Archive for the ‘Real estate’ Category

Real estate prices up in Pyongsong

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

According to DailyNK, prices of real estate are skyrocketing around the wholesale market in Pyongsong, whose trade is tightly connected to that of the richer Pyongyang:

“The price of a unit in this building near Yokchon-dong, located near the railway station and a major road leading to Pyongyang and Sinuiju, has sharply risen to 60,000 USD from 40,000 USD. Although the building is not in the center of the city, many wholesale vendors want to buy these homes, resulting in the price jump,” a source in South Pyongan told Daily NK on January 4.
“The residential property is attractive to major market heavyweights even though it wasn’t built recently. Ease of transportation seems to be the major pulling factor.”
Pyongsong City is home to Doksan Farmers’ Market (formerly Pyongsong Market),  the largest wholesale market in the nation. The market is constantly busy with merchants from other regions because it not only offers trade in commodities but also deals with the labor market, foreign currency, and the services sector.
Previously, the real estate trade was prohibited in North Korea, but the authorities have tacitly permitted it since the 1990s, with an increasing number of people now purchasing houses. Due to restrictions in North Korea that make it difficult to move about freely, merchants prefer to reside closer to the market.
“In the past, Okchon-dong was more popular because the General Market was located in it. But there were many problems because it was difficult for the wholesale merchants with big vehicles like trucks to come and go along the narrow roads. For this reason, Yokchon-dong became more popular because they can directly unload their cargo near the residential area, which is located at a major transportation hub,” an additional source based in Pyongsong said.
Full article:
Pyongsong prime real estate prices are skyrocketing
Seol Song Ah
Daily NK
2017-01-07
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DPRK reports tens of thousands of new houses constructed this year

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2016-12-15

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s official wire service, reported on December 3 that tens of thousands of new houses had been built this year. The KCNA report stated that six counties/cities in areas damaged by floods in North Hamgyong Province had seen 19,000 new apartments constructed with families then moving in.

In imitation of the city of Kimchaek, hundreds of housing units have been built in Puryong and Hwadae counties, while hundreds more were constructed in Kangryong county, and 200 multistory houses in Paechon county. Eighty (80) apartments were built at Ryongjon Fruit Farm in Pukchon county, 150 at Chawi Cooperative Farm, and 200 at Sujin, Uiju County.

With flood damage in late August, the Party central committee announced on September 10 that the ‘200 day speed battle’s goal’ would be to restore damaged areas, and reconstruction of housing in those areas finished on November 11. People have now begun moving in.

Unlike on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang — extolled as a personal achievement of Kim Jong Un — construction outside the capital is said to not be progressing properly. Housing construction in Yokjon, Hoeryong, North Hamgyong that began in 2010, as part of a campaign celebrating the personality cult of Kim Jong Suk (the wife of Kim Il Sung), has yet to be completed. There is talk that completion is slated for 2017, but people living there do not believe that will happen.

However, sources indicate that the North Korean authorities have invited individuals to get involved in construction, and thus the project in Hoeryong has resumed. It seems that because construction was part of the campaign to build the personality cult of Kim Jong Suk, there was a fear that stopping the construction would badly influence internal unity.

With the state lacking funds but deeming the continuation of the construction necessary, individuals were eventually allowed to take over. Apparently investors were induced by promises that they would get 50 percent of the proceeds generated from the new housing stock.

Sources say that construction began again in March, and construction materials continue to be brought in. Individual investors have hired workers separately and are managing on-site operations.

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North Korea training experts in special economic zones and development

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korean universities have begun programs to train specialists in matters related to special economic zones (SEZs) and their development.

On August 1, 2016, the North Korean website Naenara (lit: ‘My Country’) revealed this, saying “One of the most important matters with respect to development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is the training of a large number of specialists. Hence, the government of the republic [DPRK] has established and implemented an educational program that aims to train specialists in this field.”

According to the website, the training of specialists in the development of SEZs has begun at Kim Il Sung University, the University of the People’s Economy, and Jong Jun Taek University of Economics (also known as Wonsan University of Economics).

