Archive for the ‘Political economy’ Category

Kim Jong Un visits Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Automation-Institute-Kimchaek-KCNA

Automation-institute-Google-Earth

Top: Official KCNA photo of the new Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology Bottom: Google Earth satellite image of the facility in the new Mirae Scientist Street

According to Google Earth imagery, construction on the project started around September 2014.

According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Gives Field Guidance to Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave field guidance to a newly-built building of the Automation Institute of Kim Chaek University of Technology.

He was greeted on the spot by Hwang Pyong So, Kim Jong Gwan, other officials of the relevant field and officers of the KPA units taking part in the construction.

He had promised to make sure that a new building was constructed for the Automation Institute when he was acquainting himself with the work of the institute in April last year.

He chose the site of the institute on the picturesque bank of the River Taedong and guided its layout several times. He not only saw to it that a powerful construction force of the People’s Army was formed for the project but personally settled the issues arising in it.

Enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the institute, he said the institute was successfully built to match the environment around it as required by the layout ratified by the party.

He went round several places of the institute to learn about its construction in detail.

He was pleased that the institute was built in such a way as to visually showcase the party’s policies of attaching importance to science and technology and talents and provide its researchers with ample conditions for their scientific researches and living.

He told officials to fully provide the institute with reading rooms, e-library and video system so that they might help the researchers in their work and study.

Noting that a country can prosper only when a revolution is carried out with a proper view and stand on science and talents, he underscored the need to provide the institute with modern equipment and vehicles necessary for its operation as it was built into a cutting-edge scientific research center. He was so kind as to promise to ensure that this matter would be settled by the party.

He highly praised the soldier builders of KPA units 407 and 101 for fully displaying the revolutionary soldier spirit in the construction of the institute.

He expressed belief that the researchers of the institute would creditably perform their mission and duty as standard-bearers in breaking through the cutting-edge science and technology by carrying forward the tradition in which they have contributed to the cause of the party with their valuable scientific and technological achievements and thus give fuller play to their patriotic enthusiasm and devotion to living up to the expectations of the party, the country and its people.

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Kim Jong Un to shift focus to sconomy starting this year

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-6-11

After Kim Jong Un came to power, North Korea made regime stability and unity its priority and launched an intensive propaganda campaign, according to a study.

The Chosun Ilbo and experts on inter-Korean relations recently conducted a joint study in which they analyzed the past 5 years of articles published on the front page the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The study found that the percentage of articles stressing regime solidarity was 36 percent, higher than any other category. Following that were articles related to the economy (34 percent), the military (16 percent), foreign relations (10 percent), and South Korea relations (1 percent). This contrasts with the year 2011 when Kim Jong Il was in power. That year 51 percent of articles were related to the economy, while 28 percent dealt with regime unity.

However, in 2012, the first year of Kim Jong Un’s rule, the percentage of articles stressing regime unity reached 52 percent. Meanwhile, 21 percent of articles focused on the military, and 18 percent focused on the economy. Thus, we can surmise that after Kim Jong Il’s sudden death in December 2011, new leader Kim Jong Un fully mobilized media like the Rodong Sinmun to build his power base.

In 2013 and 2014, the percentage of front page articles dealing with regime unity was 37 percent and 35 percent, respectively, higher than any other type of article in those years. Thus, in the three years (2012, 2013, 2014) Kim Jong Un has been in power, priority has been placed on consolidating the power structure. During this period Kim Jong Un strengthened regime stability through means such as the purging and successive demotion of party, military, and political officials.

Once Kim Jong Un ascended to power, the amount of coverage related to the military also rose rapidly compared to the Kim Jong Il era. Experts view this as part of the effort to strengthen the foundation of Kim Jong Un’s power. In 2011, when Kim Jong Il was alive, the percentage of front page articles in the Rodong Sinmun related to the military was almost insignificant at 5 percent. But in 2012 that percentage rose to 21 percent, and in 2013 it rose again to 26 percent. Military coverage was especially common around the time of the December 2012 long-range missile launch and the February 2013 third nuclear test. In 2014, articles related to the military decreased; this year they seem to be increasing.

However, as Kim Jong Un approaches the end of the fourth year of his rule, there appears a turn to emphasize economic policy. This year for the first time in Kim Jong Un’s rule the percentage of front page articles about the economy (42 percent) exceeded the percentage of articles related to regime solidarity (26 percent). The North Korean leader intends to make just as much progress on the food security issue as he has in strengthening the foundation of his power. Now, as Kim Jong Un gains confidence in his power status, we might expect him to shift his policy priorities from securing regime support to improving the economy.

