Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

On the business of exporting coal…

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Taean-Port

 Pictured above (Google Earth): The coal-covered Taean Port on the Taedong River

Who knew that Rodong Sinmun was involved in the coal export business?

According to the Daily NK:

Gwangbokseongdae Co. [광복성대?], a hard currency-earning arm of the operator of the Party daily Rodong Sinmun, recently resumed coal exports through the West Sea port of Nampo, Daily NK has learned. Exports had been halted upon the orders of the Chosun Workers’ Party in October 2013.

The Kim regime is believed to have resumed exports to open up additional flows of hard currency for accounts earmarked for regime maintenance. Coal is one of North Korea’s biggest export industries, with almost all the coal produced in the country sent to China (though a percentage of it is coked and returned for use in North Korean power stations).

A source from South Pyongan Province reported the story to Daily NK on the 3rd, explaining that “Gwangboksongdae Co. has started exporting coal again; it was originally stopped by the Party last October.”

The source then went on to add, “So as to match the timing of [incoming] vessels and increase export volumes, the company is leasing its trucks to people.”

“It costs US$350 per day to lease the trucks. They travel from storage yards [owned by people who lease land from farms and use it for the storage and sale of coal] in mining areas of South Pyongan Province to Daean Port in Nampo. Vessels start coming in March, so leased trucks are again transporting coal for export.”

Companies exporting coal to China must have an export trade license from the North Korean authorities. Then they can use planned exports to China as security against the cost of leasing the trucks. From the point of view of the company, subcontracting in this manner, a practice that began in the mid-2000s, makes more sense than employing drivers directly.

There are many conditions attached to truck rental from Gwangboksongdae Co., however. According to the source, not only must lessees prove that they have $3000 with which to purchase coal; they must also have ten years of trucking experience and, of course, good connections in the Central Party.

But it is worth it. “The original price of a ton of coal is roughly $12,” he said. “This can then be sold at the storage yards in Nampo and Taean Port for $32, giving the driver a clear profit of $20 on each ton. If he carries an average load of 30t, he will earn $540. If we factor in the lease fee of $350 and cost of fuel, there is around $100 left per load.”

“Normally, drivers make around three trips per week,” he went on. “But truck repair costs are born by the lessee. If a vehicle is damaged, the lessee ends up with a significant burden as they can be held liable for compensation.”

According to trade statistics compiled by the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) in January 2014, North Korea exported 16.5 million tons of anthracite to China in 2013. This total, which marked a year-on-year increase of 39.7%, brought in approximately US$ 1.373bn, a 15.5% increase over 2012.

Read the full story here:
Trucks for Rent as Coal Exports Soar
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-4-3

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North Korea to utilize science and technology to overcome its energy crisis

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-4-3

In order to solve the nation’s chronic energy shortage, North Korea has been focusing on the development and utilization of science and technology as much as possible. Recent technological advancements are being reported one after another, and further development of alternative energy sources has resulted in technology that will reduce the nation’s oil and fossil fuel consumption.

The Choson Sinbo, a news outlet published by the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported on March 22 that the research staff of North Korea’s National Academy of Sciences contributed to a reduction in coal consumption by successfully developing and implementing the use of compressed biomass fuel in several factories in Pyongyang. The article also reported the invention of a new navigation program at Pyongyang Machinery College that searches for and displays the shortest possible routes between destinations. Transportation facilities in Pyongyang are said to have seen a 5 to 10 percent savings in fuel consumption since the introduction of the program.

Earlier this month, the Choson Sinbo also reported that the urban management division at the Central Heating Research Institute developed a new, more efficient solar heating system that has already been installed in homes along Pyongyang’s Kwangbok Street. The new system utilizes the leftover water heated during the day to provide warmth for homes at night, and, unlike the previously used system, can do so without consuming electricity.

Such efforts to mobilize domestic natural resources can be interpreted as an earnest attempt at solving the nation’s chronic energy shortage. In his new year’s address, Kim Jong Un emphasized the need to more effectively utilize domestic natural resources such as wind, geothermal, solar, and especially hydro power to remedy the nation’s electricity shortage.

He also stressed the need to endure the struggle to save energy with strength and resolve, calling on all sectors of the economy to conserve each and every watt of electricity, gram of coal, and drop of water where possible. Although North Korean efforts to solve the nation’s energy shortage have been ongoing for some time, the regime seems to be putting additional weight on the role of science and technology.