These universities have departments specializing in the management of SEZs, real estate, tourism, and international investment. The curricula are based upon the developmental experiences of Rason Economic Investment Zone, the Hwanggumpyong-Wihwado Economic Zones, along with the law, regulations, and the experience of other countries.

These departments train specialists on the economic principles and effects of special economic development zones, theories on the form zones take and how development occurs, as well as how developmental strategy is devised. They also deal with issues like the creation of comprehensive development plans, the designation of companies for participation in development projects, the conclusion of development-related contracts, the conferring of development rights, the conclusion of land-usage contracts, the sale of land usage rights and the operation of sub-structural operations, and management of investment by foreign companies.

Naenara’s post also indicated that “the government of the republic has organized the investigation of the success of other countries in the development of special economic zones, this is being undertaken by university staff and researchers. A number of the country’s universities, research institutions, persons of repute, and public forums are engaged in these tasks.”

It also underscored the aim of “in future, scientific research dealing with special economic zones (SEZs) should be deepened, and education programs strengthened. Moreover, multifaceted cooperation and exchanges should be expanded with all countries that respect the sovereignty of the country [DPRK].”

The North Korean magazine ‘Mount Kumgang’ — which targets a foreign audience — for the last two months has also printed a series entitled ‘Regarding plans to expand foreign investment relations’. The series publicizes the variety of government policies designed to attract investment.

In one of these pieces, Cho Chang Jun (a professor of the University of the People’s Economy) explains that “with the importance of our government’s efforts to expand and develop foreign investment relations lies a number of legal measures, implemented in a way that is stronger than ever before, and which give foreign investors in our country a guarantee, in the government’s name, for a return of the principal invested and the payment of profits.”

The Rason SEZ (Rason Economic and Trade Zone) was created in the 1990s. In 2013, SEZs were also announced in each of the country’s provinces. At present there are 26 SEZs in North Korea.

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KCNA reports on cost of Mirae Scientists Street?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Mirae-Scientists-street

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Mirae Scientists Street under construction (2015-5-20)

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea has invested about 10 billion won in North Korean currency creating a big housing precinct for scientists in Pyongyang, Yonhap reported Thursday.

The Korean Central News Agency said the communist regime had spent about 9.9 billion won on 19 buildings to house 2,584 households and commercial and public facilities.

The first phase was completed on April 15, the birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. Phase two was finished on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Workers’ Party on Oct. 10.

Leader Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying the new street reflects the “love for people, respect for people and politics that puts people first” of the North Korean Workers’ Party.

For what it is worth KPW9.9 billion is approximately US$1.237 million on the black market, which comes to just $478/household assuming they each got an individual unit.

However, I would not get to hung up on these numbers, I cannot find any story in KCNA on the cost of Mirae Scientists Street, so until I hear an official estimate, I am going to put an * next to these numbers.

Here is what KCNA had to say about Kim Jong-un’s tour of the recently completed Mirae Scientists Street:

Pyongyang, October 21 (KCNA) — Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, went round Mirae Scientists Street, which was successfully completed as a model of Juche-oriented architecture and fairy street in the era of the Workers’ Party.
Feasting his eyes on the street, he said the longer one watches it, the more magnificent and spectacular it looks. He noted with pleasure that it proves visually the idea of the Workers’ Party of Korea of attaching importance to science and talents, it is a fashionable street of perfect combination of the Juche character, national identity, originality and formative art and unique one of our style which appeared in the capital city of Pyongyang as an icon of cultural efflorescence.

He said it is something unimaginable to build a street with flats for thousands of families and more than 150 public catering outlets in a matter of just one year by the existing method of construction. He noted with excitement that the completion of Mirae Scientists Street convinces everybody that the appearance of the country would undergo beyond recognition a decade later as everything is done in just one year instead of ten years.

Going round different places of the street, he learned in detail about the construction.

