Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

A hole in the sanctions, big enough to drive missile equipment through?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Says Daily NK (with my emphasis):

Chinese authorities are said to be questioning the head of a local trade company in Liaoning Province for allegedly smuggling materials used for nuclear and missile development into North Korea. The owner and founder of Hongxiang Industrial Development based in the border city of Dandong, Ma Xiaohong, was arrested and has been under investigation for a number of weeks,  Daily NK has learned.
“Ma was arrested by Shenyang law enforcement earlier this month and is currently being questioned on suspicions of disguising military goods and equipment banned under global sanctions and smuggling them into North Korea,” a source close to North Korean affairs in China told Daily NK. “Despite the more stringent screening procedures at the customs office that were introduced from March, Ma’s company continued to smuggle banned metal and tank battery components, hiding them in shipments of apple boxes [wherein some boxes contained apples and others contraband].”
The source reported that Ma’s company also sold weapons manufacturing tools, selling dozens at a price of 10 million RMB (1.5 million USD) per piece to North Korean military contacts. By aggressively exploiting the UN sanctions for its own benefit, the firm was able to rake in huge sums of money, the source asserted.
“The profits that Ma accumulated from trading with North Korean defense companies were actually smuggling payments,” the source said. “By providing sanctioned items, Ma made so much money that she even gave Toyotas and imported cars as gifts to some North Korean cadres and Chinese traders.”
The investigation comes at a time when Beijing has come under greater scrutiny for its cross-border interactions with the North after Pyongyang defied strong UN sanctions passed in March and conducted a fifth nuclear test on September 9. Due to the recent nuclear test, some believe that the Chinese government is now moving quickly to conclude the investigation and make the results public, holding Ma’s company accountable for UN sanctions violations.
“Dozens of cadres working for Dandong’s government agencies have been instigated during Ma’s testimony, so it doesn’t look like this will have a simple conclusion,” said an additional source in China with knowledge of the incident. “Seven 5,000-ton ships operated by this company have been impounded and are moored at Donggang Port, while all of the companies that were doing business with Hongxiang are also under investigation.”
In addition, the customs office in Dandong is expected to undergo an extensive reshuffle after failing to stop banned goods on the sanctions list flowing into the North. Some 30 individuals are under investigation in relation to the case, with the central government keeping close tabs on how the events are unfolding, reported the source.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. and Chinese officials are targeting Hongxiang Industrial Development for its suspected involvement in criminal activities while aiding the North. It reported that prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Beijing last month to inform Chinese authorities of the case, citing evidence that Ma and her company had helped Pyongyang in its nuclear development and in circumventing global sanctions.
One might wonder why the Dandong customs office would only undergo such a reshuffling now. Reports of lax sanctions enforcement have been forthcoming fairly continuously since sanctions were adopted after the 4th nuclear test — perhaps the 5th changed matters, at least for the time being.
Full article:
Hongxiang Industrial Development circumvented sanctions using apple boxes
Seol Song Ah
Daily NK

DPRK railway repairs following N. Hamgyong flooding

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

I have been busy with a number of projects, so I have not kept up with the flooding as I would have liked to. But here is a quick data visualization project I was able to quickly put together this morning.

KCNA reported the following:

Railroad Restoration Pushed forward

Pyongyang, September 13 (KCNA) — The restoration of railroads progresses apace in the flood-hit northern areas of North Hamgyong Province, the DPRK.

As of Sept. 10, over 35 400 cubic meters of mud was removed from 30-odd sections with railroad beds restored in 20 sections.

Railway tracks were reconnected between Komusan and Musan and between Komusan and Haksong, and railway service reopened between Paekam and Kulsong, Komusan and Sophungsan, Komusan and Hakpho and Haksong and Namyang.

Here is a quick map of the affected areas:


The areas that the DPRK claims to have cleared are in yellow. The original railway line is in blue. The stations are labeled so you can see where the DPRK claims to have resumed service.

You can see KCTV footage of the repairs here:

There is still no high-resolution satellite imagery for sale of the affected area.

Here is a map of the affected areas.



