Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

On the role of the military police in smuggling

Friday, June 12th, 2015

According to Radio Free Asia:

North Korea’s military police force, which operates outside of the control of the normal authorities, is the driving force behind smuggling in the country, despite a nationwide crackdown on the practice, according to sources inside the hermit kingdom.

Sources said that as a result of North Korea’s “military first” policy, the military police wield a vast amount of influence over a far-reaching network of contacts in the nation, which allows them to facilitate smuggling by soldiers along the border with China.

“Most smuggling has been carried out by soldiers, and it’s particularly difficult to smuggle in massive quantities without the help of the military police,” a source in North Hamgyong province on the border with China recently told RFA’s Korean Service.

“The military police smuggle precious metals, such as gold, silver, copper, nickel, industrial diamonds and molybdenum. They also smuggle resources belonging to the nation, and plants and animals, as well as historical items, cultural artifacts, drugs, and medicinal herbs,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Military police help smuggle the goods into China in return for consumer goods, such as food, fertilizer and daily necessities, which are then peddled inside of North Korea, he said.

North Korea’s military police force is divided into the Pyongyang Military Police under the direct control of the military’s central General Staff Department, the Mobile Military Police, the Garrison Military Police serving each provincial branch of the military, and the Train Crew Military Police, the source said.

The Garrison and Train Crew divisions are those most directly involved in smuggling, he said.

A second source living in Yanggang province, which also borders China, confirmed that the Garrison Military Police have been particularly helpful in furthering the work of the nation’s smugglers.

“There’s no problem using trains and cars [to smuggle] with the help of the Garrison Military Police, and people say, no matter how severe the crackdown is, all paths lie open if you have pull with that division,” said the source, who is a resident of Yanggang’s capital Hyesan.

“A few days ago in Hyesan, a military policeman stopped a vehicle and forced the people to get out and load [smuggled] goods sent for a military camp, but driver and passengers couldn’t say a word [in protest].”

Likewise, he said, smuggling has been carried out systematically by members of the Garrison Military Police along the border with China.

Sources in North Korea agreed that as long as the economy remains in shambles and the “military first” policy remains in effect, not only resources belonging to the nation, but historical items and cultural artifacts, will continue to flood out of the country into China.

Lucrative practice

In March, sources told RFA that authorities in North Korea were offering a variety of incentives, including increased food rations and Workers’ Party membership, to informants on would-be smugglers who try to cross the frozen Tumen River into China during the lean months of the winter season.

The sources said the rewards appeared to have been ordered by the Kim Jong Un regime as part of a bid to crackdown on the country’s pervasive smuggling problem.

In January, sources said that demands by North Korean border guards for a greater share of the profits of smuggling had slowed the movement of commodities across the border with China, causing hardships for North Koreans who earn a living by trafficking in goods.

They said at the time that because of tightened security measures put in place over the last year, the fees charged by guards delivering goods across the border had risen as high as 30 to 40 percent of the smugglers’ profit compared to 11 percent previously.

Read the full story here:
Radio Free Asia
Jieun Kim


Russia – DPRK looking to build road border crossing

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

According to RBTH:

North Korea and the Russian Far East will be connected by a pontoon bridge, under a wider road transport agreement signed between the two countries last week, Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexander Galushka said.

Russia has already commenced working on the project documentation for the construction the bridge at the Khasan border crossing point Khasan in the Primorye Territory the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East said Monday.

At the moment, a railway bridge over the Tyumen River is the only surface transport connection between the neighbours.

Read the full story here:
North Korea and the Russian Far East to be connected by a pontoon bridge


How to run a “private” bus company in the DPRK

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

More independent transportation companies, run by the donju, or new affluent middle-class, are springing up in North Korea’s main transit hubs and driving up fares.

“There is a growing number of bus and truck companies operating not only in Pyongyang but nationwide,” a source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK last Friday. “People are buying buses or trucks and then paying the state a certain fee to open up transportation companies authorized by the central authorities.”

She explained that those members of the donju with significant amounts of money establish contacts with central bodies and win over the right to operate. “The ‘Pyongyang Transit and Trade Company’ and the ‘General Bureau of Transportation,’ which fall under the Cabinet, write up permits for individual donju and are authorizing the operations in exchange for a certain amount of the profits,” she said, adding that each region has bus companies that come from those two Pyongyang-based offices, creating a de facto public-private collaborative operation.

