Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

North Korea opens its first toll expressway

Thursday, January 18th, 2018


Pictures above via @EricTalmadge (Jan 26, 2018)

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

According to the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, starting January 20, 2018, North Korea will begin collecting tolls on the expressway between Pyongyang and Wonsan—a first time for the country to collect such tolls.

According to the Seoul-Pyongyang News, the Russian embassy explained in its Facebook on January 17 that it would be “the first time for the North Korean drivers to pay 8 euros (equivalent to 10,450 won in the South Korean currency) to take the Pyongyang-Wonsan Tourist Motorway.”

This recently resurfaced motorway first opened in September 1978, connecting Wonsan (Kangwon province) on the east and Pyongyang City on the west.

The recent photos provided by the embassy reveal an electronic payment station collecting the toll at the entrance of the expressway. They also reveal a map showing the Pyongchon Kwangmyong Technology Exchange Station, where drivers can purchase (or recharge) electronic payment cards and Mirae electronic cards issued by Mirae Bank.

In the meantime, more than one foreign diplomat in Pyongyang said that the North Korean authorities had sent a letter to the foreign missions and the representatives of international organizations in Pyongyang on January 15 to inform them of the new policy, Radio Free Asia reported.

Another Western diplomat in Pyongyang, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the letter included the highway toll policy and detailed regulations, which explained that it would cost about 8 euros (0.02 euro per kilometer) or about USD10 for a total of 194 kilometers round trip between Pyongyang and Wonsan (or 3.88 euro for one way), if one is traveling by ordinary passenger car. However, large-sized buses will be charged a toll of about 27 euros for a roundtrip—Pyongyang to Wonsan and back—or 13.58 euros for a one-way trip.

The new tolls are expected to be applied to not only foreign residents in Pyongyang, such as diplomats and the agents of international organizations, but also the general public.

UPDATE: Here are most of the images posted by the Russian Embassy Facebook Page:

The toll fees are being managed by “Mirae Bank”. Mirae Bank Cards are available on Mirae Street.


This is the first toll booth outside of Pyongyang:



North Korea announces “Naenara” brand vehicles

Monday, January 15th, 2018

UPDATE 1 (2018-1-15): Martin Weiser notified me that the Korean version of the article includes the company information (Note to readers: When doing research using the North Korean media, look for the original Korean article!).

The company that produces the Naenara vehicles is the Chongpung JVC (AKA 청풍합영회사/Chongphung)–and it looks like they have been around for a while. You can download a video of the 13th Pyongyang Spring Trade Fair (held in 2012) here, and in the video you can see Chongphung JVC participating.

You can download a video on Chongpung as well that shows a variety of vehicles and foodstuffs they produce. Martin Weiser also posted a picture of their vehicles on Twitter:

ORIGINAL POST: The North Korean news portal “Naenara” announced “Naenara” brand vehicles over the weekend.

The news portal does not reveal much information on the vehicles:

Naenara-brand Rolling Stock

Types: Cars, small- and medium-size buses and small trucks

Technical specifications:

− Fuel consumption: 42 – 50g/km (for cars and buses), 58g/km (for trucks)

− Maximum speed: 120 – 180km/h

− Maximum output: 55 – 80kW

The Naenara-brand rolling stock consumes low fuel, and has air-conditioner, servosteering function and motor-windows.

They are equipped with such control systems as motor-driven exterior rear view mirroring, start-stop, and backward alarm systems.

I did a quick check to see if these vehicles may simply be re-branded Pyeonghwa Motors vehicles,  but I could not find any matches.

I have not seen any new vehicle factories appear in the North Korean media, so I assume an existing vehicle factory has launched a new product line. It is possible that a military vehicle factory has launched a new product for the civilian economy.

Very little data as of now, however, so we will have to wait and see. If any tourists or visitors spot these cars, please take a picture of them (the marketing pics are all computer generated).

