German firm to set up in Kaesong Zone

June 10th, 2014

According to the Wall Street Journal:

A German industrial needle maker will open an office in the joint inter-Korean industrial complex inside North Korea, South Korea said Tuesday.

The move will mark the first non-Korean business entity inside the plant but falls short of Seoul’s goal to bring in manufacturing operations from foreign companies to help ensure North Korea doesn’t unilaterally close the complex again.

The plant was shuttered for five months last year after Pyongyang withdrew its labor force during a sharp escalation in threatening rhetoric. Seoul officials in recent years have mulled over the possibility of attracting foreign companies, which they say would help the factories run without interruption.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said Groz-Beckert, a maker of industrial needles and other tools for textile manufacturers, will open a sales office inside the facility, located a few miles north of the border. The ministry didn’t specify a schedule.

Here is coverage in AFP.

Here is coverage in Voice of America.

Read the full story here:
German Firm to Open Sales Office Inside North Korean Complex
Wall Street Journal
Jeyup S. Kwaak
2014-6-10

Share

DPRK detains third American: Jeffrey Edward Fowle

June 10th, 2014

UPDATE 6 (2014-6-30): KCNA (see also here) reports the following:

Suspicions about Hostile Acts by American against DPRK Confirmed

Pyongyang, June 30 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency made public the following report on Monday:

The relevant organ of the DPRK has made investigation into American tourists Miller Matthew Todd and Jeffrey Edward Fowle who were detained while perpetrating hostile acts after entering the territory of the DPRK.

According to the results of the investigation, suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies.

The relevant organ of the DPRK is carrying on the investigation into them and making preparations for bringing them before court on the basis of the already confirmed charges.

Contact with an official looking after consular affairs, treatment, etc. in the course of investigation are being made in line with the laws of the relevant country.

Here is coverage of the announcement in the Wall Street Journal,

Reuters offers this helpful summary of related events:

HAPHAZARD LEGAL SYSTEM

North Korea’s haphazard and inconsistent legal system makes it difficult to predict the outcome for the detained tourists.

It has detained and then released other Americans in the past year, including Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, whom it expelled last December after a month-long detention based on accusations of war crimes related to his service history.

Australian missionary John Short was arrested in February this year for leaving copies of bible verses at various tourist sites during his stay. Short, 75, and Newman, 86, were released on account of their advanced age and health condition, state media said in the wake of published confessions from the two men.

Another U.S. national, Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who had been arrested in November 2012, was convicted and sentenced by North Korea’s supreme court to 15 years hard labor last year.

Pyongyang has detained a number of U.S. citizens in the past, using them to extract visits by high-profile figures, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton who in 2009 helped secure the release of two U.S. journalists who had secretly entered the country by crossing into the country from China.

The journalists, Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee, were released after being tried by a city court in Pyongyang and given a ten-year hard labor sentence.

But North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Bae’s case.

UPDATE 5 (2014-6-8): Jonathan Cheng writes more information about Mr. Fowle in the Wall Street Journal:

Jeffrey Edward Fowle, the American citizen detained by North Korea, is a municipal road-maintenance man from southwestern Ohio with a globe-trotting past.

Mr. Fowle, who was arrested by North Korea after arriving for a tour on Apr. 29, is a 56-year-old resident of Miamisburg, Ohio, a city of about 20,000 residents on the outskirts of Dayton. He attends church in nearby West Carrollton, Ohio, and repairs streets for Moraine, Ohio, population 6,307.

But Mr. Fowle’s small-town roots belied a keen interest for the wider world. Before venturing into North Korea, Mr. Fowle made regular trips to Russia with his wife and traveled to war-torn Sarajevo in early 1997, less than a year after the four-year siege of the Bosnian city was lifted.

Timothy Tepe, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents Mr. Fowle’s family, said Mr. Fowle wasn’t on a mission for Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio, where he attended church. Mr. Tepe didn’t immediately reply to requests for further comment.

Joseph Shihady, a pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in West Carrollton, where Mr. Fowle attended services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, said Mr. Fowle traveled to North Korea as a tourist.

“He’s a fine fellow, and we’re praying that he’ll get home safely,” Mr. Shihady said. “We know he’s in danger, and we’re concerned for him.”

In Washington, the State Department said that it was aware of reports about a third U.S. citizen who had been detained in North Korea, but declined to offer more details.

Mr. Fowle and his Russian immigrant wife live with their three children and the wife’s mother, according to a September 2010 interview with Mr. Fowle by the Dayton Daily News.

WHIO, a Dayton-based CBS affiliate, on Saturday cited a family friend as saying that Mr. Fowle’s wife had tried to dissuade him from going to North Korea, calling it too dangerous.

