Hillside farming

October 1st, 2014

The US State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit put out the following map of hillside farming in the DPRK.

US-DOS-HIU-DPRK-Food-shortage-2014-9-24

Click image for larger (PDF) version.

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DPRK Foreign Minister Ri visits UN

September 27th, 2014

UPDATE 1 (2014-9-27): Martyn Williams has posted video (translated into English) of Minister Ri’s full speech.

For those who do not wish to listen to the whole speech, here is a transcript (English, PDF).

ORIGINAL POST (2014-8-30): According to KBS:

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is scheduled to visit the United States in mid-September for a United Nations general assembly in New York. This marks the first time a North Korean foreign minister will visit the U.S. in 15 years.

Sources have said Ri has personally requested to make a keynote address at the session as a state representative.

The last time a North Korean foreign minister was present for a United Nations general assembly was in 1999 when Paek Nam Sun held the position. In 1992, Kim Yong Nam had visited the U. S. to attend the session.

As these were the only occasions a high-ranking North Korean foreign ministry official had taken part in the UN general assembly since the North became a member state in 1991, speculations have risen over Ri’s pending visit.

One South Korean diplomatic source said Ri was not attending the assembly “just to make a keynote speech,” but rather to engage in negotiations with Washington for a change in chilled relations.

Read the full sotry here:
N. Korea Foreign Minister to Visit U.S. For First Time in 15 Yrs
KBS
2014-8-30

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Kaesong Industrial Complex: One year after resuming operations

September 26th, 2014

Institue for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) was reactivated on September 16, 2013 after a five-month shutdown due to North Korea’s withdrawal of North Korean workers from the complex. One year has passed without interruption of operations. However, while most of production activities were resumed to pre-shutdown levels, previously discussed agreements between the two Koreas are not meeting expectations in terms of transportation, customs, communications, security for personnel and vehicles, upgrades to meet international standards, and normalization for development of the KIC.

The tentative suspension of the KIC lasted from April 8 to September 16, 2013. During this period, all aspects of both production and export were frozen completely. After restarting operations, gradual progress was made, with production in October 2013 down only 32.7 percent compared to March of the same year (pre-suspension), totaling approximately 30.8 million USD. By May 2014, average monthly production totaled nearly 42.8 million USD, showing a strong recovery to a total of 93.5 percent of pre-suspension production capacity.

After resuming operations, companies at the KIC experienced problems such as loss of capital, cancelled contracts by buyers, order quantity reduction, and other problems which caused uncertainty about the future of the complex. In spite of this, companies at the complex were quickly able to recover due to their own efforts and the support of various related organizations.

However, since the reactivation, not much progress has been made toward achieving the goal of “developmental normalization” of the KIC. This goal is aimed at expanding and improving the complex through cooperation between the two Koreas. Agreements have been made between the North and South to work together to make the complex better than it was before the shutdown by solving several issues related to safe entry and stay of personnel; transportation, customs, and communication in the KIC; and internationalization of the complex.

For some time after restarting operations, the agreements between the North and South were actively being pursued, and the process of developmental normalization progressed steadily. In January 2014, construction of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities were completed alongside the implementation of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) electronic entrance system, and in the following month, progress was made on agreements related to the provision of an Internet service at the KIC.

Furthermore, the joint North-South Commercial Arbitration Committee was created. In March 2014, the committee had its first meeting, which dealt with commercial disputes arising at the complex. Recently, over twenty companies from the United States, Germany, China, Russia and other countries have made inquiries to the South Korean government with regard to investing in the KIC. The Foreign Investor Support Center was also opened to attract and manage investments from abroad.

However, due to the joint ROK-US military exercises, inter-Korean relations have become strained. North Korea also has taken a passive stance toward the Kaesong agreements, leading to a situation where no real progress has since been made. South Korea has been calling out for a subcommittee in order to enforce the RFID card system, continue discussion on the introduction of Internet service, and address the problems of passage, communication and transport at the complex. Seoul has been demanding continuously for North Korean authorities to cooperate on these issues.

