Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

American released from North Korea

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

The AP reports that Jeffrey Fowle has been released from the DPRK.

Read here.

Previous stories on the case here.

Here is additional coverage in Reuters, Daily NKThe Guardian.

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Energy supply in the DPRK’s SEZs

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

The Nautilus Institute has published an interesting paper on energy infrastructure in the DPRK’s initial four special economic zones: Rason, Hwanggumphyong, Kaesong, Kaesong, and Kumgang.

Here is the publication information and  a link:

“Supplying Energy Needs for the DPRK’s Special Economic Zones and Special Administrative Regions: Electricity Infrastructure Requirements”
Nautilus Institute
Roger Cavazos & David von Hippel
2014-8-19

Here is the introduction:

The Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) uses special economic zones as a mechanism for engaging in commercial activity with other nations without substantially converting its economy to a market model; earning hard currency while reducing some of the social and political risks associated with a broader opening of the DPRK economy. The DPRK recently announced its intent to increase the number of Special Designated Zones, including Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and Special Administrative Regions (SAR) in the country by fourteen.[1] In most cases, these Special Designated Zones (we will use “Special Zone”, or “SZ”,as the generic term in this Working Paper to apply to Special Designated Zones) will require energy supply (and demand) infrastructure that is now missing, or insufficient, at all existing and proposed Special Zone sites. Even though past is not prologue—and the mechanisms for supplying energy needs to new SZs may be different than those used in the past, this paper seeks to briefly describe already existing Special Zones in terms of their present energy requirements. Present requirements provide rough estimates of the energy requirements of the newly proposed zones. Specifically we examine: the Rason Special Economic Zone and Special Administrative Region, the Hwanggumphyong Special Economic Zone, the Wihwado Special Economic Zone, the Kumgang Mountain Tourist Area, and finally, the Kaesong Industrial Zone. These specially designated zones ideally contribute to economic development in North Korea as well as provide economic benefits to the Chinese and Russian provinces bordering North Korea. Chinese plans to resuscitate and/or invigorate the economies of their three Northeast provinces bordering North Korea would certainly be moved forward by trade with a richer North Korea and access to strategic North Korean ports just across the border. Although this paper does not cover Russian plans, the motivations for Russian investments in North Korean SZs are likely similar—the desire to boost the economies of the areas of the Russian Far East that adjoin the DPRK, and to improve access to markets in Asia.

There is a limited but growing amount of information available to understand how these Special Zones are defined by North Korean policy, how they are currently faring in terms of economic performance, and what future zones will likely require in terms of energy usage. There is also a growing body of rules and regulations by which North Korea and China plan to govern these zones. Except for the Kaesong industrial complex, it appears that all these zones are significantly short on the energy infrastructure necessary to supply their modest current demands, let alone any future projected demands. North Korea’s decision to declare several such zones in North Korea’s interior may possibly indicate a desire to stitch together North Korea’s electrical transmission and distribution networks which are currently more a patchwork of regional grids rather than a unified national grid. Previous Special Zones have always been on or near North Korea’s periphery. Because previous zones were located on the DPRK’s frontiers, they were largely able to “plug in” to already developed electricity transmission and distribution systems on the other side of the border (in China, Russia or South Korea). While we present no specific calculations here, the cost to renew the DPRK’s entire transmission and distribution (T&D) system will certainly cost billions to tens of billions of dollars which could consume on the order of 10 percent or more of North Korea’s GDP for 5 to 10 years, assuming, as estimated by Republic of Korea (ROK) sources, that North Korea’s GDP is in the neighborhood of 40 billion dollars. The costs of T&D renewal are thus well beyond anything North Korea is likely to be able to afford to do in the short-term on anything but a piecemeal basis.

Despite gaps in our knowledge of how Special Zones in the DPRK have formed and operate or will operate, there is a substantial amount of information available from English, Chinese and Korean-language sources describing the basic plans for investment and the businesses that North Korean, Chinese, and in some cases Russian partners hope to develop in some Special Economic Zones. What is missing from the plans for which information is available, however, are detailedplans for building the energy infrastructure required to support the amount of economic activity (in factories, ports, hotels, workers quarters, and other elements of the SZs) envisioned. The electricity infrastructure required to support the economic plans is modest by most industrial standards. The existing infrastructure in most of the SZs, however, is grossly inadequate, and thus will require significant international investment to allow the SZs to operate as planned.

