Archive for the ‘Law on Foreign Investment’ Category

Friday fun with North Korea’s new slogans

Friday, February 19th, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

What better way to start off the weekend than to go through North Korea’s latest batch of political slogans (“Joint calls/공동구호”)? These were issued collectively by the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission on Wednesday February 17th, and printed on the frontpage of Rodong Sinmunas part of the run-up to the 7th Party Congress to be held later this year.

Below I have gathered those that relate to the economy, and a few other interesting ones, with brief annotation:

The calls underlined the need to make hurrah for the WPK and socialism resound far more loudly this year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK is to be held by staging an all-out death-defying struggle for building a thriving nation and improving the people’s living standard.

The Byungjin line is alive and well.

Let’s dynamically wage this year’s general advance in the same spirit as shown in succeeding in the H-bomb test!

Let’s build an economic giant as early as possible with the strength and the spirit of Korea and at the Korean speed!

Send more satellites of Juche Korea into space!

As often before, the satellite launch and the hydrogen bomb test are tied into the theme of economic development: both are technological advancements, showing the overall progress of the economy.

Produce more new-generation electric locomotives and passenger cars!

A shout-out to the domestic car industry?

Put the manufacture of Korean-style world-class underground trains on a serial basis!

The domestically manufactured subway cars haven’t been forgotten. One wonders if people living outside Pyongyang feel as strongly about them.

Step up the modernization of the mining industry and keep the production of nonferrous metal and non-metallic minerals going at a high rate!

Provide more resources for building an economic giant by channeling effort into prospecting underground resources!

At least now Jang Song-taek can’t touch them anymore.

Make the foreign trade multilateral and diverse!

This is interesting, and a clear statement about an important rationale for the SEZs: North Korea will remain politically and economically vulnerable as long as China continues to be its single largest trading partner by a large margin.

Let’s greet the 7th Party Congress with proud achievements in the improvement of the people’s living standard!

The people “will never have to tighten their belts again”, as Kim Jong-un said in his first public speech in 2012.

Achieve a great victory on the front of agriculture this year!

Which the regime has already claimed it did last year. The UN doesn’t agree.

Let’s give a decisive solution to the problem of consumer goods!

Let’s produce more world-competitive famous products and goods!

North Korean media has highlighted strides in consumer goods production several times this year.

Make Wonsan area an icon of city layout and build it into a world-level tourist city!

A shout-out to the Wonsan tourist zone, presumably.

Establish Korean-style economic management method guided by the Juche idea in a comprehensive manner!

Sounds like the management reforms, with greater autonomy for enterprises, are still on the table.

Let the entire party and army and all the people turn out in the forest restoration campaign!

And make sure they “properly conduct fertilizer management“. This is the only reference among the slogans to the forestry campaign, where the regime has publically acknowledged some crucial and systemic problems, but is yet to find a credible solution.

Put an end to proclivity to import!

Does this tell us something about North Korea’s trade balance that the numbers aren’t showing?

The Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should sharpen the sword for defending their leader, system and people!

Note that “people” comes after both “leader” and “system”.

Let us thoroughly implement our Party’s policy of putting all the people under arms and turning the whole country into a fortress!

Enhance the fighting capacity of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards by intensifying their drills as the anti-Japanese guerillas did in Mt. Paektu!

Develop and produce a greater number of various means of military strike of our own style that are capable of overwhelming the enemy!

Enhance the fighting capacity of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards by intensifying their drills as the anti-Japanese guerillas did in Mt. Paektu!

These four slogans seem to be saying that the Four Military Guidelines, adopted in 1962 by the Central Committee, are still very much in play: 1) arming the population, 2) fortifying the country, 3) establishing a cadre-based army, and 4) modernizing military equipment. Mao would probably have been happy to know that his People’s War Doctrine lives on in North Korea.

The whole list of slogans is very long, and saying that policy areas need to improve, or that production in a certain area needs to go up, isn’t much of a policy line. Still, it’s interesting to see what areas are highlighted.


North Korean and Chinese scholars clashing over North Korean business laws

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Yonhap reports about a seemingly interesting forum that has taken place in Beijing, sourcing Global Times reporting. The article is an interesting illustration of the divergent ways in which Chinese and North Korean scholars/analysts seem to view North Korea’s economic situation and business environment (my emphasis):

Scholars from North Korea and China recently held a forum where they remain at odds over whether the isolated North could attract foreign investors and protect them, according to state-run Chinese media.

