Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

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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New Yalu/Amnok River bridge in south-west Dandong (UPDATED)

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

New-Dandong-bridge-2014-4-2

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): The new Yalu/Amnok River bridge under construction

UPDATE 10 (2014-7-2): The bridge opening is likely to be delayed (again). According to the Daily NK:

The planned opening of a large new bridge across the Yalu River connecting Dandong in Liaoning Province with Sinuiju is likely to be delayed, Daily NK has learned. The cause of the delay is thought to be North Korea’s failure to make good on its contractual obligations.

“The Chosun side took on the job of constructing the roads, but they are making painfully slow work of it. Because the roads are still not finished, people are wondering whether their initial aim of increasing trade volumes is on its way down the drain,” a source close to the project told Daily NK on the 1st.

“China provided a lot of materials and machinery to the North, but there is a story that this machinery was sent for use on other projects rather than for the bridge construction. The Chinese traders who did harbor high hopes for [economic] opening brought on by the bridge are showing their disappointment more and more,” the source explained.

The partially complete New Amrok [Yalu] River Bridge is designed to connect Langtou new city with south Sinuiju at a total cost of 2.22 billion RMB (approximately 357 million USD). It lies 8 km downstream from the ageing “Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge” (formerly the Amrok [Yalu] River Bridge).

The old bridge is currently the only one that connects the two cities, but, built in 1943, it is wholly unfit for purpose. Trucks that weigh more than 20 tons are not allowed on it due to safety concerns, and it also has just one lane, which restricts trade volumes. Traders had hoped that the new bridge would speed up commerce between the two cities, which account for 70% of bilateral trade despite these structural limitations.

The construction of the new bridge was officially proposed by China’s former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wu Dawei, when he visited North Korea in 2007. However, it was not until October 2009 that former Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pyongyang and sealed the deal, under which China agreed to foot the bill for construction. The two countries then finalized plans for the project in February 2010, and the groundbreaking ceremony was held in December that year.

The Chinese side has demonstrated its intent to see the completion of the four-lane bridge, with its accompanying management, security and inspection infrastructure.

“In accordance with the plan, China has already got a customs office in place to administer the flow of goods over the bridge,” the source revealed. “But the North has slowed right down, and the talk of trade expansion from before has gone away.”

This declining enthusiasm is tangible in the property market in Langtou, the region of Dandong that ought to benefit the most from bilateral economic activity across the new bridge. “Apartment prices remain where they were three years ago, at roughly 4000 Yuan per pyeong,” explained the source. Pyeong is a Korean unit of measuring area, and amounts to 3.305785m².

“The number of people wanting to learn Korean in Dandong is still the same,” he admitted, “but that’s only because they want to watch Korean dramas. They have already given up on the idea of booming trade with North Korea since they saw those who had been successful going to the wall after the execution of Jang Song Taek.”

In addition to problems with the bridge, Daily NK established in May that almost no progress has been made on the development of two Special Economic Zones in the Sinuiju area (see linked article).

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) [UPDATE-The bridge was ultimately moved from this location]

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.

ORIGINAL POST (2010-12-28): According to Daily NK:

It was reported that there will be a ceremony to celebrate the start of construction of the New Yalu River Bridge linking Shinuiju and Dandong, China, before the end of the year.

Yonhap News yesterday quoted Shenyang and Dandong sources saying that both the North Korean and Chinese authorities decided to hold the ceremony this year and have started preparing for the event.

The source in Dandong said, “Instructions that the start of the bridge construction must not slip to next year were handed down from the Chinese government last week, so the governments of Dandong City and Liaoning Province urgently are trying to set a date. It will likely happen the 30th or 31st.”

The source also explained the reason why the Chinese government is hurrying to start the construction, which was supposed to start early next year. “Both China and North Korea intend to show observers domestically and internationally they have the will to construct the bridge.”

In Langtou, Dandong, where one end of the bridge will be built, a construction board has been set up and says the New Yalu River Bridge will connect to Jangseo in the southern part of Shinuiju.