This call for technological development, with particular regard to alternative energy, is directly connected to Kim Jong Un’s preferential policy toward scientists and technicians. The best example of this can be seen in the construction of Unha Scientists’ Street, a housing complex built in September of last year specifically for personnel who have contributed to missile and nuclear tests and additional construction has begun for Satellite Scientists’ Street which will serve as a residential and research complex for the scientists of North Korea’s national satellite program. The construction of these sites shows that the regime understands the importance of science and technology in raising the efficiency of not only the energy sector, but also the North Korean economy. Furthermore, this move stems not only from the preferential policy toward scientists and technicians, but from the larger context of reforming the nation’s educational system.

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Bus transportation popular in DPRK

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Phyongsong-bus-station-2013-5-3

Pictured above (Google Earth): Phyongsong Bus Station (2013-5-3)

According to the Daily NK:

Not only are North Korean people able to buy and sell goods in markets using hard currency these days; US Dollars or Chinese Renminbi are also in use for the ubiquitous “servi-cha,” one of North Korea’s few reliable means of mass transit.

A source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 11th, “Trains only run about once a week, and you’d be a fool if you believed that they would run on time. Demand has risen thanks to this state of affairs, so people are making good money from running servi-cha.”

“If you want to ride a servi-cha you can’t use Chosun currency, you have to use Chinese or American money,” the source went on to claim. “You can get anywhere in the country that you want for 200 Yuan.”

The source said that people in Hyesan opt to travel by servi-cha in part because the journey can take up to a week by train but only takes a day by servi-cha. The route from Pyongsung to Chongjin costs 100 Yuan, and a similar amount is required for the trip from the North Hamkyung Province county of Kilju to the border near Hyesan.

According to the source, the price of North Korean gasoline is currently 11 Yuan per kg, approximately two to three Yuan cheaper than the Chinese equivalent. Diesel trades at 6 Yuan. The source said, “There is no problem running a vehicle these days because there are fuel traders selling cheap North Korean gas alongside every road in the country that buses use.”

Many owners of servi-cha have purchased buses rather than utilizing trucks, as they used to do. Owners offer a portion of their income to local government agencies and enterprises, in effect forming the North Korean equivalent of a Chinese “red hat enterprise.”

These privately run buses are clean and popular, and the business itself is seen by operators as an easy way to earn good money. The servi-cha are mainly new vehicles from China or second-hand ones from Japan, and the average cost is in the vicinity of 12,000 USD (though size and type of vehicle both vary). A well run business can earn 3000 USD per month.

In theory, if a traveller wishes to visit a different region, prior to travel he or she must obtain a certificate authorizing the visit. The 2nd Department of his or her Provincial People’s Committee ordinarily issues these permits; however, corruption among Party officials means that these can also be bought illicitly.

According to the source, servi-cha owners deliver regular bribes to senior security service officials running No. 10 Checkpoints, which are in place on every major thoroughfare connecting regions for the purpose of checking transit papers. These payments ensure rapid transit for customers.

Read the full story here:
Servi-Cha Professionalizing for Kim Jong Eun Era
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-03-13

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The rise and fall of the Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant (a case study in inter-Korean business)

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

UPDATE 4 (2014-2-18): Western tourists are still visiting the restaurant (meaning it has a contract with KITC). The restaurant still has the sign “Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant”, though it is a different color than the original. See tourist video here and here.

UPDATE 3 (2014-2-17): The Hakyoreh updates us on the fate of the inter-Korean chicken restaurant:

In 2005, Choi made his first trip to North Korea to inquire about chicken imports. Soon he had changed plans: he would open his own restaurant there selling South Korean-style chicken. Acquaintances tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined. “I went to Pyongyang and I could see there was money in it,” he recalled. And with economic cooperation between South and North at an all time high, he didn’t see much of a political risk either.

He went back and forth to Pyongyang a few times looking for partners. Finally, in June 2007, he opened up the Rakwon Chicken Restaurant, selling South Korean-style chicken on Puksae Road in the Kaesonmun neighborhood of Moranbong District. His North Korean partner provided the building and staff; Choi was responsible for the interiors, ingredients, recipes, and management system. He reached a deal where he took 70% of profits with a total investment of 500 million won (US$470,000). The opening drew a lot of media attention at the time, with write-ups in the South Korean press and foreign outlets like the Washington Post and Japan’s NHK.

Early on, he did strong business selling at fairly steep prices – the equivalent of US$11.30 for a single bird. His clientele came mainly from the city’s upper class and Chinese visitors. Sales of 100 million won (US$94,000) a year looked to be in sight. “My plan was to open up 100 restaurants in the North,” Choi said.

But in 2008, less than a year after he opened the restaurant, Lee Myung-bak took office as South Korean President. Lee’s administration put a stop to the previous decade’s policies of engagement and cooperation with North Korea, opting for sanctions and containment instead.