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North Korea’s donor fatigue

September 25th, 2014

The Wall Street Journal reports on the difficulties the UN World Food Program faces trying to find supporters for its operations in North Korea:

The United Nations aid program for malnourished North Koreans may close after raising only a fraction of the money it needs to operate in the country, a senior U.N. official said in a call for donations.

“We may need to scale down or think about closing altogether,” Dierk Stegen, the Pyongyang-based North Korea head for the U.N. World Food Program, said in an interview.

The agency, which has operated in North Korea since 1995, could shut early next year if there is no indication it will be able to raise needed funds by the end of October, he said. One complication is that North Korea’s humanitarian crisis has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria and Ebola outbreak, he said.

While North Korea is getting better at feeding its people, hundreds of thousands of young infants and their mothers remain chronically malnourished, he said.

Contributions from private organizations and the South Korean government in recent weeks have helped, but the program is far from its goal of $50 million, already a significant reduction from the original target of $200 million it set last year.

The North Korea food-assistance program has drawn flak from critics who say the regime takes advantage of the agency’s largess, devoting its resources to developing its nuclear weapons program and constructing amusement parks while its people suffer. Critics also say the agency can’t be sure its assistance is reaching the intended recipients.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who has studied North Korea’s food situation, said that the WFP’s work in the country was “a disappointment—perhaps a terrible disappointment,” arguing that the agency has put up little resistance even as Pyongyang restricts oversight from foreign aid groups.

“Outside humanitarian assistance will not work in North Korea unless it is ‘intrusive’—and the WFP has no stomach for such work,” Mr. Eberstadt said.

Mr. Stegen acknowledged past shortcomings in its ability to monitor the distribution of its aid, but blamed a lack of funding and cited recent improvements in its access inside the country. He said that the WFP can now get permission within 24 hours to visit any school or household that is receiving its aid. In the past, two weeks’ notice was required.

Mr. Stegen said that criticism of a government’s priorities isn’t unique to North Korea, and urged donors to prioritize vulnerable infants over politics.

“Intervention and assistance on a humanitarian basis should be separated from political things,” he said.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s government approved $7 million in new funding to the WFP, its first such contribution since 2007. While South Korea’s conservative government has talked tough on North Korea, it has also pursued a policy of “humanity” toward the North, particularly infants and young mothers.

The U.S., by far the largest donor to the WFP’s North Korea work, hasn’t contributed since 2009, when Pyongyang tightened its rules on monitoring food aid by restricting the number of Korean-speaking monitors allowed into the country, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report published in April.

The WFP’s fundraising efforts have also been hampered by rising awareness of North Korea’s human-rights violations. Earlier this year, a special U.N. commission published a landmark 400-page report which said the regime selectively starves its population based on factors like political loyalty, and recommended the U.N. Security Council refer Kim Jong Un and other senior officials to the International Criminal Court.

Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called North Korea’s system of prison camps “unfathomable” and a sign of what he described as “barbarity, inhumanity—I think you can call it evil.”

Mr. Stegen said North Korea had markedly improved its capacity to produce food for its people since a devastating famine in the 1990s. He said that fewer people in the country remain hungry today, even as the population has increased.

But he cautioned that the country’s agricultural efforts have focused too much on producing rice and other grains, at the expense of protein. That has led to malnourishment of infants and children under the age of four, he said, putting them in danger of stunting, even as Kim Jong Un has made a public show of encouraging fisheries as a potential source of protein.

“For many of the children of North Korea, it’s already too late,” said John Aylieff, the WFP’s deputy regional director for Asia. “They’ve been dealt a life sentence of impaired mental functioning and impaired physical development.”

A drought earlier this year has also meant a throttling back of government rations to ordinary citizens, which fell to about 250 grams a day, Mr. Aylieff said. That is less than half the targeted rations, and the lowest in several years.