He said that it is fantastic, indeed, to watch the tower symbolic of the 53-storied skyscraper which has been built like an electronic track so that one may know it is Mirae Scientists Street even from distance, adding that formative art was applied to all the buildings at a very high level.

He was pleased that the flats have been constructed at the best quality and teachers and researchers would need to bring with them only hand luggage as their drawing rooms, parents’ rooms, rooms for couples, children’s rooms, kitchens, etc. are fitted with high-quality furniture and fixtures,

Hearing officials say foreigners will hardly believe that ordinary educators and scientists of the country will live free of charge in such deluxe apartment houses in the street on the picturesque bank of the Taedong River, he said that it is the advantages of the socialist system in the DPRK which capitalist countries can neither imitate nor build.

He praised the builders for having built all kinds of public catering and cultural and welfare establishments on the ground floors of the buildings in an impeccable manner to meet requirements of settlers.

He noted with appreciation that resting places and sporting parks have been built in a peculiar style so that residents might have good rest and do sports and greening in the residential area and the project for reinforcing banks of the river were done very well.

It is the steadfast will of our party to consolidate the foundation of socialism by dint of science and advance socialism with the power of the engine of science, he said, stressing the need to steadily increase substantial investment in the scientific researches on the basis of the successes and experience gained in the work for consolidating the material and technical foundations of different scientific research bases and improving the living standard of the scientists and researchers in recent years.

All the buildings of the street spruced up at a speed unprecedented in the history of construction are laudable structures of Songun Korea built by our service personnel and people with the will to create everything dear in their own style by their own efforts at a lightning speed, optimistic about the future, and they are valuable crystal of their patriotism, he said, extending thanks to the units of the Korean People’s Army and other units which participated in the construction, builders and helpers in the name of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

He expressed expectation and belief that all the builders would give fullest play to the inexhaustible mental power displayed in the construction of Mirae Scientists Street and make a positive contribution to turning Pyongyang City into a hub of Songun culture and the most magnificent and fashionable city of the world fame in all aspects and building the socialist country into a highly civilized nation.

He gave an instruction on inaugurating the street.

He was accompanied by Hwang Pyong So, Kim Ki Nam, Kim Yang Gon, O Su Yong, Jo Yong Won and Ma Won Chun.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea pours 10 billion won into street for scientists
Korea Times
2015-10-22

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On the Hyesan and Sinuiju real estate markets

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

Construction of new apartment buildings is being accelerated in North Pyongan Province’s Sinuiju and Hyesan, Yanggang Province, with low rise apartments fetching the highest price at nearly US $10,000. Unlike Sinuiju, which has high rise buildings, Hyesan is mainly constructing low rise apartments. Apartments at or above the fifth floor are being called “Royal Suites,” and selling for big money, according to inside sources.

In a telephone conversation with the Daily NK on October 1st, a source in Yanggang Province explained, “Hyesan is currently undergoing a makeover. New apartments are going up all over the city. Residents are preferring the high rise apartments despite their relative scarcity, or perhaps because of it. Right now a fifth floor, two room apartment (approximately 80-120 square feet) sells for 60,000-70,000 Yuan (US $10,000- $11,000) is the most expensive.”

Another source in Yanggang Province confirmed this development.

In Hyesan, the lower floors go for much cheaper; apartments in floors 1-3 usually sell for about 20,000 – 25,000 Yuan (US $3,000 – $4,000).

“The prices tend to be tied to the floor level like this,” she explained.

“By the time the Korean Workers’ Party Foundation Day holiday arrives on October 10th, Hyesan will look like a totally new city. But construction is not limited to Hyesan; we also see apartment buildings shooting up in Hyesan’s suburbs and riverside regions, in Tabsongdong near Hyesan Stadium, and in Hyemyeongdong, an area filled with statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.”

Added the source, “Much of the construction is due to investment from the Hwagyo [community of overseas Chinese] residing here. They buy one story houses at a very cheap price and then build up a multi-storied apartment and sell it off. They are making a good amount of money through the sales, but the residents are happy to be enjoying the more modern living spaces, so it’s a win-win.”