North Korean economic production and the 70-Day Campaign

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

UPDATE 1 (2016-5-18): By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

A couple of weeks ago, KCNA carried another evaluation of production during the 70-Day Campaign. In the context of claims that the newly launched five-year plan (2016-2020) is the first one in decades, it is worth noting that economic planning as such has never fully ceased to be part and parcel of the official North Korean economy. As communist economies do, North Korea still measures economic success much in terms of mere output. The 70-Day Campaign is one example:

The Korean Central News Agency Thursday released a report on the successful conclusion of the 70-day campaign with a great victory to be specially recorded in the history of the Korean nation under the guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

According to the report, the capabilities for self-defence including the capacity of nuclear attack of Juche Korea have been remarkably bolstered and the campaign plan has been over-fulfilled 44 percent in terms of industrial output value, and industrial production has grown 1.6 times as against the same period last year.

Signal successes have been achieved in the development of Korean-style smaller nuclear warhead, simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, test of high-power solid-fuel rocket engine and stage separation, test of high-power engine of inter-continental ballistic missile.

Workers in the four vanguard fields have performed labor feats in the van of day-and-night campaign.

Those in the field of power industry honored their 70-day campaign quotas at 110 percent.

I am not one to draw major conclusions from the order of mentions of areas in reports such as this one, but if the order says anything about priorities, it is worth noting that energy shows up first among other areas than missiles and nukes. Recall that energy has been emphasized by media tied to the North Korean regime.

The Ministry of Coal Industry carried out its coal production plan more than 10 days ahead of schedule and results of capital tunneling and preparatory tunneling have jumped several times as against those in the past.

Those in the steel field and miners hit the goals of production of Juche iron, rolled steel and iron ore.

The field of railway transport carried out the plan for the transport of major freight at 124 percent.

What economic value more transportation carries is unclear…

More than 70 farm machines of over 20 types have been invented and manufactured, typically potato harvester, self-propelled sprayer, combined plowing machine, combined soil governing machine, small multi-purpose farm machine and combined rice thresher.

Those in the fishery field built multi-purpose fishing boats of “Hwanggumhae” series by their own efforts and with indigenous technology in a brief span of time and put them into operation.

The plan for the production of machine tools has been over-fulfilled more than 60 percent and index-specific campaign plans have also been carried out in the machine-building industrial field.

Workers in the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex and Hungnam Fertilizer Complex produced 1.2 times as much fertilizers as before and the February 8 Vinalon Complex significantly increased the production of vinalon and various kinds of other basic chemical goods.

The nationwide cement production plan has been carried out at 141 percent and a boost has also been recorded in the production of varieties of building materials including glass.

Workers of forestry stations and mine pillars production stations honored timber production plan set by the Ministry of Forestry at 137 percent.

Agricultural workers across the country have made full preparations for farming by their devoted efforts.

But note that no numbers are given for farming output, or any agricultural output other than fishing and seaweed.

Officials and workers in the fishery field have over-fulfilled their plan for fishing and seaweed culture more than 10 percent when the results of the Ministry of Fisheries are taken as a whole.

The gross industrial output value in the field of light industry has been over-fulfilled 54 percent and the index-specific performance has shown a marked jump over the period before the campaign.

A number of consumption goods producers have hit their goals for the first half of the year or the yearly ones. Some of them even set a record by fulfilling two-year production quotas.

Those in the field of land and environment protection and workers and other people across the country including youths and students planted hundreds of millions of trees in mountains covering more than 100 000 hectares.

The Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 and the Wonsan Army-People Power Station have been successfully completed.

In just one month after breaking the ground for the construction of Ryomyong Street, its builders finished ground excavation for dozens of blocks of apartment houses and are now pushing forward the ground concrete tamping in its final stage.

Baby homes, orphanages, orphans’ primary and secondary schools sprang up across the country and the Mindulle Notebook Factory was built.

New structures have been built one after another. They include Dyke No. 2 of Nunggumdo Tideland, Outdoor Sapling Cultivation Ground of the Central Nursery of the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection and Pyongyang Athletic Apparatus Factory.

Scientists and educators across the country registered three times as many research achievements as against the same period last year to be conducive to the economic development of the country and the betterment of the people’s living standard.

Unprecedented achievements have also been made in the fields of literature, arts, education, public health and sports.

The 70-day campaign of loyalty clearly showed the world how the great Kim Jong Un‘s Korea is advancing toward the eminence of the century.

The full article was published by KCNA on May 6th.

ORIGINAL POST (2016-4-30):

“Industrial establishments over-fulfill production targets as the 70-day campaign comes to an end” (Pyongyang Times: 2016-4-30)

The Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, one of the model units in the current 70-day campaign of loyalty, hit its steel and pig iron production targets 101 percent respectively as of April 20.