“There was a promise between the two sides, and I never thought that would be rejected completely,”Choi said. “Suddenly, that was the reality.”

Bit by bit, exchange ground to a halt. A March 2008 shipment of ingredients through Nampo turned out to be Choi’s last interaction. He had not yet received a single share of revenue.

Then came the announcement of the so-called “May 24 measures” in 2010. Following the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan warship the preceding March, Seoul had called a complete halt to all exchange and economic cooperation with North Korea.

“All the May 24 measures did was drive it home,” Choi insisted. “Most of the economic cooperation had been choked off long before that.”

For the next four years, Choi wasn’t able to set foot in North Korea. Without his support, the restaurant lost its chicken focus and began selling ordinary cuisine. Choi’s other business began to suffer too.
“I’d put my house and buildings up as collateral to borrow the 500 million won to invest in the North,” he said. “Then, to top it all off, there was the US financial crisis. Things began to go downhill rapidly in South Korea, and my business started to fall apart.”

UPDATE 2 (2009-1-1): The BBC offers an update of the new chicken restaurant:

The governments may not be on the best of terms but a South Korean businessman seems to have found a way to North Koreans’ hearts: their stomachs.

Choi Won-ho, the owner of a fried chicken chain, was told he was doomed to fail when he opened his first branch in the impoverished North last year.

But encouraged by his progress so far, he is already preparing to open another one.

Mr Choi runs a fast food franchise in South Korea with a total of 70 stores.

He opened one more last year – no real challenge you might think – except this extension to his fried chicken empire is in the heart of one of the most secretive and business-unfriendly places on the planet.

But Mr Choi says the citizens of Pyongyang have been queuing in front of his shop which is taking around $1,000 a day.

He is now preparing to meet North Korean officials in January to finalise the approval for a second outlet.

His customers are almost certainly all members of North Korea’s elite, a country in which the World Food Programme says up to 9m people will face urgent food shortages this winter.

Relations between the two Korea’s have been at a low since the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in the South in February.

North Korea has severed official contacts, stopped all cross-border tourism and restricted entry to a joint industrial zone built with southern money.

But despite the chill, Mr Choi’s fried chicken venture seems to be sizzling.

Read the full story here:
South Korea Chicken Success in NK
BBC
John Sudworth
2009-1-1

UPDATE 1 (2008-11-1): The restaurant is set to open in February 2008. According to Yonhap:

An inter-Korean joint-venture chicken franchise will open its first store in Pyongyang early next month, the head of the franchise’s South Korean partner said Friday.

The store set to open in early February will provide a food delivery service using motorbikes for the first time in the communist country, Choi Won-ho, president of the South Korean company said.

No North Korean restaurants offer food delivery service now, according to defectors from North Korea.

Fried, grilled and steamed chicken dishes as well as draft beer are available for delivery, he said, adding the food will be prepared in the North Korean style.

“I recently received a photo of the store’s interior design from our North Korean business partner, Rakwon General Trading Corporation, along with the offer to open the first store before the 66th birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il,” Choi told Yonhap News Agency by phone. “After opening, I will use radio and newspaper ads to promote the business.”

Kim’s birthday, which falls on Feb. 16, is the most festive holiday in the North.

The North Korean company will provide land, some 20 low-cost workers, chicken, and draft beer. The early-stage investment, equipment, cook and spicy chicken will come from the South Korean chicken franchise called “Matdaero Chondak,” Choi said.

The first “Rakwon” chicken restaurant in Pyongyang will have the capacity of seating about 200 people, he added.

The businessman said he will visit North Korea next week to discuss the opening of the store.

“I hope the business will thrive enough so that we can open store No. 10 in Pyongyang,” he added.

Read the full story here:
Inter-Korean joint venture chicken franchise to open first store in Pyongyang
Yonhap
1/11/2008

ORIGINAL POST (2007-11-3): A South Korean entrepreneur is investing in a new fried chicken restaurant in Pyongyang:

According to Reuters:

A South Korean businessman plans to begin a fried chicken delivery service in the North Korean capital, with the first foreign-run restaurant in a country that struggles to feed its own people.

Choi Won-ho, head of a fried chicken franchiser that has about 70 restaurants across South Korea, said Friday he is opening a 50-table restaurant in Pyongyang on Nov. 15. It will also deliver chicken and draft beer to homes.

“I have wanted to be the world’s best chicken brand,” Choi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“But I thought it makes no sense to conquer the world without sharing food with our compatriots. That’s why I went there first,” he said. “I plan to get into the Chinese market via Pyongyang.”

He laughed off concerns his venture may be too risky in the impoverished and isolated country of 23 million, where the elite citizens of the capital are much better off than others.

“I don’t think that I’m going to lose money at all,” he said.

