Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

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

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Easter Studies (IFES)
2014-9-4

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problems in the poor quality of North Korean-made products and construction, saying, “Neglect in quality growth is an outdated attitude.”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.

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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
2014-8-19

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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
Xinhua
2014-8-4

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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 4 (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 3 (2011-9-7): A reader send in a photo of the road:

Rajin-China-Road-2011-9-7

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.

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DPRK reports number of Chinese tourists entering Rason by car

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

According to KCNA:

Number of Chinese Tourists Grows in DPRK

Pyongyang, June 2 (KCNA) — The tour by Chinese was conducted in the Rason area of the DPRK from May 31 to June 2, under an agreement made between the DPRK’s Rason International Travel Company and China’s Yanbian Arirang International Travel Agency.

Involving in the tour were more than 40 Chinese, who toured Pipha Islet, the Rason Taehung Trading Company, Rajin Port and other places by private cars.

This was the eighth batch of Chinese this year to visit the DPRK by private cars.

In this regard, an official at the Tourism Bureau of the Rason City People’s Committee, told KCNA:

“The tour by private cars began in June Juche 100 (2011), with due ceremony in the Rason economic and trade zone. Since then, more than 1 300 tourists have made trips to the area by more than 300 private cars in 70-odd batches.
Other forms of tourism are expected to grow in scope.”

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China to build new bridge linking Tumen and Namyang

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

According to the China Daily:

Construction on a new bridge over a river separating China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has started, authorities of northeast China’s Jilin Province said on Tuesday.

With a total investment of 137 million yuan (21.93 million US dollars), the 804.7-meter new Tumen River bridge is expected to open in 2015 or 2016 as a new route for bilateral trade, authorities said.

The old Tumen River bridge has not been repaired for many years and is facing safety risks. However, the old bridge will not be dismantled and will be kept as a scenic spot.

Tumen City is linked to the DPRK by both highway and railway.

According to Yonhap:

China will begin constructing a new major bridge to North Korea over the Tumen river, China’s state media reported Friday, in the latest sign that economic relations between the two nations remain stable despite the North’s nuclear ambition.

The 804-meter-long, 23-meter-wide bridge will link the Chinese border town of Tumen to North Korea’s northeastern coastal city of Chongjin, the Yanbian Daily newspaper reported, citing the city government of Tumen.

China’s central government recently gave a final approval to build the bridge, which is entirely funded by China at a cost of 137 million yuan (US$21.9 million), the report said.

The newspaper did not specify when the construction would start but that it would “soon be implemented.”

China has been building another major bridge connecting its border city of Dandong to the North Korean city of Sinuiju across the Amnok river, called as the Yalu River in China.

North Korea’s series of provocations, including last year’s third nuclear test, have strained political ties with its last-remaining ally, China. Still, many analysts believe that Beijing will not put strong pressure on Pyongyang due to the risk of aggravating the current situation.

According to AFP:

The bridge will replace an older structure, built in 1938, which will be turned into a tourist attraction, Xinhua said. There are several other rail and road bridges linking the two countries.

Chinese tourists recently started crossing into Namyang for day trips on bicycles.

Read the full stories here:
China to build new cross-border bridge to N. Korea: report
Yonhap
2014-5-23

New bridge to link China, DPRK
China Daily
2014-5-27

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DPRK trade with Hong Kong in 2013

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea increased imports of vehicles and alcoholic beverages from Hong Kong in 2013, despite an overall drop in bilateral trade, a South Korean report showed Thursday.

The trade representative office for Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Hong Kong said Pyongyang spent US$4.36 million to buy vehicles, up 27.5 percent from the year before, a large number of them with over 3-liter engine and seating capacity for more than 10 people.

Cars were the second-largest single product imported by North Korea from Hong Kong after electronic components, the office said.

“The cars were made in other countries and shipped through Hong Kong,” it said.

North Korean imports of alcoholic beverages shot up 51.3 percent last year from 2012, with whiskey and vodka making up the bulk of products shipped. Though liquor products only accounted for 1.4 percent of goods shipped from the former British colony to Pyongyang, its annual growth rate surpassed that of all others last year.

This trend continued into 2014, with North Korea’s purchase of alcoholic beverages soaring 758.8 percent in January and February vis-a-vis the previous year, according to the KOTRA office.

The latest report showed that two-way trade dropped 57.2 percent on-year to $26.99 million, with Hong Kong’s exports falling 53.7 percent. It said no crude oil, grain and fertilizers were shipped to the North.

Imports from North Korea nosedived 87.9 percent to $770,000.

The report showed that in the first two months of this year, Hong Kong’s exports to North Korea was down 67.9 percent on-year, while imports fell 63 percent.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea increases car, liquor imports from Hong Kong in 2013: report
Yonhap
2014-5-1

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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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