The donju, by importing second-hand buses from China for 3,000 to 4,000 USD, are overtly raking in profits and revolutionizing bus transportation in North Korea; personal bus transportation was only available in two to three cities in the early 2000s, including Pyongyang, but now it has spread nationwide. According to the source, some companies own anywhere from dozens to hundreds of buses.

“The fare between Chongjin and Musan used to be 8,000 KPW [1 USD] until just two years ago, but now it has jumped to 50,000 KPW [6.25 USD]. The bus that runs between Chongjin and Kim Chaek is currently 80,000 KPW [10 USD] – ten times the original price,” she noted. “Donju are raising the fares to whatever they want depending on the oil prices and exchange rate with the Chinese yuan.”

In the North’s main cities, state-run trams, trolleys, and long-distance buses do operate, but the vehicles are old and the companies beset by economic difficulties. The number of donju-run companies, however, is increasing by the day, leaving the state no choice but to accept their money and grant them license to operate.

“People are happy that there are more options for transportation but there are a lot of complaints about the expensive fares,” the source said. “Some say it’s not unusual for such companies to be operating in the way they do considering the dilapidated condition of state companies, but in the end it’s the regular people who bear the brunt of it all.”

Additional posts on the DPRK’s bus networks here.

Read the full story here:
Transportation Options Taking Off
Daily NK
Choi Song Min


DPRK taxi data

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

An article in Yonhap (sourced by Xinhua) offers some interesting data on taxis in Pyongyang. Here are some select quotes:

But in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), a strict odd-even ban has been imposed on most taxis since April.

The rule is simple: taxis with an odd end number on license plates are allowed to travel on odd-numbered days only and those with an even end number are able to drive on even-numbered days.

The reason for introducing the license plate restriction for taxis remains unknown.

The odd-even rationing policy, however, is not applicable for all cabs, taxi drivers told Xinhua.

About 150 taxis operated by Air Koryo, the national flag carrier and the country’s only airline, are not subject to this regulation.

“We are the only taxi firm not asked to follow the ban,” said a cab driver under Air Koryo who gave his surname as Kim. “This is thanks to the special care given by our respectable marshal.”

And how may taxis are there?

Official figures showed more than 1,500 taxis had been running in the capital city by the end of 2013.

Who makes the taxis?

Now a vast majority of the taxi cabs are BYD (a Chinese automaker) automobiles with the name of taxi firms printed on both sides of the cars. Atop the car body is fixed a board that reads “TAXI” in both Korean and English.

What are the rates?

Jumping into the cab and traveling within two km costs two U.S. dollars. For each kilometer you travel beyond that distance, 0.56 dollars get added to the fare. U.S. dollars, euros, renminbi and even DPRK wons are all accepted.

Taximeters are not fitted in most cars; even there is a taximeter on the front, the driver tends not to activate the machine unless you insist. It seems customary to negotiate with the driver about the fare, and also there are certain fares for several fixed routes.

With an extra fee of two or three dollars, you can book a taxi cab in advance by dialing drivers’ personal phone numbers. But foreign visitors have no access to the service at the moment because SIM cards sold to foreigners can not connect to natives’ mobile phones.

Read the full story here:
Feature: Pyongyang imposes odd-even ban on most taxis


ROK-KIC road reportedly in bad shape

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014



Pictured Above (Google Earth): The road linking the KIC and South Korea

According to the Daily NK:

A bridge and northern parts of a road and connecting South and North Korea built by Pyongyang, for which Seoul provided 25.3 billion KRW [23.6 million USD] worth construction materials and equipment, are in decrepit conditions, according to documents obtained by a South Korean lawmaker.

“A strip [5km] of the northern side of the road connecting to the Kaesong Industrial Complex and parts of Tongil Bridge [220m] are extremely run-down, with cracks and severe forms of distortion,” representative Ha Tae Keung from the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing data submitted by Korea Land and Housing Corporation and Korea Expressway Corporation on Thursday. “However, the southern part of the project [5.1km], which cost us 68 billion KRW [63 million USD] is in good condition,” he stated.

“According to safety tests, the bridge and road are expected to progressively deteriorate, raising concerns of a major accident,” Ha said. “We may face another disaster such as the Seongsu Bridge collapse [in South Korea in 1994].”

The connecting road from South Korea to the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Park in the North began in September 2002 and was completed in 14 months. Seoul put 68 billion KRW [63 million USD] behind the project for its side and provided 25.3 billion KRW [23.6 million USD] worth of construction materials and equipment for Pyongyang to build its section.