It will be the first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, according South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Choi, 48, who has been in the fried chicken business for 15 years, said he hired an ethnic Korean Chinese as the main cook for the Pyongyang outlet and taught him all his cooking know-how. About 20 North Koreans will also work at the restaurant and five scooters will be used for deliveries, he said.

Choi said he invested about 500 million won (US$551,339, ?382,264) in the joint venture with a North Korean trading firm that will take 30 percent of the profits from the business.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has relied on foreign food aid to feed the population for more than a decade since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy.

Relations between the two Koreas have improved significantly since their first-ever summit in 2000, spurring a series of exchange projects between the Cold War rivals that fought the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.

According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

South Koreans are making two very different attempts to improve the culinary life of impoverished North Koreans.

First, a South Korean fried chicken franchise will open the only foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, targeting family dining on special occasions.

Second, the labor union of a South Korean conglomerate has built a plant in Pyongyang to provide cheap corn noodles to northerners who suffer from food shortages.

Choi Won-ho, who runs Matdaero, a 70-store fried chicken franchise in the South, said yesterday he would open a restaurant in a joint venture with a North Korean state-run trading company, near the Arch of Triumph in central Pyongyang on Nov. 15.

The restaurant will both receive walk-in customers and deliver chicken and draft beer to homes. Such places are common in South Korea, but it will be the first chicken joint of its kind in North Korea.

Choi has invested 500 million won ($551,000) in the restaurant’s cooking facilities, interior decoration and delivery scooters. He will split the profit 70-30 with the North Korean firm.

Choi, 48, who has been a chicken entrepreneur for 15 years, said there should be sufficient demand despite North Korea being one of the world’s poorest countries, because he plans to offer lower prices to locals.

“I will charge about $3 for a whole chicken for North Koreans and at least $12, the same price as in South Korea, for tourists from the South and other countries,” Choi said yesterday by phone. “One whole chicken will be enough for a four-member family, so the price of $3 will not be too burdensome for special occasions.”

The store will hire about 20 North Koreans to take telephone orders, fry the birds and make home deliveries. It will have seating for 50.

Separately, the labor union of Hyundai Motor Company, Korea’s top automaker, said in a statement that it has completed an 1,800-square-meter corn-noodle plant in Pyongyang. The plant can produce two tons of corn noodles a day, it said.

Hyundai Motor’s 44,000 unionized workers agreed in August to help a South Korean humanitarian group build the noodle factory. Workers donated about 12,000 won each, 500 million won in total, for the facility.

“The plant will be a great help to relieve the food problems of North Koreans,” Chang Kyu-ho, a spokesman for the labor union, said. “Corn is a staple food for North Koreans.”

Read the full stories here:
Fried chicken franchise goes North
Joong Ang Daily
Moon So-young
11/3/2007

S Korean businessman to debut fried chicken at first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea
Reuters (Via DPRK Studies)
Jaesoon Chang
11/3/2007

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A new electronic entry system launched for the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-2-6

A pilot operation of the new electronic entry system, or radio frequency identification system (RFID), to facilitate the travel to and from the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was completed on January 15 and pilot operation began from January 28, 2014.

According to a Ministry of Unification (MOU) official, “The construction of the system began from December 11 last year and it was completed this month on the 15th. The trial operation period will begin from the 28th.”

The RFID system was agreed upon last September at the second meeting of the South-North Joint Committee for the Kaesong Industrial Complex in order to improve the South Korean companies’ access to the KIC.

The new RFID system will replace the paper document inspection with an electronic card system and personnel screening will be reduced to 5 seconds from 13 seconds while vehicle screening time will be reduced to 7 seconds from 15 seconds.

In particular, the reduced inspection time will facilitate the travel and ease the heavy traffic during Monday mornings and Friday afternoons: for personnel screenings, from 17 minutes to 5 minutes; for vehicle inspections, from 19 minutes to 8 minutes.

However, the existing personnel and vehicle access to the KIC which requires a 3-day advance notice still remains in effect, and the mobility of personnel and vehicles will still be strictly monitored and chaperoned by the North Korean military.

On the other hand, the fourth round of the sub-panel meeting was held on January 24 to discuss the operation of the RFID system, Internet connectivity, and simplification of customs process at the KIC.

In regards to the streamlining of the customs process, the two countries agreed to change it from ‘complete’ to ‘selective’ examination, but differences still remain over the ratio to be applied to the selective probe.

As for the issue of Internet connection, it is still in the infant stage and the two sides agreed to resume the negotiation on February 7.