From a political perspective, the tendency for Kim Jong Un to honor his father’s legacy is also waning. In 2011 and 2012, articles related to Kim Jong Il’s birthday were continuously published on the front page of the Rodong Sinmun from January to the end of February. But this year the period for this coverage was shortened to five days (from February 14 to 18).

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Gause on Kim Jong-un’s power consolidation

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has not fully consolidated his power and could be marginalized into a “puppet” unless he brings in more money and buys support from within the regime in a couple of years, a U.S. expert said Monday.

That is why Pyongyang is largely maintaining its charm offensive toward South Korea while refraining from major provocations in an attempt to prod Seoul to improve inter-Korean relations and “open up the coffers,” said Ken Gause, a top North Korea expert at CNA Corp., during a lecture.

“The royal economy, which is part of the economy surrounding the Kim family, is losing money. They can’t bring in as much money. He’s having to spend about twice as much money than his father did to buy support within the regime,” Gause said. “He doesn’t have the resources to be able to consolidate his power and buy relationships.”

Power struggles, which have been frozen in place since Kim’s execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek, could thaw out in one to two years, and if those power struggles happen, Kim no longer has the regent structure around to protect him, the expert said.

“He is now directly exposed to those power struggles and he can be undermined by that. Not toppled, not coup, but marginalized and turned into a puppet. I think that would happen within the next two to five years. I really think he needs to do this within the next couple of years,” Gause said.

The economic problem is one of three things Kim must address to consolidate the power he inherited from his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in late 2011, the expert said. The two other tasks are to purge potential adversaries and bring in people and to make progress in defense systems, such as the missile and nuclear programs.

The economic question is why North Korea reached out to Japan and Russia, he said.

“A part of why they reached out to Japan was to put pressure on South Korea. It’s all about South Korea. That’s why they’re playing ball with the Russians right now,” he said. “It’s all getting South Korea to open up the coffers. That’s what it’s about.”

The economic reason also explains why the North hasn’t launched another provocation, Gause said.

“They don’t want to undermine the charm campaign. There’s still, if you read their rhetoric, if you read the media, it does suggest that even though they’re talking a harsh language towards the South Koreans, they’re keeping the door open for potential engagement,” he said.

“If they go and test a missile and especially if they test a nuke, that’s going to really undermine that, especially if they return to something like Cheonan, or whatever. It’s game over at that point,” he said, referring to the North’s 2010 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

However, if the North makes a determination at some point in the near future that South Korea is not going to play ball, the North may become much more aggressive in terms of provocations, he said.

Should the North’s young leader visit Moscow next month for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, it would suggest there’s “stability inside the regime, that he can leave the country,” the expert said.

Another factor that should be watched closely is whether Kim’s second child is a girl or boy, Gause said. Kim’s first child is a girl.

“If it’s a girl and Kim Jong-un were to die or become incapacitated, then you’ve got a major transfer of power issue,” he said, raising the possibilities that Kim’s brother, Jong-chol, could take over or the North could establish collective leadership.

Read the full story here:
N.K. leader has yet to consolidate power, could be marginalized into ‘puppet': U.S. expert
Yonhap
Chang Jae-soon
2015-04-14

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There can be only one Kim Jong-un

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

UPDATE 3 (2014-12-8): The Wall Street Journal points out there are many “Kim Jong-un”s in South Korea and most are female.

UPDATE 2 (2014-12-9): Although there can be only one Kim Jong-un (and previously Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il), the same level of reverence is apparently not reserved for Kim Jong-suk, Kim Jong-il’s mother and former wife of Kim Il-sung. There is currently another Kim jong-suk serving in the South Korean government According to KCNA (2012-11-29):

Jindallae Children’s Foundation Created

Pyongyang, November 29 (KCNA) — There took place at the People’s Palace of Culture here on Nov. 29 a ceremony of establishing Jindallae Children’s Foundation and donating funds.

Present there were Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries of the DPRK, and officials concerned and the visiting delegation for the establishment of the foundation headed by Jindallae Saphariny and foreign diplomats and embassy officials here.

You can see a picture of this Kim Jong-suk here (with UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim and Ho Dam)

UPDATE 1: Apparently a defector has produced a document from the DPRK that backs up this claim. I have not seen the document.

ORIGINAL POST: According to the Associated Press:

A South Korean official said Wednesday that Pyongyang forbids its people from using the same name as the young absolute leader.

The measure appears meant to bolster a personality cult surrounding Kim, who took over after the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011. Seoul officials have said Pyongyang also banned the use of the names of Kim Jong Il and the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

The South Korean official said Kim Jong Il in early 2011 ordered citizens with the same name as his son to get new names and demanded that authorities reject birth registrations of newborn babies with the name.

The official requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. He refused to disclose how the information was obtained.