Read the full story here:
Dilapidated Roads to Kaesong a Major Safety Concern
Daily NK
Lee Sang Yong


Taxis grow in popularity in the DPRK

Friday, September 12th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

Independently owned taxi services have emerged in South Pyongan Province, Daily NK has learned. This is the only other confirmed location of such a service in North Korea, outside of Pyongyang and Rasun.

A source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on September 11th, “Taxis have appeared in Pyungsung [Phyongsong] and Suncheon [Sunchon] Cities and are quickly gaining popularity,” adding that, “Privately owned taxis are emerging as a new way to make money and the donju [new affluent classes] are quick to invest in the opportunity.”

Taxis managed by the Daedong River Passenger Transport Service Company in Pyongyang are widespread in the capital city as well as Rasun [Rason], but the cabs operating in Pyungsung and Suncheon only require registration with the Transport Service Company, after which they and are free to operate independently.

Originally, Daedong River Passenger Transport Service Company had plans to expand its operations to other regions, but budget shortages stymied these efforts, and the source surmised this as cause for the organization to begin issuing operating licenses, for a fee, to individually owned taxis instead.

As these privately owned taxis become more prevalent in Pyongnam [South Phyongan Province], Pyongsung, and Suncheon, vehicle sales, automobile parts, and recruitment and hiring of drivers continues to rise. The source estimated approximately 18 privately owned taxis in Pyungsung currently, with at least 8-10 operating in Suncheon.

A report by the pro-North publication Choson Sinbo [run by The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan] proclaimed last year that there were 400 taxis operating in Pyongyang. A taxi dispatching service [known as “call taxis” in South Korea] were among the other purported features offered to customers by the Transport Company in the capital city.

“These independently-owned cabs are not part of a state-run enterprise; they are personal businesses,” he explained. “After being granted an operating license, the donju are keen to purchase vehicles to employ as taxis. Cars imported for use as taxis through official trading licenses are taxed at high rates, so most use smuggled cars instead.”

In Sinuiju City, the Kangsung Port sees high volumes of exports serving to procure foreign currency that funnels back into the Chosun Workers’ Party, in addition to highly active smuggling operations. Members of the donju usually request a vehicle to utilize as a cab through the appropriate trading company and receive it through the Kangsung Port.

New vehicles to service as taxis sold at Suncheon Market cost approximately $12,000, while used cars are priced in the region of $6,000-7,000 USD, with additional payments of $500 sellers who have the connections to throw in an accompanying license plate.

Even those who receive the license plate in the market must go through the proper channels to start offering their services. “Taxis purchased by individuals must be registered with the Daedong River Passenger Transport Company in Pyongyang,” he said, nothing it to be a fairly simple procedure, “After being issued an operating license and license plate, they pass through the “No. 10 Checkpoint and they are immediately able to begin business operations.”

According to the source, the majority of individuals purchasing taxis are female, while the drivers are procured from the Transport Company or personal connections. The taxi owners generally conduct personal interviews before hiring the drivers, who are mostly males in their 30s and 40s; it is fiercely competitive process–one must pass through a competition of 50:1 to secure the job.

Potential benefits of the position are enough to ensure no shortage of applicants. With the exception of those areas off limits without a special license, namely border regions and Pyongyang, it is within taxis’ rights to go to most areas. These taxis fetch approximately $100 USD [80,000 KPW] per day, excluding fuel expenses, and cab owners pay the driver roughly 50% of these profits [including gas] as a monthly salary.

The exact amount that individual taxi workers owe the transport company in Pyongyang cannot yet be verified, though the source reported that a monthly offering in the region of $500 USD, for “the sake of formality,” must be contributed to management officials there.

Taxi fees run about 15,000 KPW for a 4km ride; bus fees are approximately 2000 KPW to go the same distance. A Pyungsung-Suncheon trip costs the passenger in the region of 75,000 KPW–extremely expensive compared to the 10,000 KPW bus fee to make the same trip. However, for those doing a great deal of business and working against time, taxis are the easiest option, explaining the increase in those employing their services.

The source asserts that the North Korean authorities’ inability to expand taxi operations due to budget shortages will inevitably lead to the spread of these individually owned cab services through the North. The ease of and lack of restriction on running such an operation will also see them continue to spread, “Everyone doing business will start to use them,” he said. “There aren’t that many taxis at the moment, and the price is expensive, but as the number of those owning the vehicles increases, the price will drop, as will the cost of motorcycles and bicycles.”