As a result, the aid agency is expecting a surge in acute malnutrition this year. “We hope potential donors will see the humanitarian imperative,” Mr. Aylieff said.

Marcus Noland, an economist and North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said that given the WFP’s funding problems, its ability to monitor its work would be limited.

“Trying to maintain an underfunded program in that environment is practically inviting an aid diversion scandal,” he said. But the WFP’s absence from North Korea would also likely exacerbate any food crisis.

“The advantage of having the WFP in-country in even a limited capacity is that they are pre-positioned to monitor conditions and respond if there is an emergency,” Mr. Noland said.

Read the full story here:
U.N. North Korea Food Program in Danger
Wall Street Journal
Jonathan Cheng
2014-9-25

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Second session of 13th Supreme People’s Assembly

September 25th, 2014

UPDATE 3 (2014-9-25): Kim Jong-un did not attend the SPA meeting.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

North Korea’s young leader wasn’t in his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament Thursday, adding to South Korean media speculation that Kim Jong Un may be ill.

Only part of the meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly was shown on state TV, but Mr. Kim wasn’t present and apparently missed the meeting for the first time since he took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December 2011, according to an official for the South’s Unification Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.

The usually ubiquitous Mr. Kim, the third member of his family to rule the country, hasn’t been seen in state media since attending a Pyongyang concert on Sept. 3. He was shown limping on television in July and again earlier this month, and South Korean media have speculated that Kim has been ill, although there has been no discussion of the absence in the North’s state-run media.

According to Reuters:

Kim, who is considerably overweight, has not featured in state media broadcasts since appearing at a concert alongside his wife and former state entertainer Ri Sol Ju this month.

In July, he was seen walking with a limp at an event with key officials.

But analysts warned against reading too much into Kim’s absence.

“Kim Jong Il didn’t attend every time, either,” said Chris Green, a North Korea expert at Seoul-based Daily NK website. “Moreover, we know that the SPA primarily performs a demonstrative function, it is not a true decision-making body.”

UPDATE 2 (2104-9-25): KCNA reports on the second session of the 13th SPA. Most of the copy is dedicated to continuing education reforms, however at the end of the article, personnel changes at the National Defense Commission are announced:

It recalled Deputy Choe Ryong Hae from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post and Deputy Jang Jong Nam from the post of member of the NDC of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post.

It elected Deputy Hwang Pyong So to fill the vacancy as vice-chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and Deputies Hyon Yong Chol and Ri Pyong Chol to fill the vacancy as members of the NDC of the DPRK at the proposal of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

This list of NDC members (as of October 2013 )can be found here.

Reuters notes:

At the meeting, state media said, Choe Ryong Hae had been removed from the post of vice chairman of the National Defence Commission, a body chaired by Kim, and was replaced by Hwang Pyong So.

Hwang is a member of a powerful faction created in the 1970s under former leader Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader, to boost a personality cult around his family.

Choe had been widely seen as a new right-hand man to Kim Jong Un after he purged his uncle last year, but had since fallen back into the shadows.

“Hwang’s appointment as NDC Vice Chairman shows that he has truly risen to become the regime’s de facto number two official,” said Michael Madden, a North Korean leadership expert and contributor to the 38 North website.

Hwang was appointed “according to the wishes of Marshall Kim Jong Un”, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

Here is the full story:

2nd Session of 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Held

Pyongyang, September 25 (KCNA) — The 2nd Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK was held at the Mansudae Assembly Hall Thursday.

Present there were deputies to the SPA.

Officials of the party, armed forces and power organs, public organizations, ministries, national institutions and the fields of science, education, literature and art, public health and media attended it as observers.

All the participants observed a moment’s silence in memory of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

SPA Chairman Choe Thae Bok made an opening address.

The session discussed agenda items on summing up the implementation of “On Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education”, the Ordinance of the SPA of the DPRK, and an organizational matter.