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Economic gap between the two Koreas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

Trade and economic levels between South and North Korea remained quite wide last year, data showed Monday, pointing to prolonged lackluster business and economic conditions in the reclusive North.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, South Korea’s total trade volume stood at US$1.07 trillion as of 2012, which is 157 times larger than the North’s $6.8 billion. In particular, the South’s exports came to $547.9 billion, 188.9 times larger than those of the North.

The nominal gross national income (GNI) levels between the two Koreas also remained wide.

The GNI for the South was estimated at 1,279.5 trillion won ($1.21 trillion) last year, 38.2 times larger than the North, the data showed. On a per-capita basis, South Korea’s GNI was 18.7 times larger than that of the North.

South Korea also outperformed the North in infrastructure and other social overhead capital spending.

The South’s road network totaled 105,703 kilometers, which compared with the 26,114 km for the North, the data showed. The South had the power generating capacity of 81.8 million kilowatts a year, which is 11.3 times larger than the North.

The only category that the North outperformed the South was in coal production. It produced a total of 25.8 million tons of coal last year, about 10 times the amount of coal produced by the South, according to the data.

The two Koreas had a combined population of 74.4 million, with the South holding a population of about 50 million, the data showed.

The statistics agency has been providing such information on the North every year since 1995 as a way to provide a glimpse into the economic and industrial conditions of the reclusive country.

Read the full story here:
Trade, economic gaps between 2 Koreas remain wide: data
Yonhap
2013-12-23

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DPRK announces Kaesong “High-Tech Industrial Park” and international “Toll Road”

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-13): KCNA reports on a groundbreaking for the new “Latest Science and Technology Development Zone” in Kaesong:

Construction of Kaesong Latest Science, Technology Development Zone Starts

Kaesong, November 11 (KCNA) — The ground-breaking ceremony for building the Latest Science and Technology Development Zone was held in Kaesong City on Monday.

Present there were Jang Su Nam, representative of the Peace and Economy Development Group, officials concerned, builders, employees of the zone and foreign figures concerned and guests.

Jang said in his address that the construction of the zone would help promote the friendship and develop the cooperation among various countries.

He stressed that the DPRK provides foreign businesses with all conditions for investment.

He expressed belief that the construction of the zone would be completed as soon as possible thanks to the positive efforts of the builders and figures concerned.

Then foreign figures made speeches.

They expressed conviction that the construction of the zone would contribute to promoting the economic development in the region and improving the Korean people’s living standard.

They expressed hope that the figures concerned of various countries would support and encourage the successful construction of the zone.

KCNA also published these two articles (2013-10-13):

Building of High-Tech Industrial Park Will Be Conducive to South-South Cooperation: Diplomats

Pyongyang, November 13 (KCNA) — A ground-breaking ceremony for building a high-tech industrial park was held in Kaesong, the DPRK on Monday.

Addressing the ceremony, Diare Mamady, Guinean ambassador to China, said:

Promoting such a project will enhance the confidence building, the economical growth, the trade and other exchanges and improve the overall cooperation with all neighboring countries of the DPRK.

The project is opening a wide way to an integrated cooperation between Asian countries but not limited to that only, it is paving a new route for south-south cooperation, inspiring developing countries in their search of integrated economies to widen their narrow markets and transfer technologies to launch their development.

Shared growth should be the key philosophy of south-south cooperation, which has to be widespread by economical entities like “Peace Economic Development Group”, in view to cultivate and keep sustainable peace, necessary to the well being of nations.

I would like to express all our greetings and extend congratulations to the great leadership of DPRK, to seize this opportunity which is enlightening its constant and sustainable peace policy.

Making a speech at a press conference held at the end of the ground-breaking ceremony, Multi-Kamara Abubakarr, ambassador of Sierra Leone to China, extended his heart-felt congratulations to Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the DPRK, for making the visionary decision behind the landmark project and accelerating the economic and social development for the country and people.

He continued:

In the light of my experience from 20 odd years-long service in UNDP and roving ambassadorial activities in over 10 Asian countries, I am convinced that the project is of great potential and that the establishment of the park will put an emphasis on promoting economic development in the region and improving the living-standards of the Korean people.

and…

High-Tech Industrial Park to Be Built in Kaesong, DPRK

Pyongyang, November 13 (KCNA) — The Peace Economic Development Group started the construction of a high-tech industrial park in Kaesong City, the DPRK, with a ground-breaking ceremony on Monday.

Present at the ceremony were Jang Su Nam, representative of the group, officials concerned, builders, employees of the park, foreigners concerned and other invitees.

The group is a consortium of China’s Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Middle East and Africa.

The park will have an IT center, hotel, dwelling houses, school and other buildings, as well as a power plant.

Heh Teck Siong, general manager of the group, told the ceremony that it was a great honor for the group to take part in the economic development of the DPRK.