Read the full story here:
Taxis Take Off in South Pyongan Province
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah


Competition rises among factories and department stores in North Korea: Delivery services now available

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Easter Studies (IFES)

It appears that some factories and department stores in North Korea have begun to implement a delivery service in response to customer demand. This new customer-oriented service seems to have arisen out of the Kim Jong Un regime’s goal of increasing autonomy and competition among businesses.

According to the newest issue of “Choguk” [Joguk] (“Motherland”, September 2014), a media outlet associated with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, North Korea’s representative state-run department store Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 has been making efforts to diversify the services offered to its customers. The article specifically revealed a personal delivery service, saying, “Salespersons have responded to the public’s requests and have begun to deliver ordered products to sell directly to customers at their doorsteps.”

Salespersons from Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 have also been travelling to power plants, mining sites, textile mills, farms and other worksites to sell products directly to workers and farmers. Other businesses, such as the Potong River Shoe Factory, have also been diversifying customer services. For example, employees now visit customers’ homes to measure shoe size and satisfy other requests they may have when placing an order for shoes.

The Daedong River Passenger Transport Company in Pyongyang is currently offering a taxi dispatching service to customers who call in and request a pickup. Similar to the workings of South Korea’s taxi service, North Koreans may simply dial “186” to be connected to the closest dispatch office, which then sends out a taxi to pick up the customer.

On the other hand, North Korea has recognized the problem of the low-quality products and poor construction work and has emphasized that efforts must be made to remedy these areas. In the most recent issue of the quarterly academic journal, Kyongje Yongu [Economic Research] (2014, Issue 3), one article points out problems in the poor quality of North Korean-made products and construction, saying, “Neglect in quality growth is an outdated attitude.”

Specifically, the article mentions the problem of promising completion of construction according to deadlines: “Technical regulations and construction methods are disregarded when projects are rushed to be finished by their completion date, which is often decided in advance to coincide with a holiday or anniversary.

Currently, North Korea has undertaken large-scale construction operations to finish the Kim Chaek University of Technology’s faculty apartments, the Pyongyang Orphanage and Nursery, the North Pyongan Chongchon River Power Plant and other projects spanning various fields. The goal is to complete these projects concurrently with the anniversary of the foundation of the Worker’s Party of Korea (October 10).

At construction sites around North Korea, it appears that all available resources are being mobilized to engage in a so-called “speed battle” with these construction deadlines. The side effect of this huge emphasis on speed has resulted in many instances of poor construction, like the collapse of the 23-floor apartment building in Pyongyang’s Ansan-1-dong back in May.

The article also points out, “Despite attempting to work toward self-sustainability, there are events where lower quality, alternative products are being used below the material requirements that are leading to lowered quality work.” Furthermore, the article emphasizes, “Production and circulation of faulty products or products which cause harm to the health or lifestyle of the people must be stopped.”

It has also been reported that corruption is taking place at factories and construction sites, with party officials or intermediary managers amassing riches by siphoning off materials and pocketing the money. This leads to further problems in product quality and defectiveness.

Due to the issues of poor construction and product quality, the article points out, “There are many areas in our material economic life that fall behind the global trend,” but “if the quality of products and buildings are improved, the need to consider products from other countries will wane.”

In order to solve these problems, the article suggests implementing product standardization and specialization and encourages research in industrial design.


2014 Inter-Korean development plans

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

According to the Daily NK:

The Ministry of Unification released its plans for the 2014 Inter-Korean Development Program on August 18th. 96 new enterprises are among the proposals stipulated in the report’s 30 articles.

The chief components of the plan include:

1. the establishment of a channel for consistent Inter-Korean dialogue
2. a solution for the Separated Families issue
3. provision of humanitarian aid geared towards North Korean citizens
4. adherence to international regulations through a cooperative exchange system
5. the restoration of national solidarity through sociocultural exchanges
6. expanding other ongoing inter-Korean economic collaboration projects
7. normalization of Kaesong Industrial Park operations and
8. tailoring refugee resettlement funds to individual defector needs.

In a statement about the plan, a Ministry of Unification official said, “There is much significance in the fact that this proposal was a government-wide effort; a total of 24 administrative bodies came together to formulate these ideas and strategies.”

The comprehensive program also included detailed plans for the repair and renovation of the Kaesong-Pyongyang Expressway and the Kaesong-Sinuiju Railway. The premise of the official Inter-Korean Development Program has always been to improve overall conditions in the North while fostering better relations between North and South, but this most recent plan is the first to delineate detailed plans for large-scale investments in infrastructure.