When asked why the residents prefer apartments on higher floors, the source said that “people are less worried about theft of furniture and large appliances when they live higher up.” In years past, she asserted, most people preferred to be ground level so that they could have access to the yard for planting vegetables. But now, “ lots of folks are worried about flood damage during the rainy season or the possibility of theft.”

She continued to describe the state of one story homes, saying, “houses near Nongnim University or the Hyesan train station sell for approximately 25,000 Yuan (US $4,000). Homes in Yeonbong Il Dong sell for rather cheap at 5,000 Yuan (~$800). However, there are some pricier places in Yeonbong located near the jangmadang (marketplace) that sell for about 20,000 Yuan (~US $3,000).”

Last week the currency conversion rate in Hyesan was 1 Yuan/1320 KPW. That means that a 60,000 Yuan apartment sells for about 80 million KPW (~US $70,000) and a cheaper home selling for 5,000 Yuan sells for about 6.5 million KPW (~ US $7,000).

Read the full story here:
Hwagyo investors fuel building boom
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2015-10-2

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Real estate and insurance laws adopted for SEZs

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

According to KCNA:

Rules of Real Estate and Insurance in EDP Adopted

Rules of real estate and insurance in the economic development parks (EDP) were adopted according to the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK.

The rule of real estate consists of seven chapters and 59 articles and the rule of insurance four chapters and 52 articles.

The rules deal with possession, registration and employment of real estates, their rent and rate, conclusion of insurance contract, formalities of insurance offices, etc. in the EDP.

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KKG in Pyongyang

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

UPDATE 4 (2015-7-6): Stephan Haggard provides some additional information on Queensway Group/KKG.

UPDATE 3 (2015-6-24): Writing in the Financial Times, Tom Burgis links Queensway Group/KKG with Office 39.

UPDATE 2 (2015-5-1): J.R. Mailey has much more information on the Queensway Group/KKG.

UPDATE 1 (2014-7-17): Over at 38 North, J.R. Mailey has uncovered much more information on KKG (Queensway Group) and linked it with the Kaesong High Tech Industrial Park.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-9-11): “Kumgang Street/KKG Avenue Project in Pyongyang”: Aggressive construction and re-development projects have taken place on Pyongyang’s Mansudae Street over the last few years as part of the DPRK’s “Strong and Prosperous Nation (강성대국)” policies. See Mansudae renovation no. 1 here and Mansudae renovation no. 2 here.

Residential construction projects, however, have been limited neither to Mansudae Street (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) nor to Pyongyang. In the interest of [my] time, I will offer only the most recent example: There are reports of an ambitions real-estate project in Chongjin, though satellite imagery in the area is too old to confirm the project or evaluate its size/scope.

However, a recent tourist photo taken in Pyongyang near the Tongil Market reveals yet another ambitious plan for residential development in Rakrang-guyok (락랑구역). It is unclear how long this project has been planned or if/why it appears to be on hold. Here is the photo of the billboard:

Click here to see a larger version of this photo on flickr.

According to the billboard, this project bears the name “Kumgang Street” in Korean (금강거리) and “KKG Avenue” in English. The operation appears to be run by 금강경제개발총회사 (The Kumgang Economic Development Corporation). A quick Google search for “금강경제개발총회사” yields pleanty of results, but all of them are in Korean–meaning it will be excruciatingly painful for me to do any research on this organization. If you can determine anything else about this project, please let me know.

From what I can tell, this effort is set to take place just north of the Tongil Market (conspicuously absent from the billboard, though enhanced with a wide avenue and bridge to Yanggak Island). Here is the approximate location as seen on Google Earth (I have added the position of the proposed Yanggak Bridge to make the comparison easier):

According to the billboard, the Mullet Soup Restaurant on the bank of the Taedong River will be part of the finished project.  The remainder of the land looks like it has been cleared and prepared for the development project, although historical imagery on Google Earth indicates that this land has been largely unused for decades. The image below dates from 2000-6-12:

 According to “The Skyscraper Center” the tallest building(s) in the new development will be 274m/899 feet.