Deputy Pak Pong Ju, premier of the Cabinet, made a report on the first agenda item.

The reporter said that the 6th Session of the 12th SPA held in September, Juche 101 (2012) promulgated Ordinance on Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education in line with the new requirements of the developing revolution.

According to the report, a work for successfully enforcing the schooling has been dynamically pushed forward as the one involving the whole state, all people and the whole society and signal successes have been made in it.

The work for operating the six-year secondary schools by dividing them into three-year junior secondary schools and three-year senior secondary schools has been wound up in a brief span of time. The first phase programs for the universal 12-year compulsory education were worked out in a matter of one and half years and textbooks of new contents and style were compiled.

Expenditure has been increased in educational field at the state budget, the State Planning Commission, the Ministry of Finance, provincial people’s committees and relevant institutions have ensured funds needed for educational work as planned, thus strengthening the material and technological foundation of schools.

Over the past two years since the promulgation of the ordinance new classrooms have been built or constructed on an expansion basis at schools across the country and many school things produced.

The reporter referred to the tasks facing the field of education.

He underlined the need to build well the ranks of teachers and decisively raise their qualifications and roles.

The general senior secondary schools should teach students with main emphasis on general secondary knowledge and senior secondary technical schools should make preparations in a responsible manner for giving education in basic technology to suit the economic and geographical peculiarities of the relevant areas while giving general education in conformity with the operation of senior secondary technical schools, new type schooling, on a trial basis, he noted.

He also underlined the need to positively push ahead with the work for putting the nation’s universal general secondary education including genius education on a new high stage, reinforce the research forces at educational and scientific research institutions and increase their responsibilities and roles.

He called for improving the conditions and environment for education to be fit for the appearance of a highly civilized socialist country.

Speakers at the session renewed their resolution to decisively improve the quality of education to meet the realistic requirements of the developing education in the age of knowledge-based economy and suit the trend of the world and thus train the younger generation as more dependable revolutionary talents of Juche type equipped with perfect general secondary knowledge, modern basic technological knowledge and creative ability.

The session adopted “On Comprehensively Enforcing Universal 12-Year Compulsory Education and Decisively Improving Its Quality”, the Decision of the SPA of the DPRK.

It discussed the second agenda item.

It recalled Deputy Choe Ryong Hae from the post of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post and Deputy Jang Jong Nam from the post of member of the NDC of the DPRK due to his transfer to other post.

It elected Deputy Hwang Pyong So to fill the vacancy as vice-chairman of the NDC of the DPRK and Deputies Hyon Yong Chol and Ri Pyong Chol to fill the vacancy as members of the NDC of the DPRK at the proposal of Marshal Kim Jong Un.

UPDATE 1 (2014-9-18): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) reports on the DPRK’s education policy:

North Korea Prioritizes Budget Support for the Modernization of Education in the Age of Knowledge-Based Economy

A September 6, 2014 article in the Rodong Sinmun reported that First Chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong Un has begun to usher in a “revolution in education for the new century” and emphasized the need to construct a “world power of socialist education in the 21st century” at the 13th National Meeting of Educators held on Sept. 5.

At the meeting, Kim Jong Un’s work, entitled, “Let Us Make a Revolution in Education in the New Century to Glorify Our Country as the One of Education and a Power of Talents” was presented to participants.

In his work, Kim Jong Un advocates for this “revolution in education for the new century,” saying, “Education is part of an unending patriotic plan for the wealth and prosperity of the nation and the people.” The work emphasizes, “How we educate our posterity will be the determining factor of the nation’s power and the propagation of the revolution.”

Kim Jong Un also stated, “The goal to be attained by the revolution in education in the new century is to turn the country into a power of socialist education in the 21st century by bringing up all school youth and children as reliable pillars for the building of a thriving nation and educating all the people to be well versed in science and technology.” To achieve this, Kim Jong Un emphasized that the “decisive strengthening” of secondary education is the fundamental link of the education revolution.