Expansion of other inter-Korean economic collaborations were also outlined, such as:
1. Kaesong-Sinuiju railroad and Kaesong-Pyongyang railroad repairs
2. Imjin River flood prevention business
3. Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] support of the North Korean fishing industry
4. proposals such as vitalization of inter-Korean shipping are included. In addition, depending on the situation, 5. they plan to gradually introduce reopening trade and commerce, resumption of basic economic cooperation and, launching of new businesses.

A continued dedication to improving human rights in North Korea was also announced, starting with continued pressure on lawmakers to overcome the impasse and pass the North Korean Human Rights Act. The proposed law first appeared in 2005 but has since stagnated in the National Assembly due to failure by ruling and opposition parties to reach a consensus. Additional plans to increase support to private organizations advocating human rights in North Korea as well as striving to implement the recent recommendations by the UN based on the Commission of Inquiry [COI] findings on human rights in North Korea.

The South Korean government expressed its intentions to improve the quality of life for North Korean residents by increasing humanitarian aid and support. Most notably, the South vowed to separate political and humanitarian issues, ensuring that vulnerable social groups receive the support they need, regardless of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Read the full story here:
Report: 2014 Inter-Korean Development Plans
Daily NK
Koo Jun Hoe


Yanji-Rason tour project launched

Monday, August 4th, 2014

According to Xinhua:

The Chinese border city of Yanji in northeastern Jilin Province has opened a direct bus tour service to the neighboring Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), tourism authorities said Monday.

A total of 48 Chinese tourists and two Chinese guides ended their two-day tour to the city of Rason on Sunday completing the first batch of bus tours in Yanji, said Wang Yanbo, deputy chief of Yanji tourism bureau.

The group visited Rajin Port, greenhouses housing Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia, both flower species named after the late DPRK leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the Korean Ethnic Cultural Park and the beachside of Pipa Island, said Lian Qinghua, general manager of Yanbian Northeast Asia Passenger Transport Group Co,. Ltd travel agency, operator of the tour.

The journey to the DPRK takes around four hours and will operate from Tuesday to Saturday, Lian said.P Compared with other travel methods to Rason, the nonstop trip avoids transfer processing at the China-DPRK border, he said.

Travel figures show about 10,000 Chinese tourists visit the DPRK annually.

Yonhap report here.

Read the full story here:
Chinese border city opens bus tour to DPRK


Quanhe-Wonjong Bridge: Renovated and to be replaced (UPDATED)

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

 Pictured Above (Google Earth): The Hunchun Bridge linking the DPRK and China

UPDATE 5 (2014-6-28): According to Xinhua, the bridge is to be replaced:

China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)agreed on Friday to jointly build, manage, and maintain a new border bridge between thetwo neighbors.

An agreement was signed by Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK Liu Hongcai and DPRKVice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Guk, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The Quanhe-Wonjong bridge over the Tumen River, which was built in the 1930s, hasbeen in a shabby condition.

UPDATE 4 (2012-10-26): Rajin-Wonjong Road Opened to Traffic


Pictured Above (KCNA): Photos of the official opening of the renovated road

According to KCNA:

Rajin-Wonjong Road Opened to Traffic

Pyongyang, October 26 (KCNA) — A ceremony took place in Rason City of the DPRK on Friday to open to traffic the Rajin-Wonjong road in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone jointly developed and operated by the DPRK and China.

Attending it from the DPRK side were Jo Jong Ho, chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, officials concerned and people of the city and from the Chinese side were Zhang Anshun, secretary of the Yanbian Autonomous Region, Jilin Province, Committee of the Communist Party of China, Chen Weigen, vice-governor of the Jilin Provincial People’s Government, Tian Baozhen, consul-general to Chongjin, and other officials concerned.

Congratulatory speeches were made at the ceremony.

Hwang Chol Nam, vice-chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, said it is very glad that the road has been opened to traffic amid great expectation and interest of the peoples of the two countries at the historic time when the traditional bilateral friendship is growing stronger.

The whole course of the road project served as an occasion in deepening the friendly relations of the DPRK and China and displaying the validity and vitality of their joint development and operation of the Rason Economic and Trade Zone, Hwang added.

The road helps increase the cargo traffic and transport of freight from northeastern China to Rajin Port and promote the development of economic relations between the two regions, including tourism, he said.

Zhang Anshun warmly welcomed the opening of the road on behalf of the Jilin Provincial Party Committee and Government, saying that it is a good start for the progress of the zone to be jointly developed and operated by the two countries.