North Korean scholars insisted that their country offer a raft of legal and financial incentives for foreign investors, but Chinese scholars raised doubts over the North’s efforts, as it is under U.N. sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

The three-day forum, held in the Chinese border city of Yanji, ended on Sunday, state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Paik Il-sung, a legal professor at North Korea’s Kim Il-sung University, said that the North’s laws protect the property rights of foreign investors. Even if the rights of foreign investors undermine North Korea’s national interests, an “unavoidable confiscation” of their property would be carried out in accordance to laws, Paik said.

Choe Su-gwang, an economics professor at the North Korean university, said that North Korea allows foreign investors to arbitrate conflicts with the state throughout an arbitration panel.

Besides geopolitical risks, poor infrastructure was cited by Chinese scholars as one of main reasons for deterring foreign investment in North Korea.

Lin Jinshu, a professor from China’s Yanbian University, said China intends to build infrastructure in the North’s Rason special economic zone, but a lack of relevant accords prevents Chinese investors from doing so.

Rason was designated by North Korea as a free trade zone in 1991, but efforts by the North to bring life to the zone have failed amid geopolitical concerns.

A monthly usage fee for the Internet in the Rason economic zone is 7,000 yuan (about US$1,089), but the Internet there is slow as a “turtle’s pace,” Lin told the forum.

Zhang Huizhi, a professor at China’s Jilin University, also raised the question how North Korea could protect property rights of foreign investors in the event of a war.

Aside from the comment about an arbitration panel, it is notable that the emphasis by the North Korean side of the discussion, at least as reported in this piece, lies very heavily on legal text. It’s enough if written laws are good, seems to be the attitude, which is of course not the way most potential investors see things.

Read the full article:

Yonhap News

N. Korean, Chinese scholars at odds over investment in N. Korea






KCNA: Business success in store for foreign investors

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

According to the article:

A project to set up economic development parks has been steadily pushed forward in different parts of the DPRK, drawing attention of many foreign investors, says Ri Sun Hak, a department director of the Ministry of External Economic Relations.

He said the DPRK government has made all its efforts to create a legal environment favorable for the rights and interests of foreign investors.

The government encourages them to invest in the country on the principle of equality and mutual benefits, he said, and continued:

A series of laws on foreign investment, including the DPRK Law on Foreign Investment and the Law on Economic Development Parks, has been newly enacted, amended and supplemented to provide foreign investors with legal guarantee.

The DPRK government has already made the agreement on promotion and protection of mutual investment with 28 countries and agreement on prevention of double taxation with 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Rules and detailed regulations have been adopted one after another to introduce internationally recognized investment formulas in keeping with the actual circumstances of the country.

Now the DPRK government has been carried forward the cooperation with Russian companies in the fields of railway transportation and harbor express service, while establishing economic development parks and paying deep attention to different projects of cooperation with other countries in the field of investment.

Tourism is also gaining momentum with the development of Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang and Mt. Chilbo areas into fashionable tourist attractions.


KCNA: DPRK encourages foreign investment

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Click image above to see KCNA video of interview with Yun Yong-sok, vice department director of DPRK Joint Venture Investment Committee

According to KCNA (2012-3-23):

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is willing to further improve its environment for foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a vice department director of the DPRK Committee for Investment and Joint Venture, told KCNA.

He said:

The nation’s economy is gaining momentum, with many industrial establishments and power stations being built across the country.

It is a consistent policy of the DPRK Government to enhance economic cooperation with other countries, while beefing up its self-reliant national economy.

In December last year, the government amended investment-related laws, including the DPRK Law and Regulations on Foreign Investment, laws on joint venture and joint collaboration and the Law on Foreign-funded Businesses and Foreigners’ Tax Payment, in step with the nation’s developing economy and international practices.

It enacted the law on economic zone on Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islets in the River Amnok and revised and supplemented the law on the Rason economic and trade zone.

The joint development and management in the two economic zones takes on a new way of cooperation. Now it has been under way in a creditable way, driven by the active efforts of both sides of the DPRK and China.

Contracts on joint venture and joint collaboration have been on increase with the investment environment changing for the better.

Rare earth abundant in the country and infrastructure projects lure foreign investment in the DPRK.

