Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

China seeking to boost Chinese tourist numbers

Monday, April 14th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

China has launched the second train service to North Korea, state media reported Monday, a move expected to boost travel between the two nations.

The Sunday opening of regular rail services from China’s northeastern city of Jian to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang makes Jian the second city offering such service after another Chinese border city of Dandong, Xinhua news agency reported.

North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive and isolated nations, but Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to attract foreign tourists since last year by offering more international and domestic flights.

In Jian, Chinese tourists can apply for a one-day round trip, which is available once every four days, to North Korea for US$480 per person, the report said.

Zang Wanghong, director of the Jian Tourist Board, said the tour agency will begin selling the tour package to the North’s western port city of Manpo before May 1, according to the report.

According to Xinhua:

A group of 32 Chinese tourists on Sunday took a train from Ji’an City in northeast China’s Jilin Province for five-day trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The opening of the train route makes Ji’an, the second city after Dandong in neighboring Liaoning Province with service to DPRK.

The train from Ji’an can take tourists to Pyongyang, Kaesong and Panmunjom in DPRK, according to Liu Jun, deputy manager of the Ji’an International Travel Agency.

Both Ji’an and Dandong face DPRK across the Yalu River. The distance between Ji’an and DPRK’s capital of Pyongyang is 400 km, while that between Dandong and Pyongyang is about 200 km.

Chinese visitors with ID cards and passports can apply for the 2,980 yuan(480 U.S. dollar) visit in Ji’an. The trip is organized every four days.

Zang Wanghong, director of the Ji’an Tourist Board, said Ji’an will open a one-day tour to Manpo, a port city on the western coast of DPRK before May 1.

Ji’an which boasts a UNESCO world heritage site of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom hopes to develop tourism based on its own resources and its adjacency to DPRK, said Zang.

Read the full story here:
China starts 2nd rail travel service to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-4-14

Another Chinese city opens train travel to Pyongyang
Xinhua
2014-4-13

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DPRK visitors to China increase in 2013

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The number of North Korean visitors to China rose about 11 percent on-year to top 200,000 for the first time in 2013, Chinese government data showed Tuesday, in the latest sign that the flow of people between the allies was unaffected by geopolitical tensions.

About 206,600 North Koreans traveled to China last year, compared with 186,000 in 2012, the data from China’s National Tourism Administration showed.

It was the first time that the annual number of North Korean tourists to China exceeded 200,000 since the Chinese tourism administration began releasing data in 2005.

NK News reports additional data:

93,300 work visas were given to North Korean citizens[.]

Goeffrey See comments that part of the increase can be explained by repeat travelers.

Read the full story here:
N. Korean tourists to China rise 11 pct in 2013
Yonhap
2014-1-21

Work visas for North Koreans going to China up 17.2%
NK News
Oliver Hoffman
2014-1-21

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Dennis Rodman’s fourth trip to North Korea

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

UPDATE 9 (2014-1-18): Joseph Terwilliger gives an interview here.

UPDATE 8 (2014-1-18): The AP reports that Rodman has checked into rehab:

Dennis Rodman has checked into an undisclosed alcohol rehabilitation center to treat his long-time struggle with alcoholism, his agent says.

Darren Prince declined on Saturday to say which facility will treat Rodman and how long he will be there. Rodman recently returned to the United States from his latest trip to North Korea.

He later apologized for comments he made in North Korea about a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized an exhibition game there. He also sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of the friendly game.

“What was potentially a historic and monumental event turned into a nightmare for everyone concerned,” Prince said. “Dennis Rodman came back from North Korea in pretty rough shape emotionally. The pressure that was put on him to be a combination `super human’ political figure and `fixer’ got the better of him.

“He is embarrassed, saddened and remorseful for the anger and hurt his words have caused.”

UPDATE 7 (2014-1-14): The apologies, via the Associated Press:

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman apologized on Monday for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea while he played there to celebrate the birthday of his friend and leader Kim Jong Un.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything,” Rodman told media on his arrival at Beijing airport from a weeklong trip. “It’s not my fault. I’m sorry. I just want to do some good stuff, that’s all I want to do.”

He said he would return to North Korea next month, but gave no details.


Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the trip, one of the players, Charles D. Smith, said Rodman “opened the door and he did some missteps along the way.”

In an interview in Beijing, Smith said Rodman’s singing of “Happy Birthday” to Kim before the exhibition game at a Pyongyang stadium was something that he alone had decided to do. “I think that it might not have been the right thing to do, but he did it … if it was done in private it would be different, but when it’s done in the open like that, people are going to have opinions.”

During the trip, Rodman was also slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who has been detained for more than a year for “anti-state crimes.” Rodman apologized last week for comments he made in a CNN interview implying Bae was at fault, saying he had been drinking and was upset because some of his teammates were under pressure to leave.

Smith said the controversy surrounding Bae was a “bad situation” that “overshadowed some of the things that we were doing.”

“Dennis is not a member of the State Department, he is not a member of the U.N.,” Smith said. “For them to put the flag in his hands and say go and negotiate and talk about it, he probably would have made it worse, you know.”

He said North Korean officials had invited the team back “at any given time.”

On Monday, Rodman reiterated that his trip was one of goodwill.

“This is not a bad deal,” he said. “I want to show people that no matter what’s going on in the world, for one day, just one day, no politics, not all that stuff.

“I’m sorry for all the people and what’s going on, I’m sorry,” he continued. “I’m not the president, I’m not an ambassador, I’m just an individual that wants to show the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day.”

Rodman and Kim struck up a friendship when the basketball-player-turned-celebrity first traveled to the secretive state last year.

UPDATE 6 (2014-1-9): KCTV footage of the visit has been made public. The fist video shows Rodman’s delegation meeting with Kim Jong-un, presenting him with customized vodka bottles, singing “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong-un, then offers game highlights.

The second video shows the game itself.

UPDATE 5 (2014-1-8): Dennis Rodman sings “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong-un. Here is Simon Cockerell talking about the game via Skype.

UPDATE 4 (2014-1-8): According to the Daily NK, the DPRK is using the Rodman game to treat Chinese investors.