Fuel availability, especially for the civilian economy, has been a topic of interest by outside observers in the last year as UNSC resolutions have sought to restrict imports from abroad.


China building new DPRK border crossing in Jian

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

While the Dandong-Sinuiju “Bridge to Nowhere” gets plenty of coverage as a symbol of a growing rift between China and the DPRK, the two countries are working to improve two other vehicle crossings along their shared border. You can see map of these two border crossings below.


The new Rason Bridge (Quanhe-Wonjong Bridge) has finally been completed in the north-eastern most corner of the DPRK.


In the Google Earth image above (dated 2016-3-19) we can see the new four-lane bridge taking shape next to the older two-lane bridge it is replacing. According to more recent satellite imagery available at, the bridge is actually completed. This new bridge was announced in June 2014.

But the border crossing that has been off most people’s radar is the new Manpho-Jian border crossing under construction right now.


Pictured above (Google Earth): Construction of the new border crossing in Jian, China. Image date 2016-9-29. The orientation has been reversed so that north is actually at the bottom of the picture.

You can read some background information of this new border crossing in an article I wrote for 38 North in May of 2015. I also just published some follow-up information in Radio Free Asia yesterday.

This border crossing is interesting because it is the reverse scenario of what is taking place in Dandong. Here the North Koreans built a new Yalu River Bridge and Customs House (completed in 2012), but the Chinese have only begun construction of reciprocal border infrastructure this year.

The Chinese also built a “Free Trade Zone” at the site of the new border crossing (similar to the Goumenwan Trade Zone in Dandong) in 2012-2013, though it has not yet opened for business. Additionally buses of Chinese tourists are crossing the border to visit Manpho in the DPRK’s Jagang Province, but it is unclear if any regular commercial traffic has already started using the route. Despite the light use of the new bridge, the new border has not officially opened (scheduled to open in the spring of 2017).

Looking at the new satellite image above we can see that a new “gate-shaped” customs house is under construction at the terminus of the new Yalu/Amnok River bridge. On either side of the customs office new buildings are under construction. Just north of the bridge we can see the completed “free trade zone” (in the center of the picture) and what appears to be a shipping warehouse nearing completion (on the right side of the picture).

UPDATE: In YTN coverage of my report in RFA, they offered recent pictures of the new Chinese border buildings in Jian:




Fall 2015 price reports

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

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

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

An additional source in the same province corroborated this news.

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

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

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

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

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


Dandong bridge accident

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Dandong-bridge-accident-1 Dandong-bridge-accident-2

Photos from Daily NK

UPDATE 3 (2015-10-26): NK News reports that the bridge was also closed to road traffic in the last week of October for additional repairs.

UPDATE 2 (2015-10-6): Sino-NK Friendship Bridge to open with new regulations. According to the Daily NK:

The Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge has reopened after receiving maintenance for wear and tear that caused a truck accident and an ensuing shutdown of the bridge late last month, Daily NK has learned.

“The transport of cargo was halted because of the truck accident, which was the first to occur in seven decades since the bridge was built, but they’ve resumed transport starting today,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday. “They completed three days of work on the bridge, and all cargo trucks are traveling through, but they’ve limited the weight of the truck and cargo to 15 tons to prevent recurrences.”

This news was corroborated via a second source in the same province.

Following a request from the customs office in China’s Dandong, the two sides agreed to abolish the system of allowing cargo to pass according to respective decisions that had created room for passage of overloaded trucks. Instead, authorities will cap the weight of the vehicle and cargo combined at a total of 15 tons.

There are no exceptions at this time, he said; if a vehicle fails to comply with the limit regulations, no access will be permitted.

“Until now, 20 to 30 tons had commonly been the minimum loaded, and often cargo would be much heavier,” the source explained. “Especially more recently, the loads sometimes reached up to 40 to 50 tons due to overloading because of mineral exports that were done in 30-ton containers.”