The committee will pay deep attention to ensuring the interests of foreign investors, while invigorating the exchange and cooperation with governments, investors and businesses.

In other news, KCNA has adopted the American colloquialism “beefing up”.


North Korea modifies laws to attract foreign investments

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The KCNA announced on February 9 that the “Foreign Investment Bank Law” was modified and supplemented. According to the report, the amended law included “those businesses in operation for over ten years are exempt from income tax on the profit collected in the first year and Bank of Chosun [Bank of North Korea] will be exempt from business taxes on the interest revenue collected from loans provided to companies on favorable terms.”

The previous law already had regulations about exemption of transaction taxes but nothing on business tax. The foreign investment company and foreigner tax law regulated that two to ten percent of profit to be paid by the foreign companies in service and construction sectors.

While the prior law stated, “tax exemption will be provided for the first year for income tax on those businesses over ten years old, and 50 percent exemption will be given in the next two years,” the “50 percent limit” was omitted in the amended legislation.

According to the KCNA, “The law has 5 chapters and 32 articles which included the contents of categorization and specification for areas to establish foreign investment banks, property rights, and autonomy on business management.”

On February 10, the KCNA announced that the Foreign Investment Company Registration Law, Foreign Investment Company and Foreigner Tax Law, and Foreign Investment Company Bankruptcy Law were amended.

In reference to the ordinance of the Supreme People’s Assembly Standing Committee signed on December 21, 2011, provided that this law consisted of 6 chapters and 34 articles with specifics on business establishment, address, tax, and tariff registrations. However, no other details were given.

On January 30, the KCNA also reported the “Labor Law of Foreign Investment Company” was amended and supplemented. This law consists of 8 chapters and 51 articles on hiring and labor contracts, rest, protection, social insurance, and security.

In addition, the “Financial Management Law of Foreign Investment Company” and “Fiscal Law of Foreign Investment Company,” was also modified. However, no other details were provided.

The KCNA has reported that North Korea modified foreign investment laws previously in 1992, 1999, and 2004. This year marks the fourth amendment.

The news elaborated, “The DPRK is encouraging foreign companies to investment in our country based on complete equality and reciprocity and will not nationalize or collect the invested asset,” reiterating the safety and security of foreign investment.

Some analyze the recent amendment as an effort to attract more foreign investment into the country. Similarly, North Korea has recently announced the Special Economic Zone Act for the development of Hwanggumpyong and Wiwha Islands.  In addition, the state-run Academy of Social Sciences published a newsletter emphasizing the rational tax investigation for foreign companies.

The Daily NK also reported on this development:

On February 10th, Choson Central News Agency (KCNA) reported fresh amendments to North Korea’s laws governing foreign investment.

KCNA revealed, “Chosun’s law on the registration of foreign-funded enterprises has changed. 34 articles in 6 chapters of the law, which was made according to a December 21st, 2011 decision of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly to cover the founding, residence, taxation and customs of businesses, have been amended.”

As is ordinarily the case, specific amendments were not included in the report.

On February 9th, North Korea also announced revisions to its Foreign Investment Bank Law issuing exemptions from consumption tax. Last month also saw revisions to banking as well as labor and financial management laws.

The amendments appear aimed at assuaging the fears of Chinese enterprises over issues such as the threat of expropriation. Indeed, China is said to have last month rejected initial laws governing the management of special economic zones at Hwanggeumpyeong and Wihwa Island nr. Shinuiju for a variety of reasons.

Read the full story here:
NK Investment Laws Get Another Makeover
Daily NK
Kim Tae Hong


Details on the Rason SEZ (version 2.0) emerging

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

China has reportedly agreed to provide electricity to the Rason special economic zone, and the minimum wage investors can expect to pay the North Korean government to employ North Korean citizens qill be approximately US$80.

According to the Korea Times:

China has agreed to provide electricity to a special economic zone in North Korea’s northeast, a source said Tuesday.

The agreement to provide power to the Rason economic zone was signed between Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission, and China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming, during an economic meeting on June 8, the source said.

The source cited Chinese officials familiar with the project.

The project calls for laying high-voltage power distribution lines between the Chinese border city of Hunchun and the North’s city of Rajin as well as building a thermal power plant in Rason, the source said.

Construction for the power lines is likely to begin soon while the two sides are in talks to work out details for the envisioned power plant, the source said.