During his eight-day trip to the former Yugoslavia in 1997, Mr. Fowle spent four days in downtown Sarajevo with a Muslim family whose apartment walls were scarred by shrapnel following a missile attack, according to an earlier interview Mr. Fowle gave to the Dayton Daily News.

Nearly two decades later, Mr. Fowle finds himself at the center of a diplomatic tangle. Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio), which represents Mr. Fowle’s town, said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” that Mr. Fowle had been held.


Late last month, North Korea sentenced a Christian missionary from South Korea, Kim Jung-wook, to a life of hard labor, following his October arrest on charges of working to overthrow the regime. Seoul had pleaded for his release.

UPDATE 4 (2014-6-6): WDNT in Ohio has some information on Mr. Fowle and a photo of him and his family.

The Christian Science Monitor has more.

UPDATE 3 (2014-6-6): Choe Sang-hun and Rick Gladstone report in the New York Times that  Mr Fowle is a “A municipal worker from Ohio on a tour of North Korea”.

The Korean Central News Agency provided no further details about Mr. Fowle but local media in the Dayton, Ohio, area said that he was a 56-year-old municipal worker in the suburb of Moraine and had a wife and three children. The website of the Dayton Daily News said the Moraine city manager, David Hicks, had described him as a longtime employee. Telephone messages left on Mr. Fowle’s home telephone answering machine and with Mr. Hicks’s office were not returned.

UPDATE 2 (2014-6-6): The Guardian reports (via other sources) that Mr. Fowle was being detained for leaving a Bible in his hotel room.

Jonathan Cheng reports in the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE 1 (2014-6-6): According to KCNA:

American Citizen Detained in DPRK

Pyongyang, June 6 (KCNA) — American citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle entered the DPRK as a tourist on April 29 and acted in violation of the DPRK law, contrary to the purpose of tourism during his stay.

A relevant organ of the DPRK detained him and is investigating him.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-5): According to Reuters:

North Korea detained another U.S. citizen in mid-May, bringing the total to three currently being held in the country, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said on Friday, quoting diplomatic sources.

The man was part of a tour group who was detained just before he was set to leave the country, according to the sources.

In April, the North said it had detained an American, Matthew Todd Miller, who had arranged a private tour of the country through a U.S. company. North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary who was arrested in 2012 and has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of state subversion.

Share

Seoul to raise wages of Kaesong workers

June 9th, 2014

The actual headline should read “Seoul increases payments to DPRK goverment by 5% for each Kaesong worker” since it is no secret that “employees” receive little if any of their wages.

According to Yonhap:

South Korea will hike the salary of North Korean workers at an inter-Korean industrial complex by 5 percent from this month, the unification ministry said Monday.

The wage hike came after the two Koreas made the agreement about three months earlier than their usual annual wage talks for July.

The countries had annually agreed to a 5 percent wage increase in July, which starts to take effect from August, but this year’s earlier-than-usual wage hike came after the workers missed their annual hike last year due to a temporary suspension of the complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

Amid worsening inter-Korean tension, Pyongyang had suspended the operations of the Kaesong Industrial Complex for five months from April.

The latest 5 percent hike in the North Korean workers’ minimum wage takes effect from their May salary, to be paid in late June, according to the Unification Ministry.

The two sides “agreed to hike the North Korean workers’ wage at the Kaesong Industrial Complex to US$70.35, an increase of 5 percent from now,” unification ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said in a briefing.

“So far, the minimum wage had been raised from August, but (we) decided to bring it forth by three months this year in consideration of (South Korean) companies’ opinions at the complex,” Kim said.

Citing the absence of a wage hike last year, Pyongyang had demanded a 10 percent wage hike this year.

About 52,000 North Korean laborers are employed by more than 100 South Korean companies operating in the joint factory park, a major cash cow for the communist country. Each North Korean worker receives up to $150 in monthly wages, including social benefits and overtime.

Read the full story here:
Seoul to raise salary of N.K. workers at Kaesong complex
Yonhap
2014-6-9

Share

4th Rason International Trade Fair (UPDATED)

June 8th, 2014

Choson Exchange has posted the marketing flyer for the 4th annual Rason International Trade Fair. I repost a larger scan below

4th-rason-trade-fair-1

  4th-rason-trade-fair-2

The 2014 flyer text is nearly identical to the 2013 flyer. All of the names/contacts/accounts/prices are identical. The only difference that I noticed was that two of the domestic phone numbers for the Rason Exhibition Corp. have changed.   Two more remained unchanged.