The bridge is acutely susceptible to damage, he added, noting that North Korea has been overloading trucks with coal, and minerals such as gold, copper, silver, magnetite, molybdenum, and other minerals to earn in foreign currency and secure ‘loyalty funds’ for the leadership since the 1990s.

Mineral exports have reportedly seen a dramatic surge this year, explained by state efforts to reap in capital for Party Foundation Day preparations. However, no attending measures were implemented to control the pervasive practice of overburdening vehicles.

“We (the North) will face a sense of urgency to push out as many minerals as we can to get our hands on more money and import goods, but now with the restrictions on cargo volume now, traders will be swamped,” the source predicted, adding that the number of trucks on the road is also likely to jump significantly.

A flagrant disregard for concern over safety measures is entirely to blame for the accident, he lamented, noting that traders focus all their energies and concerns on raking in ‘loyalty funds’ above all else. While the need for weight regulations was irrefutable, the source surmised that the sudden modification will soon prove to be a double-edged sword.

Going forward, accidents will, presumably, decrease, but disgruntlement from traders faced with bringing in massive loads of supplies into the country leading up to the October 10 celebration is certain to peak, he concluded.

UPDATE 1 (2015-10-1): According to the Daily NK:

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, connecting China’s Dandong and North Korea’s Sinuiju, has been shut down after damage sustained over a protracted period of time caused a truck to flip over. However, with only a number of days left until the Korean Workers’ Party foundation celebration, traffic was temporarily resumed on September 30th, Daily NK has learned.

“Today (September 30th) they resumed traffic just for one day so that North Korean traders can bring in supplies for the event after a truck crashed because of the damage on Monday,” a source from North Pyongan Province told Daily NK.

An additional source in the same province corroborated this news.

Officials have banned entry from October 1 to 4 so that they can restore the bridge, but facing urgent preparation for the Party’s 70th Foundation Day festivities, they put down steel plates as a temporary fix to get truck loads of supplies through, the source explained.

“The accident has thrown customs offices on either side of the border into mad panic,” she added. “Cadres from both customs services surveyed the site of the accident and put things into motion, so construction work is now underway.”

Starting at 8 p.m. on the day of the accident, train services were up and running, but the battered roads with deep crevices were covered with makeshift steel plates by North Korean workers, allowing vehicles that had entered Sinuiju to return to Dandong. Reconstruction work is currently being carried out by Chinese workers, according to the source.

The source speculated that the project would be finalized by October 5, opening up the bridge for a massive trade of goods, leading up to the Party celebration, which falls on the 10th.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-9-29): According to UPI:

A 72-year-old railroad bridge connecting North Korea and China was closed after a crash involving multiple trucks occurred on the North Korea side of the span on Monday.

The Yalu River Bridge, also known as the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, was blocked after three or four Chinese trucks rolled at a portion of the bridge that had sunk between 13 and 22 feet, South Korean news network YTN reported.

The bridge has a lane for road vehicles and another for a pair of railway tracks. Trains traveling from China into North Korea were temporarily suspended, but service was resumed after the tracks were repaired, an unidentified source told YTN on Monday.

Another source told South Korean outlet CBS No Cut News the heavy trucks headed for Sinuiju overturned, fell and collided into the adjacent railway tracks, and the accident occurred between 10 and 11 a.m. Vehicular traffic was closed for the rest of the day, and more than 100 trucks from China waiting to enter North Korea were halted, the source said.

The number of casualties was not disclosed.

The bridge, completed in 1943, accounts for 70 percent of commercial traffic between China and North Korea, and the railroad runs from Sinuiju to Beijing.

China remains North Korea’s No. 1 trading partner, and North Korea imports more than it exports to Asia’s largest economy. Pyongyang’s trade dependence on China runs as high as 90.1 percent, according to South Korean government statistics [which exclude South Korean trade with the DPRK].

Read the full story here:
Truck accident on sinking North Korea bridge suspends traffic


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


An affiliate of 38 North