China and North Korea agreed to construct the bridge in October 2009, and in February, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea, Pak Gil Yon, and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hailong signed the agreement in Dandong, China.

Dandong City had announced plans to start construction of the bridge in October, but it has been delayed for uncertain reasons. It was rumored there was conflict over the construction of the bridge because North Korea had requested additional aid from the Chinese government.

Researcher Jeon Byung Gon of the Korea Institute for National Unification said in a telephone interview with The Daily NK that, “The ceremonial ground-breaking will be a chance to promote the friendship between China and North Korea again.”

Researcher Jeon explained that, “So far, there have been several impediments to trade such as quotas, outdated facilities for transportation, both countries’ border management, etc. However, when the New Yalu River Bridge is constructed, such limitations can be resolved and trade between China and North Korea can be revitalized.”

He predicted, “Since they are trying to carry out the construction in a hurry, economic cooperation and friendship relations between two countries will be taken to the next level.”

Also, from the Choso Ilbo:

A source in Dandong said Wednesday that North Korea and China will start construction of the bridge as early as Friday. The two sides agreed to build the bridge during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to North Korea in October last year, with work expected to start this October.

China insists on having the bridge connect the newly renovated area of southern Dandong and southern Sinuiju, but North Korea wanted it to cross over Wihwa Island in Apnok River and connect Dandong with the old part of Sinuiju. The North claimed the route preferred by China would necessitate building a long embankment but in fact seems to have been nervous that a direct link to Pyongyang would cause security concerns like making it easier for North Koreans to flee.

But the North seems to have caved in. A source said construction will begin in March but a groundbreaking ceremony will be held before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, transport of goods and products has picked up via the Hunchun- Rajin-Sonbong route as part of an economic cooperation project. Around 500 truckloads of coal from China’s Jilin Province were shipped out of Rajin-Sonbong Port on Dec. 7 and are being transported to Shanghai across the East and South seas.

Read the full stories here:
New Yalu Bridge Groundbreaking This Year
Daily NK
Mok Yong Jae
12/28/2010

N.Korea’s Cross-Border Business with China Picking Up
Choson Ilbo
12/30/2010

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New Pyongyang – Phyongsong Road

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Naenara offers news of a rare DPRK international public tender:

Invitation for International Public Tender

The Ministry of Land and Environment Protection of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea plans to build a new road between Pyongyang and Phyongsong in order to facilitate public transportation in the western region of the country, including Pyongyang.

To this end, the ministry is going to purchase equipment and materials necessary for the project through international public tender. It also intends to employ international consultation services for technical assistance.

The international consultancy services will include road design, building operations and technical supervision (land fill, sand and gravel bedding, cement stability, paving, bridge construction, construction of small structures and protective guard and installation of road signs) and use of equipment and machines for road construction.

The equipment and materials to be purchased are as follows:

Hydraulic excavator, cement truck, self-propelled road liner, measuring equipment, bus, bulldozer, fuel truck, concrete cutter, geological testing equipment, cement, grader, trailer, voltage regulator, examination equipment, round steel, loader, sprinkler, water pumping equipment, drilling equipment, angle iron, Macadam roller, crane truck, dredger, printer, steel pipe, Dandem roller, stone crushing plant, horizontal vehicle for bridge construction, plotter, iron sheet, composite roller, mobile compressor, guniting machine, laptops, timber, tired roller, hammer drill, welder, laser surveyor’s rod (LEICA TCA 2003), asphalt, concrete paver (with the framed rails), rock-driller, electric generator, digital theodolite (SOKKIA DT 610S), fuel, concrete mixing station, asphaltic emulsion truck, pressure pump, automatic leveling instrument (SOKKIA C32II), aluminum sheet, asphalt mixing station, automatic truck, vibratory pile hammer, fork-lifter, luminous paper, mixture truck, asphalt paver, pressure pump, light reflection sign, and car.

Letters of tender invitation will be issued early in July 2013.

For more details, please contact:
International Implementing Office for Road Construction Project
Add: Pothonggang-dong No.1, Pothonggang District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
Fax: 850-2-381-4416/4410

UPDATE 1 (2013-6-22): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies wrote about this tender:

North Korea to Acquire Road Equipment and Materials via International Auction
2013-6-22

North Korea has revealed plans to acquire equipment and materials for new road construction through an international auction.