“Power is an important infrastructure in developing the Rason special economic zone,” said Cho Bong Hyun, an expert at the Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute. “China’s agreement to provide power increases the chances of the zone’s success.”

The North designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since striven to develop it into a regional transportation hub, though no major progress has been made. (Yonhap)

According to Yonhap:

The minimum monthly wage for workers at a North Korean special economic zone has been set at US$80, a source familiar with the reclusive state said Thursday, a small enough sum that could attract Chinese firms to invest there.

North Korea designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 with the aim of developing it into a regional transportation hub. Amid few signs of progress, the country broke ground in June on a joint project to develop it into an economic and trade zone with China. The northeastern port city borders both China and Russia.

“According to a booklet I obtained on the tax policy of the Rason economic and trade zone, the minimum monthly wage for workers is $80,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Under a North Korean law for the Rason economic zone, revised in January last year, the minimum monthly wage for local employees at foreign firms is set jointly by the employer and the municipal authorities.

The amount is higher than the $63.814 recently set as the minimum wage for North Korean workers at the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, the North’s western city bordering South Korea, but less than the average salary of Chinese workers. According to the South’s state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Chinese workers are paid a minimum of $167 per month.

Experts say this wage gap could attract Chinese investors to Rason, as they have already started showing signs of relocating operations to Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with cheaper labor than China.

The booklet also contains details of Rason’s tax policy, including a five-year property tax exemption for buildings purchased through private funds and a corporate income tax rate of up to 14 percent, according to the source.

“The booklet was made by Rason’s tax bureau in July-August to introduce foreigners to its tax policy,” the source said.

And according to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

Hwang also elaborated on the eight preferential policies providing special tax benefits to foreign investors. He asserted, “The government of North Korea will guarantee the investment of the foreign investors by not nationalizing or demanding requisitions. For inevitable cases where such demands occur, proper compensation will be provided.”

The income tax is also at 14 percent, which is 11 percent lower than other areas in North Korea. For companies with business plans over ten years, foreign capital companies will receive three years of tax-free benefit starting from the profit earning year and two years thereon after will receive 50 percent tax-free benefits. According to Hwang, over 100 foreign companies and offices are operating businesses currently in the special economic zone.

Read the full stories here:
China agrees to provide power to NK’s Rason economic zone
Korea Times

Minimum wage at N. Korean special economic zone set at US$80: source


Security of investment in DPRK guaranteed by law

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

UPDATE: KCNA Video here (Youtube)


The DPRK encourages foreigners to make investments in the country on the principle of equality and reciprocity and neither nationalizes nor seize their invested properties, said an official of the DPRK Committee of Investment and Joint Ventures.

In an interview with KCNA, Ri Song Hyok said the DPRK law on foreign investment stipulates the principles and order for protecting the investment of foreigners and ensuring legitimate rights and interests of foreign-invested businesses.

“The law gives a full detail of the requirements of the DPRK’s investment policy, foreign investment forms and methods, investors’ business conditions, investment sectors, incentive measures and preferential treatment in the Rason economic and trade zone,” he said.

According to the principles and order stipulated by the law, regulations have been provided on investment, joint venture, foreign business, foreign-invested business, taxation for foreigners, foreign-invested bank, land lease and Rason economic and trade zone, he added.

The law on foreign investment was adopted in the country on October 5, Juche 81 (1992) and revised in 1999 and 2004.

Well if they say they won’t nationalize or seize invested properties….

The DPRK’s law on foreign investment can be found here.

It is also interesting that KCNA uses the American spelling of “nationalize” rather than the British spelling of “nationalise” since there have been far more British English teachers in the DPRK than American.


N.Korea in Fresh Attempt to Lure Foreign Investment

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Choson Ilbo

Even as North Korea struggles under UN sanctions and is in the midst of a controversial currency reform aimed at breaking the back of a nascent free market, the reclusive country is apparently in the process of changing laws in order to attract more foreign investment, an expert said Wednesday. It is even offering foreign companies wages cheaper than those paid to North Korean workers at the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, according to Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington D.C.

