Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

DPRK announces 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.”

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


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:



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


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:


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.


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:


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)


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.



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.


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:


[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.]


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.



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.


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.


Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK

Monday, February 17th, 2014

This site does not focus on human rights issues, but I want to point out that the commission of inquiry report is out.

You can download it here.

Additional information:

1. Though not directly cited, my work at identifying the expansion of camp 14 and camp 25 and changes to camp 16 was used by other contributing groups and individuals (mostly HRNK)–some organizations are better at citations than others.

2. I wrote a short piece for NK News on how the former prison camps are being converted into ordinary collective farms and mines. You can read it here.

3. Following publication of the report Botswana cut diplomatic ties with the DPRK.  Previous posts on this web page related to Botswana can be found here. I am unaware of any significant relationship between the two countries, though the North Koreans did build Gaborone’s Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument. More in Xinhua here.

4. China has said it will block a referral to the ICC.



My work at NK News Pro

Friday, January 17th, 2014


New products and price points! Sign up here

I joined the NK News service as a reader and as a regular contributor. From May 1, 2013 most of my original work will appear there.

North Korean Economy Watch will continue to be updated with generally available public information so it will continue to serve as a useful resource to journalists, academics, policy makers, and the NGO community.

All of my contributions can be found here, but below are links to individual posts

20. East Pyongyang’s new shopping mall.

19. Satellite imagery reveals major urban development in Rason.

18. Identifying the Ibiza of North Korea: Where Kim Jong-un met Rodman.

17. Three new railway updates.

16. Kim Jong-un holds guidance meeting at Kangdong compound.

15. North Korea’s Supreme Court: Where Americans go for sentencing.

14. DPRK expands tourist access to Kalma Penninsula (related story here)

13. First live picture of Kim Jong-un tweeted at new KPA cemetery in Pyongyang

12. Rason Trade Fair 2013

11. New Central Bank Headquarters in Pyongyang.

10. Wonsan International Airport. Follow-up here.

9. Contributed to James Pearson’s piece on Kim Jong Un’s yacht

8. North Korea’s ‘Torure’ rail transport system 

7. Kim Jong-un’s east coast guidance trips

6. New Yalu/Amnok River bridge

5. DPRK’s ski destinations

4. New residential construction in Chongjin. Follow story up here

3. DPRK’s Turf Institute

2. DPRK propaganda changes

1. DPRK’s drone testing site