He went on to say:

We are the developers of the high-tech industrial park in Kaesong.
The spirit of our group is to build up economic win-win cooperation with global partners and especially with Asian countries.

We believe that the park will contribute to the economic, confidence and security improvement in the region, and the quality of people’s life.

I am pleased to notify to the friends from the world that the park is kicking off.

Jang Su Nam said in his address that the DPRK government has shown deep care for the industrial park, providing all conditions for enterprises of different countries to invest in it.

The completion of the park will encourage the Korean people in the efforts for building a knowledge-based economic power and greatly contribute to deepening friendship and developing cooperative relations among different countries, he added.

He expressed belief that the construction of the park would be completed at an early date thanks to the energetic efforts of its builders and personages concerned.

Here is a link to one of the articles in Korean. The   “Peace Economic Development Group (평화경제개발그룹)” appears to be a different organization than the “Economic Development Commission/Association”. I am not sure how/if they are related.

Television footage of the groundbreaking ceremony can be found here.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-10-18): According to KCNA:

Consortium to Invest in DPRK

Pyongyang, October 17 (KCNA) — A consortium consisting of Jurong Consultants and OKP Holdings of Singapore, P&T Architects & Engineers Ltd. of Hong Kong, China and other well-known companies of the East Asia and the Middle East is taking part in developing projects in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The consortium agreed with the DPRK’s related organs on collaboration in building the Kaesong Hi-Tech Industrial Park and Highway Toll Road from Capital Airport to Pyongyang City.

The projects will soon begin.

North Korea Tech provides the following links: Jurong Consultants, OKP HoldingsP&T Architects and Engineers. P&T Showed up earlier at

According to AFP:

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman said it had no official comment, but stressed the project had ‘nothing to do with the existing Kaesong zone’.

OKP Holdings said its involvement was “in the preliminary stages”, while Jurong and P&T both declined to comment.

The Kaesong Hi-Tech Industrial Park will be different from the Kaesong Industrial Park–which is rather low-tech by western standards. South Korean citizens, firms, and agencies are forbidden from making high-tech investments in the DPRK by the Wassenar Arrangement, which is why none of the participating firms listed by KCNA are from the ROK.

It is possible that the new Beijing Capital Airport – Pyongyang Toll Road could utilize the new Yalu/Amnok River Bridge.

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Hyesan – Jilin bridge reopened

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Hyesan-jilin-bridge-2013-6-22

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Hyesan – Jilin Bridge

According to Radio Free Asia:

A bridge across the Yalu River connecting northeastern North Korea with China has reopened after more than four months of repairs and reinforcement work, reviving trade and tourism in the area, sources in North Korea said.

Traders eager to sell their goods lined up on both sides of the bridge between Hyesan city in North Korea’s Ryanggang province and Changbai city in China’s Jilin province as traffic resumed on Thursday.

The 500-foot (150-meter) bridge, initially built in 1936 by the Japanese and renovated in 1985, has been reinforced to accommodate trucks weighing up to 30 tons, double the earlier limit.

It had been closed since May, blocking trade and sending prices of consumer goods soaring at local markets in Hyesan, a source in Ryanggang province said.

Thursday’s reopening of the bridge, one of at least three spanning the Yalu River, took place on the anniversary of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party without much fanfare, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The Yalu River Friendship Bridge reopened officially at 10:00 a.m…. There was no special event or meeting for an opening ceremony,” the source told RFA’s Korean Service.

Another source in the province speaking on condition of anonymity said vehicles bound for China loaded with logs and minerals had lined up near the bridge early that morning in anticipation of a rumored reopening.

On the other side of the river in Changbai, trucks carrying Chinese food items and daily necessities had queued up to cross into North Korea, the source said.

The bridge is also a key gateway for Chinese tourists traveling to North Korea’s famed Mount Baekdu, a popular sightseeing destination.

During the bridge’s closure, local authorities in Ryanggang had lost valuable foreign exchange earnings because tours to the mountain had been limited and export of logs and minerals had stopped.

Sources said that although many locals were relieved that trade would be resumed with the bridge no longer closed, others were concerned about the possibility of a sudden outflow of exports of local resources and goods across to China.

A more popular bridge along the Yalu River lies between China’s Dandong city and North Korea’s Sinuiju city.

Annual trade between North Korea and China, its closest diplomatic and trade ally, is worth about U.S. $6 billion. China also supplies nearly all of North Korea’s energy needs.

Read the full story here:
Bridge Across China-North Korea Border River Reopened
Radio Free Asia
2013-10-14

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The new Yalu (Amrok) River Bridge nearing completion

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Yalu-bridge-yonhap-2013-11-18

Pictured above (2013-11-18): Yonhap photo of new Yalu river bridge.