Smelters of the UHP electric arc furnace have so far reset the peak production record of molten iron per charge several times. They gave full play to the spirit of collectivism of helping and leading one another forward, while introducing advanced working methods to shorten the time of heating and increase the output of molten iron per charge.

The workers of the continuous ingot steel workshop carried out their daily production plan at 102 percent on average, 110 percent at maximum.

Those of the Sunchon Cement Complex drastically raised cement production on the first day of the campaign to renew the daily peak production record for the first time in 20 years. Without resting on their laurels, they worked hard and finally achieved their campaign goals.

The Ministry of Coal Industry carried out its highly-set campaign target ahead of schedule as of April 20 with the coal production plan 101 percent and major, preliminary and boring tunnelling 101.5, 105.5 and 106. 6 percent respectively.

Coal-mining machine factories across the country manufactured and repaired thousands of coal wagons and made over 1 800 wheels more than planned under the uplifted self-development-first banner. A great deal of achievements were also made in the production of coal-mining equipment and their parts.

The Chongchongang Thermal Power Station increased power generation to exceed its campaign plan by 2.2 percent as of April 25. The workers of the station repaired equipment and increased the number of boilers in operation to ensure uninterrupted power generation.

The February 8 Vinalon Complex gave priority to the supply of raw materials and fuel, staggered production and organized management of equipment and technology scrupulously to boost production, thereby surpassing the vinalon production goal by 50 percent.
Workers of the Wonsan Salt Works increased production 2.2 times over the same period of last year by fully storing seawater in reservoirs while introducing an advanced seawater freezing method which suits the conditions on the east coast throughout the winter.

Thousands of hectares of farmland have been rezoned in Kaesong and Jangphung County, with over 19 300 patches and paddies and more than 1 260-kilometre-long ridges between paddy and dry fields removed and hundreds of hectares of land brought under cultivation. This paved the way for comprehensive mechanization of farming on all fields and consequent increased cereals production.

Officials and workers of the Sinuiju Textile Mill have produced three times more cotton yarn and fabrics than before the campaign. Amidst the dynamic collective emulation drive between workteams, shifts and workshops, many workers and workteams have carried out the first half year and annual production plans as well as campaign plans and the number is growing.

More than 200 factories and enterprises in Pyongyang have hit their 70-day campaign goals and first half year plans ahead of schedule.

“Nation’s Industrial Production Rises 1.2 Times” (Pyongyang Times: 2016-3-16)

Industrial output grows rapidly thanks to the heightened revolutionary enthusiasm and creative spirit of selfreliance and self development of service personnel and people, who have risen up in the day and night march true to the call of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea for launching a 70day campaign of loyalty for the Seventh Party Congress, according to a report of the Korean Central News Agency on March 12.

The nation’s industrial production increased 1.2 times in the first ten days of March over the same period of last year.

The Pukchang and Pyongyang thermal power complexes and other thermal and hydropower stations across the country pressed on with power generation as scheduled, far exceeding the tenday targets set by the Party.

Coal mines in the western areas including Tokchon and Sunchon cut thousands of tons of coal more every day.

The Ministry of Coal Industry overfulfilled the tenday production plan by 13 per cent and the results of major and preliminary tunnelling far surpassed the plan, securing hundreds of reserve coalcutting faces.

The workers of the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex doubled the Juche iron output over the same period of last year, and all metallurgical bases conducted a dynamic drive to increase iron and steel production.

Amidst the heated emulation and experiencesharing in iron ore mines in Musan, Unnyul, Thaethan and other areas, the Jaeryong Mine increased daily production over 1.5 times on average, thus taking the lead in the supply of concentrated iron ores to metallurgical factories.

The Ministry of Railways, all the railway bureaus and their branches commanded railway transport scrupulously and gave top priority to concentrated transport without accident to overfulfil the plan for main freight.

The increased production in the vanguard economic sectors injected a new lease of life into the overall major industrial sectors such as machinebuilding, chemical, building materials and mining industries and forestry.

The Taean Heavy Machine Complex completed the production of generating equipment till March 9 in a matter of two months and sent them to the construction site of Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 on March 10.

The workers of the large machinebuilding bases in Ragwon and Ryongsong and the Sungni Motor Complex speeded up the processing of products and increased the production of spare parts including various kinds of gears and speed reducers, a great contribution to a 1.5 times rise in the production of thermal power generating equipment of the Ministry of Machine Building Industry.