In the May 29 economic news section of ‘Naenara,’ a website run by North Korea, it was reported that a new road is being built between Pyongyang and Pyungsung, South Pyongan Province. It announced that “with regards to the construction, the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection will purchase the necessary equipment and material through an internationally competitive auction.”

Naenara speculates that the ministry will purchase hydraulic excavators, buses, cement, and transformers, among fifty other items, with the auction invitation to be issued this July.  Naenara also announced that the construction and technological management of the roads will receive voluntary international consulting.

It is uncommon for North Korean media to publicize plans for receiving goods via an international auction. Whereas North Korea has usually made direct contact with foreign companies based in China, it has recently diversified its reception of foreign capital.

As the international society’s trust in North Korea is low, North Korea is pursuing changes in its methods of acquiring capital through avenues like international auctions. This can be interpreted as an intentional effort to show that North Korean liberalization and development policies are following international norms. Furthermore, in addition to adopting the law on economic development zones, North Korea is starting to focus more on developing a ‘special zone’, with construction of the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ scheduled to start soon.

At first, the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ was intended to develop by sections, receiving capital from not only Chinese companies but also Korean companies. However, due to faltering relations between the North and South, China has emerged as the sole partner of North Korea to co-develop the special zone.

Also, following the 12.1 Policy from last year, an umbrella organization will be set up to comprehensively manage the economic development zones pursued by the thirteen cities and provinces, and the two hundred twenty districts. While the North Korean Joint Venture Committee (Chaired by Lee Kwang-keun) was in charge of securing foreign investments for the development of the special zones, the new organization will manage not only all the specialized zones but also all the development zones.

Furthermore, there are plans to link Sinuiju, Pyongyang, and Kaesong via highway and high speed rail, an investment which is expected to cost 14.1 trillion KRW. The highway is expected to cost 4.7 trillion won and the high speed rail carries an anticipated price tag of 9.4 trillion won. In order to secure funding, North Korea plans to sell underground resources and secure sources of private investment. In terms of financing procurement methods, North Korea is considering BOT (build-own-transfer), BTL (build-transfer-lease), resources development rights as collateral, etc.

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China-North Korea railway links to undergo upgrade

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Tumen-namyang-rail-2011-9-23

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The Namyang (DPRK) – Tumen (PRC) rail and bridge crossings. I suspect that this is the specific area that will see renovation

According to the Global Times:

The government of northeast China’s Jilin Province announced Tuesday plans to upgrade railways links to neighboring North Korea, aiming to boost cross-border economic and trade ties.

The China Tumen-North Korea Rajin Railway and China Tumen-North Korea Chongjin Railway will be upgraded under the Jilin government plan. A special highway passenger line linking Tumen to North Korea is also set to be opened in coming years.

The plan aims to improve the industrial cooperation between China and North Korea’s Rason and push the development of the Tumen Korean Industrial Park to a higher level.

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Research Center of Yanbian University, told the Global Times that the industrial cooperation between China and North Korea has been going on for many years and does not breach international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Such cooperation could improve employment in border areas of both countries and contribute to development and stability in the area amid heightening tensions, said Jin.

Read the full story here:
China-North Korea railway links to undergo upgrade
Global Times
2013-3-27

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Nuke test does not deter China’s economic interests in the DPRK

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

According to Reuters:

While Beijing has not made clear whether the test would disrupt its investment plans for the Rason economic zone, an official at the zone’s joint management office told Reuters that all previously announced Chinese projects for the zone remain on track, including a power line from China to ease acute electricity shortages there.

“All the people of the management office are still here working as usual… If there is any major impact (from the nuclear test), do you think we would still be here?” he said by phone from Rason, which lies near where North Korea, China and Russia converge. “All works are proceeding as planned.”

