Archive for the ‘Light Industry’ Category

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


North Korean-style venture company develops and sells PCs

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

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.”


Samgak Beer

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Choson Exchange has let the world know about a new North Korean beer: 삼각맥주


The name means “triangle” beer, or more accurately “river delta” beer.

It is manufactured at the Rajin Drink Factory (라진음료공장). I do not know where this factory is located, so please let me know if you happen to learn.


North Korea’s “donju”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

According to Reuters:

Nail salons, massage parlors, cafes and other signs of consumerism were unheard of in rigidly controlled North Korea just a few years ago, but they are slowly emerging in one of the world’s last bastions of Cold War socialism.

North Korea operates a centrally-planned economy modeled on the former Soviet Union where Western-style conspicuous consumption is anathema.

But as a growing middle class of North Koreans earns more money in the unofficial economy, the demand for products such as cosmetics, smartphones, imported fruit juices and foreign clothes is on the rise, according to residents and visitors.

There are now 2.5 million North Korean mobile phone subscribers in a country of 24 million people. Even some state-owned factories are diversifying product lines from rationed daily necessities to meet the demand for non-essential goods.

“Nobody needs to drink coffee, and nobody needs to spend money on it, but people do. This is what’s happening in Pyongyang, and it’s a change,” said Nils Weisensee, a coffee roaster from Germany who works with the Singapore-based Choson Exchange NGO to train North Koreans in business skills.

While the repressive and impoverished country is still years away from becoming a consumer paradise, it is now home to a rising class of rich North Koreans known as “Donju”, meaning “masters of money”, thanks to the growing unofficial economy.

Some Donju spend their cash on private English tuition for their children, or on South Korean or Japanese clothes, according to research by the South Korean government-run Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), in Seoul.

“People can choose between toothpaste that uses crystals or nanotechnology to make it more effective than normal toothpaste, or a special one flavored for children,” said Weisensee.

Many of the Donju have made money trading in informal markets, or by setting up small businesses. Some businesses operate as a form of public-private partnership, where staff of state enterprises are given permission to start quasi-autonomous profit-making enterprises.

Around 70 percent of that profit goes to the state, with the rest going to individuals, according to defectors from the country, including Choi Song-min, who ran a shipping service before fleeing to the South in 2011.

“For example, at a Chongjin city branch of the transport ministry, they might say to their bosses ‘how about we sell coffee to the people waiting for our buses'” said Choi, who now writes for the Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, and has regular contact with sources inside the North.

At the food section of the Kwangbok Department Store in central Pyongyang, moneyed shoppers can choose between a wide variety of consumer foods like fruit juices, chocolates and soda, according to Troy Collings of Young Pioneer Tours.

“People weren’t just buying basic foods. They were considering factors other than price, by buying the imported orange juice instead of the local one, for example,” said Collings, who leads regular tourist trips to North Korea.

Even leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying North Korean-made cosmetics should compete in quality with foreign luxury brands like Chanel and Christian Dior, according to the Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan.

“These nouveau-riche who make money in the markets need a channel for consumption,” said Ahn Chan-il, 63, a North Korean defector and former South Korean intelligence official who receives information from contacts inside North Korea.

“Things like cars, massages, raffles, pet dogs. North Korean people are already riding on the back of the tiger that is the market economy, not the regime,” said Ahn.


North Korean consumer capitalism is very much in its early days, residents of Pyongyang said. A chronic energy shortage, brutally repressive government and deeply ingrained corruption ensure that the pace of change is sluggish, and limited.

“What use are these new, kitschily-decorated places that mostly imitate Chinese nouveau-riche life if there is no electricity to cook the food?” a diplomatic source in Pyongyang told Reuters.

One area of downtown Pyongyang, jokingly known by foreign residents as “Pyonghattan” or “Dubai”, is home to expensive department stores, a sushi restaurant and a 24-hour coffee shop.

“Oftentimes you will be turned away, not because you are a foreigner, but because there is just no energy to operate the kitchen. Good luck trying to get a proper meal in Pyongyang after 10 p.m.,” said the source.

Defectors said the consumer boom extends to cities beyond Pyongyang, where bustling markets or train stations are now home to small coffee stalls, and wearing jewelry is an outward and accepted sign of status.

Ahn said the nearby city of Pyongsong is where many well-off North Koreans live, thanks to wholesale businesses importing products from China.