Although there is no real proof for this story, I find it entirely plausible. The case was the same for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

In open source documents, I have been able to track down at least one other “Kim Jong un”. He published some comments in KCNA back on April 23, 1997.

The moral of the story: If you live in the DPRK, don’t name your child “Kim Jong-anything”.

Read the full AP story here:
There Can Be Only 1: N.Korean Leader’s Name Banned
Associated Press
Hyung-Jin Kim
2014-12-2

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Kim Jong Un’s field guidance in August focuses mainly on economic sectors

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-8-18

So far in August, Kim Jong Un’s onsite inspection visits have focused particularly on economic-related sectors – a shift from the previous month, when the young leader visited mostly military bases, providing field guidance on one occasion during a rocket firing drill.

North Korean media continues to criticize the US-ROK Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise (which will be held this month) and increase the threat level by reporting on “continuous military training” and “strengthening of nuclear capabilities.” However, the last few official visits that Kim made were mainly economic related.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 7 reported that Kim Jong Un made a field guidance visitation to a sock factory in Pyongyang and emphasized, “It is important to make good business management strategy.” Previously KCNA reported Kim’s visit to Chonji Lubricant Factory on August 5, and Chollima Tile Factory on August 3.

Kim’s public activities in July, however, focused chiefly on military related sites. He visited Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) Navy commanding officers, directed their aquatics training, and provided guidance at ground, naval, air, and air defense forces of the KPA for island landing combat training.

Meanwhile, the regime’s new catchphrase “speed battle” is increasingly being used. In addition to public mobilization slogans such as “Masikryong Speed” and “Chosun Speed,” another new phrase has appeared: “Kim Jong Un’s Spirit of the Offensive.”

In order to aggrandize Kim Jong Un’s achievements, soldiers were mobilized to various construction sites including Masik Pass (or Masikryong), Munsu Water Park, and Mirim Equestrian Club. Continually, soldiers have been observed working at ongoing construction project sites, including Satellite Scientist Street in Pyongyang.

During this process, North Korea is vaunting “Masikryong Speed” and “Chosun Speed” — which is a reference to rapid construction — as an important achievement of Kim Jong Un. After the collapse of a 23-story apartment building on May 13, the young leader has emphasized the importance of safety; nevertheless, speed battles continue to be promoted.

In this light, recently North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun published a lengthy article which describes exceptional officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), stating that “the current times call for workers with fighting spirit.”

UPDATE: Below is a list of Kim Jong-un’s guidance trips in August as of the date this article was published:

Yonphung Rest Home for Scientists
Guides Tactical Rocket Test-fire (Hodo Peninsula, Kumya County)
Kalma Foodstuff Factory
Apartment Houses for University Educators [Kimchaek]
Construction Sites of Pyongyang Baby Home and Orphanage Again
Examining Women’s Football of National Sports Team (Kangdong)
machine plant managed by Jon Tong Ryol
men’s volleyball game between the General Bureau of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Land and Maritime Transport
Pyongyang Hosiery Factory
Chonji Lubricant Factory
Chollima Tile Factory [Taedonggang Tile Factory]

These are the remainder of the guidance trips in August that occurred after the IFES article was published. They are predominantly military focused:

Guides Actual Parachuting and Striking Drill of Paratrooper Units of KPA
November 2 Factory of KPA
Breeding Station No. 621 of the KPA

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Two new interesting publications on the DPRK

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The two publications deal with changing leadership dynamics and health care for the disabled. Links below…

North Korean leadership dynamics and decision-making under Kim Jong-un: A second year assessment
Ken Gause, CNS
Publiched March 2014
PDF DOWNLOAD

People with Disabilities in a Changing North Korea
Katharina Zellweger, 2011–13 Pantech Fellow, Stanford University
PDF DOWNLOAD

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Kim Jong-un increases economic inspections in 2013

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un nearly doubled his inspection tours of the economy last year, the unification ministry said Tuesday, underscoring his pledge to improve the country’s economic conditions.

Kim made 71 economy-related public appearances out of a total of 209 public outings last year, the ministry said, citing data released by the North’s state media.

In 2012, Kim made 37 economy-related public appearances out of a total of 151 public appearances.

Kim has called for efforts to boost agricultural output in a country where the U.N. World Food Program says the food security situation is still serious, with 84 percent of all households having borderline or poor food consumption.

Meanwhile, the young leader visited military bases and made other military-related public appearances on 62 occasions, compared with 49 in 2012, the ministry said.

The figures suggest that Kim still places major importance on the country’s 1.1 million-strong military, a key backbone of the power he inherited upon the death of his father, the late leader Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

Kim Jong-il advocated military-first, or “songun,” politics that channeled the country’s scarce resources into the armed forces, helping him maintain their loyalty.