There are about 60 Chinese and North Korean people working at the management office, and the number may grow with the launch of more projects, said the official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

China and North Korea jointly set up the Rason management committee in October to handle the planning, construction and development of the zone, also known as Ranjin-Songbong, one of the country’s highest profile economic projects.

“China has normal relations with North Korea. We will conduct normal trade and economic exchanges with North Korea,” Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said when asked whether China would continue to work with North Korea to develop its special economic zones after the nuclear test.

Led by China’s commerce ministry, Chinese firms, including State Grid Corp, Jilin Yatai (Group) and China Railway Construction Group and other state enterprises, have indicated interest in investing in power, building materials, transport and agriculture projects in the zone.

Yatai, a Shanghai-listed cement and coal producer, signed a framework agreement last year with the North Korean government to construct a 500,000-square-metre building materials industrial park, including a cement plant, in Rason.

State Grid finished the final review of the feasibility study of the 97.8-kilometre power line early this year, but has not started construction as it has not yet won all approvals, the official and a source close to the plan said.

The planned line would cut through a Siberian tiger natural reserve, and State Grid is awaiting a green light from China’s National Development and Reform Commission and coordinating with various other authorities, the source told Reuters.

There is no timetable for the project as State Grid is unsure when it would receive government approvals, he added. State Grid was not immediately available for comment.

Jilin Yatai may delay its cement project in Rason — which is critical to the construction of other projects such as the railway there — due to “issues on the North Korean side,” said an official at Yatai’s securities office.

But the likely delay of the project was not related to the nuclear test, the official said by phone from Changchun, capital city of Northeast China’s Jilin province, which borders North Korea. He declined further comment.

In a filing with the Shanghai bourse in August, Yatai said it planned to complete the construction of its first cement plant in North Korea by September this year only if there is sufficient power capacity available.

Read the full story here:
China moves ahead with North Korea trade zone despite nuclear test
Reuters
2013-2-28

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Unification Church to sell Pyeonghwa (Pyonghwa) Motors?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Pyeonghwa Motors Factory in Nampho. Recent additions highlighted in Yellow.

UPDATE 1 (2013-1-22): In a later interview, the head of Pyeonghwa Motors revealed more information on his compan’y relinquishment of Pyeonghwa Motors, and described their future ambitions.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-12-3): According to Yonhap (via Korea Times):

The source said, “As far as I know, Pyeonghwa Motors is seeking to sell its factory in Nampo for about US$20 million in order to end its auto business.”

“The (South Korean) president of the auto firm appears to be eyeing the distribution sector” in North Korea, an official at the foundation said, adding the president may move to a new industry after liquidating the auto business. “But nothing has been determined so far,” the official said.

Pyeonghwa Motors president Park Sang-Kwon is widely expected to hold discussions with the North over the business shift during a North Korean visit scheduled for mid-December, to mark the first anniversary of the death of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died on Dec. 17.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The North Korean government is a 30% partner in the car manufacturer.

A unit from the church’s business arm spent about $55 million to build the Pyeonghwa factory in Nampo, a port city on North Korea’s west coast about an hour or so outside of the capital Pyongyang. After the factory was completed in 2002, workers there completed partially built cars, in a form called knockdown kits, that were imported from manufacturers in Italy and China.

But the company appears to have rarely been profitable. In 2009, the firm earned about $700,000 from the sale of 650 cars. About $500,000 of that was remitted to its parent operation in South Korea. The South Korean government noted then that it was the first time a South Korea-based company repatriated profits from North Korea.

The Pyeonghwa Motors web page does not contain any information on this development.  You can view the web page here (english). The last published press release was on 2011-1-11:

The web page does have production and sales data (if you choose to believe it):

No revenue or profit numbers are given on the web page, but it does mention that the factory’s capacity is 10,000 units per year. If these numbers are correct, in 2011 (the most productive year in terms of output) the factory was only running at approximately 19% capacity.

The Pyeonghwa Motors web page also offers a grand vision of the factory’s future (100,000 unit capacity):

However, as Google Earth satellite imagery shows, this plan has yet to come to fruition.

Previous posts on Pyeonghwa Motors here.