Pritchard, who visited Pyongyang last month along with Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy at the Asia Foundation, told reporters in Washington. The North Korean trade department official they met there told them there are no strikes among North Korea’s skilled workers and were very aggressive in luring foreign investment. He added North Korean officials offered wages of 30 euros a month (around US$44), which was lower than the average $57 paid to workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The officials said they were also willing to offer various incentives to foreign companies interested in taking part in the construction of 100,000 homes in Pyongyang. North Korea appeared to be changing its attitude toward foreign countries as part of its goal to become a strong and powerful nation by 2012, he said.

In an article for Global Security [Posted below], the Internet-based provider of military and intelligence information, Snyder wrote, “North Korean colleagues at the Ministry of Trade appeared genuinely surprised and dismayed when we mentioned that UN Security Council Resolution 1874… contains provisions prohibiting companies from making new investments in North Korea.”

Snyder said North Korea’s interest in foreign investment as part of its goal to become a “strong and powerful nation” by 2012 is a new development and one that could play a role in resolving the nuclear stalemate.

But efforts to attract foreign investment and capital over the past 25 years have been a disaster. North Korea announced new regulations in September of 1984 to allow businesses from capitalist countries to operate there. It set up special economic zones in Rajin-Songbong in 1991 and in Sinuiju in 2002. But the Sinuiju project never got beyond the ground-breaking stage due to conflict with China, while empty factories litter Rajin-Sonbong.

North Korea aimed to attract $7 billion worth of foreign investment into Rajin-Sonbong, but actual investment amounted to only $140 million. According to the South Korean government and other sources, there are an estimated 400 foreign businesses operating in North Korea. Most of them are small businesses run by Chinese or North Korean residents in Japan. The shining exception is the Egyptian telecom company Orascom, which offers mobile phone services in the North. “It’s more accurate to say that there are no major foreign businesses operating in North Korea,” said Cho Dong-ho, a professor at Ewha Woman’s University.

North Korea forged its first pact guaranteeing foreign investment with Denmark in September 1996 and signed similar pacts with around 20 countries, including China, Russia, Singapore and Switzerland, as of 2008. There have been consistent reports that businesses in Europe and Southeast Asia were interested in doing business in the North, but hardly any made the move.

Cho Myung-chul, a professor at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, who taught economics at Kim Il Sung University in North Korea, said, “The reason why no listed foreign companies are operating in North Korea is because they may end up on the list of businesses subject to U.S. sanctions.” This is one of the reasons why North Korea has tried so desperately to be removed from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring countries.

And even if foreign businesses are interested in investing in North Korea, its lack of infrastructure, including steady power supply and adequate roads and ports, make it impossible to operate factories there. Cho Young-ki, a professor at Korea University, said, “You have to build a power plant if you want to build a factory in North Korea. Cheap labor does not mean businesses will profit there.” The electricity used by the Kaesong Industrial Complex is provided by South Korea, while Hyundai Asan operates its own generator at the North Korean resort in Mt. Kumgang.

Dispatch from Pyongyang: An Offer You Can’t Refuse!
Global Security
Scott Snyder

Every North Korean seems to have been mobilized for an all-out push to mark their country’s arrival as a “strong and powerful nation” in 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, Kim Jong Il’s seventieth birthday, and the thirtieth birthday of Kim Jong Il’s third son and reported successor, Kim Jong-Eun. Pyongyang citizens have cleaned up the city during a 150-day labor campaign, followed by a second 100-day campaign now underway. The Ryugyong Hotel in the middle of Pyongyang, unfinished for over two decades, has been given a facelift courtesy of the Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom, which expects to have 100,000 mobile phone customers in Pyongyang by the end of the year. But it is still difficult to shake the feeling in Pyongyang that one has walked onto a movie set in between takes. Or that the used car looks good on the outside, but you really don’t know what you might find if you were able to look under the hood or give it a test-drive.

North Korean foreign ministry officials saw United Nations condemnation of their April missile launch as an affront to their sovereignty. This is the ostensible reason the North Koreans have walked away from six party talks. Having conducted a second nuclear test, North Korean officials want to be considered as a nuclear power, choosing instead to “magnanimously” set aside nuclear differences in order to focus on the need to eliminate U.S. “hostile policy” by replacing the armistice with a permanent peace settlement. Essentially, Pyongyang’s new offer–as a “nuclear weapons state”–has shifted from the denuclearization for normalization deal at the core of the 2005 Six Party Joint Statement to “peace first; denuclearization, maybe later.” There was no mention of “action for action” by our North Korean interlocutors.