Investing in SZ infrastructure is likely to be more complex than a typical industrial investment. Sources of investment funds for SZ infrastructure could include businesses from a number of nations, and/or government or multilateral funds. Each potential lender/investor will have its own criteria for deciding on whether a given investment is reasonable or too risky. In theory, involving a number of different actors from different nations in DPRK SZ infrastructure investments would help to diversify the risk borne by any given company or nation, and to create a broader constituency for working with North Koreans using business practices that comply with international law and standards. In part, a broader constituency of coordinated investors could also help to discourage the “rent-seeking” by officials that is often a part of projects in the DPRK (and in many other countries). Because the amount of infrastructure-building required is high, there is significant potential for illegal rent-seeking, that is, for example, for DPRK authorities to inflate the price of “surveys” or permits, or the cost of securing import rights for equipment needed for the SZs, in order to gain personally from the transaction.

Working conditions in SZs will be another area of concern for investors and for foreign firms seeking to operate facilities in new or existing SZs. Anecdotal reports suggest that industrial facilities in general in the DPRK tend to operate with limited evident concern for worker safety. In the absence of pressure from investing companies, it is also likely that working conditions will remain poor and dangerous, as there does not appear to be a significant set of DPRK regulations related to industrial safety. Nor, for that matter, does there appear to be a well-established and well-funded government body dedicated to establishing, monitoring and enforcing industrial safety regulations.

This paper describes several of the Special Zones now operating in or in the advanced planning process in the DPRK, together with what is known about plans for their development. For each, it provides a description of the likely energy requirements, based on what can be determined regarding planned activities at each site, and examines adjoining energy infrastructure to identify probable degrees of energy shortfalls that foreign investors, working with DPRK counterparts, will need to overcome. Some of issues and policies that policymakers inside and outside of the DPRK will need to consider in order to arrange for the financing and construction of the requisite infrastructure to operate the SZs.

You can download the PDF here.

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DPRK announces six more economic development zones

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

According to KCNA:

Economic Development Zones to Be Set up in Provinces of DPRK

Pyongyang, July 23, 2014 17:50 KST (KCNA) — It was decided in the DPRK to establish economic development zones in some areas of Pyongyang, South Hwanghae Province, Nampho City, South and North Phyongan provinces.

Unjong cutting-edge technological development zone will be set up in some areas of Wisong-dong, Kwahak 1-dong and Kwahak 2-dong, Paesan-dong and Ulmil-dong in Unjong District, Pyongyang.

Kangryong international green model zone will be set up in some areas of Kangryong township in Kangryong County, South Hwanghae Province.

Jindo export processing zone will appear in some areas of Jindo-dong and Hwado-ri, Waudo District, Nampho City.

Chongnam industrial development zone will be set up in some areas of Ryongbuk-ri, Chongnam District, South Phyongan Province. Sukchon agricultural development zone will appear in some areas of Unjong-ri, Sukchon County and Chongsu tourist development zone in some areas of Chongsong Workers’ District and Pangsan-ri, Sakju County, North Phyongan Province.

The sovereignty of the DPRK would be exercised in the economic development zones in provinces.

The relevant decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly was promulgated on Wednesday.

By my count, this brings the total number of special economic zones and economic development zones to 25. Little visible progress has been made on the zones announced in 2013, though things seem to be happening in Pyongyang. Also, South Phyongan Province now has Economic Development Zones. It had been omitted from previous lists.

Yonhap also reports:

Jin Qiangyi, a professor of Korean studies at Yanbian University, told the state-run China Daily that the move by North Korea is apparently aimed at breathing new life into its moribund economy.

“Many Chinese companies still feel daunted by doing business in the country because there is no clear policy to guarantee investors’ interests,” the newspaper quoted Jin as saying.

However, another Chinese expert, Li Tianguo, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was less pessimistic.

Li told the newspaper that the new zones will “have great attraction to Chinese enterprise and bring good opportunities, in particular for businesses with border trade and processing production.”

China’s direct investment into North Korea jumped to US$109.46 million in 2012 from $5.86 million in 2009, the newspaper reported, citing what it called a “2012 Statistical Bulletin of China’s Outward Foreign Direct Investment.”

Here is analysis by the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

North Korea Declares Six Additional Economic Development Zones

On July 23, 2014, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the designation of six additional economic development zones (EDZs) throughout various provinces in North Korea. The announcement, which states, “It was decided in the DPRK to establish economic development zones in some areas of Pyongyang, South Hwanghae Province, Nampo City, South and North Pyongan Provinces,” and that this decree was promulgated by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA).

It was announced that North Korea will push forward with the Unjong Cutting-Edge Technological Development Zone in the areas of Wisong, Kwahak 1 and 2, Paesan and Ulmil, located in the Unjong District of Pyongyang. Furthermore, it appears that the Kangryong International Green Model Zone will be established in Kangryong County in South Hwanghae Province. According to the investment propositions revealed in November 2013, the “International Green Model Zone” will focus on the development of organic farming and greenhouse technology, wind and water power technology, and the development of services such as golf courses and hotels.