A source in China informed Daily NK on the 8th, “Some Chinese traders who have given a great deal to projects in Pyongyang, including the construction of department stores, shops and restaurants, have been invited to go and celebrate Kim Jong Eun’s birthday. All accommodation, food and travel while in the country is being covered by the Chosun side, and all other expenses are to be borne by the invitee.”

“Chosun [North Korea] has only invited a select group, and there will only be two or three officials from the Chinese side, so the total number of people won’t have exceeded 30. Their schedules for today are to attend the friendly basketball game and then inspect Pyongyang [Munsu] Water Park. Later there will be a tour of Kaesong and Panmunjom, and I hear that a number of banquets have been prepared,” the source went on.

By hosting the group in this way, Kim Jong Eun is following in the footsteps of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, both of whom invited foreign business people and dignitaries to partake of their birthday celebrations. The only difference is the small number of invitees, the lack of publicity outside the country thus far, and the fact that today is not actually a North Korean public holiday.

“Kim Jong Eun has not done much in terms of showing himself off as yet,” the source posited, “and since he has a great many things to worry about at home right now, such as the execution of Jang Song Taek, he cannot host a large spectacle for this birthday this year. Nevertheless, it does appear that they want to convey their gratitude to foreign investors, so he’s invited them to help him celebrate.”

Furthermore, “These invitations have been extended because there is a sense of urgency about attracting investment for special economic zones and other projects that call for capital. After creating a genial atmosphere via the tourist activities, they will actively work to encourage the invitees to invest in things like the construction of water parks in each major city.”

Meanwhile, a second source has revealed that the North Korean authorities have also summoned a select group of provincial cadres to Pyongyang for the birthday celebrations. The source from North Hamkyung Province reported to Daily NK, “Some provincial cadres have gone up to Pyongyang for the Marshal’s (Kim Jong Eun’s) birthday celebrations on January 8th. This has not been officially reported to the people, and cadres are the only ones being quietly called up.”

UPDATE 3 (2014-1-7): Dennis Rodman completely lost it during this live interview on CNN. Here is Andray Abrahamian’s response.

UPDATE 2 (2014-1-7): A traveler visiting the DPRK to see the Dennis Rodman game has introduced Bitcoin to the DPRK. Here is an instagram photo of the first Bitcoin transaction in the DPRK.

UPDATE 1 (2014-1-6): Apparently Paddy Power is still funding this trip despite publicly bowing out during Rodman’s last visit. According to the Irish Times:

Just before Christmas, Paddy Power withdrew sponsorship of Rodman’s event, saying this was as a result of general condemnation of Pyongyang. This followed the rare public purge of leader Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was executed last month.

The company said it “took a back seat” after those events but would still “honour all of its contractual obligations”.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-1-4): Rodman has made three trips to the DPRK. Here are links to the first, second and third trips. In a gesture towards his fourth trip he has named a slate of basketball players that will be joining him for an exhibition match in honor of Kim Jong-un’s birthday.

According to Sports Illustrated:

Dennis Rodman has named a team of former NBA players to participate in an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Rodman leads a team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Jan. 8, marking Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

and…

Rodman calls the game his version of “basketball diplomacy.”

“My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans,” Rodman said. “The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.”

Here is some more infor on the players.

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Contract signed for Onsong Economic Development Zone

Friday, December 13th, 2013

2013-12-13-Onsong-Economic-Development-Zone

Pictured above (Google Earth): The approximate location for the North Hamgyong Provincial Onsong Island Tourist Development Zone

According to China’s Global Times:

A contract has been signed between North Korea and a Chinese border city to develop a special economic zone in North Hamkyung Province, one day after North Korea removed Kim Jong-un’s once all-powerful uncle from his post.

North Korea on Monday signed the contract for Onsong Economic Development Zone with Tumen, a Chinese city under the administration of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Northeast China’s Jilin Province, South Korea’s JoongAng Daily reported Thursday.

On Sunday, North Korea dismissed Jang Song-thaek, widely considered the second-most powerful figure in the country, and expelled him from the Workers’ Party of Korea. Jang was accused of “anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts” and womanizing.

Considered an economic reformist, Jang led a delegation to China in August last year to discuss the development of two economic zones in Rason City and the Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa islands near the Chinese border.

An official from Tumen said the city government expressed concerns regarding possible postponement of the contract signing due to Jang’s ouster, but North Korea requested they sign the contract as scheduled, according to the daily.

“Jang’s involvement in economic projects had been diminished significantly this year, so his purge would not have much impact on the speed of economic reform in North Korea,” Kim Kyu-chol, head of non-government Forum for Inter-Korean Relations, a Seoul-based group monitoring inter-Korean business relations, told the Global Times on Thursday. “Actually  economic reform will speed up next year as North Korea will focus on the economy next year, the third of Kim Jong-un’s rule.”

North Korea was in the process of forming the new National Committee for Economic Development earlier this year, which technocrats who had prior experience with the nation’s former economic development bureau, will have joined, Kim Kyu-chol said.

North Korea also reached an agreement with China on Sunday over a 380-kilometer high-speed railway to connect Sinuiju, the city across the border from Dandong in Liaoning Province, through to Pyongyang and Kaesong, South Korean Democratic Party lawmaker Hong Ik-pyo told a seminar at the National Assembly.

Pyongyang’s insistence on inking the contract sends a signal that its economic ties with China will not be affected by Jang’s dismissal and that North Korea wants to strengthen cooperation with China, said Jiang Longfan, a North Korea expert at Yanbian University.

“Kim wants to consolidate his absolute authority through purging Jang, but in the meantime the commitment to economic development has to be maintained to win people’s support,” Jiang said.

Sinuiju Special Zone located at the estuary of the Yalu River is expected to see the ground-breaking of a major project in February next year, with backing from Hong Kong. North Korea also signed a contract with investors from Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Chinese mainland to invest in the Kangryong Green Development Zone in South Hwanghae Province in mid-November, Tongil News reported on Tuesday.

The Onsong Economic Development Zone is one of the 14 special economic zones North Korea has designated this year to attract foreign investment.

North Korea planned to develop the zone into a tourism resort that includes a golf course, swimming pool, horse racing, and restaurants to attract foreigners, said Jin Hualin, an expert on North Korea economy at Yanbian University.