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

The construction of the New Yalu River Bridge, the new suspension bridge over the Yalu River, connecting China’s Dandong city (Liaoning Province) and North Korea’s Sinuiju city (North Pyongan Province) is in its final stages.

Currently, the volume of trade between Sinuiju and Dandong is heavy, and the Yalu River Railway Bridge is saddled with transporting goods. It is hoped that the new bridge will help ease that burden. Several hundred workers are involved in its construction.

According to one Dandong resident, “Despite North Korea’s nuclear test and China’s decision to impose sanctions against the North, construction of the New Yalu River Bridge has been relentless.” The new bridge is considered as an important symbol of Sino-DPRK economic cooperation. Its construction is believed to be well on track.

The total project cost of the construction is estimated to be 2.22 billion CYN (about 390 billion KRW or 3.6 million USD). China is covering the bridge’s construction costs and has reportedly introduced a variety of new technologies to improve the precision and safety of the structure. Once completed, the bridge will be 3 km in length, with the height of its two pylons at 197 meters and the distance between pylons to be about 636 meters.

Travel from Pyongyang to Dandong currently takes 4 hours; that time is expected to be cut in half as the new suspension bridge is located 8 km downstream from the existing railway bridge.

If the construction progresses smoothly, the bridge should open for operation by July 2014. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on August 23 that the new bridge should accommodate over 3,000 55-tonne freight cars per day, and 3,000-tonne ships will be able to pass under the bridge.

Along with the new bridge, China and North Korea are also engaged in joint development of a new district in Dandong and the Hwanggumpyong Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Despite the lingering concerns over the development of these areas after the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the development has reportedly continued uninterrupted.

Despite the continued international and other sanctions against North Korea, the development of Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is speculated to pick up speed after the completion of the bridge. The Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is a project that North Korea put forth in response to the “May 24 Sanctions” imposed by the South Korean government after the sinking of ROKS Cheonan. These sanctions essentially had brought an end to all inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges (with the exception of the operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex).

Last September, a groundbreaking ceremony for the administrative building in the Hwanggumpyeong SEZ was held. Since then a customs building, security facilities, management office, street lights, and transport inspection office are reported to have been built or are currently under construction.

The August 23 KCTV footage of the bridge can be seen here:

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New Yalu/Amnok River bridge in south-west Dandong

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

UPDATE 9 (2014-1-14): Xinhua reports the bridge will open in 2014:

A new bridge over the river border between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to open this year, local authorities said on Tuesday.

About 80 percent of work on the Yalu River Bridge is complete, according to the Transport Department of northeast China’s Liaoning Province.

Construction began on the 3 km bridge at the end of 2010, and will cost 2.22 billion yuan (356 million U.S. dollars).

A joint project between the two countries, the bridge will have four two-way lanes upon completion, according to an agreement signed in February 2010. The new route is expected to boost communication and economic cooperation.

The only bridge connecting the nations was built in 1937. Trucks weighing more than 20 tonnes are not allowed on the one-way bridge, considerably restricting trade volume.

UPDATE 8 (2013-11-8): Yonhap releases a photo of the bridge nearing completion:

Yal-Amnok-2013-10-Yonhap

UPDATE 7 (2013-10-10): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) offers some new information:

The construction of the New Yalu River Bridge, the new suspension bridge over the Yalu River, connecting China’s Dandong city (Liaoning Province) and North Korea’s Sinuiju city (North Pyongan Province) is in its final stages.

Currently, the volume of trade between Sinuiju and Dandong is heavy, and the Yalu River Railway Bridge is saddled with transporting goods. It is hoped that the new bridge will help ease that burden. Several hundred workers are involved in its construction.

According to one Dandong resident, “Despite North Korea’s nuclear test and China’s decision to impose sanctions against the North, construction of the New Yalu River Bridge has been relentless.” The new bridge is considered as an important symbol of Sino-DPRK economic cooperation. Its construction is believed to be well on track.

The total project cost of the construction is estimated to be 2.22 billion CYN (about 390 billion KRW or 3.6 million USD). China is covering the bridge’s construction costs and has reportedly introduced a variety of new technologies to improve the precision and safety of the structure. Once completed, the bridge will be 3 km in length, with the height of its two pylons at 197 meters and the distance between pylons to be about 636 meters.

Travel from Pyongyang to Dandong currently takes 4 hours; that time is expected to be cut in half as the new suspension bridge is located 8 km downstream from the existing railway bridge.

