Jang Song-thaek photo-shopped out of guidance picture

February 13th, 2018

On February 2, KCTV broadcast from inside a home on Mirae Scientist Street. You can see the video here at 5:07:38 if you subscribe to NK News. Inside the apartment, they showed where the resident had been photographed with Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il. Here are the photos on the wall:

Here is a blow up of the lower-center picture:

Surprisingly, I recognized this picture. It is from Kim Jong-il’s and Kim Jong-un’s guidance trip to the Jagang Machine Plant on 2011-4-8. Here is the official photo as it appeared in the media at the time:

In this lower photo, the three individuals wearing grey coats are (from left to right) Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un, and Kim Jong-il. In the photo above (hanging on the wall of the apartment on Mirae Street) there are only two people wearing grey coats: Kim Jong-il and KimJong-un. There is also one less person in the photo.

I thought this was interesting. I wonder how many photos have been altered to remove Jang Song-thaek? Also, I wonder how many apartments on Mirae Scientists Street are dedicated to the machine plant industry.

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Sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank can’t pay North Korea’s UN dues…

February 13th, 2018

Reuters reports that North Korea cannot pay its UN dues owing to sanctions on its official hard currency repository, the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB). According to the article:

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Ja Song Nam met with U.N. management chief Jan Beagle on Friday to ask the world body to help secure a bank transaction channel so Pyongyang could pay the nearly $184,000 it says it owes for 2018.

U.N. member states are required to pay assessed contributions to the world body’s regular and peacekeeping budgets, as well as a budget for international tribunals.

U.S. and U.N. sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank, were preventing the country ”from honoring its obligation as a U.N. member state by hindering even normal activities such as payment of the U.N. contribution,” the North Korean mission said in a statement late on Friday.

The United States sanctioned the Foreign Trade Bank in 2013, while the U.N. Security Council blacklisted the bank last August.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

According to the U.N. Charter, countries in arrears in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose their vote in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. The General Assembly can grant an exception if a country can show that conditions beyond its control contributed to the inability to pay.

The U.N. website said that as of Jan. 28 there 12 countries in arrears of more than two years. Apart from its 2018 dues, North Korea said it is up to date with its payments.

I know that many in the diplomatic and NGO communities have been physically bringing in cash to fund their operations in Pyongyang since the FTB was sanctioned.

There was a Russian Bank, Bank Sputnik, that had maintained a financial link to the FTB to service the diplomatic community. However, this banking link was severed in September 2017 and apparently remains closed.

UPDATE (2018-2-21): A news site I was previously unaware of has some interesting information on the relationship between the DPRK’s Foreign Trade Bank and the Russian bank, Sputnik. According to Inner City News:

In the face of North Korea sanctions, the UN in December 2017 used the sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank and Russia’s Sputnik Bank to transfer EUR 3,974,920.62 into the country, documents obtained by Inner City Press show. A letter from Sputnik Bank states that “unauthorized person (I.V. Tonkih) led negotiations with Korean party on interbank correspondent relationship.” Photos here.

NK News did a better job reporting on the relationship between Sputnik and the FTB.

Read the full story here:
North Korea says unable to pay U.N. dues, blames sanctions
Reuters
2018-2-10

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Kim Jong-un’s new model farms

February 8th, 2018

In the most recent issue of Kumsugangsan, the North Koreans highlighted the renovation work of Poman-ri (one of the eight scenic vistas of the songun era).

Here is the article:

A quick check with the imagery on Planet Labs does indicate that there was a new health complex built (normal at the town level, but only specially allocated at the village level), new apartment buildings constructed, and a school appears to have been renovated (also very common in North Korea these days).

Pictured above (Top): Poman-ri as seen on Google Earth in 2015-8-26 (Bottom): Planet imagery from 2018-2-3 showing renovated area.

