Russia – DPRK looking to build road border crossing

May 6th, 2015

According to RBTH:

North Korea and the Russian Far East will be connected by a pontoon bridge, under a wider road transport agreement signed between the two countries last week, Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexander Galushka said.

Russia has already commenced working on the project documentation for the construction the bridge at the Khasan border crossing point Khasan in the Primorye Territory the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East said Monday.

At the moment, a railway bridge over the Tyumen River is the only surface transport connection between the neighbours.

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North Korea and the Russian Far East to be connected by a pontoon bridge
RBTH
2015-5-6

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New Satellite Control Center

May 4th, 2015

On May 4, 2015, Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim Jong-un visited the “Newly-built General Satellite Control Centre”.

Imagery release on KCTV helped me identify the facility on commercial satellite imagery:

new-satellite-control-center

Side-view

GE-Satellite-Control-Center

This is one of several large construction projects in Pyongyang that I have had my eye on for some time (I thought it was a new theater or stadium).

The new satellite control center is located in the Pothonggang District of Pyongyang. The size of the mission control room is approximately 570 square meters. Other facilities in the building, according to the DPRK media, include a revolutionary history room, auxiliary display and control room, and optical observation room, E-library, lounge, conference room, offices, dining room and bedrooms.

Based on commercial satellite imagery, construction began sometime between 2014-4-13 and 2014-7-3, meaning that if completed, construction took nearly one year.

Pothonggang-control-center-before

 Pothonggang-control-center-after

This new control center may also be the administrative home of the National Aerospace Development Administration. Construction of the new satellite control center began shortly after NADA was publicly announced last year.

If completed, this new facility raises a question about the status of the older satellite control center in Ryongsong District at the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.

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Construction of new Wonsan Airport continued through winter

May 1st, 2015

New Google Earth imagery shows continued development of the new civilian airport in Wonsan. The airport is presumably intended to support the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

2015-3-26 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-3-26

2015-2-10 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2015-2-10

2014-12-25 (Google Earth)

Wonsan-Airport-2014-12-25

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North Korea Spurring Development of Various Special Tourist Zones

April 30th, 2015

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2015-4-30

North Korea is expediting the development of various ‘Special Tourist Zones’. North Korea is diversifying its tour packages, and have designated Mt. Kumgang (Kumgangsan) and Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) as International Special Tourist Zones. A Special Tourist Zone on the riverside near the Amrok (Yalu) River Bridge is also under construction. This zone is designed to attract foreign tourists including Chinese tourists.

In addition, North Korea and China are pushing forward with the ‘Onsong-Tumen Border Culture and Tourism Cooperation Zone.’ This is intended to be a cooperation zone that integrates tourism, cultural performances, duty-free shopping and serves as a distribution center of tourism products for both countries.

North Korea has also revealed outlines of its plans for the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Tourist Region and is pushing ahead with an on-site briefing session scheduled for May 2015. While North Korea repairs and expands the existing road network connecting each tourist site (focusing first on Wonsan), authorities have decided to construct a transportation network by establishing a high-speed railroad between Pyongyang and Wonsan, as well as opening passenger routes between Wonsan Harbor and Rason, and Wonsan Harbor and Vladivostok. They also plan to introduce a series of measures for attracting tourists, including a no-visa system, currently under consideration.

In addition, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has announced an era of full-fledged international tourism in Mt. Paektu. On April 23, 2015, KCNA revealed that the Mubong International Special Tourist Zone will be built in part of Samjiyon County’s Mubong Workers’ District near Mt. Paektu. The Mubong Workers’ District is 35km away from Mt. Paektu, 60km away from Samjiyon, and 70km away from Taehongdan. Thus, it is considered eligible for designation as a special district.

This location is considered to be relatively well-equipped with tourism infrastructure compared to other regions, and expected to perform favorably in attracting outside investment. KCNA reported that this region has a number of amenities and attractions as a Special Tourist Zone.