The workers of the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex hit the Juche fertilizer production target for the first ten days of March.

Cement production is also growing in the Sangwon Cement Complex whose workers and technicians have turned out to break the production record again this year after last year.

Many forestry and prop production stations carried out their first quarterly and yearly timber production quotas.

Farming preparations were brisk on the agricultural front, resulting in a 1.7 and 2.8 times growth in the securing of hukposan and microbial fertilizers and an over 1.3 times increase in the acreage of field carpeted with humus soil.

Officials and fishermen carried out the plans of the Ministry of Fisheries for ten days 121 per cent.

Daily amount of catch increased rapidly and fishing results saw a leap in the fishery stations on the east and west coasts.

Hundreds of workers hit their targets for the first quarter and half of the year in the field of textile industry. Kumkhop, Pomhyanggi and Maebongsan and other popular brands saw a sharp rise in sales.

Many major construction projects progressed apace including those for Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3, reconstruction of Kim Il Sung Stadium, secondstage reconstruction of the Central Zoo, capacity builup of the Central Tree Nursery of the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection, the central class education hall and Wonsan Army People Power Station.

Many young people volunteered to work in labour consuming fields and hundreds of workers carried out their yearly plans.

“KCNA Reports about Signal Successes in Various Fields in Early March” (KCNA: 2016-3-13)

The Korean Central News Agency Saturday said in a report that the industrial production in the first ten days of March when the 70-day campaign of loyalty is under way grew 1.2 times as compared with the corresponding period of last year.

According to the report, production in the vanguard and basic industrial fields of the national economy including electric power, coal, metal and railway transport sharply rose.

Thermal power plants and hydro-power stations across the country have over-fulfilled their daily quotas.

The production plan of the Ministry of Coal Industry for ten days in March was over-fulfilled 13 percent.

The workers of the Chollima Steel Complex boosted the production of rolled steel 32 percent.

A dynamic drive for increased iron and steel production is under way in metallurgical bases across the country including the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex.

The Jaeryong Mine increased daily quotas over 1.5 times on an average, thus taking the lead among the iron ore mines in Musan, Unryul, Thaethan and other areas.

The Ministry of Railways, all the railway bureaus and sub-bureaus over-fulfilled main freight haulage plan.

The increased production in the vanguard sectors of the national economy injected vitality into major industrial fields such as machine-building, chemical, building material and mining industries and forestry.

The custom-built equipment for different fields of the national economy were turned out and the production of nonferrous metal ore, chemical fertilizers, cement, sheet glass, timber, etc. radically increased.

The Taean Heavy Machine Complex completed the production of generating equipment in a matter of two months and sent them to the construction site of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 on Mar. 10.

The Ministry of Machine Industry increased the production of thermal power generating equipment 1.5 times.

Mines under the Phosphate Fertilizer Industry Management Bureau honored its plan at 150 percent.

The workers of the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex hit the goal for the production of Juche fertilizers.

The workers and technicians of the Sangwon Cement Complex are working hard to surpass the peak production year again this year.

The Sunchon Cement Complex, the Chonnaeri Cement Factory and the Sunghori Cement Factory boosted the production over 10 percent.

Many forestry stations and pit prop production stations also honored their first quarterly and yearly timber production quotas.

The production of homemade fertilizers and their transport, tractor overhauling and maintenance and other farming preparations are nearing completion thanks to the devoted drive of agricultural workers across the country.

The fishery officials and workers over-fulfilled their production plan of the Ministry of Fisheries for ten days 21 percent.

The field of light industry over-fulfilled the production plans for textiles, knitwear and shoes.

In the field of textile industry hundreds of workers honored the half yearly and first quarterly quotas and famous products and goods favored by the people are on the increase.

Many major construction projects are making rapid progress.

A lot of young people volunteer to work in the hard and labor-consuming fields.

Across the country hundreds of workers honored their yearly plans, at least 3,600 people carried out the first half yearly plans and more than 15,400 people hit the first quarterly goal.

A lot of members of the women’s union are giving helping hands to builders in power stations, workers of coal and ore mines. War veterans, honorary party members and pensioners have turned out in the 70-day campaign in South Phyongan Province and other parts of the country to fully demonstrate the noble traits of our society advancing with the might of single-minded unity.

“Rapid Economic Growth Witnessed in DPRK” (KCNA: 2016-4-8)

The DPRK has made a rapid progress in major construction or reconstruction projects and industrial production in recent 40 days after the start of the 70-day campaign.