Kim Jong-un’s public appearances also offered a rare glimpse of the rise and fall of his aides.

In 2012, Kim’s once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek accompanied the leader on 106 occasions, followed in a distant second by Choe Ryong-hae, the North Korean military’s top political officer, with 85.

A year later, Jang accompanied Kim on 52 occasions while Choe accompanied the leader on 153 occasions, according to the ministry.

Choe, a former provincial chief of the ruling Workers’ Party, appears to have secured a position as the country’s new No. 2 figure following the December execution of Jang on charges of treason.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean leader nearly doubles economic inspections
Yonhap
2014-1-14

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Kim Jong-un awarded honorary doctorate in economics

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

According to KCNA (2013-10-9):

Honorary Doctorate in Economics Awarded to Kim Jong Un in Malaysia

Pyongyang, October 9 (KCNA) — Supreme leader Kim Jong Un was awarded the degree of honorary doctor of economics from the Help University of Malaysia.

A ceremony for conveying the certificate and costume took place in Kuala Lumpur on October 3.

Present there were public figures of all social standings including the president of the university who is its establisher, the DPRK ambassador to the country and his embassy members.

The president said it is honor and historic event for his university to award the degree of honorary doctor to Kim Jong Un, who is the first foreign head of state to receive the degree by the university.

We decided to award the degree to Kim Jong Un who makes untiring efforts for the education of the country and the well-being of its people, the president said, adding that this is the pride of the university.

He hoped that the cooperation between the DPRK and Malaysia in the field of education would develop in the future.
The certificate and costume were handed over to the DPRK ambassador.

Foreign Policy follows up with helpful information.

 

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Russia – Rason railway (RasonKonTrans)

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Pictured above (Google Earth): A map of the Khasan-Rajin Port rail service.

UPDATE 15 (2014-4-30): According to a new article in Yonhap, the new railway line is not really being used:

Russia appears to be preparing for a test operation of its newly renovated railway linked to North Korea, but the economic feasibility of South Korea’s joining the logistics project remains to be seen, a Seoul diplomat said Wednesday.

“I have been sensing that Russia is preparing to export its coal through the Rajin-Khasan railway in the near future as part of an experiment,” Lee Yang-goo, council general in Vladivostok, told reporters. “But it seems that there is no substantial demand for the rail line now.”

The project is part of Russia’s ambition to set up a rail road linking Asia to the Eurasian region. Last year, South Korea agreed with Russia to extend the track to South Korea.

Seoul officials said that they may be able to finish linking the rail to South Korea’s southern port city of Busan and put it into operation as early as next year, but experts have said feasibility of the plan remains to be seen.

Several factors, including economic and technological ones, should be taken into account before South Korean firms can join the logistics project, the council general said. “The economic feasibility should be reviewed foremost.”

UPDATE 14 (2014-4-9): Russians test coal shipment to Rason. According to the International Railway Journal:

RUSSIAN Railways (RZD) has commenced testing of freight traffic on the reopened link from the Khasan border station of the Trans Siberian Railway in western Siberia to the port of Rason, North Korea.

Two freight trains consisting of 65 wagons containing Kuzbass coal are taking part in the trials, which are intended to test the recently redeveloped railway infrastructure, as well as customs practices and freight handling at the port.

The project is being carried out by the RasonKonTrans joint venture, which was formed in 2008, and is held by RZD Trading House (70%) and the port of Rason (30%). Work involved the reconstruction of the Tumangang – Rason railway in North Korea, which included the introduction of 54km of dual-gauge (1520mm and 1435mm) track, as well as the reconstruction of 18 bridges, 12 culverts, and three tunnels with a total length of more than 4.5km.

The railway was officially opened on September 22, 2013, and was funded through RasonKonTrans’ authorised capital and loans. The joint venture has also invested to improve capacity at the port, including the addition of connecting tracks, dredging and construction of a new quay wall.

RZD says the project will attract additional traffic to the Trans-Siberian Railway, with around 4 million tonnes of freight expected to use the Khasan – Rason link per year.

According to the Moscow Times:

Russian Railways has put to use the North Korean port it helped to upgrade recently.

The state-owned railway operator said Tuesday it had started carrying Siberian coal to the port of Rajin, in what may be the first attempt to utilize the harbor after it reopened in September.

“The company has started to provide a full suite of services to ship coal through Rajin to Asia-Pacific countries,” said a statement from Russian Railways logistics subsidiary, RZhD Logistika.