Read the full stories here:
Unification Church to wind up auto venture in NK
Yonhap (via Korea Times)
2012-11-28

End of the Road for North Korean Auto Maker?
Wall Street Journal Korea Real Time
Evan Ramstad
2012-11-27

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Rajin-Wonjong Road Opened to Traffic

Friday, October 26th, 2012

 

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

According to KCNA (2012-10-26):

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 Previous posts on the bridge:

1. Bridge on China-North Korea border being renovated (2010-4-13)

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

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

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Promotion of Foreign Investments into Hwanggumpyong and Other Special Economic Zones

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies

North Korea is exerting efforts in pulling Chinese investments into its special economic zones (SEZs).

On September 7, the 8th Jilin, China-Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo was held in Changchun, China as well as the 6th high-level forum for Northeast Asian economic and trade joint venture to promote the joint investment projects of Rason and Hwanggumpyong special economic zones.

At the event, North Korean officials focused on explaining the advantages and favorable conditions for foreign investors, including the joint management committee to be operated by both countries and laws and regulations installed for investment protection.

In the past, North Korea mainly focused on Rason SEZ but this time around, the spotlight was turned to Hwanggumpyong. Chinese officials went on to explain the details of 14.4 square-kilometer Hwanggumpyong SEZ, where five major industries – textiles, modern agriculture, electronics and communications, culture and industrial and trade services – with industry, culture, and service serving as the three major functions of Hwanggumpyong.

Furthermore, the tariff, tax and other benefits will be provided to various industries. The processing trade industry will be exempt from tariffs, and those companies operating for more than ten years will be granted tax exemptions, while those companies contributing to the infrastructure construction, tourism and hotels will be given priority and other favorable conditions. Last year, North Korea only centered its attention to Rason SEZ, with no mentioning of Hwanggumpyong.

Out of the thirty companies that participated at the North Korean exhibit, were from Rason SEZ. These companies represent the successful cases of Rason, recognized for abundant seafood, processed foods, and textile production.

One company from Rason stated, “repair and expansion project for the road connecting Hunchun with Rason will be completed by the end of this year, which will stabilize power supply that can attract more foreign investment from China.” According to a North Korean businessperson, there are 216 companies currently operating in Rason and over 80 percent are joint venture through foreign capital.

Since January 2010, the city of Rason received the designation as the metropolitan city and has improved the business conditions. Foreign companies inviting their business partners from home to Rason became easier, where visas were processed efficiently, as quickly as a day.

There are plans of more briefing sessions for North Korean SEZs to be held in Beijing, later this month. It is planned to be held from September 26 to 27 with over 30 state managed companies and over 100 representatives participating to explain 50 new investment projects.

The invitation of this event reiterated, the purpose of this briefing session was to attract Chinese investment for North Korean companies, for the contribution of economic development and improvement of people’s lives in North Korea.”

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The Unification Church in the DPRK

Monday, September 10th, 2012

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born between what is now Wonbong-ri and Osong-ri in Jongju City (정주시).

 

Pictured above (R) is a satellite image of the exact building the DPRK and the Unification Church claim was the birthplace of Rev. Moon. I first blogged about this  in 2009. The Google Earth coordinates are  39.683728°, 125.291145°, and you can see a ground level photo of the site here (taken by Unification Church delegation).

The Rev. Moon’s Church, the Unification Church, has made substantial investments in the DPRK.

The Unification Church built the Pothonggang Hotel and Pyongyang Peace Embassy (Google Earth:  39.020134°, 125.717641°) in Phyongchon-guyok, Pyongyang:

See photos of the Pothonggang Hotel and Peace Embassy on the Pyeonghwa Motors web page.

The Unification Church also launched Pyeonghwa Motors in the DPRK.

Pyeonghwa Motors was the first firm allowed to put up billboard advertisements in the DPRK. Here are links to images of most of the billboards: Link 1 (Images also say where they are located), Link 2Link 3Link 4Link 5.