Zhang hoped that the two countries would develop the economy and their peoples would enjoy happiness under the guidance of the Communist Party of China headed by Hu Jintao and the Workers’ Party of Korea headed by Kim Jong Un.

Members of the platform cut the tape to declare the opening of the road. Then vehicles passed along the road amid display of fireworks.

Here are additional articles that mention the bridge:

1. Recent articles on Rason’s future (2011-5-4)

2. Rason’s Chinese investor tour (2011-4-4)

UPDATE 3 (2011-9-7): A reader send in a photo of the road:


Click image to see lager version and source.

UPDATE 2 (2010-6-23): Hunchon Bridge opens.  According to Kyodo (via Breitbart):

China has repaired a bridge in Hunchun at the Chinese and North Korean border, giving it a safer access to North Korea for use of Rajin port to ship coal to Shanghai, according to Jilin Province officials.

China paid 3.6 million yuan ($528,526) to repair the bridge over the Tumen River, a project jointly pursued with North Korea, the officials said Tuesday.

Work was completed June 14.

The bridge serves as a gateway to Pier No. 1 at Rajin port, which a Chinese company has obtained the right to use for 10 years.

In April, the Chinese government approved a plan to transport coal and other items produced in Jilin to Shanghai via Rajin in northeastern North Korea.

China and North Korea have been in talks about financing of a plan to build a 50-kilometer road leading to the port, the officials said.

UPDATE 1 (2010-6-6): DPRK border bridge to reopen this month, highway to border opens in October
By Michael Rank

A bridge on the Chinese-North Korean border that will take traffic to the North Korean port of Rajin is due to reopen at the end of this month, while a highway from the Jilin provincial capital of Changchun to the border city of Hunchun 珲春 will open in October, according to Chinese reports here and here.

As NKEW reported in April, the 70-year-old bridge over the Tumen river near Hunchun  is being rebuilt as part of a reported $44 million plan to modernise the road from the border to Rajin. Built during the Japanese occupation in 1938, the bridge is 535 metres long and 6.6 metres wide, and joins the Chinese border post of Quanhe 圈河 with the North Korean town of Wonjeong 원정.

The highway will open on October 1, China’s national day, and will cut the journey time from Changchun to Hunchun from eight hours to five, the report said. But it indicated that the 60-km road from the border to Rajin, said to be mostly unpaved and prone to frequent accidents during rain, would not be ready by then.

A Chinese company, Chuangli Group, based in Dalian in Liaoning province,  was reported in March to have signed a 10-year deal to lease a pier at Rajin (also known as Rasŏn or Rajin-Sŏnbong), giving China access to the Sea of Japan for the first time since the 19th century when the Qing imperial government signed treaties under duress from Japan and Russia.

ORIGINAL POST (2010-4-13): Bridge on China-North Korea border being renovated
By Michael Rank

A 70-year-old bridge on the Chinese-North Korean border is being renovated to improve transport to and from the North Korean port of Rajin 라진 (Rason [Raseon]/Rajin-Sonbong) which a Chinese company has taken over on a 10-year-lease, a Chinese website reports.

The bridge over the Tumen river near the city of Hunchun 珲春 in Jilin province will be reopened at the end of June after almost five months of work. Built during the Japanese occupation in 1938, the bridge is 535 metres long and 6.6 metres wide, and joins the Chinese border post of Quanhe 圈河 with the North Korean town of Wonjeong 원정. The report gave no details of costs but said it was being renovated under a deal between the cities of Hunchun and Rason 라선. It said the bridge would help to boost trade in both Hunchun and Rajin and in the region generally.

The refurbishment of the bridge is part of a reported $44 million plan to modernise the road from the border to Rajin.

Ahn Byung-min, an expert on North Korean infrastructure at the Korea Transport Institute, was quoted by the Korea Herald as saying a senior Chinese local government official had told him that the governor of Jilin had signed an agreement to invest 300 million yuan in expanding and paving the road to Rajin.

A Dalian-based company named Chuang Li agreed in 2008 to revamp the road in exchange for leasing a pier at Rajin. “Chuang Li isn’t a company big enough to afford the road construction, so the Jilin government took on the direct investment instead,” Ahn said.

Additional Information:
1. The existing 60-km road is mostly unpaved and prone to frequent accidents during rain.

2. The coordinates of the new bridge are  42°34’4.45″N, 130°31’24.16″E. You can see it on Google Maps here. Thank you for the tip, Mr. Cha.

3. There are a couple of more bridges in the area: here (which looks like it has been unused for some time) and here.

4. Photos of the construction opening ceremony are here.