But the North Koreans are likely to find when Ambassador Stephen Bosworth arrives in Pyongyang next week that the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. There is virtually no area of agreement between the two governments on the nuclear issue based on public statements made by the two sides thus far, suggesting the likelihood that both sides will face a difficult conversation.

A new component of North Korea’s strategy for achieving its economic and infrastructure goals in the run-up to 2012 is its effort to attract investment from overseas. The Director of North Korea’s newly established Foreign Investment Board unveiled a new plan for attracting equity, contractual, and 100% foreign owned joint venture investments. On paper, the rules incorporate provisions for repatriation of profit, generous tax incentives, and a labor rate of thirty Euros per month. This rate undercuts the compensation of $57.50 per month currently offered at the South Korean-invested Kaesong Industrial Zone. Even more generous was the offer of special concessions in North Korea’s natural resources sector for companies willing to build 100,000 units of new housing in Pyongyang that have already been promised in the run-up to 2012.

North Korean colleagues at the Ministry of Trade appeared genuinely surprised and dismayed when we mentioned that UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which condemned North Korea’s May 25, 2009, nuclear test, contains provisions prohibiting companies from making new investments in the DPRK. This is all the more unfortunate because on paper, North Korean efforts to open its economy through foreign investment are exactly the course that should be encouraged, and North Korea’s goals for 2012 could be advanced significantly with inward investment from companies that might be willing to take the risk, but the nuclear issue stands in the way. This is not to mention that North Korea’s own economic retrenchment and anti-market policies, including the “currency reforms” announced earlier this week, stretch the credibility of the North Korean government to back up these laws. Recent surveys of Chinese investors suggest few demonstration projects for successful investment in North Korea and a high probability of getting scammed or fleeced on the ground.

But the North Korean plea for foreign investment does suggest a potential point of leverage that deserves careful consideration, and that is the possibility of an investment in a strategic commodity that is of special interest to the United States: North Korea’s plutonium stock. During the Clinton administration, former Defense Secretary William Perry led efforts to make similar purchases of nuclear materials from the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, which had inherited stocks of nuclear materials from the breakup of the Soviet Union. These transactions advanced the cause of nuclear non-proliferation by ensuring that these countries would not become nuclear states. A 2004 report of a Task Force on U.S.-Korea Policy co-sponsored by the Center for International Policy and the University of Chicago, also suggested a plutonium “buy-out” proposal for North Korea, despite the obvious moral hazard of appearing to reward North Korea’s bad behavior. Any transaction with North Korea involves moral hazard, and North Korea has already proven that it will sell or sub-contract nuclear materials to the highest bidder. One positive of this approach is that any transaction involving removal of nuclear materials or capabilities from the North would be irreversible, in contrast to past practice of offering irreversible food-aid benefits to North Korea in exchange for participation in multilateral dialogue, but not for irreversible steps toward denuclearization.

In a post-9/11, post-North Korean nuclear test world, the Obama administration must find a formula that facilitates North Korea’s irreversible actions on the path toward denuclearization rather than agreeing to half-measures: North Korea’s immediate focus is on gaining the resources necessary to mark 2012 as a year of accomplishment, yet the North has been highly critical of Lee Myung-bak’s “grand bargain” Proposal. Denuclearization needs to be placed on the North Korean agenda as an accomplishment that North Korea will be able to justify as part of its broader 2012 objective of becoming a “strong and prosperous state.” Unless a new formula can be found by which to bring these two objectives into line with each other, it is likely that the United States and North Korea will continue to talk past each other.


DPRK Law on Foreign Investment

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

From Naenara

Adopted by the resolution of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) on Oct. 5, 1992, and revised and supplemented by the decree of the SPA Presidium on Aug. 19, 2008


Article 1. Mission and status

This Law contributes to encouraging investment by foreign investors in the DPRK and protecting legal rights and interests of foreign-invested businesses.

The Law is the basic law relevant to foreign investment.

Article 2. Definition of terms

1. A foreign investor is a corporate body or an individual of a foreign country that invests in the territory of the DPRK.

2. Foreign-invested businesses include foreign-invested enterprises and foreign enterprises.

3. A foreign-invested enterprise stands for an equity or contractual joint venture or a wholly foreign-owned enterprise that are set up in the territory of the DPRK.