“But the exact development agenda hasn’t been set as Tumen will invite investors to make their decisions,” he said.

He is optimistic about the economic prospects for the zone, which, located in mysterious North Korea, will be attractive to foreigners, he said.

Next year, North Korea aims to host 1 million foreign tourists and thus further tourism projects are expected to be announced, Kim Kyu-chol said.

Some 250,000 foreign tourists, more than 90 percent of whom were Chinese, visited North Korea last year, Kim said.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea inks border town economic deal
Global Times
Sun Xiaobo and Park Gayoung
2013-12-13

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Merrill Newman saga (UPDATED)

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

UPDATE 9 (2013-12-9): Newman has issued a statement (Nelson Report):

Statement from Merrill Newman dated December 9, 2013

Over the past two days, I’ve been able to reunite with my wonderful family, rest, and try to recover from the difficult ordeal that began when I was prevented from leaving North Korea on October 26th. I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to be home, to be free, and to begin to resume my normal home life.

Let me repeat my thanks to the U.S. State Department for the amazing job they did in getting me out of North Korea and bringing me home safely. I want to thank Vice President Biden, who called me in Beijing to wish me well and even offered to give me a lift back to the United States on his plane. Thanks also to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their great work, especially their visit to me and their help in ensuring that I had the medicine I needed.

Let me also express deep appreciation to friends, family, members of the First Congregational Church, wonderful people of faith and from all walks of life, residents and staff of our home at Channing House, and Members of Congress for their prayers, vigils, hard work, and moral support on my behalf. I want to single out Evans Revere for his extraordinary help.

It wasn’t until I got home on Saturday that I realized what a story I had become in the press here. During my detention I had no access to any outside news, and wondered whether anyone was even aware of my situation. I am sorry I caused so many people so many heartaches back home.

Looking at the television and newspaper reports, I’ve seen a lot of speculation about why I was detained. I’ve given considerable thought to this and have come to the conclusion that I just didn’t understand that, for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn’t over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner.

I’m a Korean War veteran and I’m very proud of my military service, when I helped train Korean partisans. The North Koreans still harbor resentment about those partisans from the Mt Kuwol area and what other anti-Communist guerrillas did in North Korea before and during the war.

The shooting stopped sixty years ago, and the North Koreans have allowed other American veterans of the war to visit. Moreover, I did not hide my own military service from the tour company that organized my trip. Therefore, I did not think this history would be a problem. Indeed, in my application for a tourist visa, I specifically requested permission to visit the Mt. Kuwol area. That request was approved and was on the official itinerary when I arrived, although after I got to Pyongyang, I was told that the bridge had been washed out by a flood and it would not be possible to do so.

Before they told me this, I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were. The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister. It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that.

I’ve also seen a lot of reports about the “confession” I made in North Korea. Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily. Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me “confess” to. To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the “confession” in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for me to say. I hope that came across to all who saw the video.

Getting the “confession” and my “apology” were important to the North Koreans. Although the North Koreans treated me well during my detention (they looked after my health and fed me well), I was constantly under guard in my hotel and my interrogator made it clear that if I did not cooperate I could be sentenced to jail for espionage for 15 years. In fact, the North Korean interrogator repeatedly made the following statement to me: “If you do not tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will not be able to return to your home country. If you do tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will be able to return to your home country — someday.” Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home.

In the coming days, as I recover my strength I plan to share more details about my experience in North Korea. I know there is a lot of interest in this and I’ll do my best to answer as many questions as I can. We also ask that you not forget that another American, Kenneth Bae is being held in the DPRK and we hope that he, too, will be allowed to rejoin his family. For now, let me finish by saying again how great it is to be back home, safe, and with my loved ones.

UPDATE 8 (2013-12-7): Newman back home. According to the Washington Post:

An elderly U.S. veteran of the Korean War arrived home Saturday after being released by North Korea, where he had traveled as a tourist and was held for six weeks as a prisoner.

“I’m delighted to be home,” Merrill Newman said at the San Francisco airport, where he was reunited with his wife and son, the Associated Press reported. “It’s been a great homecoming. I’m tired, but ready to be with my family.”

Vice President Biden, laying a wreath at a war memorial in Seoul, said he had spoken briefly with Newman by phone.

“There is a piece of good news. The DPRK today released someone they should never have had in the first place: Mr. Newman,” Biden said.

“I’m told we tried to get in contact with him [but] he’s on his way or in China right now. I offered him a ride home on Air Force Two, but as he pointed out, there’s a direct flight to San Francisco, his home. I don’t blame him. I’d be on that flight too. It’s a positive thing they’ve done.”

Biden said the United States would continue to demand the release of another American, Kenneth Bae, who has been held for more than a year. Including Newman, North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009, six of whom have been released.

“At least there’s one ray of sunshine today. Mr. Newman will be reunited with his family,” he said.

UPDATE 7 (2013-12-7): KCNA reports that Mr. Newman has been deported.

U.S. Citizen Deported from DPRK

Pyongyang, December 7 (KCNA) — As already reported, a relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) detained and investigated U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who entered the DPRK under the guise of a tourist to confirm the whereabouts of the spies and terrorists who had been trained and dispatched by him, an intelligence officer, during the last Korean War.

According to the investigation, Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.

Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding, apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint.

UPDATE 6 (2013-12-1): Yonhap reports that Swedish diplomats have been allowed to meet with Mr. Newman.

News wire services such as AFP and CNN said a consul met Merrill Newman at a hotel in Pyongyang and delivered medication sent by his family.

The Scandinavian country’s mission in Pyongyang acts as the “protecting power” for Americans in North Korea, and its diplomats provide consular services.

The media outlets said Newman was in good health and reported he was being treated well by the North Koreans.

UPDATE 5 (2013-11-30): KCNA has published Mr. Newman’s “apology”:

Apology of U.S. Citizen for His Hostile Acts in DPRK

Pyongyang, November 30 (KCNA) — The following is an apology U.S. citizen Merrill Newman presented to a relevant institution after his detention in the DPRK:

I am Merrill Newman living in California, USA.

During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command.

As I gave 300 people with barbarity gone to the South who had ill feelings toward the DPRK from Chodo military education and guerilla training they later did attack against the DPRK although the armistice was signed.