The Chongnam Industrial Development Zone will be set up in Chongnam District in South Pyongan Province, Sukchon Agricultural Development Zone will be established in various areas in Unjong in Sukchon County, and the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone will cover the areas of the Chongsong Workers’ District and Pangsan, Sakju County in North Pyongan Province. It has also been reported that North Korea will push forward with the Jindo Export Processing Zone in Jindo and Hwado, located in the Waudo District of Nampo City. Following the announcement of thirteen new economic development zones in November last year, including the Amrok (Yalu) River EDZ, Sinpyeong Tourism Development Zone, the Manpo EDZ and Wiwon Industrial Development Zone, the newly announced six additional zones brings the total number of economic development zones in North Korea to nineteen.

It was also reported by the KCNA on the same day that the Sinuiju Special Economic Zone in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, will be renamed to the Sinuiju International Economic Zone. Through this renaming, it can be assumed that North Korea is intending to reinitiate development in the stagnating zone, which has been in the development process since first being designated as a special economic zone in 2002.

On the other hand, the Wonsan Kalma Peninsula in North Korea’s Kangwondo Province, renowned for its beautiful scenery, has been garnering attention due to a recent push for the construction of large-scale accommodation, recreation and industrial facilities. Over 1,400 ha plot of land along the Kalma Peninsula is expected to be divided up into several areas, including hotels and accommodations, conference and exhibit fairgrounds, an athletics stadium, economic development area, and a commerce service area.

In order to respond to the increase in tourists visiting the Wonsan area, North Korea is preparing to increase the area’s hotel and lodging capacity by ten times, maxing out at a total capacity of eleven thousand people. Furthermore, plans have been drawn up calling for the construction of a passenger wharf which can transport up to twenty-five thousand people per day to the waterfront. The beach area will also be developed, allowing for up to ten thousand beachgoers at one time.

In the Dunam Mountain area of Kalma Peninsula, theaters, golf courses, an underwater hotel, and tourist accommodations will be built together with industrial complexes for science, industry and agricultural research and development. It is also predicted that North Korea will also develop several of the small islands off the coast of the Kalma Peninsula into tourist attractions.

I have all of the economic Development Zones mapped out on Google Earth.

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Friday fun: Pyongyang needles and “Phantom of the Opera”

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

A valued reader sent in this photo from a restaurant in the DPRK:

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And the DPRK’s premier music ensemble, “The Moranbong Band” performed “Phantom of the Opera” in Pyongyang:

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Weekend fun: Pyongyang tilt shift

Friday, May 16th, 2014

It has been a long time since I did a “fun” post. Since there are so many North Korea bloggers and writers these days, it is hard to find as much unique material to highlight, or by the time you get around to it, 15 other North Korea bloggers and news organizations have already posted it… This post has been in my draft folder for ages, however, so I should probably just get it out there…

Miniature Pyongyang

Several photographers have been able to use a tilt-shift photograpy to create “miniature” pictures of the DPRK. I find them fascinating. Here are some of the pictures I have found online:

PY-tilt-shift-2014

Full size photos and others like it can be found here.

Here is a tilt-shift photo of the DMZ.

Here and here are two more great examples captured from the Juche Tower.

Here is a photo of the Juche Tower.

Here is one of the Kim Il-sung statue in Chongjin.

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Medical Science Conference & Women’s Health Initiative

Monday, May 12th, 2014

The Pyongyang Project is hosting an interesting conference in the DPRK. According to the organizers:

Overview

This mission seeks to develop educational contacts between foreign institutions and select DPRK universities, medical schools and hospitals. A visiting delegation of experts and academicians will provide interactive lectures for women’s health providers located at various sites in the DPRK. Delegate applications will also be considered from medical students and graduate students in the health professions. Themes for women’s health covered during this conference include:

• Reducing maternal mortality and neonatal death
• Improving GYN cancer screening and treatment (including breast cancer)
• Sharing new advances in treatment of miscarriage (and infertility)
• Updating community practice for routine wellness/health maintenance

Other themes, such as infectious disease, will also be covered if there is interest among delegates. While in the DPRK, delegates will interact with DPRK colleagues in a variety of contexts to discuss clinical questions concerning patient care. Evidence‐based research will be reviewed to discuss current best practice, as informed by international standards.

Program objectives are achieved across a range of settings inside the DPRK—either didactic lectures or less formal small group presentations. In addition, delegates will have opportunities to learn about women’s health issues in the DPRK, so the program facilitates a two‐way dialogue among all participants. This will be particularly beneficial to visiting doctors having questions regarding traditional Korean medicines, about which little is published outside the DPRK.