Choi said the coffee drinking trend for moneyed North Koreans began to appear last year: “To look cool, the Donju, party officials and young people like college students go to coffee shops to meet people”.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang Bling: The rise of North Korea’s consumer comrades
James Pearson and Ju-min Park


Development of stem cell cosmetics in North Korea

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Chosun Sinbo, mouthpiece of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported that North Korea has developed and is now producing cosmetic products that utilize new natural materials and cutting-edge technology, including stem cell technology.

“At the Pyongyang Cosmetic Factory, they are concentrating on developing functional cosmetic products that are natural and low stimulating,” the Chosun Sinbo revealed on April 28.

The biotechnology and light industry divisions of the State Academy of Sciences, as well as scientists, teachers and researchers at the Han Duk Su Pyongyang Light Industry University, are assisting in this work.

According to researchers within the biotechnology division, the product utilizes stem cell technology in regenerating skin, and it is effective in preventing aging, moisturizing skin, and lightening skin.

They said that they developed the cosmetic additive (which has a pine tree scent) at the Pyongyang Natural Perfume Research Center, and that this product matches the characteristics of one’s skin by age and is effective in things like skin lightening and removing wrinkles.

They added that they have also developed a beauty cream that has a moisturizing and whitening effect due to its natural hydrating materials derived from kelp.

In March 2015, First Secretary Kim Jong Un inspected the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory. During his inspection he cited world-renowned cosmetics brands like Lancome, Chanel, Christian Dior and Shiseido and encouraged the factory to “continually raise the quality of its products so that we can compete with such foreign cosmetic products.”

In particular, Kim noted that “the eyeliner and mascara made by foreign countries retain their shape when exposed to water, whereas the mascara and eyeliner produced domestically create ‘raccoon eyes’ when the wearer only yawns.”

The Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory was established in April 1962 and is North Korea’s representative cosmetics factory, producing all sorts of cosmetic goods such as the ‘Unhasu’ brand. It also produces over 60 types of functional cosmetics including soap, shampoo, beauty cream and skin lotion.


Increase in sales volume of domestic goods in North Korean stores

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea’s official news agency, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on March 25, 2015 that the volume of domestic goods sold at North Korean stores is increasing.

“Every display is filled with all kinds of inexpensive, high-quality domestic goods. Numerous shoppers are purchasing these goods, all of which are produced at domestic light industry factories. This is a sight that is commonly seen today at Choson’s [North Korea’s] department stores,” KCNA reported.

The news agency also quoted the manager of Pyongyang’s Department Store No. 1: “In recent years there have been remarkable improvements in every indicator, from the amount and quality of light industry goods produced domestically to the brands and packaging. As this has occurred, demand for these goods has increased,” he explained.

While he says that stores are mainly selling domestically produced goods like food and cosmetics, he also said, “Because furniture and building materials, shoes and clothing, medicine and other goods are also low-priced and suited to the tastes and health of our people, they are gradually overwhelming imports.”

The manager of Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory commented as well: “Previously, our ‘Pomhyanggi’ (or ‘Spring Scent’) brand was the only product that people could point to as a cosmetics product […] But the popularity of Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory’s ‘Unhasu’ (or ‘Milky Way’) is rising, and when you include the units produced at Myohyang Cosmetics Factory, its units actually surpass ours and are putting up a strong challenge. We had better get ourselves together.”

At light industry factories across the country, production of food products is rapidly increasing, and quality is improving as well. But it has reportedly not been easy to meet the people’s demand. Thus, manufacturers are working to improve product design and manufacturing technology and pledge to actively help improve the lives of the people.

In addition to this, KCNA reported that at places like the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex and the Hamhung Automated Equipment Factory, they are also spurring on production of domestic products through means such as domestically producing raw materials and equipment.

Meanwhile, North Korea is building one modern foodstuff factory after another in Pyongyang. The Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea, reported on March 18, 2015 that in the Nakrang district, construction of the ‘corn processing plant’ entered its final stages. There are plans for this factory to produce around 10 different food items out of corn (corn is the most common food ingredient in North Korea), including corn noodles and snacks.

On February 10, 2015, in Pyongyang’s Mangyongdae district, ‘Mangyongdae Kyonghung Foodstuff Factory’ was completed and went into operation. KCNA emphasized that this foodstuff factory is “a modern and comprehensive food manufacturing center” and will supply residents with “tasty and nutritious food.”

Similarly, in June 2014, the Unha Taesong Foodstuff Factory in Pyongyang’s Potonggang district finished construction and began production. North Korea’s official web portal,  ‘Naenara’ explained that the factory produces approximately 100 kinds of food such as bread, snacks, candy, beer, ham and sundae (or Korean sausage).