4. A foreign enterprise indicates an institution, enterprise, individual or other economic organizations from foreign countries with a source of income in the territory of the DPRK.

5. A contractual joint venture is a form of business activity in which investors from the DPRK and a foreign country jointly invest, the management is assumed by the partner from the host country and, depending on the provisions of the contract, the portion of the investment made by the foreign investor is redeemed or the share of the profits to which the foreign investor is entitled is distributed to him.

6. An equity joint venture is a form of business activity in which investors from the DPRK and from a foreign country invest jointly, operate the business jointly, and profits are distributed to the investors in accordance with the shares of their investment.

7. A wholly foreign-owned enterprise is a business enterprise in which a foreign investor invests and manages on his own account.

Article 3. Location

A foreign investor shall be permitted to set up and operate an equity or contractual joint venture within the territory of the DPRK, and a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in the specified area.

Article 4. Protection of rights and interests, provision of their management conditions

The State shall guarantee the legal rights and interests of foreign investors and foreign-invested businesses, as well as the conditions of their management activities.

Article 5. Parties to investment

Institutions, enterprises, individuals and other economic bodies of foreign countries shall be permitted to invest within the territory of the DPRK.

Overseas Korean compatriots shall also be allowed to invest within the territory of the DPRK, subject to the relevant laws and regulations.

Article 6. Sectors and forms of investment

A foreign investor shall be allowed to invest in various sectors such as industry, agriculture, construction, transport, telecommunications, science and technology, tourism, commerce and financial services in various forms.

Article 7. Priority sectors

The State particularly encourages investment in sectors that introduce modern technologies including the high technology, sectors that produce internationally competitive goods, the sectors of resource development and infrastructure construction, and the sectors of scientific research and technical development.

Article 8. Preferential treatment

Those foreign-invested enterprises that invest and operate in priority sectors stipulated in the previous Article shall receive preferential treatment, including the reduction of and exemption from income and other taxes, favourable conditions for land use, and the preferential supply of bank loans.

Article 9. Preferential treatment in the Rason economic and trade zone

Those foreign-invested enterprises that are established in the Rason economic and trade zone shall receive preferential treatments as follows:

1. No customs duty shall be levied on export and import goods other than those items that are prescribed by the State.

2. For an enterprise in a production sector, no income tax shall be payable for 3 years from the first profitable year and income tax may be reduced by up to 50 per cent for the following 2 years. The rate of income tax shall be 14 per cent, which is lower than in other areas.

Article 10. Immigrations in the Rason economic and trade zone

The State shall ensure that the relevant institutions make convenient the immigration formalities and methods for foreign investors entering or leaving the country with the purpose of setting up or operating business enterprises in the Rason economic and trade zone.

Article 11. Prohibition and restrictions on investment

The projects where investment shall be prohibited or restricted are as follows:

1. Projects which endanger the national security or injure public morals of the nation

2. Projects geared to resource export

3. Projects that are inconsistent to the specific standards for environmental protection

4. Technically obsolete projects

5. Projects with low profit

Article 12. Investment property, property rights

A foreign investor may invest in the form of currency, property in kind, industrial property rights, technical know-how and other assets and property rights. The value of assets and property rights invested shall be determined through an agreement between the partners on the basis of the international market prices prevailing at the time of the valuation.

Article 13. Establishment of a branch office, representative office and agency

Foreign-invested enterprises shall be permitted to open branch offices, agencies or liaison offices and to establish subsidiaries in the DPRK or other countries. They shall also be permitted to conduct joint operations with companies in other countries.

Article 14. Legal capacity

Equity or contractual joint venture enterprises and wholly foreign-owned enterprises shall become corporate bodies of the DPRK. Foreign enterprises and their branches, agencies and liaison offices that are set up within the territory of the DPRK shall not become corporate bodies of the DPRK.

Article 15. Term of land lease

The State shall lease the land required for foreign investors and the establishment of foreign-invested enterprises for a maximum period of 50 years.

Land so leased may be transferred or inherited during the period of lease with an approval of the relevant organ.

Article 16. Employment and dismissal of labour

A foreign-invested business shall employ its labour force from the host country. Managerial personnel, technicians and skilled workers for special jobs that are prescribed in the contract may be employed from abroad in agreement with the central trade guidance organ.

Labour force of the DPRK shall be employed or dismissed according to a contract made with the relevant labour service agency.