I also gave 200 soldiers under my command in Mt. Kuwol the task to harass the rear base such as collecting information on the movement and the arm equipment in KPA, attacking and destruction on the communication system, the rice storage, railroad and munitions train by dispatching the several elements to Hwanghae Province Area.

According to my order they collected information of the KPA and attacked the communication system and killed 3 innocent operators, delayed the munitions supply using explosives obtained from attacking the mine and they attacked the KPA and harassing operations of the rear base 10 times in the Hwanghae Province Area.

They killed about 50 soldiers in the process of the operation. In the process of following tasks given by me I believe they would kill more innocent people.

As I killed so many civilians and KPA soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people.

Although 60 years have gone by, I came to DPRK on the excuse of the tour as a member of 33 Tour Group from U.S. on October 17, 2013.

Shamelessly I had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers in Kuwol Mt. during the Korean war. Following the itinerary I asked my guide to help me look for the surviving soldiers and their families and descendents because it was too hard for me to do myself.

If I had the opportunity to visit Kuwol Mt. I was going to pray for the souls of dead soldiers. If I saw surviving soldiers in Mt. Kuwol, I was going to connect them with the members of the Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association which I had already connected with, anti-Communist strategic plot organization.

All the members of the Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association escaped from the DPRK to South Korea. So I asked the guide to help me to look for their families and relatives living in DPRK and I gave the document written with their address and e-mail address to the guide in the Yanggakdo Hotel.

I also brought the e-book criticizing the Socialist DPRK on this trip and criticizing DPRK.

Although I committed the indelible offensive acts against the Korean people in the period of the Korean War, I have been guilty of big crimes against the DPRK government and Korean People again.

I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me.

Please forgive me.

I will never commit the offensive act against the DPRK Government and the Korean People again.

On this trip I can understand that in US and western countries there is misleading information and propaganda about DPRK.

If I go back to USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.

Merrill Newman

Nov 9, 2013

Here is the video.

According to the New York Times:

In the apology, Mr. Newman said he was an adviser for the Kuwol Unit of the United Nations Korea Sixth Partisan Regiment, which served with the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command.

A person familiar with Mr. Newman’s military record and his current situation in captivity in North Korea said that Mr. Newman served as an adviser in that unit in 1953 before the armistice. The unit operated behind the lines in North Korea, but Mr. Newman conducted his duties as an adviser on Chodo, an island off the west coast of what is now North Korea, the person said. In the beginning of the video, Mr. Newman mentioned Chodo as the place where he was stationed. The person speaking about Mr. Newman’s situation declined to be identified because of the delicacy of the case.

According to American military documents declassified in 1990, the United Nations partisan warfare mission organized in 1951 eventually mobilized about 23,000 guerrillas to fight against North Korea, overseen by about 200 American advisers.

Read more in Time.

UPDATE 4 (2013-11-30): KCNA publishes article acknowledging detention of Mr. Newman.

KCNA Report on Arrest of U.S. Citizen for Hostile Acts in DPRK

Pyongyang, November 30 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Saturday:

A relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently put in custody U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who committed hostile acts against the DPRK after entering the country under the guise of a tourist.

After entering the DPRK as a member of tourists’ group in October he perpetrated acts of infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and slandering its socialist system, quite contrary to the purpose of tour.

He also committed such crime as trying to look for spies and terrorists who conducted espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK in the area of Mt. Kuwol during the last Fatherland Liberation War as well as their families and descendants and connect them with the “Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association,” an anti-DPRK plot-breeding organization of south Korea.

According to the results of the investigation, he was active as adviser of “Kuwol Unit” of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Command of the U.S. Forces in the Far East since early in 1953. He is a criminal as he masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians.

The investigation clearly proved Newman’s hostile acts against the DPRK and they were backed by evidence. He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them.

UPDATE 3 (2013-11-23): According to NK News,  Merill traveled with Juche Travel Services. According to the article:

The agency, which only learned that it was involved in Newman’s case on Thursday, said that it currently had no information as to why the 85 year old Korean War veteran had been removed from a flight leaving Pyongyang on October 26.

“Mr. Newman had in place all necessary and valid travel documents to take his tour. We have no information concerning what has occurred to result in the current situation,” Thompson said in a statement emailed to NK News.

“Mr. Newman travelled with one other gentleman to the DPRK on a private tour booked via Juche Travel Services between 17th and 26th October 2013.”

UPDATE 2 (2013-11-21): Everything we know about Merrill Newman (Washington Post):

Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American who lives in California, has been detained in North Korea since Oct. 26, multiple news reports now confirm. Several hundred Americans are thought to visit North Korea every year as tourists, typically safely. Newman’s arrest is highly unusual and remains shrouded in mystery. Here is the publicly available information on Newman so far, taken from accounts in NKNews.org, the San Jose Mercury News, New York Times and Associated Press [link broken].

The nine facts listed here only deepen the mystery; there is a total absence of any hint of a reason why he would have been arrested.

1. Newman was visiting North Korea on a nine-day tourist visa, traveling with a friend from his retirement community named Bob Hamrdla and two tour guides. Such guides also function as government minders.

2. He was arrested while sitting on an airplane at Pyongyang’s international airport, waiting to depart the country. A single uniformed officer boarded the plane and walked Newman off.

3. Authorities have held him for more than three weeks, but North Korean state media have not mentioned the case.

4. A Korean War veteran, Newman with his wife lives in a Palo Alto retirement community called Channing House. He is Caucasian, which is significant given that North Korea has tended in the past to arrest only Westerners of Korean or other Asian descent. Korean War veterans sometimes travel to North Korea, usually without incident. A group went in July to repatriate the remains of an American who’d died there during the war. They say the trip went fine.

5. Newman does not appear to be overtly political or to have a known record of human rights activism or religious evangelizing, the two practices that have gotten Americans detained by North Korean authorities. He is a retired technology executive with a master’s degree in education from Stanford. He’d reportedly taken Korean-language lessons to prepare for the trip.

6. It’s not clear which travel agency he was traveling with. A growing number of Beijing-based agencies have been cropping up that take Americans into North Korea.