I have been able to find out little more about this project. Again, if you can find additional information, please let me know.

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DPRK real estate market: sustained boom, or bubble?

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

According to the Hankyoreh:

“They say there are apartments in Pyongyang selling for US$200,000.”

Jung Eun-yi, a research professor at Gyeongsang National University, was talking about how rapidly housing prices in North Korea have been rising. Jung had just returned from spending January and February in Dandong, China, where she had been tracking trends in the North Korean housing market. In July 2014, the highest price for an apartment in Pyongyang that heard about in Dandong had been US$100,000.

Needless to say, this doesn’t mean that an apartment worth US$100,000 had doubled in value to US$200,000 in the past six months. Nevertheless, the appearance of apartments worth US$200,000 indicates just how quickly Pyongyang apartments are increasing in quality, size, and value.

Jung is one of the foremost experts in South Korea on prices in the North Korean housing market. She received considerable interest from the media because of a paper that she presented at the World Conference on North Korean Studies at the end of Oct. 2014 in which she reported that some apartments in Pyongyang were selling for US$100,000.

In 2013, she had gained attention in the academic community by publishing a paper that included a detailed breakdown of housing prices in the North Korean city of Musan, North Hamgyong Province, down to the neighborhood.

Based on the data collected during her most recent stay in Dandong, Jung argues that there are signs that the housing market in North Korea is turning into a real estate market, rather like South Korea. If a housing market is one in which houses are bought simply for the purpose of living in them, a real estate market is formed when people start to see the houses they buy both as a residence and an investment.

What enabled Jung to publish such a pioneering paper on the North Korean housing market is that she spends all four months of her summer and winter vacations each year in Dandong, where she researches trends in the North Korean housing market.

Jung says that there are several reasons why she is interested in the North Korean housing market. The market offers hints at how the North Korean market economy is developing; it reflects the economic policies that the Kim Jong-un regime are adopting; and it provides a great deal of information about the appearance of a propertied class inside North Korea and about the growing wealth gap between the rich and poor.

What follows is a summary of the interview that Jung gave to the Hankyoreh on Mar. 30, organized by topic.

North Korea’s housing market: most profitable business area

Jung explains that one of the biggest recent changes in the North Korean housing market is the participation of North Korean trading companies. The reason, she says, is that building and selling houses has become even more lucrative than trade.

Why would that be? Jung explains that, while there is a lot of potential demand, there is a limited number of suppliers, creating a monopoly in the market. In other words, it’s easy to find buyers once you build a house.

But there’s just one catch. Before trade companies can jump into the housing market, they have to be working with someone who has connections in North Korea’s bureaucratic system.

As of now, housing transactions in North Korea are technically illegal. Given this situation, it is essential that a business have access to someone who can negotiate the bureaucracy so that it can provide the person buying the house with the permit that is legally required for them to move in.

According to Jung, no matter how much financial backing a developer may have, “they will fail without a partner who can cut through all the red tape.”

The growth of the house-buying class

Jung says that the price of housing in North Korea is linked to rice and US dollars (the exchange rate). When calculations are made in rice, the preferred unit is the ton.

The growth in a housing market that involves the movement of such huge amounts of rice and dollars implies that an increasing number of people in North Korea have that much purchasing ability.

The increasing level of purchasing power, or disposable income, can also be verified in the fact that houses in North Korea are improving in quality every day.

The concept of the “front room” was introduced in some ritzier North Korean houses back in the 1990s. Front room means a living room that includes a kitchen with a sink, rather than the traditional coal-burning kitchen. But even since then, houses have been becoming more elaborate, some using high-quality materials from China.

However, the very increase in the number of people with property – the consumers of these new houses – also implies that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Behind every house that is sold is a family whose financial destitution leaves them no choice but to sell the house in which they had been living. In this way, the growth of the housing market in North Korea offers another glimpse at the growing wealth disparity there.

Predictions for the North Korean housing market 

Jung expects that the North Korean real estate market will continue to expand for a significant period of time. Just as in South Korea, there was also an explosion in demand for houses in North Korea starting in the early 1980s because of the baby boomers, the generation of those born around 1957.

However, the demand in North Korea was suppressed by the “arduous march,” Jung believes. During this famine in the mid-1990s, when the severe shortage of food caused people to starve to death, the massive flight of people out of the country actually led to an increase in the number of vacant houses around North Korea’s border with China.

But with the subsequent development of private markets and the appearance of people with money to spend in the 2000s, these vacant residences were the first to be sold at cut-rate prices. This signaled the beginning of growth in the housing market.

Housing prices in North Korea increased rapidly then faltered during the currency reform in 2009, when the Kim Jong-il regime attempted to put limits on these markets. But from 2011 to 2014, after the North Korean government started to tolerate the markets again, housing prices soared once more.

Jung believes that the growth trend in North Korean housing prices will continue for the time being. The reason is that demand for housing both among baby boomers and among new members of the propertied class is likely to continue.

The North Korean housing market and Kim Jong-un’s economic reforms

Jung explains that the regime of Kim Jong-un is taking steps toward normalizing the housing market. Presumably, the regime has concluded that the official economy of the country is suffering major losses because the housing market is outside of the system.

As one example, Jung cites housing deals between private citizens in the 1990s. While the volume of transactions greatly increased during this period, the failure to solve the issue of legal collateral resulted in unending disputes about these transactions.

There was also widespread corruption connected with them. Jung says that sometimes the housing allocation department of the urban management bureau of the people’s committee – which is in charge of issuing residential licenses – would confiscate houses that had been illegally bought by low-ranking officials and then conduct business with those houses themselves. Since the housing market did not go beyond individuals making money, it did not benefit government finances.

Jung believes that the Kim Jong-un regime was trying to stamp out this kind of corruption when it established housing delegation offices in 2013. These offices are public organizations whose purpose is to take money from public citizens and to build them a new house. The existence of this organization is another example that both central planning and market forces are at work in the North Korean economy today.

Jung sees this as being part of efforts to institutionalize market mechanisms. “This is evidence that the Kim Jong-un regime is going beyond the military-first policy known as Songun that was instituted by Kim’s father and moving down the path toward socialist capitalism,” she said.

Housing market: A market economy learning center

According to Jung, the housing market is turning into a “learning center” writ large for the market economy – not just for the Kim regime, but for the North Korean public. Most crucially, housing prices in North Korea are already being decided based on a variety of factors, including access to transportation, markets, nearby facilities, and even the number of floors. As an example, Jung mentioned the price of apartments in Musan, a county in North Hamgyong Province. The most expensive apartments on the market there are seven-story buildings for “people of national merit.” But the most expensive, she said, are not the seven-story blocks, but the five-story ones. The smaller buildings go for more because they don’t have elevators, which makes them better for moving firewood. One- to two-story buildings are less popular because they are seen as similar to South Korea’s, Jung added. Even in North Korea, a number of different variables go into shaping housing market prices.

Chinese presence in the North Korean real estate market 

Jung also noted that some Chinese people have begun branching into the North Korean real estate market. Chinese residents of North Korea who were interviewed in Dandong indicated that more and more Chinese have begun investing after seeing the real estate. North Korea has not yet made its housing fully open to foreigners, but those who invest in North Korea are reportedly allowed to buy housing for temporary residence. It’s a sign that regulations on foreign activities are being relaxed. As a result, an increasing number of Chinese people are investing in needed areas such as toll processing and solar energy development in Pyongyang and other places – and acquiring housing and land in the process. The strategy is twofold: immediate gains, along with more long-term profits from the land.

The real estate housewives of North Korea? 