The fact that in a relatively short period of time modern foodstuff factories are continually being built in Pyongyang is consistent with the most important task of North Korea in the Kim Jong Un era: improving the food situation of the North Korean people. On February 18, 2015, First Chairman Kim Jong Un spoke at the enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party. There, he asserted that the improvement of people’s lives was the nation’s first priority, and he specifically emphasized the importance of solving the food issue. Unlike the past, recent efforts extend beyond solving the food shortage problem and aim to raise the quality of food for the people.


Kyonghung Foodstuff Factory

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015


According to KCNA (2015-2-10):

The Mangyongdae Kyonghung Foodstuff Factory was newly built and went operational with due ceremony on Tuesday.

Officials and employees of the Kyonghung Guidance Bureau built its splendid building by their own efforts, automated raw material feeding and put overall production processes on a CNC, germ-free and dust-free basis thanks to the help of teachers and researchers of Pyongyang University of Mechanical Engineering.

The updating of the factory helps successfully carry out the last instructions of leader Kim Jong Il, who worked heart and soul to provide greater quantities of tasty and nutritious foodstuff to the people and consolidate the Juche character and independence of the foodstuff industry.

A message of thanks of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea was conveyed to the officials and employees of the bureau at the commissioning ceremony.

Present there were An Jong Su, department director of the C.C., the WPK, officials of the bureau and units under it and officials and employees of the factory.

At the end of the ceremony the participants looked round the factory.

Photos of the factory can be seen here on Uriminzokkiri.


Rungra 88 Trading Company

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Neungna 88 [Rungra 88],  Trading Company, located in Suncheon, South Pyongan Province, has been a popular workplace for women, offering jobs in clothes manufacturing. It is one of the companies tasked with earning foreign currency for the North, but recently, with the wages standing at a mere 10th of individually employed workers, more people are leaving their posts, the Daily NK has learned.

“Workers employed by breweries or bakeries receive roughly 200,000 KPW a month,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on Tuesday. “But at Neungna 88, workers on the clothing line only make 20,000 KPW even though they work in unsatisfactory environments.”

The trade company falls under the Chosun Workers’ Party’s Finance and Accounting Department and exports to China everything from coal and iron ore to medicine, alcohol, clothing, and health supplements, earning back foreign currency. The profits are offered up to the Department or are used to procure holiday gifts for Party cadres under Kim Jong Eun’s name.

Neungna 88 in Suncheon is a branch of the headquarters in Pyongyang, and focuses on exporting clothes in collaboration with China, meaning the company brings in the yarn, fabric, and designs from China, and then exports the final products back. It also runs a restaurant serving pizza to procure additional funds. Increasing foreign food availability is the latest method employed by these foreign-currency organizations to encourage resident spending, encouraged by the increased demand. For foreign currency-earning enterprises to extend their activities domestically is indicative of the increasing purchasing power of the middle-class.

“If you get to Daedong River in Sunchon, you’ll see a big sign on a three-story building that reads Neungna 88 Trading Company,” the source explained. “The first floor is a pizza place, and on the second and third stories, there are some 150 women making clothes.”

Their monthly wages are 20,000 KPW [2.3 USD], which is almost seven times higher than other state-run companies, but the lowest among trading companies.There are no standards as to how much these trading companies have to pay their employees, and each company decides based on the profits and amount of work allocated.

Unlike men, it is very rare for women in their teens or 20s to work for a trading company. Despite this fact, some women work on garment manufacturing lines because of the regular food rations and extra benefits offered on national holidays, regardless of the low wages.

However, recently more people have been quitting their jobs, as those who are hired by private businesses are able to receive up to a ten-fold increase in wages and work in a more pleasant environment, the source explained. This portends a growing number of women who are seeking more than a low wage with rations and instead looking for better employment opportunities.

With this trend, the company has been trying to hire more women with experience at state-run apparel factories, but not many are willing to due to the low salary. “Because of this, unless Neungna 88 raises its wages it will create obstacles for exports, not only due to technical difficulties, but also low morale,” she concluded.

Read the full story here:
Women Leaving Low Paying Trade Co. Jobs
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah


Kwangmyong LED Lamp and Solar Battery Factory

Thursday, September 25th, 2014


Pictured Above (Pyongyang Times): The Kwangmyong LED Lamp and Solar Battery Factory

Below are several stories about the factory in the North Korean media:

Pyongyang Times (2014-12-6):

Kwangmyong LED and solar cell factory

The was built last year as a reflection of fierce competition for technology-intensive economy and green architecture in the DPRK.