7. Newman’s son said his father had a “difficult” discussion with his government minders about the Korean War. While political statements are obviously frowned upon by North Korea, the country has been hosting thousands of Western tourists for years. Newman would be far from the first Western visitor to raise sensitive political issues with his minders.

8. His son says he has a heart condition and a bad back. North Korea expert David Straub told NKNews.org, “The basic fact of the matter is that this gentleman is 84-85 yrs old, an elderly man, presumably not a threat in any way to North Korea, so this is, even by North Korean standards, an extraordinary thing.”

9. The State Department issued a blanket warning Monday against all travel to North Korea, the first of this level of severity since Americans began traveling there in 1995. A State Department spokesperson emphasized that the official warning cites a “chronic” threat to Americans of arbitrary detention. Two other Americans have been arrested in recent years, both of Korean descent and accused of conducting illegal Christian missionary work.

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-20): The New York Times provides a name and some additional information:

The veteran, Merrill Newman of Palo Alto, Calif., was taken from an Air Koryo flight on which he was to leave the country on Oct. 26, his son, Jeff Newman, the chief financial officer of a real estate company, said in a telephone interview from California.

“He was on a nine-day tour with a friend and two tour guides. He went through the normal visa process,” the younger Mr. Newman said. “Everything was going very well. They day before they were due to leave he had a meeting with his tour guide and without his companion.”

At that meeting, where at least one other North Korean aside from the tour guide was present, the Korean War was discussed, his son said. “That was the only hiccup,” he said. Mr. Newman’s traveling companion, Bob Hamrdla, who is not a Korean War veteran and lives in the same retirement village as Mr. Newman, assumed there must have been some misunderstanding from that meeting, Jeff Newman said.

 There has been no word of the whereabouts of Mr. Newman, who has a heart condition and a bad back, since he was escorted from the plane, his son said.

“All we would like is for whatever misunderstanding to be put aside and, on a humanitarian basis, he be able to leave the country and come home and be with his two grandchildren,” Mr. Newman said in the interview.

Mr. Newman’s detention has not been reported in the North Korean state-run news media.

In reaction to Mr. Newman’s detention, the State Department further tightened the United States travel warning to North Korea, making it clear that travel to North Korea was highly dangerous for American citizens who were likely left vulnerable to arbitrary arrest.

The updated warning, released on Tuesday, noted that “U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.”

Mr. Newman, a retired technology executive, served as an infantry officer during the Korean War, and later earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford. He lives at Channing House, a retirement community, with his wife, his son added.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-11-20): Reuters reports that the DPRK may have detained another American tourist. According to the article:

North Korea may have detained an elderly U.S. man last month who entered the country on a tourist visa, Kyodo News Service said on Wednesday, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.

Kyodo, in a report from Beijing, said the possible detention could become another diplomatic bargaining chip for North Korea, which has held Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, since November 2012. Bae has been sentenced by the Pyongyang regime to 15 years of hard labour.

The U.S. State Department echoed U.S. embassy officials in Beijing and Seoul who said they were aware of the reports but could not confirm them.

North Korea claims the man, who apparently is not of Korean descent, has broken the law, according to Kyodo. The man entered North Korea for sightseeing last month with a valid visa, Kyodo quoted the diplomatic source as saying.

Nolan Barkhouse, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Beijing, said: “We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea, but we have no additional information to share at this time.”

I have been archiving information on Kenneth Bae here.

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Agreements on Cooperation between DPRK and Mongolia signed

Monday, October 28th, 2013

According to KCNA (2013-10-28):

Agreements on Cooperation between Governments of DPRK, Mongolia Signed

Pyongyang, October 28 (KCNA) — An agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture and an agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism were signed here on Monday between the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia.

Present there from the DPRK side were Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, Pak Ui Chun, minister of Foreign Affairs, Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade, Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, Pak Kil Yon, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Kwak Il Ryong, vice-minister of Land and Maritime Transport, Hong Kyu, DPRK ambassador to Mongolia, Jong Song Chan, vice general director of the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK, and officials concerned.

Present from the Mongolian side were Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Luvsanvandan Bold, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Manibadrakh Ganbold, Mongolian ambassador to the DPRK, Khaltmaa Battulga, minister of Industry and Agriculture, Tsagaandari Enkhtuvshin, secretary general of the National Security Council, Tserendejid Byambajav, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Khabshai Erjan, vice-minister of Road Transport, Lundeg Purevsuren, national security and foreign policy advisor to the President, Amgalanbaatar Ganbaatar, advisor for mass liaison and mass policy to the President, Pureb Altangerel, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, officials concerned and staff members of the Mongolian embassy here.

The agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture was inked by Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade, and Khaltmaa Battulga, minister of Industry and Agriculture, and the agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism by Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and Luvsanvandan Bold, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia.

Meanwhile, the 2013-2015 plan for exchange in the IT field between the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK and the IT, Post and Telecommunication Bureau of Mongolia was signed.

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Evaluation of Kim Jong Un’s first two years: The rise in construction of sports and entertainment facilities and exports to China

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-10-16

The first chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, took office two years ago. Since then, construction of sports and entertainment facilities are reported to have increased considerably. According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, North Korea’s Pyongyang Folk Park (September 2012), Taesongsan General Hospital (March 2013), and Haedanghwa Service Complex (April 2013) were recently completed. Since the launch of the Kim Jong Un regime, the Masik Pass Ski Resort and other similar sports facilities have been undertaken and are nearing completion.

In addition, the People’s Theatre (April 2012), Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground (opened in July 2012), Sunrise Restaurant (September 2012), and Unification Street Center (September 2012) have been recently renovated. In addition, the Mirim Riding Club, Pyongyang Gymnasium, Munsu Wading Pool, Aprok (Yalu) River Amusement park, Karma Hotel, and New Day Hotel and other hotels around Pyongyang are currently under renovation and repair. Entertainment and sports facilities around other major cities are being constructed as well. Furthermore, after the successful launch of Kwangmyongsong 3-2 last December, North Korea has begun to construct major residential complexes for scientists, granting them preferential housing in Unha scientist residence, Kim Il Sung University educator residence, and Pyongsong residence. Other large-scale housing projects are also reported to be under development.