Pyeonghwa Motors has several assets in the DPRK, the status of which remains a bit unknown:

There is of course the Pyeonghwa Motors Assembly Factory in Nampho, which I first identified on Google Earth years ago. It has seen some minor expansion between 2009 and 2011:

 

You can see a Pyeonghwa Motors advert here which features the factory:

Pyeonghwa Motors also built a gas/petrol station in Pyongyang:

The Google Earth coordinates are  38.996068°, 125.712410°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa Motors Petrol Station here.

Pyeonghwa Motors also has a showroom on Kwangbok Street in Mangyongdae-guyok:

The Google Earth coordinates are  39.026709°, 125.682252°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa showroom here.

The Pyeonghwa Motors web page also advertises an accessory shop in Pyongyang:

 

The Google Earth coordinates for this shop are  39.039590°, 125.743704°, and you can see photos of the Pyeonghwa Motors Accessories Shop here.

Although this facility is listed as operational on the Pyeonghwa Motors web page, recent tourist video shows that at some point before April 2012 this building has become a humble flower shop (꽃상점):

The shop’s entrance can be seen at the 2:00 mark.

However, according to this photo taken on June 6, 2012, the Peonghwa Motors logo still appears on the top of the building. So I am unsure of the actual status of this facility.

It is unclear if the accessory shop has moved or if it has permanently closed down.

Previous posts on Pyeonghwa Motors here.

If there are any Unification Church assets that I have not mentioned in this post, please let me know.

Read more on the history of the Unification Church in the DPRK here.

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Fewer Japanese cars reported on DPRK roads

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

Japanese-made vehicles are disappearing from the streets of North Korea, six years after Kim Jong Il decreed that it should happen. Indeed, just two years ago it seemed that a majority of the vehicles on the streets were still those made by Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, but this is no longer the case.

According to a Chongjin source who spoke with Daily NK yesterday, “In accordance with a 2010 National Defense Commission order saying that all Japanese cars had to be off the streets by last December, now you can hardly see any Japanese private cars or vans in the entire country.”

The NDC order reportedly pertained to private cars and vans of 1.5T or less, although the source said that trucks of Japanese origin are also meant to be phased out over the next couple of years as well.

The move is said to relate to a decree issued by Kim Jong Il in 2006 in which he demanded that all Japanese cars had to be gotten rid of. He apparently issued it after watching unhappily as a Japanese car overtook his own on the Pyongyang-Wonsan highway.

Another case is instructive in showing the degree of official dislike. In 2008, Namkang Trading Co. had already been importing second hand Japanese cars through Rasun for some time. However, a provincial Party secretary received a report on the removal of Japanese cars, and as a result more than 300 such cars were gathered in a local stadium and turned into scrap metal using fork cranes as cadres watched on.

But it was not really until four years after Kim’s original decree that implementation hit its stride, because it took some time to secure sufficient replacement vehicles. Pyongyang municipal, Party, state and security organs were the first to lose theirs in 2010, followed in 2011 by factories, enterprises and foreign currency earning units.

According to the source, “At the time, there were more than 100 perfectly good vehicles taken from North Hamkyung Provincial Party Committee alone.” The transportation head in the province apparently commented that “tens of thousands of perfectly sound vehicles have been gotten rid of nationwide.”

However, in October, 2010, Kim Jong Il delivered cars as gifts to key individuals and organizations. There were nationwide events held to celebrate receipt of the vehicles. Cadres at provincial Party departmental head and above received Chinese vehicles, while local Party secretaries and people’s committee chairmen received Russian ones. Factories and enterprises were subsequently ordered to purchase vehicles produced domestically in Nampo by ‘Pyeonghwa Motors’, a joint venture with the Seoul-based Unification Church, but this didn’t always happen.

The relative popularity of Japanese vehicles in North Korea stems in part from their build quality, which allows them to traverse the often sketchy North Korean roads, and in part from the fact that they used to represent a good trading opportunity in the 1980s and 90s. At that time, such vehicles could be imported from Japan and sold on to Chinese businesses at a profit margin of up to 400%. Domestic popularity was one of the inevitable side-effects of this trade.

Previous posts on this topic here (2007-7-11) and here (2007-7-27).

Read the full story here:
Japanese Cars Crashing Out
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-5-31

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