He states, “Just as how trees with the strongest roots grow the perfect fruit, secondary education must be strengthened in order to produce talented individuals and raise the overall level of intelligence of workers.”

He continues, “In order to realize the grand goal of the revolution in education for the new century, the strong leadership guidance provided by the Party’s Juche-based education ideology and policy must be implemented according to the demands of the generation and the development of the revolution.”

More specifically, his work mentions the importance of improving the education system: “An important task facing the revolution in education in the new century is to round off the educational system and improve the guidance and management of the educational work in order to successfully train talents of new type required by the era.”

Kim Jong Un also emphasized the need to rear wholesome, well-rounded children from the time they are young while at home, school, and out in society. Furthermore, he stated, “The education in the age of knowledge-based economy should not be the one for letting students learn existing knowledge but it should be developed in the direction of putting its contents on a practical, comprehensive and modern basis so that students may grasp faster new and useful knowledge and more successfully apply them in practice.”

In order to accomplish this, Kim Jong Un said, “All the fields should regard the educational work as part of their work, always pay deep attention to it and help solve the issues arising in the field of education in a responsible manner.”

ORIGINAL POST (2014-9-4): According to KCNA:

DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly to Be Convened

Pyongyang, September 5 (KCNA) — The Second Session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be held in Pyongyang on September 25, Juche 103 (2014).

A relevant decision of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly was promulgated on Sept. 4.

Information on the first session of the 13th SPA can be found here.

Information on the election of the 13th SPA can be found here.

Here is what the Daily NK has to say:

It is the norm for the SPA to convene each spring to carry out the core responsibilities of ratifying personnel changes and hearing budgetary reports. Two of the more noteworthy results of the meeting in April this year were then-Director of the KPA General Political Department Choe Ryong Hae being made a deputy in the National Defense Commission, and Ri Su Yong being handed the foreign affairs portfolio. Ri, a seasoned diplomat, is scheduled to speak to the UN General Assembly later this month.

Conversely, second sessions do not occur every year as a matter of course; rather, they are convened when necessary for the accomplishment of Workers’ Party objectives. One such session convened on September 25th, 2012, for instance, resulted in wide-ranging changes to the state education system, most notably the addition of a 12th year of mandatory schooling.

As a result, attention is set to focus on personnel shifts and the possibility of major policy announcements.

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KIC goods and the DPRK’s Choco Pies

September 24th, 2014

According to the Daily NK, the DPRK has developed its own version of the South Korean “Choco Pie”. And it is apparently winning over North Korean consumers:

[…] the once popular South Korean snack Choco Pie is seeing a decline in its asking price. In June, Pyongyang demanded that South Korean companies at the industrial complex stop distributing Choco Pies to workers there, as officials had found it problematic that North Korean workers were saving the snacks and selling them in the markets. More recently, the northern workers have been receiving Chaltteok Pie (찰떡) [a chocolate covered rice cake from the South], individually packaged coffee, yulmucha (율무차)[grainy tea made with Job’s Tears], and candy bars.

“In Pyongyang, at the ‘Geumeunsan Trade Company,’ (금운산, Kumunsan Trade Corporation) they have been baking bread for about a year,” the source said, adding, “Of all the different kinds of bread, the most popular are the ones with butter inside, and they are less than 1000 KPW– much cheaper than Choco Pie.”

The trade company is an affiliate of the Military Mobilization Department [Military Manpower Administration in South Korea], which deals with the procurement of military supplies among its many functions. They either directly import the goods or obtain them from military factories in various locations across the country, and oversee the manufacturing of military equipment and machinery.

Geumeunsan Trade Company maintains branches in multiple areas, including Rasun and Cheongjin, and the office in Pyongyang imports ingredients such as flour, sugar, and cooking oil directly from China. According to the source, the raw material prices are cheaper than in the  North’s markets, and the products taste good, allowing it to monopolize the confectionery market there.