In particular, Pyongyang, its capital city, showed an increase of twice in the tempo of construction or reconstruction projects and 1.6 times in industrial production.

The Aeguk Vegetable Processing Factory and the Mangyongdae Children’s Camp were rebuilt on a modern basis and the second-stage renovation of the Central Zoo is progressing apace at the final stage.

Besides, 80 percent of total work has been carried out in scores of construction and reconstruction projects, including the Ryuwon Shoes Factory, Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory and the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory.

Electricity and coal outputs went up at thermal-power and hydro-power stations and coal mines.

The Pyongyang Steel Works and the Pyongyang Cast Iron Pipe Factory fulfilled their production plans 120 percent on an average, 150 percent to the maximum.

An increasing number of units in light industry and foodstuff industry have finished their yearly and half-yearly production quotas.

Such successes are reported from railway, agricultural and other industrial sectors.


DPRK launches “Ja-ryok” cargo ship

Monday, May 16th, 2016


Pictured above (Google Earth): The Ja-ryonk (자력) under construction at the Ryongnam Shipyard in Nampho.


Pictured Above (Rodong Sinmun): The Ja-ryok

According to KCNA:

5,000-ton Trade Cargo Ship 자력 Launched

5,000-ton trade cargo ship “Jaryok” (self-reliance) was built as a present to the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

The ship was launched with due ceremony at the Ryongnam Dockyard on Sunday.

Present at the ceremony were O Su Yong, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the WPK, officials concerned, officials and employees of the dockyard.

Kang Jong Gwan, minister of Land and Maritime Transport, made an address for the launch to be followed by some speeches.

They said the present success is ascribable to the patriotic devotion of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il to the development of maritime trade and to the leadership of MarshalKim Jong Un and it is also a proof of the loyalty of the working people and officials in the maritime transport field to the party who are determined to bring in earlier the final victory of building a thriving socialist country.

They referred to the fact that Kim Jong Un personally named the cargo ship “Jaryok”.

The loving care and trust of Kim Jong Un is associated with the intention wanting to dynamically promoting the development of the maritime industry in the spirit of self-reliance and self-development, they noted.

They called for attaining the high goal for the development of maritime industry by displaying the revolutionary spirit and mettle of heroic Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il working class in close unity around Kim Jong Un and dynamically fighting for the final victory of building a thriving socialist country.

A tape was cut and the cargo ship slid off the launching ways to the sea.

Here is footage from KCTV.

See more analysis by Leo Byrne at NK News here.

Michael Madden also provides information.


Kim Jong-un’s new private Sinchon runway

Thursday, April 21st, 2016


Pictured Above (Google Earth):  A 2015-10-26 satellite image of the new runway constructed at the Kim family compound in Sinchon ( 38.350362°, 125.534610°)

I reported in Radio Free Asia this week on Kim Jong-un’s new Sinchon runway. This is the 6th small-craft runway to be built in the Kim Jong-un era and the fifth to be built to service a restricted family compound. We know that this is a Kim family compound because Kenji Fujimoto visited it and took pictures.

The runway is approximately 600m long and was built between January and October of 2015. It appears to be built of concrete, unlike some other runways that appear to be made of asphalt, and there do not appear to be any facilities for sheltering, refueling or repairing any aircraft that land here–indicating that it is not a node in Kim’s transportation network.

Unlike the family compounds in Kangdong and Wonsan, this Sinchon residence has not been featured in any official media, so it is unclear how many times Kim Jong-un has actually visited the place. It is most known for its hot spring pools and saunas.

The compound was already served by dedicated highway linking the compound to the Pyongyang – Kaesong Highway, and there is a train station nearby that has been equipped to receive trains thought to be carrying the former leaders.

The only other noticeable change has been the expansion of the security perimeter on the northern side of the compound.




North Korea Establishes Korea Yongpung General Corporation

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

North Korea has recently founded a trading company, ‘Korea Yongpung General Corporation’ (AKA: Korea Yongphung Corporation), which focuses on the shipping industry. On March 28, 2016 North Korean website Naenara introduced the company saying the “newly founded” company “is engaging in and expanding its various trade activities, development and cooperation.” Though the date of the establishment was not revealed, the use of “newly founded” suggests the company’s recent establishment.