This is not the first farm to be “renovated” in the Kim Jong-un era. It is also not the largest village to be renovated (so far it appears to be one of the smallest). So what is going on here? North Korea appears to be in the process of constructing new “model farms” in the KJU era. Previous “model farms,” such as Chongsan-ri in Nampho, are primarily associated with revolutionary works of Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il. These new farms, however, are intended to spearhead Sci-Tech achievements under Kim Jong-un which can be replicated across the country.

Jangchon-ri  (AKA “DPRK-Libya Friendship Jangchon Co-op Farm”) on the outskirts of Pyongyang appears to have been the first of Kim Jong-un’s new model farms. Consequently, it has received the most attention in the official media; it has been visited at least twice by Kim Jong-un; and it receives regular foreign tourists, journalists, and even foreign NGOs.

Images via Google Earth. Top dated 2014-3-13 (before). The bottom is dated 2015-5-20 (after)

KCNA reports from Kim Jong-un’s first visit to the farm after it was renovated (2015-6-30):

Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave field guidance to the Jangchon Vegetable Co-op Farm in Sadong District, Pyongyang City, whose looks have undergone a radical change to be a model and a standard of the socialist rural cultural construction.

He set forth a task to build the farm into an exemplary farm and icon of greenhouse vegetable production when providing field guidance to the farm associated with the immortal history of leadership given by President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il in June last year. He guided the layout for the construction of Jangchon area several times and took benevolent measures for settling the issues arising in it.

He went round the mosaic depicting smiling Kim Il Sung, a monument to the revolutionary activities of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the room for the education in the revolutionary history and the room dedicated to the history of the farm.

He recalled that the farm developed into a dependable producer of vegetables under the warm and meticulous care of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il who made indefatigable efforts to the last moments of their lives to provide the Pyongyang citizens with fresh vegetables all the year round.

He went round the hall of culture, science and technology disseminating center, Jangchon health complex, modern dwelling houses and other places to learn about the construction in detail.

He praised the farm for building the hall of culture as well as a national art theatre so that the farmers may fully enjoy a cultural and emotional life and constructing a nice park and a leisure ground having a volleyball court, a swimming pool, a roller-skate ring and a fishpond.

He was satisfied to see the library, e-reading room and technology study room in the science and technology disseminating center and modern equipment in the soil analysis room and the room for examining damage done by insects.

Appreciating the successful construction of modern dwelling houses, in particular, he was pleased that the farm carried out the party’s policy of making an effective use of natural energy and turning the village into an orchard by equipping each house with solar water heater, solar cells and a methane gas supply system and planting fruit trees around each house.

He went round mud-walled plastic sheet greenhouses and arch-style chain greenhouses to learn in detail about the vegetable production and management of the farm.

He enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of the farm from the observation deck.

He praised the Pyongyang City for working an eye-opening miracle in the socialist rural cultural construction as required by the party and being able to proudly greet the grand festival in October.

He extended thanks in the name of the Party Central Committee to farmers of the farm and officials and other working people in Pyongyang City for making a positive contribution to turning the Jangchon area into a spectacular farm reminiscent of a rural city as required by the party.

It is the resolution and will of the party to bring about a radical turn in the rural cultural construction with this farm as an example and torch, he said, giving Pyongyang City an instruction to push ahead under a plan with the work to spruce up well the farms on the outskirts of the city on the basis of the successes and experience already gained.

He expressed expectation and belief that Pyongyang City would take the lead in the drive to implement the behests of the leaders and uphold the party policies in the future as a political, economic and cultural hub of socialist Korea having the mission to hold aloft the banner of the three revolutions-ideological, technical and cultural.

He was accompanied by Hwang Pyong So, Choe Ryong Hae and Ri Jae Il.

The words in bold above indicate the types of facilities that are to be constructed at all of the new model farms. These types of facilities are already common at the city- and town-level, but still relatively rare at the village level. It would also be interesting to know if this farm (and other similar model farms) operate under different agriculture policies–such as de-facto family plots, or perhaps some flexibility to make agricultural decisions on the spot. Time will tell.