“The company has brought in foreign equipment and technology, putting it ahead of the South’s Choco Pie in price and taste,” he said, concluding, “This is why with the introduction of these different breads in Pyongyang, the price of Choco Pie [from the South] has dropped to 500 KPW from 1,200 KPW.”

The same story also reports that goods produced in the Keasong Industrial Complex are selling really well in the DPRK:

“These days, there are all kinds of goods in the markets,” adding that “no matter what kind of foreign products come in, they cannot beat KIC goods, which sell out due to high demand.” In North Korean markets, goods from South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and elsewhere are brought in either through official or illicit trade routes. The products are then sorted by quality into “good, average, and poor” with corresponding prices.

“With the KIC now back in full operation, products are spilling into the markets,” he explained. “The goods produced there are not found in the Kaesong markets but areas such as Sinuiju [near the northwestern border] and Pyongsong [located an hour North of Pyongyang].”

Merchandise from the joint complex, such as clothes, shoes, and other mass-produced goods, sell for much higher prices compared to those from China, because not only are they new in the market, they are also considered scarce. The hefty price tag is believed to include a premium for the risk of smuggling the goods out of the heavily guarded industrial park and the bribes required to gain entry.

The items most popular with men are hiking boots, especially those made with special materials to withstand cuts from sharp objects like knives, and pants. Women, on the other hand, prefer goods for around the home, such as high-quality and sanitary cutting boards, the source told Daily NK.

“Top-quality pants from China in the Pyongsong market sell for a rather high price of roughly $10 USD, but KIC products sell for $30 USD,” he said. “Although Chinese products use the best material they have, there’s a big difference in the quality and degree of processing,” justifying why those who have used KIC-produced goods will invariably opt for them again, even if it means they need to pay more.

Authorities in the North try to keep a tight lid on goods from KIC trickling into the black market in an effort to prevent people from longing about life in the South. According to the source, this is why sellers or buyers refrain from using the word “Kaesong” and simply say, “Do you have goods from the Complex? Complex pants, or Complex shoes?”

The article does not mention it, but I suspect that not many goods are smuggled out of the KIC. The goods are probably exported from South Korea to China where they are imported back into North Korea.

Read the full story here:
Kaesong Goods Fetch Highest Market Prices
Daily NK
Seol Song Ah
2014-9-24

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DPRK textile exports to China surge in 2014

September 23rd, 2014

According to Yonhap:

North Korean textile exports to China are expected to surge four-fold to US$800 million this year compared to 2010, indicating a declining dependence on raw materials exports to earn foreign cash, a report said Tuesday.

The report by Korea International Trade Association (KITA)’s Beijing office showed shipments of textiles reached $410 million in the January-July period, up from just $190 million in 2010.

The international traders’ organization said textiles also accounted for 26.3 percent of all North Korean exports to China, up more than 10 percentage points from 16 percent reached four years earlier.

“Export growth reached 40 percent coming into this year, so it should not be too difficult to surpass the $800 million mark,” KITA said.

It said growth is being fueled primarily by the lower wages of North Korean workers compared to their Chinese counterparts.

On average, a North Korean worker earns $244 per month compared to $440 for a Chinese worker employed in Jilin province north of the border.

KITA said that, starting last year, some Chinese companies began shipping materials to North Korea to be made into finished products there.

In contrast, exports of raw materials, which made up 71.4 percent of all commodities shipped by North Korea to China in 2011, dropped to 60.7 percent of total exports in the January-July period. Trade data showed sharp drops in exports of coal, iron ore and pig iron.

The trade agency then said that with Chinese labor costs expected to rise steadily and the country suffering from a shortage of workers in certain sectors, North Korea may be able to capitalize on its advantage to build up its labor intensive sector.