Here are the event details:
4th Rason International Trade Fair
Exhibition Period: August 18-21, 2014
Venue: Rason Exhibion House
Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00
Application Deadline: July 20th, 2014

Here are posts on previous Rason International Trade Fairs: 2011, 2012, 2013.

Share

Yanbian University seeks involvement in Rason Zone

June 7th, 2014

According to Yonhap (2014-6-7):

A Chinese university near the northern border with North Korea said Saturday it has signed an agreement to help develop a North Korean free trade zone, one of high-profile joint economic projects between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The agreement calls for Yanbian University in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Jilin province to train workers and provide technological and legal services to the Rason economic zone, the university said in a statement.

China reportedly agreed in late 2011 to invest about US$3 billion in developing the free trade zone in a North Korean border city of Rason, formerly known as Rajin and Sonbong. The special trade zone sits across the border from Jilin province.

North Korea and China set up a joint management committee in Rason in October 2012, but it is unclear whether Chinese projects for the economic zone have remained on track since the North’s third nuclear test in February last year.

The agreement was signed on Wednesday between Park Young-ho, president of Yanbian University, and Wang Yonggang, a director of the Rason management committee, according to the statement.

In the statement, Park said the university “will actively provide human resources, technological innovation and legal advices to build and develop the Rason economic zone.”

China has grown increasingly frustrated with the North’s wayward behavior, but many analysts believe that Beijing would not suspend all economic supports for Pyongyang because it could lead to a regime collapse in North Korea.

Read the full story here:
China university helps N. Korea develop trade zone
Yonhap
2014-6-7

Share

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

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:

Share

High-tech development zones: The core of building a powerful knowledge economy nation

June 5th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-6-5

It appears that the Kim Jong Un regime’s core slogan of “constructing a powerful knowledge economy nation” is being propelled by the development of high-tech development zones.

The need to switch to a knowledge economy is emphasized in the newest issue of the quarterly North Korean academic journal Kyongje Yongu (published April 30, 2014). According to a thesis included in this quarter’s issue (entitled “The Creation of High-Tech Development Zone is Necessary Step in the Knowledge Economy Era”), “Using high-tech development zones as a model, the establishment of a high-tech industry and the shifting of the entire economy towards a knowledge economy is both a Party initiative and legal demands to the construction of a knowledge economy.”

Alongside the national goals of becoming both an economic superpower as well as an athletically powerful nation, the Kim Jong Un regime has also established the national goal of becoming a leader among knowledge economy countries. In order to establish a foothold for building the country’s knowledge economy, the regime has proposed the construction of high-tech development zones.

After attracting foreign investments to fund economic development zones (EDZ) last year, North Korea has begun pushing forward for the construction of a high-tech development zone in the city of Pyongsong, located in South Pyongan province. The high-tech development zone will be built in the same area as the Unjong Science and Technology Zone and will share a similar locale with the National Academy of Sciences, both of which are located in the South Pyongan Province.

According to the thesis, high-tech development zones will “act as regional bases that bring technology and production closer together, unifying the research-development-production-export process.” The thesis also explains the characteristics of the high-tech development zone, calling it a “new type of development region with a high concentration of information, technology, and talented individuals” and “a place where education, scientific research, and production are brought together to become one.”

Furthermore, the thesis continues, “Through the improvement of the high-tech development zone, existing businesses have begun to change to information-related businesses,” and noted that, “Just as the foundation of the high-tech development zone is important to the construction of a powerful knowledge economy, it is also important to provide support from the state and the Party.”

In November of 2013, North Korea formed an international consortium of foreign companies to initiate the building of the Kaesong High-Tech Development Zone; however, construction has reportedly been suspended.

North Korea is currently pressing for construction of a type of cooperative complex to be built in the high-tech development zone where research and development, as well as production itself can take place in order to produce technologically-intensive products with high added value. However, due to sanctions imposed by the international community, North Korea is unable to acquire the advanced machinery it needs to construct the high-tech zone, and for now has only drawn out a rough sketch of the framework.

On the other hand, North Korea has also spurred progress in light industry in other regions by rewarding exemplary factories. This is seen as an attempt to increase the standard of living for the locals living in those regions, who have taken it upon themselves to improve light industry to best suit their situations.

Companies in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, Wonsan, Kangwon Province, Chinchon [?], Chagang Province, and other regions have become recognized in North Korean media for their “innovations.” In Hoeryong, a chemical commodities factory developed fuel additives for lignite that increase its burning ability and efficiency, and was commended for its contribution in solving its citizens’ fuel problems. Other factories that were chosen to receive rewards include a glass bottle factory in Wonsan, and a wooden commodities factory in Chinchon[?] for increasing the production quality of their respective goods.

