s primary shoe factories, “Pyongyang Shoe Factory” and “Sinuiju Shoe Factory” receive a quota for the number of shoes they should produce to distribute seasonally, they cannot adjust their production levels to meet actual market demand. This leaves a hole in the market the donju are keen to step in and fill.

What really determines the quality of wool or fur shoes is the sole. The donju buy rubber in the general markets and hire laborers to construct soles from it in, as might be expected, exceedingly unsafe work environments. With no access to safety masks, let alone other protective gear, workers inhale overwhelming quantities of noxious gases in the process.

Nonetheless, workers eager to do the job are never in short supply– those hired for the task are paid who wages 2-3 times that of typical day laborers working for the donju.

Although it is possible to sew the leather outer parts and midsoles of shoes at home, proper equipment is required to produce quality insoles. Rubber is pulverized, reconstituted using a machine, and then mixed with fresh rubber to fabricate insoles. However, a compressor is needed to complete this task, which is where the factories come in.

These days, although it is possible to earn a fair amount of money producing goods at home, “if you’re more ambitious and want to enter into large-scale production you’ll run into an electricity supply problem,” the source noted.

“While it can be said that utilizing the unused space of factories contributes to national production, in the end it’s really the factory’s supply of electricity that proves to be the lure.”

In fact, the first thing donju check when scouting a factory to approach is that the facility has a stable power supply. If all on this front checks out, the donju seek out the cadres in charge and set up a contract stipulating that said entrepreneur pay 30% of his or her profits from the sale of goods produced in the factory as rent.

The factories involved in these deals are typically those associated with the coal mining industry. These enterprises produce the majority of the equipment used in North Korea’s coal mines, and because iron is the most used raw material in the production of the related equipment, such factories receive a larger allotment of electricity than typical light industry factories.

There are, of course, other types of factories receiving steady streams of electricity, but for the time being, they are off limits, according to the source. By way of example, the source explained that because munitions factories harbor a litany of “national secrets, ordinary citizens cannot access them no matter how much money they spend.”

And yet, the fact that North Korea’s donju are now turning their focus towards the production of consumer goods can be interpreted as yet another sign of North Korea’s ever-expanding marketization.

She analyzed these trends as follows: (1) as the relative purchasing power of North Korea increases, demand is increasing as well; (2) markets are developing within North Korea, and state-operated stores are also being rented out and run as de facto private operations; (3), the number of retail outlets selling consumer goods is skyrocketing; (4) the use of ‘servi-cha’ has especially improved the distribution process; and (5) compared to goods directly imported from China, the price competitiveness of local goods has improved as well.

In the past, North Korea’s foreign-currency earning enterprises or the donju would go to Zhejiang Province in China or other regions with low labor costs and import large quantities of consumer goods at low prices to distribute within North Korea.

However, these cheap goods fall short of satisfying the market preferences of North Korean citizens today, the source concluded.

Read the full story here:
As factories rent out space, donju move in and set up shop
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2015-11-2

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DPRK’s domestic sales of wind turbines

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

According to the Pyongyang Times:

New type of wind turbines go on sale

A new type of small wind turbines made by the Aeguk Magnet Factory attract an increasing number of customers.

The new turbine with its blades spiral and conical in shape proves to be more advantageous than the three-blade propeller turbine.

Its utilization rate of wind is over two times as high as that of the three-bladed turbine, so it can be set up everywhere—both seaside and inland where the wind blows above two metres per second. And it can also be installed on top of public buildings and on the balconies of multi-storey flats.

With its blades relatively short, the turbine requires only one third of the previous area for installation and generates little noise and vibration.

All parts of the turbine are domestically made including the essential permanent magnet, and the cost is at least 75 per cent lesser despite better stability, said Kim Chol Song, manager of the factory.

Just a few months after the turbines went on sale, the products find growing demands in Haeju of South Hwanghae Province, Phyongwon of South Phyongan Province and other plain areas.

The factory has established a technical process for turbines with a capacity of 100-300W, which are widely thought to cost much less than solar panels in production.

Read the full story here:
New type of wind turbines go on sale
Pyongyang Times
2015-10-28

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Kaesong output reaches US$3 billion

Monday, October 5th, 2015

According to the JoongAng Ilbo:

The Kaesong Industrial Complex’s accumulated production value is expected to have hit the $3 billion mark, more than a decade after its launch, according to government data.

As of the end of July, accumulated manufactured goods were valued at $2.99 billion, with average monthly production output hovering at around $46 million.

Accumulated production value was thought to have surpassed $3 billion sometime after July.

 

…The volume of manufactured goods at the Kaesong Industrial Complex has increased annually since its opening, except for in 2013, when it was temporarily shut down for five months amid tensions on the peninsula. In 2008, the complex surpassed the $200 million mark in production and continued to expand yearly production levels to reach $469 million in 2012.

Due to the temporary shutdown, the complex saw its annual production drop down to $223 million in 2013, though it bounced back to $469 million the following year.

The number of North Korean workers employed by South Korean firms has gone up, from 7,621 in 2005 to 53,947 in 2014, according to data by the Ministry of Unification.

Here is coverage in Yonhap.

Read the full story here:
Kaesong’s accumulated output at $3B
JoongAng Ilbo
Kang Jin-Kyu
2015-10-5

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North Korean-style venture company develops and sells PCs

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-6-24

A North Korean electronics company, where engineers in their 20s play a pivotal role, is mass-producing and selling locally made computers that are enjoying popularity due to their high quality and low price.

A correspondent in Pyongyang for the Choson Sinbo reported on June 16, 2015 that North Korea’s ‘Blue Sky Electronics’ is developing, mass-producing and selling various electronic products, including domestically produced computers under the ‘Blue Sky’ brand.

According to the Choson Sinbo, Blue Sky Electronics, which was established in October 2014, is locally developing, producing and selling these computers, which are manufactured at a factory on Tongil St. in Pyongyang.

It is reported that the researchers behind the computers are mostly in their 20s and graduates of Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, and the College of Natural Sciences. They are producing products such as ‘all-in-one’ computers, ‘portable’ computers, ‘desktop-type’ computers and ‘portable computers with detachable keyboards.’

The ‘all-in-one’ computers refer to computers that incorporate the desktop and monitor into one body, while ‘portable’ computers and ‘desktop-type’ computers refer to notebook computers and desktops, respectively. ‘Portable computers with detachable keyboards’ seem to refer to computers that double as both tablet computers and desktops.

The newspaper reported that among these, the ‘all-in-one’ computer and the portable computer with a detachable keyboard are especially popular, and orders for these computers are steadily coming in from a number of agencies and companies throughout the country.

The ‘all-in-one’ computer, which has a unique exterior, is said to consume little energy and can be charged using a household battery. Meanwhile, the portable computer with detachable keyboard, which can also be charged using a household battery, has reportedly enjoyed much popularity since it went on the market.

CEO Choi Jin Hyok (29 years old) explained succinctly the company’s business strategy: “Highest quality, lowest price, and product diversification.”

The newspaper added that the company is “developing products that are competitive internationally.” In addition, it was said that “[Blue Sky Electronics] guarantees the highest quality so that buyers can have confidence regarding its domestically made products, and everything in the company’s management is aimed at prioritizing the needs of the people in all aspects of purchasing and service.”

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