According to the website, this new company’s parent is the larger Myohyang Shipping Co. (founded in 1993), and the new company is comprised of multiple companies such as Nos. 1 and 2 Trade Company, Myohyang Shipping Company, an investment trading company, and external economic technology development agencies.

This includes Ryukyung 105 Company and Ryushin Cooperation Company, with other companies and factories such as Ryukyung Condensed Milk, an iron smelt, spring mineral water factory, marine foodstuffs export factory, Taedonggang Construction Company, Myohyang seamen’s academy, Myohyang seamen’s station, and others. It purportedly also has networks of volunteers and stores throughout the country, as well as branches abroad — a foreign economic and technology cooperation agency in Russia and overseas representative agencies in China (Beijing and Dandong) and Singapore.

The new company focuses on such things as operation of freighters and joint venture ships, trading goods, mining, fisheries, construction and technological cooperation abroad, IT development, and development and sale of information technology goods.

In order to run the freighters and joint venture ships, the company recruits captains, chief engineers, navigators, and sailors through the Myohyang seamen’s academy. It is also in the process of developing and modernizing the Sohaeri mine and Toksong ophiolite mine.

In addition, Yongpung Information Technology Exchange Lab is said to be strengthening cooperation with others in information exchange for development of web and mobile programs, development and sale of software programs such as 3D games, and various technologies.

The external economic and technology development agencies are tasked with building international relations in construction, technological cooperation, and architectural ornamentation abroad. They also focus on ship repair and services, inter alia.

The website also introduced the company by saying it “advocates scientific management strategy and corporate strategy based on strong material technological foundation, to expand trading activities in various ways and promote long range ship chartering and joint venture ship operation while also promoting foreign investment of loadstone and ophiolite mining.”

Here is the text from the original Naenara article:

The newly established is expanding its activities for trade, development and cooperation.

Its predecessor is the Myohyang Shipping Company which was inaugurated in 1993. Now it has developed into a mammoth enterprise comprising Trading Companies No. 1 and No. 2, Myohyang Shipping Company, Investment Trading Company and External Economic Technology Development Company. Its business categories include operation of cargo vessels and joint-owned vessels, trade in commodity, mining, fishing, construction abroad, technical cooperation, IT development, production and sale of IT products.

Affiliated to the corporation are such companies as Ryugyong Company 105 and Ryusin Joint Venture Company; Ryugyong Chain Filling Station, Reduced Iron Factory, Onchon Spring Factory, Onchon Aquaculture Farm Seafood Exports; Taedonggang Construction Company, Myohyang Crew Training School, Myohyang Crew Transient Station and several other training centres and some commercial outlets in Pyongyang and other places of the country.

The corporations overseas branches are the External Economic Technology Cooperation Agency in Russia and missions in Beijing and Dandong, China, and in Singapore.

The operation of cargo vessels and joint-owned vessels, the main business categories of the corporation, are conducted by captains, chief engineers, navigation officers and other crews, all of whom are graduates from the Myohyang Crew Training School.

With mining as a key business category, the corporation directs great efforts to developing and modernizing Sohaeri Mine and Toksong Serpentinite Mine while paying due concern to inviting investment in these mines from foreign countries.

The promising talents of the Yongphung Information Technology Exchange Company are playing a pivotal role in promoting exchangs and cooperation with other countries in the development and sale of such software such as the wed mobile application and 3D games and technical services for various kinds of hardware.

The External Economic Technology Development Company is promoting exchanges and cooperation with several countries in construction, technical assistance, and architectural decoration and is briskly conducting trade activities including cargo vessel repair and service business.

According to its scientific strategies for business operation and enterprise management and underpinned by its solid material and technological foundations, the corporation is conducting multi-faceted trade activities, encouraging long-term chartering and joint operation of ships, putting emphasis on inviting investment in the magnetic iron ore and serpentinite mines.


Rason imposes entry fee at Chinese border

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Rason imposed a RMB10 fee for individuals (more for vehicles) to enter the economic and trade zone in December last year.


I have translated the notice and posted here as a PDF.



Currency arbitrage in North Korea

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

North Korean state personnel are making good money from currency arbitrage. Daily NK has a story on how security personnel in the country regularly buy foreign currency in border towns where it’s cheaper than in cities like Pyongyang:

Using their authority over screening passengers on the train as a guise, MPS railway personnel in on the scheme actively pursue exchange deals in main border towns such as North Hamgyong Province’s Rason and North Pyongan Province’s Sinuiju. Each day, Pyongyang-based railway cadres pick out four members who are known to be good at nabbing these deals and put two as a team on the Pyongyang-Sinuiju (trains no. 5, 6) and Pyongyang-Duman River (trains no. 7, 8) trains, so they can exchange money, according to the source.   