In the wake of major celebrations in North Korea — such as the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and 60-year anniversary of the “Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War” — a large memorial was erected and existing facilities were repaired. Specifically, the Korean People’s Army Exhibition of Arms and Equipment, Kumsusan Memorial Palace, War Victory Monument, and the Cemetery of the Fallen Fighters of the KPA were refurbished.

Unlike the large-scale construction of sports and entertainment facilities, new constructions of harbors, roads, power plants and other social overhead capital (SOC) is reported to be in decline.

Last August, North Korea’s trade with China has shown an 8 percent increase in exports and 6 percent decrease in imports, following a similar trend from last year. According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, North Korea’s current trade volume with China is reported to be 4 billion USD (1.89 billion USD in exports and 2.2 billion USD in imports).

North Korea’s most popular export items are mineral resources such anthracite, coal, and iron ore. In the case of clothing products — which are mostly consigned processing — there has been an increase of 42 percent (200 million USD) against the previous year. Major categories of imports from China are crude oil, food, and fertilizers. Compared to the previous year, food imports have declined 57 percent (17.4 million tons), and fertilizer and crude oil imports are also showing gradual reduction at 27 percent (18.3 million tons) and 6 percent (34.6 million tons), respectively.

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US hip hop performers film video in DPRK

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

UPDATE 4 (2014-1-8): You can see the video here:

UPDATE 3 (2014-1-7): The Guardian offers additional information on the rap video trip here:

Pacman and Peso have granted the Guardian an exclusive preview of the video – as well as their first interview about an adventure in the world’s most despotic regime.

The genesis of their music video was a random encounter earlier this year with Ramsey Aburdene, a 25-year-old Washington-based investment banker who liked their music and became their manager. Aburdene had a friend who used to be in the military and specialises in getting people into Pyongyang, so they hatched the plan to shoot a rap video there.

No one involved in the trip could easily articulate why exactly North Korea was an appropriate backdrop for the music video. But they still managed to raise $10,400 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.

Interviewed recently in Aburdene’s bedroom in a shared house in Mount Pleasant, Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, recounted their surreal, eye-opening experiences in North Korea.

They managed to film their rap video inside Pyongyang’s faltering metro, beside the demilitarized zone bordering South Korea, on a rice farm and in front of various North Korean monuments, not least the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, an ornate mausoleum for Kim Il-sung, the so-called founder and eternal president of the country, and his son, Kim Jong-il.

Before arriving in North Korea, the group took part in a tour through Asian countries including China, Hong Kong and Mongolia. But it almost began in disaster in Beijing, when the rap entourage, which included some of Aburdene’s university friends, decided to hire motorcycles.

Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, collided with a car near Tiananmen Square and, aware that he was not insured, fled. An angry crowd apprehended Pacman, whose real name is Anthony Bobb. “I was like, man, we ain’t going to North Korea. I’m gonna get locked up in Beijing,” Pacman recalls. “This shit gonna be on the news.”

After some ad-hoc diplomacy and a visit to a car repair shop, the group was let free, but missed their flight to Hong Kong, arriving late for the next leg of the journey – hosted by their main financial backer.

James Passin, a 41-year-old hedge fund manager who has poured millions of dollars in Mongolia, and also has business interests in North Korea, donated $5,100 to their Kickstarter campaign.

Described in BusinessWeek as ‘The American Who Bought Mongolia’, Passin was keen to be involved in the project. “He actually wanted to be in the North Korea video, but then his advisors told him it was probably better not to be,” Aburdene said.

Instead, Passin invited the rapping tour to Hong Kong, where he happened to be hosting his investor conference – and birthday celebration – in the Grand Hyatt hotel. Later, Passin flew the group to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. It was Peso’s favourite stop on the whole tour, not least because of the generous hospitality of their host. “The moment we arrived we got chauffeur rides to the hotel,” he said. “I had lobster with some fries while I was sipping on Sprite,” said Pacman.

Returning briefly to Beijing, the group picked up some tailored silk suits in preparation for North Korea. But by then the situation in Pyongyang had changed.

It was the end of November, and Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, had been detained in North Korea. The State Department strongly discouraged American citizens against visiting North Korea, the first warning of its kind since Pyongyang began allowing tourists into the country in 1995.

Pacman and Peso were being compared to Dennis Rodman, the former basketball star who has developed unlikely friendship with Kim Jong-un. Unlike Rodman, who is currently in Pyongyang accompanied by a fleet of former basketball players, the DC rappers did not have the blessing of Kim Jong-un, or indeed anyone else from North Korean officialdom.

Instead, they had always planned to travel beneath the radar, shooting their video under the cover of a sightseeing tour. With the five-day trip just hours away, the entourage began to realise that an interview with the BBC was probably not the best way to maintain a low-profile. Shortly before boarding, they read a Gawker article mentioning how, despite the State Department advice, “a much-publicized trip by two DC rappers, Pacman and Peso, is going ahead as planned.”

“All the buzz we were getting, I thought we were gonna get hemmed up, captured,” said Pacman. His rapping partner agreed: “I was like: uh-oh. Are we gonna make it?” They put their worries behind them and flew to Pyongyang regardless.

When the aircraft doors opened, they walked out to the sound of snapping cameras. “As soon as I seen cameras, I started being myself,” said Peso. “I started flipping my jacket open, smoking my cigarette in front of the cameras, turn[ing] round to make sure they got the suit.”

Despite the the flurry of attention from Associated Press journalists at the airport, the rappers succeeded in going largely unnoticed in North Korea.

Each day, Pacman and Peso hopped on a tourist bus, which ferried them to approved locations across the country in the company of government-sanctioned tour guides. So as not to attract attention, they used a small, Canon camera to shoot video, filming segments surreptitiously whenever their minders were looking the other way. Microphones, headphones, or amplified music were out of the question. Instead, they improvised. “We were just spitting the voice that was in our head,” Peso said. “It was just work, work, work, non-stop.”

They were not helped by the sub-zero temperatures and snow. There was rarely heating in any of the buildings and the silk suits provided little comfort. “One of the North Koreans, he gave me his coat,” Pacman said. “I asked him if he wanted it back, and he was like, ‘Nah, just keep it for the rest of the night.’”