A joint venture between Russian Railways and the North Korean Ministry of Railways has rebuilt one of the port’s wharfs and a rail link connecting it to Russia in a rare example of foreign involvement in the economy of the isolated dictator state. The joint venture, RasonKonTrans, where Russia holds 70 percent, sought to relieve the congestion at Russia’s Pacific ports.

Coal miner and steelmaker Mechel is the sender of the coal consignments, according to Nadezhda Malysheva, chief editor of port industry portal PortNews.

Both Mechel and RzhD Logistica spokespersons declined to comment.

Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin traveled to Rajin for a grand opening of the rail service and the wharf in September. The company invested 9 billion rubles ($250 million) to upgrade both. Russian engineers supervised the work, while Koreans largely contributed with unskilled labor.

The Russian terminal at Rajin, Asia’s most northerly all-year ice-free port, will at first handle just coal freight from Russia to ship it further to China’s eastern and southeastern provinces. Further plans are to equip it to be able to provide container services.

RZhD Logistika loaded a total of 9,000 metric tons of coal on two freight trains of 130 cars each to carry to Rajin at the end of last month, it said in the statement. The cargo will next go to China’s ports of Shanghai, Lianyungang and Guangzhou.

Current load capacity of port Rajin is 4 million tons of coal a year.

Russia’s biggest coal export port, Vostochny, which sits on the Pacific coast, has the capacity to handle 18 million tons a year, Malysheva said. It and the other key coal port of Vanino operate at the top of their capacity, as exports of the fuel to Asia have increased, she said.

Coal remains the principal fuel for electricity generation at power plants in China. But its coal price declined 10 percent last year because of strong rivalry among Russian suppliers and competition from Australia, the RZhD Logistika statement said.

Even so, the government last week backed a plan to boost development of the coal-mining industry in the country’s Far East to cater to Asian markets. The idea is to have a shorter transportation leg for the shipments, compared with the distance that the coal travels from Siberia.

This Russian-language source has additional information.

Read the full story here:
First Russian Coal Heads to North Korean Port
Moscow Times
Anatoly Medetsky
2014-4-8

UPDATE 13 (2014-4-8): Business organization information. According to the Moscow Times:

A joint venture between Russian Railways and the North Korean Ministry of Railways has rebuilt one of the port’s wharfs and a rail link connecting it to Russia in a rare example of foreign involvement in the economy of the isolated dictator state. The joint venture, RasonKonTrans, where Russia holds 70 percent, sought to relieve the congestion at Russia’s Pacific ports.

Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin traveled to Rajin for a grand opening of the rail service and the wharf in September. The company invested 9 billion rubles ($250 million) to upgrade both. Russian engineers supervised the work, while Koreans largely contributed with unskilled labor.

UPDATE 12 (2013-9-23): Rajin-Khasan Railway Section Opens for Service. According to KCNA:

The Rajin-Khasan railway section has been successfully rebuilt in line with the DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration, signed in August 2001. The section was opened for service on Sunday.

Its opening serves as a landmark in promoting the friendly and cooperative relations between the DPRK and Russia, strengthening the economic and cultural ties in the Asia-Pacific region and ensuring the common prosperity of regional countries.

In the first year of the new century, historic meeting and talks were held between Kim Jong Il, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and V.V. Putin, president of the Russian Federation, resulting in the adoption of the DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration.

The declaration expressed the will of the two countries to make every possible effort to carry into practice a plan for opening railway transit linking the DPRK, Russia and Europe. Such plan was the first phase for wide-ranging cooperation between the two countries, which came under spotlight of the world.

At that time some forces criticized the plan as a “daydream”, displeased with significant cooperation between the two countries as well as peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula.

However, the project plan went into practice in October 2008 on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relations thanks to the unshakable will of the two countries and the active cooperation of their railway workers.

At the ground-breaking ceremony for the project, which was held in front of the DPRK-Russia Friendship Pavilion in the area of Tumangang Railway Station in Rason City, V. I. Yakunin, president of the Russian Railways Company, said that the world would soon witness the longest railway transit, extending more than 10 000 km, through which 100 000 containers would be transported annually from 2013.

At last, the Rajin-Khasan railway section has been successfully rebuilt this year marking the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relation between the DPRK and Russia. This would bring a large-scale cooperation project between the two countries into practice, ensuring their and regional development and interests.

The railway section from Rajin to Khasan will be helpful to the economy, transport service and people’s wellbeing of the two countries. It can also develop into an international transit between Asia and Europe.

The facts show the vitality of cooperation documents of the two countries, including the DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration, and the noble idea carried in them.

The friendly and cooperative relationship between the DPRK and Russia will grow stronger with the geopolitical importance of Northeast Asia.

Choson Exchange offers additional detail and other news from Rason here.