You can read the whole story here:
N.Korean textile exports to China surge in 2014
Yonhap
2014-9-23

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10th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair opens

September 22nd, 2014

According to KCNA:

10th Pyongyang Autumn Int’l Trade Fair Opens

Pyongyang, September 22, 2014 (KCNA) — The 10th Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair opened with due ceremony at the Three-Revolution Exhibition House on Monday.

Present at the opening ceremony were Vice-Premier Ro Tu Chol who doubles as chairman of the State Planning Commission, Ri Ryong Nam, minister of External Economic Relations, Kim Song Dok, vice-chairman of the Pyongyang City People’s Committee, Ri Hak Gwon, head of the DPRK Chamber of Commerce, officials in the field of foreign trade, delegations of different countries and regions, foreign diplomatic envoys and staff members of their embassies here.

Pak Ung Sik, director of the Korean International Exhibition Corporation, made an opening address which was followed by a congratulatory speech by Ri Myong San, vice-minister of External Economic Relations.

The speakers said the fair would offer a good opportunity to promote friendship and cooperation among countries and boost the wide-ranging economic and trade transactions and scientific and technological exchange.

They expressed the will to boost bilateral and multilateral cooperation with various countries and regions of the world in the fields of the economy and foreign trade on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in the days ahead.

The participants looked round products presented by companies of various countries and regions including the DPRK, Germany, Russia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, China, Cuba, Italy and Taipei of China.

The fair will run through Thursday.

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DPRK holds investor forum in Dalian

September 22nd, 2014

According to the JoongAng Ilbo:

North Korea held a rare investors relations event over the weekend and its more capitalistic and entrepreneurial manner hinted at a new openness to foreign investors and economic reform in general.

“The door is wide open. Come on in any time,” said Oh Eung-gil, president of North Korea’s Wonsan District Development General Corporation.

Oh was inviting South Koreans to invest in the North as he addressed a group of businessmen at an investors relations session at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dalian, China, on Saturday.

“We prepared all the conditions to develop Mount Kumgang and waited for the South to change its attitude,” said Oh. “But we can no longer wait, so we are trying to attract foreign investors. We have no intention to exclude the South.”

The investors relations event was arranged by the Dalian chapter of the World Federation of Overseas Korea Traders Association. About 200 Korean businessmen from around the world including Australia, China and the United States attended.

From North Korea, five delegates including Oh joined the event.

The North started its event with a presentation by Oh on the country’s laws governing foreign investments and the business environment.

“We have already simplified the investment application procedures and created regulations that meet international standards,” Oh said.

He spent a considerable amount of time to assuring businessmen that their investments, if made, will not vanish overnight.

“With Article 19 of the Foreign Investment Act, we promise that the assets of foreign investors and their companies won’t be nationalized,” he said. “If they are nationalized for an unavoidable reason, then we will make compensation for all costs.”

He also stressed that the North has abundant mineral and fisheries resources. With its 2 million educated workforce, who graduated from 300 universities, Oh said North Korea is the best place to make investments in Asia.

He said foreign companies that invest in special economic zones will only have to pay 14 percent corporate income tax and that the tax is even lower for some advanced technology industries. Making investments in the North’s infrastructure will also be tax-free, he said.

The North also held an unprecedented question and answer session. At similar events in the past, the North only made presentations without answering investors’ questions.

A businessman said he was afraid that the North Korean government could confiscate his investments, and Oh assured him that the government guarantees all legal investments by laws.

Oh even used humor to answer one businessman’s question.

“I would like to invest in hospitals,” the businessman said.

“Our [Democratic People’s] Republic of Korea offers free medical services, so it will be hard for you to make money,” Oh joked. “Please reconsider.”

Following Oh’s presentation, Ri Sing-ryol, vice president of the Wonsan District Development General Corporation, unveiled a development plan for the Wonsan-Mount Kumgang international tourism zone. He said the zone has 142 historic sites, 11 white-sand coasts and nine lakes, as well as 676 tourist venues.