Memories such as that left both young men with a positive experience of North Korea. They still speak about their recollections in dreamy monologues. “The old ladies looked like they were carrying the heaviest things. The army people walking down the street had guns,” said Pacman. “You see a whole bunch of rice fields. People was riding bikes. The little kids was walking down the street by themselves, they must have been in first grade. But everybody waved.”

One month on, both Pacman and Peso say they still feel energised by their journey to North Korea. They look and sound more animated than before they departed, when the anxiety was showing on their faces. “No-one has made a music video in North Korea before. Or even thought about it,” Peso said proudly. Pacman said his rapping had improved since their return. “It sounds stronger, the words are coming faster, quicker,” he said.

Smiling, he remembers the elation he felt when they departed Pyongyang. “The first thing I thought was: we made it out,” he said. “We beat the odds.”

UPDATE 2 (2013-12-1): According to the Associated Press:

The two rappers said their trip shied away from politics.

“I mean we did not go there to be political. We just go down there to shoot our video and that about the reason why we went, not political,” said Pacman – whose real name is Anthony Bobb.

The duo from the Washington area spoke to reporters at an airport in Beijing upon their return from a five-day trip to North Korea.

“Nobody shot a video in North Korea, let alone thought of it. Nobody even thought of making a video in North Korea. You know what I’m saying?” said Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis.

More in The Guardian.

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-8): According to the Guardian:

Pacman and Peso have never traveled much beyond the poor suburb of Washington DC where they live. But after a successful internet fundraising drive, the unsigned hip-hop duo will next Saturday embark on a trip, to shoot a video they hope will jumpstart their career, with an unlikely destination – North Korea.

After raising $10,400 from their  Kickstarter campaign, the pair will first fly to China and then on to Pyongyang, where they plan to film songs such as “God Bless Amerika” on a party bus.

Neither of them have flown on an airplane. They say they only recently discovered that North Korea was a foreign country.

Comparisons are inevitably being made with Dennis Rodman, the former basketball player whose visits to North Korea resulted in an unlikely friendship with the country’s dynastic leader, Kim Jong-un. But Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, unsigned artists in search of a record deal to lift them out of poverty, are on the cusp of a very different kind of trip.

The story of the rap duo’s adventure could only be forged in a place like Washington, a deeply divided city where separated communities only occasionally overlap. A few months ago, Pacman was walking through his neighbourhood, Congress Heights, when he came across a group of twentysomethings shooting a music video. He struck up a friendship with one of the group, a white, 24-year-old investment banker named Ramsey Aburdene, who has since been managing the pair in his spare time.

Aburdene, from DC’s affluent north-west quadrant, had an acquaintance who happened to be an expert on North Korea. Mike Bassett, 34, is a former Iraq war veteran who was lived for seven years in South Korea, four of them with the US army.

A self-described pacifist, Bassett has become a fixer for people interested in traveling to Pyongyang. A Master’s student at American University, he has coordinated several cultural exchanges and traveled extensively in the country since restrictions were eased in 2010.

He has arranged the two rappers’ flights and visas, and laid the necessary groundwork for their tour. Bassett insists North Korea is misunderstood in the eyes of the west, and says Pacman and Peso will be treated with courtesy. Still, he has felt it necessary to provide the young rappers with some cultural advice, and instructed them to amend some of their lyrics.

An entourage consisting of Pacman, Peso, Bassett and Aburdene, plus other friends, departs next Saturday. At their leaving party in Washington on Thursday, in a bar near Aburdene’s house, Peso and Pacman provided well-wishers with an introduction to their debut mixtape.

Once or twice, the crowd broke out into chants of “North Korea”. But no-one really seemed to know exactly why the pair were traveling to the autocratic state, least of all Pacman and Peso. “I’m a thrill-seeker, I don’t fear nothing,” said Pacman, a smiley, baby-faced teenager whose real name is Anthony Bobb. “I like an action movie. I can’t sit and watch a drama flick – it takes too long.”

Pacman said people keep telling him not to go; his aunt tried to talk him out of the trip and his mum told to him to watch his back. “Me personally, I don’t pay too much to politics, so I can’t say what is right. Then again, who is to say what is right and what is wrong?”

His serious-looking partner Peso, from Landover, said: “I’m excited – the only thing I’m not excited about is the plane.” He added: “We’re changing the game. Nobody has shot a video in North Korea like we’re about to do.”

Asked if he was worried for his safety, Peso, whose real name is Dontray Ennis, replied: “You don’t think this is a dangerous place to be living at right now? There’s your answer, then.”

The idea that Pacman and Peso are just as likely to be subject to arbitrary detention, arrest and mistreatment in the streets around their home as Pyongyang has become a theme in the promotion surrounding their trip. It was the thrust of a piece profiling the pair in the Washington Post, which helped them easily surpass their fundraising goal of $6,000. The 4,000-word feature gave the pair huge exposure in the city, not least because the reporter interviewing them, Monica Hesse, was stopped and searched by police in the process.

“We’re not trying to be political heroes or anything like that,” said Aburdene. “We understand there is terrible stuff going on in North Korea, but there is terrible stuff going on here that people aren’t straight up about.”

Both Pacman and Peso have spent time in jail for minor offences. There is no doubt their day-to-day lives are not comparable to that of of the predominantly white community that is fast gentrifying America’s capital.

Aburdene said that he trusts Bassett when it comes to protecting the party’s safety in North Korea. He is not worried they will be detained, but is concerned their footage might get confiscated and said he realised they may need to tread carefully. “Even if it’s not a standard, crazy, party-like thing, I’ll enjoy the anthropological side,” he said.

But beneath the bravado, there appears to be at least a hint of anxiety on the part of the two young rappers.

At one point during a pre-show interview, Peso seemed only half-joking when he talked about the pair maybe being killed in North Korea. “If we don’t die, it will probably be a big life-changer,” he said.

He looked a little uncertain, before adding: “Can I ask you a question? What do you think is going to happen when we go over there?