If the construction progresses smoothly, the bridge should open for operation by July 2014. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on August 23 that the new bridge should accommodate over 3,000 55-tonne freight cars per day, and 3,000-tonne ships will be able to pass under the bridge.

Along with the new bridge, China and North Korea are also engaged in joint development of a new district in Dandong and the Hwanggumpyong Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Despite the lingering concerns over the development of these areas after the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the development has reportedly continued uninterrupted.

Despite the continued international and other sanctions against North Korea, the development of Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is speculated to pick up speed after the completion of the bridge. The Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is a project that North Korea put forth in response to the “May 24 Sanctions” imposed by the South Korean government after the sinking of ROKS Cheonan. These sanctions essentially had brought an end to all inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges (with the exception of the operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex).

Last September, a groundbreaking ceremony for the administrative building in the Hwanggumpyeong SEZ was held. Since then a customs building, security facilities, management office, street lights, and transport inspection office are reported to have been built or are currently under construction.

UPDATE 6 (2013-8-23): New KCTV footage of the bridge can be seen here:

UPDATE 5 (2013-6-4): I wrote an update on the construction of the bridge at NK News.

UPDATE 4 (2012-11-7): The China Daily’s English-language Dandong page reports on the status of the bridge:

Construction on the new bridge, with an investment of 2.22 billion yuan, began at the end of 2011. According to the Dandong government, the main structure of the bridge has been completed. It is expected to become operational in July 2014.

UPDATE 3 (2011-6-25): Adam Cathcart took some pictures of the new bridge construction–so it is progressing!

UPDATE 2 (2011-2-2): For some time I have been trying to track down the location of the proposed new Yalu River bridge which will connect the DPRK and China.  Thanks to a story in the Daily NK, I was able to map it out on Google Earth:

Pictured above: Location of the proposed Yalu Bridge (Google Earth)

According to the Daily NK:

According to someone inside the construction company responsible for the bridge’s development, “The development of Xinchengqu has been on the drawing board for two years. This time, the construction of the New River Yalu Bridge was confirmed between China and North Korea. This is a very good chance for us, from now on Xinchengqu will become the center of China-North Korea trade.

According to Dandong’s urban development plan, the bridge will connect Busan-Seoul-Pyongyang-Dandong and Beijing in the future, implying that future trade and cooperation between a reunited Korea and China is being taken into account.

China is providing the construction costs for the New Yalu River Bridge; an estimated one billion Yuan (approximately $145 million).

This particular location is interesting because it completely bypasses the city and county of Sinuiju–where earlier reports (below) described its location.  The bridge actually crosses from China into Sopuk-ri, Ryongchon County (서북리, 룡천군)—in the middle of nowhere.  There is absolutely no infrastructure at this location for administering trade between the DPRK, China, and prospectively South Korea, so it will all need to be built from scratch or moved from Sinuiju. Either way, this is bad news for Sinuiju which today benefits financially as both the capital of North Pyongan Province and as the gateway for the majority of trade between the DPRK and China.  It looks like Ryongchon may be taking some of their business!

In addition, the North Koreans have been widening  the Sinuiju highway and “beautifying” all of the surrounding residential areas in anticipation of greater loads of traffic coming from China.  See more about this here.  This could all be for naught if the Chinese end up building a trade artery south of all this construction!

UPDATE 1 (2010-12-31): (KCNA h/t Aidan Foster-Carter) The ceremony did take place to mark the launch of the bridge’s construction:

Pyongyang, December 31 (KCNA) — A ground-breaking ceremony for a DPRK-China bridge across the River Amnok took place in Dandong City, China, on Friday.

Present there from the DPRK side were its government delegation headed by Kim Chang Ryong, minister of Land and Environmental Conservation, and from the Chinese side Li Shenglin, minister of Transport, Hu Zhengyue, assistant to Foreign Minister, and Chen Zhenggao, governor of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government, and other officials concerned of the central and local governments of China.

Speeches were made by Kim Chang Ryong, Kim Song Gi, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and Choe Jong Gon, chairman of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee, from the DPRK side and Li Shenglin, Hu Zhengyue, and Chen Zhenggao from the Chinese side.

They said that two rounds of General Secretary Kim Jong Il’s visit to China this year marked historic events of epoch-making significance in developing the DPRK-China friendship on a fresh high stage.

They expressed belief that the bridge would make a contribution to demonstrating once again the great vitality and invincible might of the DPRK-China friendship steadily growing stronger.

The bridge will be successfully built as a symbol of the DPRK-China friendship and a structure of the two peoples, they added.

Then followed a ceremony of the ground-breaking for the project.

The Ministry of Transport, the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the Communist Party and the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government of China arranged a reception in connection with the ceremony.

Read older posts on the bridge below:
(more…)

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