UPDATE 11 (2013-9-22): It appears that Russia – Rajin rail service has been launched (again). According to KCNA:

Rajin-Khasan railway section has been successfully rebuilt and opened for service with due ceremony in Rajin on Sunday.

The opening of the section will greatly contribute to developing the friendly and cooperative relations between Russia and the DPRK.

Present at the ceremony from the DPRK side were Jon Kil Su, minister of Railways, O Ryong Chol, vice-minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Chol Sok, vice-chairman of the State Commission for Economic Development, Jo Jong Ho, chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, Im Chon Il, consul general of the DPRK to Nakhodka, officials in the field of railways and people in Rason City.

Present there from the Russian side were V. I. Yakunin, president of the “Russian Railways” Company, Alexei Tsijenov, vice-minister of Transport, Sergey Sidorov, first vice-governor of the Maritime Territory Administration, Alexandr Timonin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK, Vyacheslav Tsupikov, consul general of Russia to Chongjin, and Russians including those concerned with the railways.

Diplomatic envoys to the DPRK also attended.

V. I. Yakunin in the opening ceremony said the section has opened for service under Russia-DPRK Moscow Declaration signed by the top leaders of the two countries in 2001.

To press for the renovation of the railways running through the land of Korea will be of great contribution to the development of economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region in the future, he stressed.

Minister of Railways of the DPRK in his speech said that the plan of linking DPRK-Russia railways serves as a model of wide-ranging bilateral cooperation which meets the common progress and interests of the two peoples.

He expressed the conviction that the operation of the opened railways section will be successful as it was made on the principle of mutual respect and cooperation between the railway transportation fields of the two countries.

There were congratulatory speeches.

The ceremony ended with the playing of national anthems of the two countries. It was followed by a reception.

According to Yonhap:

After years of work to directly connect railway tracks between Russia and North Korea, a 54-kilometer section linking border areas of the two countries reopened Sunday with a ceremony in Rason, a special economic zone in northeastern North Korea.

A special train carrying a group of reporters arrived at Rajin Port in Rason from Khasan in the Russian Far East, making it the first train to travel between the two countries without changing bogies at the border.

Trains had traveled on the section since the Soviet era. But given differences in track width between the Russian side and the North Korean side, workers had to change bogies every time a train crossed the border.

With the end of overhaul work, North Korea appears poised to promote the development of its special economic zone, while Russia seeks to revitalize the Trans-Siberian Railway by linking it, in the future, to a railway system that would run through the Korean Peninsula.

In 2008, the two countries started work to lay Russia-sized railway tracks from the Russian border area to Rajin Port after Russian President Vladimir Putin and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il agreed in August 2001 to directly connect the two railway systems.

Moscow shoulders 70 percent of 8.3 billion ruble, or 25.8 billion yen, in costs to lay the new tracks and build the North Korean port, while Pyongyang covers the remainder.

The two countries conducted a trial run on the section using a freight train in October 2011. They initially planned to launch commercial runs in autumn last year, but the plan was delayed until now.

Bloomberg adds the following data:

Initially, the 54-kilometer (33-mile) line will transport Russian coal to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, OAO Russian Railways Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Yakunin said at the ceremony in Rajin. The second phase of the project will involve the construction of a container-handling facility and potentially an oil terminal at the North Korean site, he said.

“Our common objective is for this link and port to be a pilot scheme for the restoration of a single transport system in North and South Korea that would link the peninsula to countries that gravitate to this region, to Europe via Russia,” Yakunin said. The CEO said he hopes the plan will help promote peace between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war following the conflict 1950-53 that divided the countries.

The route is part of a larger project, dubbed the Iron Silk Road, that would connect Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway to South Korea via the North for an overland route cutting transportation costs to Europe. Success depends on improved ties between South Korea and its isolated Communist neighbor.

Reuters adds the following data:

Yakunin said the railway and container terminal, a project worth 9 billion roubles ($283 million), would work at a capacity of 4 million metric tons a year within two years.

Here is some additional background information:

Practical implementation of the project began in 2008, when RZD and North Korea’s Ministry of Railways signed a cooperation agreement. In October of that year, Tumangan station saw the ceremonial laying of the first link of the rails and sleepers that marked the beginning of the reconstruction of the Khasan – Rajin railway section.

In 2009, a joint venture, RasonKonTrans, was set up by Russian Railways Trading House, a subsidiary of RZD, and the port of Rajin, in order to implement the project. RasonKonTrans has in turn concluded a 49-year leasing arrangement of the railway line between Tumen – Rajin with the Donghae company of North Korea’s Ministry of Railways. The work was financed from RasonKonTrans’ share capital, as well as by funds the joint venture was able to borrow based on the project’s business plan. More than 5.5 billion roubles had been invested in the reconstruction of the Khasan – Rajin railway line and 3.5 billion roubles in the port terminal.

The final construction phase to create a universal intermodal exchange terminal at the port of Rajin has now begun, including a range of measures ranging from dredging, building a new quay wall and equipping storage yards, through the construction of industrial and office buildings and facilities to laying railway lines within the terminal itself. Yakunin continued:

“The port is designed to handle transhipment volumes of 4 million tonnes of cargo, but that is not the limit. We are confident that the cargo base will expand and that containers will be shipped through the port. The construction of the port terminal is almost complete, and we are already seeing interest from international customers and partners.”

Officials from both countries say they are working together to finalise the timetable and the joint regulations which will govern the movement of trains on this section. To ensure the interoperability of the new line with both North Korea’s railway network and the Russian rail network, there are plans to create a single control centre with the participation of experts from the RasonKonTrans joint venture and the Donghae transport company of North Korea’s Ministry of Railways.

More from RT here.

UPDATE 10 (2013-6-25): It appears that regular rail service never materialized. According to Siberian Times:

Talks in Moscow between Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways, and Jeong Gil Soo, North Korea’s Minister of Railways (MOR) agreed the final details on the Khasas-Rajin link.

The project is being implemented in accordance with agreements reached in 2000 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It is linked to cooperation between the two countries and forms part of a project to restore traffic on the entire Trans-Korean Main Line.

‘Over the long term, this will allow most traffic between South Korea, Europe, Russia and the CIS countries to be sent by rail by the Trans-Siberian Railway,’ said one report.

The new agreement allows for a single control centre ‘with the participation of experts from the joint ventures RasonKonTrans and ZHTK Donghae MOR from North Korea to handle traffic management and facilitate collaboration with the entire railway network in North Korea. The parties also agreed to develop instructions for the movement of trains and a train timetable’, stated RIA Oreanda.

The project involves reconnecting the combined dual-track railway with 1520 mm and 1435 mm gauges on the stretch from the Russian border to the port of Rajin in North Korea, a distance of 54 km. This includes the reconstruction of three tunnels, the repair a border railway bridge and construction of a freight terminal with an annual capacity of 4 million tons at Port Rajin.

The report continued:’The project is being implemented by the joint venture RasonKonTrans, which was specially set up in 2008 and is owned by OAO RZD Trading House and the port of Rajin.

‘The stretch between Rajin and Tuman stations is estimated at 99.8% complete. Work on commissioning the signalling, centralisation and blocking equipment has been completed along the entire section with the exception of Rajin station.

‘The tunnels are now fully ready. As of mid-May 2013, all the work to replace the timber on the Korean border bridge ‘Friendship’ has been carried out. Currently, work is underway to finish the bridge and install the railing.

‘At the port of Rajin, concrete is being laid and building foundations are being installed at the administrative and amenity building, repair shop and spare parts warehouse, work has begun on laying and ballasting the railway lines within the terminals and utility lines are being laid.

‘Equipment continues to be installed at the harbour wall. Work on installing outdoor lighting and fencing the port terminal’s territory is also ongoing’.

UPDATE 9 (2012-4-2) : DPRK and Russia to start cross-border freight train service in October. According to KCNA:

Rajin-Khassan Cargo Train Service to Begin in October

Pyongyang, April 2 (KCNA) — A Rajin-Khassan cargo train service will run from October this year.

Kim Chang Sik, a department director of the DPRK Ministry of Railways, told KCNA that the laying of railroad and renovation of railway stations, tunnels and communications facilities are now under way in the section.

The railway project was highlighted in the historic DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration, which was signed in August 2001, he said, adding:

In line with the declaration, a cooperation agreement between the DPRK Ministry of Railways and the Russia Railway Holding Corporation was concluded in April 2008 to be followed by an agreement on joint venture between Rajin Port and the Corporation.

A contract on the lease of the Rajin-Tumangang railway was made between the Ministry’s Eastern Railway Ryonun Company and the Rason International Joint Venture Container Terminal, under which the 54 km-section has been rebuilt into a mixed track from October 2008.
A trial train service took place in October 2011 between Rajin of the DPRK and Khassan of Russia.

At least 100,000 containers will be yearly carried along the line.

This section will serve as an international railway container transport line linking Northeast Asia with Europe.

KCNA also offered this video.

Yonhap also reported:

North Korea and Russia will start a cross-border cargo train service in October, Pyongyang’s state media reported Monday, in a move that could make a North Korean port a regional hub for Europe-bound shipments.

The announcement came more than three years after the two countries launched a project to rebuild two rail lines between Russia’s Far Eastern border town of Khasan and North Korea’s northeastern port city of Rajin.

The North designated Rason, which includes the Rajin port, as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since striven to develop it into a regional logistics hub close to both China and Russia.

In October, North Korea and Russia held a test run on the 54-kilometer-long railway line.

The proposed cargo service can handle 100,000 shipping containers each year, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch.

The renovation project, if completed, will offer a new route of container transportation between Northeast Asia and Europe, the dispatch said, and could significantly reduce shipping time and costs.

The freight service could also help boost relations between North Korea and Russia, including their economic cooperation, the dispatch said.

The trade volume between North Korea and Russia stood at US$110 million in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, according to South Korea’s state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Russia maintains friendly ties with North Korea, though its leader Dmitry Medvedev has strongly denounced North Korea’s rocket launch set for sometime between April 12 and 16.

Medvedev made the remarks during summit talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul last month on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit, according to Lee’s office.

Historical posts on this topic below:

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DPRK updates “Ten Principles”

Friday, August 9th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have revised the “Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System” (hereafter the “Ten Principles”). The phrase “General Kim Jong Il” has been added to the revised version, whose core structure remains in place.

The Ten Principles, each of which has a number of sub-sections, reflect the demand that all North Korean citizens be guided by the thoughts and deeds of Kim Il Sung. They were formulated in the 1970s by Kim Jong Il during the process of his anointment as successor, and act as guidelines that both underwrite Kim family rule over North Korea and facilitate the mass repression of the country’s populace. They are memorized by every citizen.

A source from North Hamkyung Province revealed the breaking news on the 9th, telling Daily NK by phone, “They announced the new Ten Principles in a provincial Party meeting last week. Study of the new Ten Principles was launched in factory and enterprise cell lectures last weekend; we expect them to start study sessions on the new version in people’s units this coming weekend.” Given the timing, it is likely that study of the new Ten Principles will begin in schools when students return in September.

“They have not produced a formal pamphlet outlining the new Ten Principles, so cadres have been disseminating them from their own official documents,” the source explained. “There are no huge differences from the old Ten Principles; they have just added the words ‘the General’ after the name of the Suryeong.”

“The second principle, which used to state that ‘We must honor the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung with all our loyalty’ has been amended to state ‘We must honor the Great Leader comrade Kim Il Sung and General Kim Jong Il with all our loyalty’,” the source explained. “They’ve inserted the phrase ‘General Kim Jong Il’ because Kim Jong Il is Kim Jong Eun’s father, and to help make the idolization of Kim Jong Il permanent.”

In North Korean dictionaries of philosophy, the Ten Principles are defined as follows: “The ideological system by which the whole party and people is firmly armed with the revolutionary ideology of the Suryeong and united solidly around him, carrying out the revolutionary battle and construction battle under the sole leadership of the Suryeong.”

According to Yonhap (via Global Post):

The communist country changed the “10 rules of its monolithic ideological system” in June, which have a more direct impact on everyday lives of its citizens than the country’s Constitution or the bylaw of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

The rules were first introduced in April 1974 to outline the importance of unconditional obedience to the leader and what actions must be taken by the country as a whole to express allegiance.

Local Pyongyang watchers claimed that the rules made up of 10 articles and 65 sections were reduced by five sections, with emphasis placed on justifying the inheritance of power by the incumbent leader by highlighting the need for the country to fully complete the legacies left behind by the country’s founder Kim Il-sung and his son and former leader Kim Jong-il.

The move marks the first time Pyongyang opted to change the rules governing the leadership system in 39 years.

“The changes are tailored to reflect the character and goal of the country under Kim Jong-un and to strengthen the leader’s grip on power,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

In a characteristic dynastic succession of power in the North, the current leader Kim Jong-un took power following the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011.

Every North Korean is taught to pledge loyalty to each generation of the Kim family, known in the communist country as the Mount Paektu bloodline, that has run the country since its founding in 1948.

Mount Paektu, or Baekdu, located on the Sino-North Korean border, is the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula.

The latest revisions to the 10 key rules also omitted all reference to dictatorship of the proletariat and communism. The North had erased all mention of communism from its Constitution and the WPK bylaw in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

In addition, the prologue of the new rules stated that the country has acquired military capabilities based on nuclear arms and that it is in the process of striving for economic self-reliance. The North had proclaimed itself as a nuclear power when it changed its Constitution in April last year.

Related to the changes, the Ministry of Unification said that the recent amendment is part of a continuing process of trying to prop up the current leader.

“The latest move mirrors changes that have already been reflected in the Constitution and other laws,” Seoul’s unification ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said.

Read the full story here:
NK Adds Kim Jong Il to ‘Ten Principles’
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2013-8-9

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