ORIGINAL POST (2013-9-18): US hip hop performers to film video in DPRK. According to the Washington Post:

A few weeks ago, a Kickstarter project was posted on the Internet featuring two young men who went by the names of Pacman and Peso. The duo and their producer were using the crowdsourcing site to raise money for a creative endeavor; they wanted to make a music video. A rap music video. They wanted to do it on a karaoke party bus. They needed only $6,000, a fairly modest sum, considering that this estimate also included lodging and two overseas flights. The video, you see, was going to be filmed in Pyongyang.

North Korea.

Rappers Pacman, 19, and Peso, 20, are raising $6,000 to make a music video. They want to do it on a karaoke party bus in Pyongyang, North Korea. Here, they spend time in the District and Maryland, making music and spending time with family and friends.

“This trip will be a fantastic opportunity for Pacman and Peso to meet young, dynamic people and significantly broaden their horizons,” read the proposal, which was posted Aug. 30, “in addition to jump starting their musical careers.” The title was straightforward and surreal: “Pacman & Peso Make a Music Video in North Korea.”

So, yes, it sounds weird. Two African American youths from Southeast D.C. and Prince George’s County have paired with a white part-time producer from Northwest D.C., and they all want to go to North Korea because they see it as their best shot at a better future. Call Christopher Guest. Call Dave Chappelle. Someone is pulling your chain.

Unless, of course, it’s real. Unless it’s complicated. Unless it’s a whimsical windmill-tilt of a heartbreak.

“My goal was to rap,” says Peso, 20, whose real name is Dontray Ennis. If it wasn’t that, it was football. “But other than that, it was either doing wrong in the streets, or getting locked up.”

“This is my only option now,” he says of North Korea. “If it was to work.”

Read more here.

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North Korea enthusiastically promoting tourism industry to attract foreign investments

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-8-29

The Korean Central News Agency reported on August 24 that a tourism briefing session was held in Pyongyang for the purpose of attracting foreign investment.

The state-run Korea International Travel Company (KITC) opened a briefing session at the Yanggakdo International Hotel to explain the preferential treatment for foreign investments. Officials from various embassies, along with Chinese, English, and German travel agency representatives were present at the briefing session.

Cho Song Gyu, president of Korea International Travel Company, said that “tourism districts will be operated as special tourism zone and all management activities such as customs, tax, communication, and investment protection will be guaranteed in accordance with the special zone law and international standards.” It was said that investments of foreign owned enterprises and joint venture companies are to be given priority.

President Cho added, “There are plans to invite foreign experts to improve other special tourism zones such as Wonsan and Mount Chilbo districts.”

North Korea recently disclosed plans of developing mountains Baektu, Kumgang, and Chilbo, with plans of constructing ski resorts in these areas.

In addition, North Korea’s tourism policy is rapidly changing and significant ease on restrictions can be observed on foreign tourists. Unlike in the past, tourists are now allowed to travel to North Korea at any time of the year, with fewer date restrictions.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s economic journal is attracting attention as it argues for the diversification of foreign investment. This call for diversification might reflect a North Korean concern about China’s growing investment in North Korea’s resource sector.

In the current issue of Kyongje Yongu (Economic Research, July 30 issue), North Korea’s quarterly economic journal, it was stated that “Foreign companies in our country are heavily concentrated in joint ventures with domestic companies in the collection industries and their main interest is in developing natural resources.”

The article analyzed that investments by foreign companies are largely concentrated in natural resources development, as they are trying to secure raw materials necessary for production activities. In addition, the article called for improvements in the method and diversification of foreign investment as it stressed that without any intervention, the situation could lead to negative results.

Most of the foreign investment in North Korea is known to be from China. Last year, gold mining companies and Chinese enterprises signed joint venture agreements one after another, displaying Chinese companies’ growing interest in North Korean mines.

Here is the story from KCNA:

Tourism-related Explanation Session Held in DPRK

Pyongyang, August 24 (KCNA) — A tourism-related explanation session, sponsored by the International Travel Company of the DPRK, took place at the Yanggakdo International Hotel here Saturday.

Present at the session on invitation were staff members of foreign embassies in DPRK and representatives of travel companies from China, Britain, Germany and other countries.

Addressing the session, Jo Song Gyu, head of the International Travel Company of the DPRK, referred to the development of tourism in the DPRK and its policy on tourism.

Mts. Paektu, Kumgang and Chilbo, Wonsan City and other scenic spots and areas in the country have turned into recreation grounds and tourist resorts and a brisk drive is being conducted to further develop them, he noted.

The tourist resorts will be run in the form of special zone for tourism and all the management activities such as passage through boundaries, customs, taxes, communications and investment protection will go by the DPRK’s relevant law on special zones as well as the international rules, Jo said.

He further said that businesspersons and investors of any countries and regions interested in tourism of DPRK would be welcomed and preference be given to private and joint-venture and collaboration businesses.

He also mentioned a plan to invite foreign experts needed for the development and management of the tourist resorts in various parts of the country including Wonsan City and Mt. Chilbo.

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DPRK develops tourism as one of its “major industries”

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

According to KCNA (2013-8-28):

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is directing big efforts to developing tourism as one of major industries.

In this regard, KCNA met Jo Song Gyu, director of the International Travel Company of the DPRK.
Jo said:

Consistent is the policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the DPRK government to develop tourism in the country.

Abundant in tourism resources, the country has a bright future to develop tourism.

Regular air route will be opened between Pyongyang, Lake Samji and Wonsan for local and foreign tourists.

The country also plans to open air routes between Pyongyang and Chinese cities like Shanghai and Yanji.
Air services will also be available for people in Southeast Asia and Europe to come to DPRK for sightseeing.

Wonsan and Mts. Paektu and Chilbo areas are likely to be linked with other countries and regions by air services.

Economic development zones to be built in each province will serve as tourism destinations.

Hotels in Pyongyang City are being renovated at the world’s level.

A number of fitness centers, service complexes and souvenir and duty-free shops will be built for tourists.

The government will allow foreigners to launch independent business or joint venture in the country to invest in tourist resorts and economic development zones and construct and manage hotels, shops and other tourist facilities.

It will render preferential treatment to foreign businesses which come to the DPRK before others so that they can begin making profits as early as possible.

It is also inviting foreign tourist experts for development of tourist resorts and operation of hotels, restaurants, etc.

Read the full story here:
DPRK to Develop Tourism as One of Major Industries
KCNA
2013-8-28

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