“It hasn’t reached that point yet, but the signs are there.” According to Jung, relatively rigid enforcement of the one-family, one-home rule in North Korea means the country has yet to develop a visible community of “housewife speculators” buying and selling homes for profit. But there have been cases of people buying homes under their mother’s name, or investing when a house is still incomplete and cheaper before turning around and selling at a higher price when it is finished, she added. Both are similar to the kinds of behaviors seen among South Korea’s housewife speculators. As these activities increase, Jung notes, the idea of the home as a place of residence only is giving way to the idea of real estate as an investment – even in North Korea.

The increasingly market-oriented nature of the North Korean housing market, and the Kim Jong-un regime’s attempts to incorporate the changes into its system, led Jung to predict that the shift toward market economy principles will only grow and intensify going ahead. The question now is whether this market-oriented real estate market will lead North Korea to reprise the disastrous experience of ’70s-era Gangnam as the economy grows – or whether the result will be something completely different.

Read the full story here:
North Korean real estate market: sustained boom, or bubble?
Hankyoreh
Kim Bo-geun
2015-4-11

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New apartment construction in Sinuiju

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Chaeha-sinuiju-apartments

Pictured above (Google Earth: 2014-8-6): New apartment housing in Chaeha-dong, Sinuiju.

According to the Daily NK:

The real estate market in a strategic location of North Korea is heating up, with a recently new venture seeing apartment units being traded for up to 30,000 USD , the Daily NK has learned.

“Real estate development in Sinuiju City has been pretty active since two years ago,” a source based in the province told the Daily NK on Tuesday. “Starting last July or August, construction for high-rises has been underway in the Chaeha-dong neighborhood.”

The apartments in Chaeha-dong are being built on joint investments from foreign currency-earning enterprises and the donju [the new affluent middle class], according to the source. To clear the way for the lucrative project, Chaeha Market, the largest distribution market in the city, has been relocated to park grounds located in Namsang-dong.

While private property purchases remain illegal in North Korea, beleaguered by economic hardship, the state dolls out tacit consent to these endeavors, encouraging increasingly more illicit trade within the burgeoning real estate market.

In areas like Sinuiju, a main portal to and from China, there is no shortage of solvent buyers eager and willing to pay for property in the area, knowing its value will only continue to increase. The apartments taking over the Chaeha Market grounds are modern buildings of roughly 100 square meters, constructed from materials exclusively imported from China. Situated in a prime location near Sinuiju Customs House, the complex offers convenient transportation options compared to other locations, warranting the relative high prices, according to the source.

Units in the complex come in three varieties, depending on their stage of completion: “If only the framework of the apartment is put up, it is sold for 20,000 USD; if interior construction is completed, it trades for 25,000 USD; and if decorative touches are added, it fetches 30,000 USD,” she explained. According to exchange rates in North Korean markets on the 7th, 1 USD trades for roughly 8,000 KPW.

Labor for the cause consists of workers from state-run enterprises and “8.3 Workers” with special expertise. The term, “8.3 Workers,” stems from a system where workers earn money outside their state-mandated workplaces and present de facto tax payments back to their employers but also keep a portion of the profits. In this case, the “8.3 Workers” are sectioned off into “8.3 Units” of five to eight people, tasked with plastering or putting down tiles in one unit within the residential complex.

Regarding compensation for their work on the new building, “8.3 Groups” reach an agreement with the construction company, affiliated with a foreign-currency earning enterprise, on rates and then work around the clock once ground breaks on the project. “Time equals money,” as the source said, adding that one worker is estimated to receive roughly 30,000 [3.75 USd] to 50,000 KPW [6.25 USD] a day of work and is guaranteed rations and meals.

For investors, however, the project yields far more significant returns. “If an individual invests in one of these companies’ real estate construction project, the profits are divided up 3:7 and the investor receives a 30 percent share from sales of the completed property,” the source explained.

Donju invest in housing construction projects with these firms because they are unable to receive legal permission from the Ministry of Construction to engage in such personal investments. Although donju involvement in these undertakings has been known to sometimes take the form of loans offered to construction firms at lofty interest rates, this method proves less popular for the simple fact that there is less guarantee for them to receive what they are owed; needless to say, no laws exist to protect these–by official North Korean law–illicit transactions.