This program strongly encourages sustained academic partnerships between DPRK investigators and foreign colleagues on areas of shared research interest, and anticipates collaborative publications to follow in peerreview medical or scientific journals.

August 1st through August 10th, 2014.

There is a registration fee.

Learn more here (PDF)

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Kim Jong-un’s trip to Onchon AFB

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Rodong Sinmun has reported:

[Kim Jong-un] visited the operational airfield in the western region together with Ri Sol Ju to guide “the Combat Flight Contest among Air Commanding Officers of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the KPA – 2014″.

This air demonstration took place in Onchon, part of Nampho City.

Onsong-AFB-KJU-visit-2014-5

Onsong-2-AFB-2014-5

Pictured above television and satellite images of the same AFB in Onchon.

Sunan Airport in Pyongyang is only about 32 miles (51km) from Onchon AFB, so if flown directly, the route would have just taken a few minutes.

sunan-onchon-2014-5

Some of the aircraft used in the show are not normally stored along the AFB runway. They could have been flown in from other airfields or they are stored underground at a nearby underground AFB:

Onsong-underground-runway

[Note: In an earlier version of this post I named it "Onsong" which was just a stupid mistake and pretty embarrassing. Never blog when you are in a hurry.]

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National Committee on North Korea (NCNK)

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The National Committee on North Korea is looking for a new executive director in Washington.

You can read the job description at the MercyCorps web page.

 

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Foreign Assistance to North Korea

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

A new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report is out on foreign assistance to North Korea. The authors are Mark Manyin and Mary Beth Nikitin.

Here is the summary:

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly remote. As of March 2014, barring an unexpected breakthrough, there appears little likelihood the Obama Administration will provide large-scale assistance of any type to North Korea in the near future. Members of Congress have a number of tools they could use to influence the development and implementation of aid programs with North Korea.

Food Aid. Large swathes of North Korea’s population have suffered from chronic malnutrition since the mid-1990s. Food aid—largely from China, South Korea, and the United States—has been essential in filling the gap between North Korea’s supply and demand, though since 2009 donations from all countries except China have dwindled to a minimal amount. Observers and activists attribute the North Korea’s malnutrition and occasional starvation problems to food shortages—which at times have been massive—and more fundamentally to the unequal distribution of food caused in large measure by the North Korean government’s deliberate decisions and policies. In 2013, an improved harvest appeared to reduce North Korea’s chronic grain shortfall to some of the lowest levels since the 1990s. Yet outside food groups reported continued malnutrition among vulnerable sectors of the population, especially children. In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights conditions found that the North Korean government’s “act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation” amounted to crimes against humanity.

Providing food to North Korea poses a number of dilemmas. Pyongyang has resisted reforms that would allow the equitable distribution of food and help pay for food imports. The North Korean government restricts the ability of donors to operate in the country. Additionally, multiple sources have asserted that some of the food assistance is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. However, it is likely that food aid has helped feed millions of North Koreans, at times possibly staving off a repeat of the famine conditions that existed in North Korea in the mid-late 1990s, when 5%-10% of the population died. South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government has indicated that it would be willing to offer North Korea food aid as part of her plan to foster a “new era” in inter-Korean relations. In 2013, the South Korean government donated around $12 million to United Nations humanitarian organizations that supply humanitarian aid, including some food, in North Korea.

Energy Assistance. Between 1995 and 2009, the United States provided around $600 million in energy assistance to North Korea. The aid was given over two time periods—1995-2003 and 2007-2009—in exchange for North Korea freezing its plutonium-related nuclear facilities. In 2008 and 2009, North Korea also took steps to disable these facilities. However, no additional energy assistance has been provided since 2009, when Pyongyang withdrew from the Six-Party Talks—involving North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia—over North Korea’s nuclear program. The move followed condemnation and sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for North Korea’s April 2009 launch of a suspected long-range missile and May 2009 test of a nuclear device.

Denuclearization Assistance. In 2007 and 2008, the United States gave technical assistance to North Korea’s nuclear disablement process. In 2008, Congress took steps to legally enable the President to give expanded assistance for this purpose. However, following North Korea’s actions in the spring of 2009, Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s requests for supplemental funds to use in case of a return to denuclearization. Since then, Congress has not approved and the administration has not requested any funds for denuclearization since North Korea has not agreed to return to the nuclear disarmament process.

You can read the full report here (PDF).

You can download other CRS reports on North Korea here.

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Panel of Experts report out

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

You can download the report here.

You can learn more about the panel here.

Here is coverage in Reuters.

Here is Scott Snyder on the report.

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