In a situation where the central authorities are in a vulnerable situation financially, North Korea has been encouraging regional businesses to grow and develop on their own. This not only increases the standard of living for the people, but encourages balanced regional development as well. Another thesis appearing in the most recent issue of Kyongje Yongu argues, “The comprehensive development of the regional economies has greatly reduced the state’s burden by allowing households to take it upon themselves to meet their needs according to their own situation.

Furthermore, regarding the growth of regional light industry, the thesis says, “general consumer goods are now being mass-produced, and are able to fulfill the region’s supply and demand needs,” emphasizing the use of “small quantity batch production.” Other light industry factories are also being built across the nation as part of the efforts to revitalize North Korea’s local economies.

Recently, construction of the Haeju Unjong Beer Factory was finished. Operations have commenced in Southern Hwanghae Province, and construction of the Musanryong Spring Water Factory was completed in late 2013. While North Korea’s plan to develop its local economies is not exactly breaking news, advances are slowly being made toward achieving the Kim Jong Un regime’s national goals.

* NKeconWatch: I have no idea why this article references a place in Jagang Province called “Chinchon”. Maybe they mean Huichon?

Share

Eberstadt on DPRK Trade

June 4th, 2014

UPDATE 1 (2014-6-12): Witness to Transformation has an update here.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-4): Nicholas Eberstadt has written an interesting article on trends in the DPRK’s trade patterns from 2002-2013.

Here is just one graph:

Eberstadt-graph-DPRK-trade-2014-6-4

Read the full article here.

Dr. Eberstadt draws some counter-intuitive conclusions that cannot be observed directly from the published data. You can read all about the published data on the DPRK’s 2013 trade statistics here.

Share

Chinese tourists to visit DPRK side of Mt. Paektu

June 4th, 2014

paektu-tourism-2014-6-4

Pictured above (Google Earth): Mt. Paektu and the locations of tourist infrastructure on the Chinese and Korean side of the border.

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is set to open its portion of the Korean Peninsula’s highest mountain to Chinese tourists this month, a travel agency official said Wednesday, resuming the tour route that has been suspended since the North conducted its third nuclear test.

If realized, it would represent another bid by North Korea to increase tourism income by approving more tour routes that start in Chinese cities.

The peninsula’s highest peak, Mt. Baekdu, sits on the border between North Korea and China. Tourists can visit the Chinese side of the mountain, but the tour route to the North Korean portion has been halted following the North’s nuclear test in February last year.

The two-day or three-day tour to the North Korean side of the 2,749-meter mountain starts from the Chinese border city of Helong in the northeast of China. Helong is part of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Jilin Province and a popular border town for travel to North Korea.

The official at the travel agency in Helong, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the tour route will be reopened in the middle of this month.

“It is the only route for tourists from China to see the eastern side of Mt. Baekdu,” the official said, adding that the trip will only be available for Chinese tourists.

The two-day trip will cost 1,100 yuan (US$175.8) per person and the three-day trip will cost 1,350 yuan, according to the official.

North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive and isolated nations, but Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to attract foreign tourists, particularly those from China.

Earlier last month, North Korea started its first one-day cycling trip from the Chinese border city of Tumen. The tour is not available for non-Chinese travelers.

Recently the DPRK has also welcomed day tourists to Namyang and Hoeryong.

Previous posts on tourism here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea, China to resume tours to Korean Peninsula’s highest mountain
Yonhap
2014-6-4

Share

DPRK food rations in May 2014

June 3rd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s food ration dropped to its lowest level in four months in May, a U.S. radio report said Tuesday, in what could be the latest sign of chronic food shortages.

North Korea doled out 410 grams of food for each person per day in May, compared with 420 grams on average in February, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said, citing the U.N. World Food Programme.

The North’s daily food ration is lower than the WFP’s minimum recommended amount of 600 grams and the North Korean regime’s target amount of 573 grams, the radio said.

North Korea reports information on its food distribution to the United Nations every month to receive international food assistance.

North Korea said it distributed food to 16 million out of 24 million people, though it could not be verified how many North Koreans receive the food ration through the public distribution system, the radio said.

In May, Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the WFP, said her agency’s nutrition program for North Korean children and pregnant women stands at a “very crucial juncture” due to a lack of funding.

She said that the U.N. food agency has received only 20 percent of the funding required to implement the program, which is “critically underfunded.”

The WFP’s humanitarian aid to North Korea reached US$26.56 million last year, compared to $86.94 million in 2012, according to the U.N. food agency.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s, when it suffered a widespread famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

Voice of America also reports on this.

Here are previous posts on the DPRK’s food (2013, 2014) and agriculture situations.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s food ration hits lowest level in 4 months
Yonhap
2014-6-3

Share