This fact propels most of the donju to invest in the permanence and relative stability property offers, all while skimming 30 percent of the overall profits from the sale; it is also why the source speculated this form of investment to continue to gain traction.

She added that demand for news persists on with unhindered growth. Party cadres and the donju continue to purchase completed units; in fact, many even buying two or three units using their relatives’ names to ensure future usage.

Meanwhile, residents of Chaeha-dong in Sinuiju are currently residing at the Sinuiju Medical University dorms or at homes of their relatives. The source reported that these temporarily displaced persons will be moving in, free of charge, to the newly built apartments following their completion. She noted, however, that this contingent forms a disproportionate percentage to those who have purchased units within the complex.

Read the full story here:
Real Estate Market Booming in Sinuiju
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2015-01-14

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DPRK reportedly bans unauthorized wireless networks at foreign embassies

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

According to Itar-Tass (Russia):

North Korean authorities have banned foreign diplomatic missions and branches of international humanitarian organizations working in the country from using any kind of wireless communications without government approval, starting from Monday.

The state department regulating radio frequencies said controls extending to satellite and Wi-Fi were in the interests of national security.

Regulations demand that foreign missions immediately dismantle all equipment providing such means of communication or face penalties including a substantial fine, enforced suspension of those systems and their confiscation.

Officials said foreign representations would be allowed to use equipment only after authorization.

A recent report in The Diplomat claimed that the black market price of housing near the Munsu diplomatic compound had gone up as people sought residencies that could access the internet.

Housing prices have skyrocketed in a residential area of Pyongyang where the foreign embassies are located as North Koreans are scrambling to move to that area, expecting to use the embassies’ Wi-Fi, North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) — a Seoul-based think tank — reported on August 6. The world wide web has long been totally banned in North Korea.

NKIS said the phenomenon became apparent in June when North Korean authorities arrested a broker who enriched himself by facilitating the purchase of housing in that area.

A man with the surname Cho helped people living in Pyongyang’s rich districts such as Central District and Potonggang District sell their houses and move in near the foreign embassies, NKIS reported. It is illegal for people to make real estate deals among individuals.

NKIS added that the reason why North Korean people want to move to the area where the foreign embassies are located is that they are able to use the Wi-Fi coming from the embassies. Since some of embassies have very strong Wi-Fi signals and some don’t even have passwords, people living around the embassies are able to access the Internet using the embassies’ Wi-Fi.

NK News received a copy of the official order from the State Radio Regulatory Department:

All the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The State Radio Regulatory Department, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, presents its compliments to all the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to the DPRK and has the honour to inform that the signals of regional wireless network, installed and being used without licence, produce some effect upon our surroundings.

Therefore, it is kindly notified that the regional wireless network is abolished here according to Article 18, Chapter 3 of the Law on Radio Regulation, and that the Missions, who would like to use the regional wireless network in future, should seek a consultation with the State Radio Regulatory Department.

It would be appreciated if the Missions could positively co-operate in the current measures taken for the security of the DPRK.

The State Radio Regulatory Department, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, avails itself of this opportunity to renew to all the Diplomatic Missions and International Organizations to the DPRK the assurances of its highest consideration.

The State Radio
Regulatory
Department,

Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea

Pyongyang
August 13,
2014

Appendix

Article 18, Chapter 3 of the DPRK Law on Radio Regulation; The institution, enterprise, organization and citizen who would like to form or use the wireless communication network and satellite communication network here should seek the licence from the Radio Regulatory body.

Article 61, Chapter 4 of the enforcement regulations for the DPRK Law on Radio Regulation; In case of having violated this rules and regulations relative to the application of the Law on Radio Regulation, a fine amounting up to 1,500,000 Wons will be imposed , or such punishment as interrupting the operation or forfeiting the equipment will be inflicted according to the circumstances.

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