It is equipped with a full set of latest facilities for the production of LED lamps and solar cells, in which development, production and sales of products are integrated to meet the requirements of the knowledge economy age.

The LED lamp production process, in which temperature and humidity are regulated automatically and which is dust free, is streamlined from the manufacture of LED light source to assembling and trial run, and intelligent equipment guarantee perfect quality of products.

All the factory products conform to international standards and they are many and varied. They include circular, flat, concave, mobile, concentrating lamps of 1 to 5W and 200W large-capacity module LEDs and LED floodlight, ornamental lamps for walls, gardens and tunnels, sensor and functional LED lamps of various styles and shapes. In a word, it can produce a variety of products on an assembly line.

The factory products are on sale through the exhibition in the compound and the commercial network across the country and it can get immediate feedback on its work from the purchasers.

The factory’s institute staffed with dozens of promising researchers and technicians is playing the leading part in closely combining the development of new products with production. They are now working on the development of new chips, LED and LED lamps, chip materials and solar cells. In particular, they have made notable achievements in solving technological problems for the production of all kinds of components of LED lamp with local raw and other materials and technology.

The solar cell workshop is stepping up the development of 3-G solar cell.

The building of the factory is a green one, as befits a producer of energy-saving products.

The photovoltaic collector panels, wind-driven generators and solar water heaters on both sides of the road to the entrance of the factory, in the compound and on the roof provide enough electricity for the lighting of the factory and hot water for the factory canteen and bathroom. And the geotherm that comes through the advanced geothermal facilities constantly provides favourble temperature for the people’s life by radiating heat in winter and absorbing it in summer.

The factory will be greatly helpful to the development of lighting industry, as it embodies the requirements of knowledge economy in both content and style.

KCNA (2014-6-23):

Kwangmyong LED Lamp and Solar Battery Factory

Pyongyang, June 23 (KCNA) — The Kwangmyong LED Lamp and Solar Battery Factory, built in the outskirts of Pyongyang, has begun operation.

The factory is all powered by wind, solar heat and geotherm. It is also perfect from the architectural and formative points of view.

It has several computerized assembly lines with an integral system of research, production, technical service and sale.

It is producing scores of kinds of LED lamps in accordance with the standards recommended by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The institute of the factory is paying its primary attention to manufacturing all its products with locally available materials, while channeling efforts to the development of third-generation solar battery.

KCNA (2014-9-25):

Functional LED Lamps Developed

The Kwangmyong LED Lamp and Solar Battery Factory in the DPRK has recently developed diverse functional LED lamps effective for the production of livestock and vegetable.

They include lamps that help promote egg-laying and plant growth.

The egg-laying promotion lamp emits yellowish red light, with consumption of 18W electricity and wavelength of 590-600㎛. Its introduction made it possible for the Mangyongdae Chicken Farm to raise the egg output 3-4 percent.

The LED lamp for promoting the plant growth uses 9W of electricity, emitting blue light with 420-460㎛ in wavelength.

There is also a kind of LED lamp for fishing.


DPRK textile exports to China surge in 2014

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korean textile exports to China are expected to surge four-fold to US$800 million this year compared to 2010, indicating a declining dependence on raw materials exports to earn foreign cash, a report said Tuesday.

The report by Korea International Trade Association (KITA)’s Beijing office showed shipments of textiles reached $410 million in the January-July period, up from just $190 million in 2010.

The international traders’ organization said textiles also accounted for 26.3 percent of all North Korean exports to China, up more than 10 percentage points from 16 percent reached four years earlier.

“Export growth reached 40 percent coming into this year, so it should not be too difficult to surpass the $800 million mark,” KITA said.

It said growth is being fueled primarily by the lower wages of North Korean workers compared to their Chinese counterparts.

On average, a North Korean worker earns $244 per month compared to $440 for a Chinese worker employed in Jilin province north of the border.

KITA said that, starting last year, some Chinese companies began shipping materials to North Korea to be made into finished products there.

In contrast, exports of raw materials, which made up 71.4 percent of all commodities shipped by North Korea to China in 2011, dropped to 60.7 percent of total exports in the January-July period. Trade data showed sharp drops in exports of coal, iron ore and pig iron.

The trade agency then said that with Chinese labor costs expected to rise steadily and the country suffering from a shortage of workers in certain sectors, North Korea may be able to capitalize on its advantage to build up its labor intensive sector.

You can read the whole story here:
N.Korean textile exports to China surge in 2014