Article 17. Taxation

Foreign investors and relevant foreign-invested businesses shall pay income tax, turnover tax, property tax and other taxes.

Article 18. Reinvestment

Foreign investors shall be permitted to reinvest the whole or part of their profit within the territory of the DPRK.

In such cases the whole or part of the income tax already paid on the reinvested portion may be refunded.

Article 19. Protection of invested property

Foreign-invested enterprises and assets invested by foreign investors shall not be subject to nationalization or seizure by the State.

Should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary to nationalize or seize such enterprises and assets, fair compensation shall be paid.

Article 20. Remittance

Legal profit and other incomes earned by a foreign investor in its business may be remitted abroad, subject to the laws and regulations of the DPRK relating to foreign exchange control.

Article 21. Confidentiality

The State shall protect by law the business secrets of foreign-invested enterprises and shall not disclose them without the consent of the foreign investor.

Article 22. Settlement of disputes

Any disagreement concerning foreign investment shall be settled through consultation.

In case of failure in consultation, it shall be settled by arbitration or legal procedures provided by the DPRK or may be brought to an arbitration agency in a third country for settlement.

Preferential Treatment for Investment in Priority Sectors
From Naenara:

Article 8 of the Law of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Foreign Investment specifies that the foreign-invested enterprises that invest and operate in priority sectors shall receive preferential treatment, including the reduction of and exemption from income and other taxes, favourable conditions for land use, and preferential supply of bank loans.

In accordance with the law, the DPRK government grants such preferential treatment as the reduction of and exemption from taxes and favourable conditions for land use to foreign-invested enterprises that invest in priority sectors, enterprises that are established and operated with the investment by overseas Koreans with the citizenship of the DPRK and foreign-invested enterprises that are operated in the special economic zone.

Preferential treatment in the rate of enterprise income tax is as follows.

1) Preferential treatment

– The rate of enterprise income tax of a foreign-invested business is 25 per cent of the taxable income but that of a business funded by an overseas Korean holding the citizenship of the DPRK is 20 per cent. (No. 1 of Article 20 of the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the Foreign-invested Business and Foreign Individual Tax)

– The rate of enterprise income tax of a foreign-invested business operating in the Rason economic and trade zone is 14 per cent of the taxable income but that of a business funded by an overseas Korean with the citizenship of the DPRK is 10 per cent. (No. 2 of Article 20 of the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the Foreign-invested Business and Foreign Individual Tax)

– The rate of enterprise income tax of a foreign-invested business engaged in the State-encouraged sectors—high technology, development of underground resources, infrastructure construction, scientific research and technological development is 10 per cent of the taxable income. This rate is 10 per cent lower than that of other income taxes of a foreign-invested business. (No. 3 of Article 20 of the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the Foreign-invested Business and Foreign Individual Tax)

– When a foreign enterprise earns other incomes such as income from dividends, interests, rent, royalties or other sources in the territory of the DPRK, such incomes shall be taxable at the rate of 20 per cent in other parts of the country and 10 per cent in the Rason economic and trade zone. (Article 10 of the DPRK Law on Foreign-invested Business and Foreign Individual Tax)

2) Privilege

Article 29 of the Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the Foreign-invested Business and Foreign Individual Tax stipulates that:

-Tax may not be imposed on the dividends earned by a foreign-invested enterprise through business activities inside the DPRK.

– In case the government of a foreign country or an international financial organization grants loans to the government of the DPRK or a State bank, or in case a foreign-invested bank gives loans to a bank or an enterprise of the DPRK on favourable terms such as low interest rates (lower than the LIBOR) and the return period of at least 10 years including a grace period, the enterprise income tax on the interest on the loan may be exempted.

-The foreign-invested business which operates for at least 10 years either in the priority sectors or in the manufacturing sectors inside the Rason economic and trade zone may receive immunity from enterprise income tax for 3 years from the first profit-making year and reduction of up to 50 per cent during the two ensuing years.

Enterprise income tax may be exempted or reduced on an income earned by a financial business through offshore banking transactions.

-For a foreign-invested business that makes a total investment of at least 4 500 000 000 won in infrastructure construction projects such as railways, roads, telecommunications, airports and seaports inside the Rason economic and trade zone, enterprise income tax may be exempted for 4 years from the first profit-making year and reduced up to 50 per cent during the three ensuing years.