The North’s Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly announced in June an ambitious plan to develop the area as an international tourism zone.

“Now that the Kim Jong-un regime is settled, the North’s top priority is resolving economic hardships and strong economic reform is being pushed forward,” said Jin Jiang, chairman of the Dalian Chapter of the World Federation of Overseas Korea Traders Association.

According to the Donga-Ilbo, the patchy subject of Hyundai Asan’s assets came up:

North Korea requested South Korea to make additional investment in Mount Kumgang and Wonsan areas, claiming that “it never confiscated the South’s property,” which it had forfeited and frozen in April 2010. Oh Eung Kil, general president of Wonsan district development company under the North’s external economy ministry, told South Korean reporters at an informational session on investment in the North in Dalian, Liaoning Province, China on Saturday.

“We did not confiscate Hyundai (Asan)’s asset. We will not confiscate and will wait (going forward). We have waited for long (thus far),” Oh said. “The South’s asset is just in our territory because it is real estate, and the property is registered in Hyundai’s name.”

Notably, citing the North’s foreign investment act providing that Pyongyang does not nationalize foreigners’ asset, Oh said, “Because we cannot afford to continue waiting, blindly trusting the South, we will form ties with investors from various countries. Still, we are not excluding the South. The door is open.”

In April 2010, the North implemented a slew of measures, including forfeiture of the South Korean government’s assets such as a separated family reunion house, freezing of private sector assets including duty-free shops, and deportation of management staff. In 2011, the North enacted the “Mount Kumgang international tourism district act,” and deprived Hyundai Asan of the exclusive right to tourism projects. Hotels and other assets that were owned by Hyundai are currently operated by the North Korean authority. Experts say, “The North’s move is aimed at denying its forfeiture of Hyundai Asan’s assets, which was negatively regarded by foreigners, and displaying situation of improved investment environment.”

Meanwhile, Oh said, “Foreign shipment of unprocessed natural resources has been designated as an additional item subject to restriction of investment into North Korea.” While banning shipment of coals and others without processing in North Korea by foreign investors, the North intends to allow processing of such resources within the Stalinist country. Since the North Korean authority singled out “sale of valuable natural resources at bargain prices as a unpatriotic act” as one of the crimes allegedly committed by Jang Song Thaek who was executed late last year, Pyongyang is believed to have strictly restricted foreign shipment of natural resources.

Here is additional coverage in the Choson Ilbo.

Other posts on the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone here. See the category tab on the right for more.

Read the full stories here:
Pyongyang woos foreign investors
JoongAng Ilbo
Choi Hyung-Kyu
2014-9-22

N.K.: ‘We never confiscated facilities from Hyundai Asan’
Donga-Ilbo
2014-9-22

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DPRK reports progress on Sepho tableland project

September 21st, 2014

According to KCNA (2014-9-21):

Achievements Made in Sepho Tableland for Two Years

Pyongyang, September 21, 2014 14:24 KST (KCNA) — It is two years since the new history of change started in Sepho area.

Service personnel and people of the DPRK turned out as one under the grandiose plan of Marshal Kim Jong Un who initiated the reclamation of the tableland as the first grand nature-remaking project in the new century of Juche on September 22, Juche 101(2012). As a result, the barren land is now undergoing change beyond recognition thanks to their heroic struggle.

For the past two years the members of Construction Shock Brigade 922 made eye-opening achievements, going through manifold difficulties.

They finished reclaiming more than 50 000 hectares of tableland covering Sepho, Phyonggang and Ichon counties and created man-made pasture amounting to 98 percent of the project and nature-made pasture equivalent to 77 percent of the project.

They also created more than 600 hectares of windbreak and more than 12 700 hectares of pasture protection forest and pushed forward the construction of reservoirs, dwelling houses, hotels, stockbreeding research institute, epizootic prevention center, domestic animal sties and roads extending more than one thousand of kilometers, thus opening a bright prospect for building a large-scale stockbreeding base.

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