These types of projects are typically rolled out at the provincial level, so other than Jangchon-ri (Pyongyang) and Poman-ri (North Hwanghae), what other model farms can we point to that are being renovated under this policy?

1. Thaesong-ri (Nampho): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2017-9-21, and miraculously it has not been deleted by YouTube). KCTV described the village as a model village with new facilities that are pleasure to live and work in.

I have previously mentioned this village in Radio Free Asia.

2. Sokha-ri (North Phyongan): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2018-1-9, but YouTube has since deleted the material. Shame on them.

3. Sinchang-ri (South Hwanghae): This farm was featured on KCTV on 2017-9-20. This village has actually undergone at least two rounds of renovations. I believe the first round was done because the village is next to a popular road artery (North Korea has long been cleaning up villages long the main roads). The second round of renovations is due to the new model farm policy under Kim Jong-un.

Pictured above (Top): 2006-12-25 (Middle): 2014-3-20–showing completed first renovation (Bottom): 2016-10-23–showing completed second renovation in the new model farm style.

4. Jikha-ri (North Hamgyong):  This was also featured on KCTV on 2017-11-5, but has also been deleted by YouTube. I previously pointed it out to RFA on 2016-6-22.

Image above (Top): 2015-9-20 (Bottom): 2016-5-7–showing that the village is under renovation.

5. Phyongsu-dong (South Hamgyong): According to imagery on Planet.com, renovation of this farm has been completed, but I have not see it appear in the North Korean media to date. I previously mentioned it in RFA here.

6. Songchon-dong (Kangwon): This farm renovation has yet to appear in the official media (as far as I am aware). I previously reported in RFA that is sits just outside the security perimeter of Kim Jong-un’s Wonsan compound:

Image dates (Top): 2016-2-26 (Middle): 2017-2-14 (Bottom): Planet image from 2018 showing construction continues to progress.

This is not the only village to be renovated in Kangwon. However, I believe it is the only renovation project in the province related to this new series of model farms. Another village in south Kangwon Province, Thaebek-ri (38.574028°, 127.673046°), has also been renovated in the last few years, and several other farms in Kangwon were renovated as part of the Sepho Tableland Project.

Below is the information that remains TBD.

1. Manbok-dong (Rason): This area in Sonbong was formerly named Paekhak-ri, and it was the site where the North Korean government constructed new housing following floods in the summer of 2015. I could be wrong, but I believe that the post-flood housing is being pragmatically named as the new model farm in the city. However, I could be wrong. I searched for other village renovation in Rason on Planet Labs imagery and Google Earth, but did not find anything significant.

 

2. South Phyongan: I am still unsure which village in South Phyongan will be designated as the model farm to be built in this new style. I reported in RFA that lots of housing around Pyongyang Airport was being renovated back in May 2017, some of which is in South Phyongan, but none of these housing projects seem to match the new model farm design. According to a later KCTV report on 2017-11-20 (before it was deleted by Youtube), the Ministry of Coal Mining (석탄공업성), Ministry of Forestry (림업성), National Tourism Bureau (국가관광총국), and the Korea Oceanic Company (조선대양총회사) built new housing in the Pyongyang International Airport District. 1,000 homes were built earlier than scheduled and work was continuing on the remaining houses. However, it is possible that construction on the province’s new model farm has not yet begun in this province.

3. Jagang Province: I have searched the North Korean media, Google Earth imagery, and Planet imagery, but have not seen where construction on a new model farm has begun.

4. Ryanggang Province:  I have searched the North Korean media, Google Earth imagery, and Planet imagery, but have not seen where construction on a new model farm has begun.

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Advance payments in the Pyongyang housing market

February 6th, 2018

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Daily NK reports an interesting trend on the Pyongyang real estate market (or is it a countrywide phenomenon?) of construction companies selling apartment units before construction is finished, requiring what to me sounds like a regular deposit. First construction companies require the equivalent of $10,000 for the initial phase, and later, for interior work, at least another installment of the same amount.

I’m not sure this is an entirely new system or phenomena in the North Korean housing market, which, like virtually all spheres of the economy, has been increasingly guided by market mechanisms since the late 1990s. Nevertheless, the trend is interesting for several reasons. For example, advance payments suggest a trust in the system itself, despite a lack of transparency and formal rules. It’s unclear what would happen to customers who have made advance payments on apartments if construction doesn’t come through, but since the real estate market is still formally illegal, there is likely no judicial mechanism for people to demand their money back. It’s also unclear how widespread these practices are – obviously, most North Koreans can’t put up $10,000 for a new apartment.

Full article at Daily NK:

Real estate companies in Pyongyang are pushing ahead with construction projects in the new year after receiving permission from the North Korean authorities. These companies are reportedly securing construction funds by demanding upfront payments for spaces in the buildings.

“Owners have already been determined for half of the units in the apartment building in the Sadong area of Pyongyang, set to finish construction in the spring,” a source in the capital told Daily NK on February 1. “Typically, construction project managers announce the planned location and expected completion date, and then people who want to buy a unit are required to pay in advance in (US) dollars.”

According to the source, the advance payment system was created by individual construction project managers who lacked the private funds to begin building. They are demanding at least $10,000 USD for each advance payment, and are using these funds to begin construction.

Project managers must first gain permission to build in certain locations, and they cannot expect to raise the necessary capital through advance payments unless the location is central. This has led to intense competition between project managers to curry favor with the influential figures in charge of granting local building permits.

“Construction companies cannot earn the funds to start building unless they get a good location for the project,” the source said. “Although the new 12-floor apartment building is being built in the outskirts (of Pyongyang), they were able to secure advance payments because of the location’s convenient transport options to the city center.”

“Generally, prices for spaces in the planned buildings are set depending on the floor number and usage, such as for underground vs. upper-floor units, or for spaces intended to be used for a business,” she added. “Developers thus have to plan according to expected customer demands.”

A 1st-floor apartment may require a $10,000 advance payment, $30,000 for a mid-level unit, and $8,000 for an 11th-floor unit. Mid-level apartments are the most popular and therefore most expensive in North Korea, as they are considered a good balance between safety from burglary and ease of access by stairs during the country’s frequent power outages.

Once the building’s framework is complete, customers, who must be issued usage permits for new apartment units by the Pyongyang People’s Committee. must then pay about twice the initial payment for the interior construction of their unit to proceed.

The construction companies must also save a portion of the funds to give to the government. “For this building (in Sadong), units on the 12th-floor were deliberately withheld from sale. They are saving the entire space to give to the government upon completing construction,” said a separate source in Pyongyang, adding that this can be seen in the context of the fact that the real estate market remains illegal under North Korean law.

According to the Article 6 Section 44 of the Real Estate Administration Law (adopted by the Supreme People’s Assembly on November 11, 2009), “All revenue gained from unapproved real estate ventures are to be forfeited to the state.”

“Private businesses must give about 10% of the revenue from a construction project to the government, and they also have to give them the entire top floor,” the second source said, “but the top floor is generally not very popular anyway, the companies do not see this as a huge loss.

Article source:

Real estate companies in Pyongyang use advance payments to fund construction
Seol Song Ah
Daily NK
2018-02-06

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North Korean market update

February 5th, 2018

I recently provided this information to Radio Free Asia (in Korean), so I thought I would do a quick blog post about it in English.

I have documented over 480 official markets in North Korea. Some two-dozen are new in the Kim Jong-un regime. Hundreds more markets have been moved, renovated, or expanded since KJU took over. Below are just two recent examples (I have published quite a few in the Korean media via RFA’s Korea service).

This new market is in Kwanhun-dong, Kaesong City:

This market area is probably an expansion of the incumbent Kwanhun-dong market since it is located in the same 동. I can’t imagine that there would be two official markets in the same 동, but I can’t say for certain. Along the river, on the northern side of the market, there appear to be numerous individual stalls, so it is possible that food is sold here (this would seem to make sense since it is next to the river). This particular market area was built sometime after 2015-8-16. It was constructed in increments, but appears to have been completed 2017-4-1.

This second new market is in Phyongsan, North Hwanghae Province. Phyongsan already has an official market (most towns only have one), so it is possible that this new market is meant to replace the old one (a fairly routine occurrence in recent years). We will have to wait and see in subsequent imagery if this new market will replace the old one. The new market was built between 2016-10-5 and 2017-5-2.

And just as a reminder to readers, these are not “black markets,” “grey markets,” or “informal markets”. These are formal markets. They are legal operations carried out under explicit authorization by the state. Employees (all female) are legally employed in the markets, and have ID badges that list their employer as the local market.  Vendors pay fees and taxes to sell in these markets (they are integrated into the public finance system).

Also, the sign over the entrance to these markets uses the Korean word 시장.

 

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Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory

February 1st, 2018

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Kim Jong-un, chairman of North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, provided on-the-spot “field guidance” to the newly reconstructed Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory, as reported by the Rodong Sinmun on February 1.

In accordance with Chairman Kim’s instructions and under the direction of the Pyongyang Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) committee, the officials and workers of the Capital Passengers Traffic Bureau, the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory and the city government of Pyongyang have completed the construction of twelve new buildings and renovation of four other buildings, Rodong Sinmun said. Having completed the modernization, the factory is said to have started production in earnest.

Touring various areas of the factory, including the processing, electric motor, final assembly and overhaul shops, Kim was briefed about “modernization and production” in detail. He also inspected the new type of trolley bus manufactured by the factor. He went on to praise the factory officials and workers: “It is great that you have achieved more than 92 percent of localization in producing modern equipment and repairing broken facilities. It is also a great achievement you can be proud of that you have enabled the remote controlling of the trolley assembly process, automated the heat treatment process, and reduced labor and power input more than before by adopting power-saving devices.”

Kim also declared that, as a means of transportation, the trolley bus “should be made the face of Pyongyang, the capital [of this country].” He also stated his intention to “turn the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory into a world-class trolley production base,” presenting it as a goal for the second-phase modernization.

The leadership praises the Pyongyang Trolley Bus Factory for having established an integrated production system to maximum benefits in the production and management activities by introducing advanced technology to meet the needs of building a knowledge-based economy.

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Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area

January 31st, 2018

UPDATE 6 (2018-3-15): Planet Labs (@planetlabs) has posted some March 2018 imagery of construction of the Kalma Coastal Tourist Area construction site.

There appear to be two staging areas for the construction site where workers live and supplies are stored.

Here are close-ups of the two large staging areas circled in yellow in the image above:

 

I overlaid recent Planet images onto Google Earth and outlined the building and facility construction site. The coastal resort is taking place in the area outlined in yellow below:

Here are a couple of Planet images of the construction site:

I believe this project is supposed to be completed in about a year, so it will be worthwhile to check in on it periodically with Planet images to see how the project is developing.

UPDATE 5 (2018-2-2): The web page DPRK Today conducted an interview with a North Korean official about the Kalma project.  NK News offers a good English-language article about the interview here.

UPDATE 4 (2018-2-1): The Pyongyang Times offers information on the Kalma tourist area (like construction is expected to be completed in one year):

Wonsan-Kalma area shows promise as seaside resort

The development of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist zone is a priority project in the DPRK this year.

Seaside resorts are tourist destinations that are found by the coast.

The most suitable places for them are those with conditions favourable for such seaside tourist activities as swimming, sunbathing, angling, yachting, boating, motorboating, surfing and scuba diving in terms of the percentage and duration of sunshine, number of days with average temperature of 18-20℃ and with no or weak wind and the condition of seashore. Especially those with sandy beaches are so suitable for coastal tourism that many countries develop such areas into seaside resorts.

Currently, such resorts hold a significant proportion of the world-class natural tourist destinations and most of summer vacationers tour the seaside.

In the DPRK, many renowned seaside scenic attractions, including Songdowon and Lake Sijung of Kangwon Province, Majon of South Hamgyong Province and Ryongsupho of South Hwanghae Province, turned into coastal tourist centres.

The Wonsan-Kalma area in Kangwon Province is also a very promising seaside resort.

The Kalma peninsula in the southern part of the Wonsan Bay is an attached island which was formed by the wave-driven accumulation of granitic sand from the Namdae River.

The northern part of the peninsula which stands long from south to north consists in gently rolling hills and the coastline is mostly straight and smooth.

To the north lies the Hodo peninsula which stretches out from the opposite direction and in between there are Sin, Tae and other islets, serving as a natural breakwater that protects the port of Wonsan.

There is a scenic attraction called Myongsasipri which means a famous sand beach stretching for 4 kilometres in the Kalma peninsula.

A goldenrain tree rare to be found in the eastern coastal areas of the country stands at the entrance to the beach which is dotted with sweet briars. The red flowers in full bloom along the seaside surrounded by tall pines and clear blue waves of the East Sea form a harmonious whole to present a spectacular beauty.

The construction of the seaside resort in the Wonsan-Kalma area with Kalma airport will help satisfy the demands of local and foreign tourists and provide an ideal place for stopover between different tourist destinations and Wonsan-Mt Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

At present, preparations are being pushed ahead to complete as early as possible the Wonsan-Kalma project which will mark a turning point in raising the country’s tourism to the world level.

UPDATE 3 (2018-1-31): The Daily NK reports that construction on the Kalma tourist zone has started, and it looks like they are right. According to a recent article:

The North Korean authorities are mobilizing ordinary citizens and military conscripts alike in a push to accelerate construction of the “Wonsan Kalma Shore Tourist Zone” situated on the country’s east coast. Sources inside North Korea report that the authorities have conveyed their intentions to complete the project before the July 27 “Victory Day” holiday, which is referred to as National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day in South Korea.

The beach resort project, along with Kalma Airport and the Masik Pass Ski Resort, all appear to be part of a larger plan by Kim Jong Un to address economic difficulties by generating more tourism revenue. He made this clear in his 2018 New Year’s address, saying, “This year, service personnel and residents should join efforts to complete the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area in the shortest period of time.”

“The authorities have mobilized 120,000 military members and 20,000 ordinary citizens for the Wonsan construction project,” a source in China close to North Korean affirms told Daily NK on January 28. “People are worried over implications of another ‘speed battle’ (intense construction mobilization) after Kim Jong Un’s order to complete the project by July 27.”

Read the rest of the article here. 

If North Korea was engaging in this sort of work, we should see evidence of it–and we can via Planet Labs. Pictured below is a plot of land on the south end of the Kalma Airport runway. On the top is the Google Earth image dated 2017-5-19. On the bottom is the Planet Labs image dated 2018-1-31:

The bottom photo clearly shows a large compound of temporary housing for construction workers. This kind of facility can be seen at all of North Korea’s large scale construction projects. The coordinates are  39.144608°, 127.503932° for those that are interested.

It is still difficult to see any significant construction taking place on the northern end of the peninsula. Planet imagery in this case is rather limited, but it also appears the construction project itself is rather recent. In the Planet image below, dated 2018-1-12, we can see just how much worker housing has been constructed in just the last two weeks.

(Note: Planet Labs created a .gif of the construction site. You can see it on Twitter here.)

If the Daily NK is correct, and this is the “Wonsan Kalma Shore Tourist Zone,” and not part of the “Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Tourist Zone,” then this indicates that plans for the area are still changing. This will be an interesting area to watch.

Here are previous posts I have done on the Kalma Peninsula and Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone. Here is a relevant article I wrote for NK News back in 2013.

UPDATE 2 (2018-1-31): KCNA releases some propaganda posters for the Kalma project:

   

These posters  give the impression that this project as ambitious as any of the major construction projects they have done in Pyongyang (Mansudae parts 1 and 2, Unha Scientist Street, Satellite Scientist Street, Mirae Scientist Street and Ryomyong Scientist Street). I previously posted about Part 2 of the Satellite Scientists Street, but it looks that that project will take a back seat to this one.

The previously announced (2015) “Kalma Street” project appears to have stalled in 2017, and this new tourist zone is apparently unrelated. It is unclear if the Kalma Street project will be completed or if it has been scrapped.

UPDATE 1 (2018-1-25): KCNA announces more information on the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area:

Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area to Be Built in DPRK

A tourist resort is to be built in the Wonsan-Kalma coastal area in Kangwon Province, the DPRK on a large scale.

The Wonsan-Kalma area is good for coastal tourism.

The Kalma Peninsula in the southern part of Wonsan bay is the connecting bar formed with granite sand.

The northern part of the peninsula ranging north and south is low hill and its coastline is straight and smooth as a whole.

It faces the Hodo Peninsula to the north and Sin, Tae and other islets are located between them which serve as seawall of Wonsan Port.

There are four-kilometer-long famous sandy beach resorts called Myongsasipri and modern Kalma Airport in the peninsula.

When the tourist area is built, it will satisfy the demand of domestic and foreign tourists and will be the most ideal place to link various tourist destinations to the Wonsan-Mt Kumgang international tourist zone.

Now, a preparatory work is brisk for completing the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area, a radical turn in putting the country’s tourism on world level.

ORIGINAL POST (2016-7-15): KCNA announces new special economic zone:

Kalma Area of DPRK to Turn into Tourist Resort

Pyongyang, July 15 (KCNA) — The Kalma area, located on the central east coast of Korea, will be turned into a tourist resort.

The area boasts of four-kilometer-long beach resort, not far away from such scenic spots as Mt. Kumgang, Lake Sijung, Chongsokjong and Lagoon Samil and the Masikryong Ski Resort.

The DPRK Law on Economic Development Parks, enacted in May Juche 102 (2013), is applicable to the area. Under this law, foreign investors are allowed to conduct their business activities independently in the area.

An international friendship air festival is to take place in Wonsan City, adjacent to the Kalma area, at the end of September.

The official media hinted at this project a few days prior in a report on the Mubong Mubong Special Zone for International Tourism.

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UNICEF warns of child malnutrition in North Korea following sanctions

January 30th, 2018

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Few or no policies come without unintended consequences. For aid institutions such as UNICEF, sanctions have led to goods being more difficult to bring to North Korea, since both banks and transportation companies are reluctant to have anything to do with the country:

Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, humanitarian supplies or operations are exempt from sanctions, Omar Abdi, UNICEF deputy executive director, said.

“But what happens is that of course the banks, the companies that provide goods or ship goods are very careful. They don’t want to take any risk of later on being associated (with) breaking the sanctions,” Abdi told a news briefing.

“That is what makes it more difficult for us to bring things. So it takes a little bit longer, especially in getting money into the country. But also in shipping goods to DPRK. There are not many shipping lines that operate in that area,” he said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Sanctions on fuel have been tightened, making it more scarce and expensive, Abdi added.

Reuters, citing three Western European intelligence sources, reported exclusively last week that North Korea shipped coal to Russia last year which was then delivered to South Korea and Japan in a likely violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We are projecting that at some point during the year 60,000 children will become severely malnourished. This is the malnutrition that potentially can lead to death. It’s protein and calorie malnutrition,” said Manuel Fontaine, director of UNICEF emergency programs worldwide.

“So the trend is worrying, it’s not getting any better.”

In all, 200,000 North Korean children suffer from acute malnutrition, including 60,000 with the most severe form that can be lethal, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF had projected 60,000 children would suffer severe acute malnutrition last year, and reached 39,000 of them with therapeutic feeding, spokesman Christophe Boulierac said.

“Diarrhoea related to poor sanitation and hygiene and acute malnutrition remains a leading cause of death among young children,” it said in Tuesday’s appeal to donors that gave no toll.

UNICEF is seeking $16.5 million this year to provide nutrition, health and water to North Koreans but faces “operational challenges” due to the tense political context and “unintended consequences” of sanctions, it said.

It cited “disruptions to banking channels, delays in clearing relief items at entry ports, difficulty securing suppliers and a 160 percent increase in fuel prices”.

“It’s a very close, and tightly monitored intervention which is purely humanitarian in its essence,” Fontaine said.

Full article:
60,000 North Korean children may starve, sanctions slow aid: UNICEF
Stephanie Nebehay
Reuters
2018-01-30

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Is North Korea scaling back winter exercises because it lacks fuel and food?

January 30th, 2018

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Much has been made of North Korea’s apparent decision to scale back its annual winter military exercises. Some have concluded it’s a sign that sanctions are working: the army lacks both fuel and food, and has therefore had no choice but to change the scale of the exercises.

While this may be true, I haven’t seen anything in the data that proves it. Take food prices, for example. The average rice price among three North Korean cities, according to the latest observation by Daily NK, is 4853 won per kg. It’s declined pretty strongly over the past few months, which isn’t unusual for this time of year. In the comparable period last year, the same price was exactly 800 won lower. In other words, food prices, as measured by rice prices, often used instead of a CPI-basket for the North Korean market, are 20 percent higher today than they were in the comparable period last year.

That isn’t negligible, but I would still say a large part of the price difference falls within the margin of error. Prices can fluctuate heavily on the North Korean market, and the results might have been different even had prices been measured on a different day. And for most of the past few months, prices have pretty much looked seasonally normal.

Lack of fuel is a much more plausible explanation. Prices have steadily climbed since early 2017 and according to data from NK PRO continue to rise. But part of the reason for the increased prices is, likely, that the military has been soaking up more fuel than usual from the market. I don’t think there’s much reasonable doubt that fuel has been more difficult to acquire since sanctions began to be enforced more strictly by China. But we also know that North Korea has continued to import fuel by circumventing sanctions. Some of these methods have been publicly exposed by US intelligence but there’s likely much more going on that we don’t see. If full-scale military exercises were a priority for the leadership, I doubt that it would be impossible for agents and enterprises further down the line to somehow acquire the fuel it needs.

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McDonalds advertising on Uriminzokkiri Youku Channel

January 29th, 2018

Last year Google and Youtube took the draconian measure of deleting approximately seven years of video footage posted to Youtube by North Korea and its agents (learn more here). The video footage was invaluable to North Korea researchers and it generated no revenue for the North Korean government.

Shame on them.

However, the story does not stop there. North Korea continues to post video content to the Chinese version of YouTube, called YouKu. Videos posted to Youku DO earn ad revenue for the North Koreans through advertising. So by banning video on YouTube and pushing viewers to YouKu, the company is creating a perverse outcome that makes North Korea better off in two ways: 1. North Korea gets more money and 2. We are ableo to learn less about North Korea from its official media (and yes, you can learn a lot about the country from its official media)

Today I was sitting through an advertisement on Youku’s Uriminzokkiri channel waiting for the North Korean evening news to start, and low and behold, I found myself watching an advertisement for McDonalds produced by their Chinese division. I have no idea how advertising decisions are made at McDonalds China, or at Youku for that matter, but I am sure their American parent company does not want this to happen.

Here is the screenshot taken just a few minutes ago:

And for what it is worth, the McDonalds advert is followed by one from Toyota.

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An affiliate of 38 North