For example, two decades ago North Korea prepared to host the 1995 Asian Winter Games in Samjiyon until those preparations came to a halt. However, construction resumed in the 2000s, and since then North Korea has constructed a large-scale winter athlete’s village equipped with facilities such as a ski resort and ice rink. Also, Mubong lies in the middle of Samjiyon, Mt. Paektu, and Taehongdan. From Mubong one can go climb Mt. Paektu and view the entire Samjiyon area, or go to Taehongdan and see the large potato-growing districts.

Since the Kim Jong Il era, potato fields were planted in Taehongdan as a tourist attraction. In Mubong, North Korea built large-scale blueberry production complexes, which have become well-known for their blueberry wine. There are also customs offices in Ssangdubong, making the entry process for foreigners presumably less difficult.

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DPRK and Russia ink deal

April 27th, 2015

According to Xinhua:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Russia on Monday signed a protocol in Pyongyang, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The details of the protocol, which was signed after a meeting of the DPRK-Russia Inter-governmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade and Economy, Science and Technology, were not disclosed.

The two sides discussed issues of boosting cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology between the two countries, said the KCNA.

The protocol was signed by Ri Ryong Nam, the DPRK’s minister of external economic relations, and Alexandr Galushka, Russian minister of development of Far East.

Officials taking part in the meeting also included Russian ambassador to the DPRK, Alexandr Matsegora, and the Russian government economic delegation headed by Galushka.

On the same day, DPRK Vice Premier Ro Tu Chol met the Russian government economic delegation and had friendly talks with them.

Read the full story here:
DPRK, Russia ink protocol after inter-governmental meeting
Xinhua
2015-4-27

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North Korean workers in Russia

April 27th, 2015

According to NK News:

The amount of North Korean citizens officially working in the Russian Federation from the start of 2015 is now 20 percent higher year on year, information from Russian media stated.

A total 47,364 North Koreans are at present working in Russia since the year began, an April 22 report from business daily RBK stated.

By nationality, only Chinese and Turkish workers exceed them in terms of numbers, at 80,662 and 54,730 respectively, the report said.

Those three countries also comprise a total 80 percent of the foreign workers in Russia, the report noted.

While North Korean workers within Russia are known largely for working in logging camps throughout Siberia, they are also working in plastering, the RBK report stated.

Demand for North Koreans plasterers have also taken up the majority of Russian work permits in that skill, at 9,026 out of a total 14,783, the report added.

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North Korean workers in Russia up 20%
NK News
Christopher Rivituso
2015-4-27

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DPRK – China Trade in 2015

April 26th, 2015

Yonhap reports that DPRK – China trade has fallen in the first quarter of 2015:

Trade between North Korea and China, its economic lifeline, slipped 13.4 percent on-year in the first three months of this year amid frayed bilateral ties, data showed Sunday.

Bilateral trade volume fell to US$1.1 billion in the January-March period, compared with $1.27 billion for the same period last year, the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said, citing Chinese customs data.

China is North Korea’s top economic benefactor, but its political ties with Pyongyang have been strained since the North’s third nuclear test in February 2013.

No crude oil was officially sent to North Korea from China for all of last year.

China’s shipments of crude oil to North Korea were also absent during the first quarter of this year.

South Korean diplomatic sources in Beijing, however, have cautioned against reading too much into the official Chinese trade figures because China has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid in the past and such shipments were not recorded on paper.

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N. Korea’s trade with China dips 13.4 pct in Q1
Yonhap
2015-4-26

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South Korea allows fertilizer aid shipment

April 26th, 2015

According to Reuters:

South Korea said on Monday it has approved a request by a private aid group to send fertilizer to North Korea, the first such move in nearly five years that signalled a slight relaxing of sanctions imposed after one of its navy ships was attacked.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles ties with the North, said it approved the shipment of 15 tonnes of fertilizer as part of a charity group’s project to build a greenhouse farm in the North.

The approval came despite a deadlock in dialogue between the two states and a ban on large-scale public or private aid to the impoverished North since May 2010, although some forms of help such as medicine have been allowed on humanitarian grounds.

South Korea imposed sanctions in May 2010 after a torpedo attack sank one of its navy ships killing 46 sailors, cutting off most political and commercial exchanges with the North. The North denies Seoul’s accusation that it was behind the attack.

Although the approval of fertiliser shipment was symbolic as the first of its kind in five years, a Unification Ministry official said it did not automatically mean the government was considering the resumption of large state-sponsored aid.

“Large-scale fertilizer support for North Korea should take inter-Korean situations and public consensus into account,” a Unification Ministry official said.

Gyeongam Foundation, a charity fund run by bed manufacturer Ace, has been operating the agricultural support program to build greenhouses for North Koreans and providing farming equipment.

During a period of warming ties beginning in 2000, South Korea supplied as much as 350,000 tonnes of fertilizer to the North annually, and up to 500,000 tonnes of rice as a goodwill gesture by the liberal leaders in Seoul in office at the time.

The election of a conservative leader in the South who took office in 2008 soured relations, with aid from the South falling sharply.

Food production in North Korea has improved in recent years largely due to favourable weather and minor changes to its farm policy, but it still relies on foreign aid to make up for the deficit in what is needed to feed its people.

North Korea, already heavily sanctioned by the United Nations for its missile and nuclear tests, is technically still at war with the South after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not with a peace treaty.

After a delegation of high-level North Korean officials made a surprise visit in October last year to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, South Korea has said it was willing to discuss the sanctions as a way to move forward in their ties.

North Korea has since refused to resume dialogue.

Read the full story here:
South Korea allows first fertilizer aid to the North since 2010 sanctions
Reuters
Ju-min Park
2015-4-26

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China tries to involve DPRK in Silk Road Initiative

April 24th, 2015

According to Yonhap:

China has asked North Korea to join its ambitious Silk Road project to revive the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.

Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, made the request on Tuesday when he held a meeting with North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Ryong-nam in Pyongyang, according to a statement posted on the website for the Chinese Embassy in North Korea.

With a US$40 billion fund, China has aggressively pushed the so-called “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at building ports, expressways, railways and other infrastructure with its neighboring countries.

“Ambassador Li introduced the concept and vision of ‘One Belt, One Road’ and hopes the two sides will work together to seize the opportunity to promote China-North Korea economic and trade cooperation,” the statement said.

Li said, “Developing friendly and cooperative relations with North Korea is the unswerving policy of the party and the government of China. China is ready to work together with North Korea.”

The statement did not say how the North Korean minister responded.

Political ties between North Korea and China remain strained due to the North’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons, but China is the North’s economic lifeline and diplomatic backer at the United Nations.

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China seeks N. Korea’s cooperation in Silk Road initiative
Yonhap
2015-4-24

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DPRK announces Mubong Special Zone for International Tour [sic]

April 23rd, 2015

Mubong-special-zone-google-earth

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): Mubong Special Zone for International Tour

According to KCNA:

The Mubong Special Zone for International Tour will be established in the DPRK.

A relevant decree was promulgated by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK on Wednesday.

According to the decree, the special zone for international tour will cover some areas of the Mubong Workers’ District in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province.

The sovereignty of the DPRK will be exercised in the zone to which the DPRK Law on Economic Development Parks and its regulations concerning foreign investment will be applied.

Here is coverage in Xinhua.

Here is coverage in Yonhap:

North Korea said Thursday it has decided to establish a special tourist zone in a district near the peninsula’s highest peak, a move seen as intended to earn hard currency.

North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly on Wednesday promulgated a decree designating some areas of the Mubong workers’ district near Mount Baekdu as the Mubong Special Zone for International Tour, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The district, located in Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, is well positioned for a tourist zone as there are already lodging houses and other facilities located there. A military airport is also located near the county, raising accessibility to the district.

North Korea’s sovereignty will be exercised in the special tourist zone where the North’s laws and regulations on economic development zones and foreign investment will also apply, according to the KCNA.

The Mubong zone will be the second special zone for international tour in the North, along with a special zone at Mt. Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North’s east coast.

Experts said that the latest move is aimed at luring the dollar from foreign tourists by boosting tourism at Mt. Baekdu at a time when inter-Korean exchanges have been suspended since 2010 following a deadly warship sinking.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea creates special tour zone near Mt. Baekdu
Yonhap
2015-4-23

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