This one example among many of state personnel benefit from informal economic activity, through their official roles. It often makes little sense to talk about the market versus the state, as if they were two wholly separate entities.

Read the full story:
MPS personnel profiting on exchange rate disparities
Choi Song Min
Daily NK 


The political economy of Pyongyang’s new subway cars

Monday, November 30th, 2015

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

The upgrades of Pyongyang seem to continue with no signs of slowing down. Kim Jong-un has made Pyongyang’s massive facelift into one of the hallmarks of his tenure. Not just theme parks have been given attention. Since a few years back, people have spoken of a “building boom” in Pyongyang. Many believe there is a political calculation behind it all: happy capital city elites, happy regime.

In the rest of the country, however, not much is happening. If the regime is betting on being able to keep elites happy by building them nicer things, it is certainly placing a lot of eggs in the same geographical basket. Upgrading Pyongyang might make North Korea look wealthier to visitors and the occasional reporter, but that doesn’t mean that the economy is really on a new track.

The latest in a long line of stark reminders of the vast differences between Pyongyang and the rest of the country is the report that the capital city is getting new subway cars. The iconic ones from East Berlin may come to be retired. Earlier this month, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim had taken a test ride on a newly manufactured subway car, from Kaeson station (near Pyongyang’s Arch of Triumph) through four different stops.

Kim, of course, gave a few words of wisdom: he praised the performance of the car, approving both of the speed and the breaks. He went on to say that the new train car felt safe, and fulfilled all the demands of public transportation. With “our Juche capacity (주체적력량) and scientific technology, we can manufacture everything.”

These things may of course hold propaganda value. Pyongyang as the heart of the revolution has been a longstanding theme in the propaganda, and North Korea is hardly the only country in the world where the capital city holds a higher standard than other places. Still, one should not mistake new subway cars or other infrastructure upgrades for signs of profound economic improvement. While new subway cars are manufactured in Pyongyang, aid organizations have continued to warn of a food deficit.


Fall 2015 price reports

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

Recently in Yanggang Province, as both Kimjang and the harvest season draw to a close, the price of vegetables and rice has gone down, and with winter right around the corner, fuel prices have begun to rise.

“As we enter in November, the price of vegetables and rice are falling, and with the end of the Kimjang season and the beginning of rice threshing, market prices are fluctuating wildly,” a source in Yanggang Province reported to Daily NK on November 16th. “Families, preparing for winter now that Kimjang (making of kimchi for the season) is over, are using servi-cha for business regularly and the price of oil is also rising accordingly.”

An additional source in the same province corroborated this news.

At the height of Kimjang season in mid-October, cabbage was trading at 1,950 KPW (0.23 USD) per 1 kg, but by the end of October it had dropped to 1,500 KPW (0.17 USD), and now it has dropped further still to reach 900 KPW (0.10 USD) per 1 kg. Rice has also dropped from 5,200 KPW (0.60 USD) to 4,700 KPW (0.55 USD) per kilogram.

As North Korea moves to wrap up its fiscal year, residents who failed to complete their assigned tasks must make payments to fulfill their duty. Those without the money hand over part of the harvest from tending their personal plots to market sellers for cash and turn that in instead. The flood of harvested goods at the markets has thus driven down prices.

Our source tells us that in mid-October, using Hyesan City as the standard, petrol was trading at 6,000 KPW (0.70 USD) per kilogram and diesel fuel at 4,000 KPW (0.47 USD) per kilogram. But since the beginning of November the prices increased to 7,000 KPW (0.81 USD) for petrol and 4,500 KPW (0.52 USD) per kilogram for diesel. In mid-November prices have increased to 7,300 KPW (0.85 USD) per kilogram for petrol and 5,250 KPW (0.61 USD) per kilogram for diesel.

As the icy winter draws closer, hot foods are selling particularly well and the price of potato noodles, corn noodles, and others are more expensive compared to last year. Last year a small bowl of noodles was 1,000 KPW (0.12 USD) while a large bowl cost 6,000 KPW (0.70 USD); this year, small bowls of noodles are selling better than large bowls at a cost of 1,500 KPW (0.17 USD).

Read the full story here:
Veg, rice prices fall on back of ‘kimjang’
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin