Worker’s Party and Women’s Union address membership dues

November 1st, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities increased both Party and Chosun Union of Democratic Women’s fees in the run up to this year’s [Chosun Workers’ Party] Foundation Day on October 10th, and demanded that members pay in full and on time going forward. Members of both organizations are supposed to pay a small percentage of their wages in organizational dues on a monthly basis, but systems for payment broke down in the face of the social and political upheaval of the 90s and early 2000s.

“We recently replaced Party membership cards with ones containing images of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il together. That was done in accordance with the revised ‘Ten Principles [for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System],’” the source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on the 31st. “For workers earning 3000 won a month, the base membership fee of 60 won was doubled to 120 won. At the same time as Party cards were replaced, members were told to normalize payment of their dues as well.”

“When they were given the order, a lot of people pointed out that they hadn’t been paying their fees on time because they hadn’t been getting paid on time, either.” The increase means that fees now constitute a total of 4% of a Party member’s basic official salary, although with additions many members are paid closer to 6000 won per month. The Women’s Union monthly fee has risen from 20 won to 50 won, the source reported.

The source also revealed reactions to the news. “Some have welcomed it because they think it may mean a corresponding rise in wages,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see whether that happens; in any case, these things are an attempt to concentrate power over the people in the hands of the Party.”

The source also noted that a great many people have lost their loyalty to the Party anyway. “People’s loyalties have changed, and changing Party memberships won’t do anything to bring it back,” he concluded. “‘Shouldn’t they work to change the people’s hearts, first?’ That is the question. People are Party members in name only.”

Other sources also report that there have been extensive meetings and Party membership conferment ceremonies of late, as well as lectures on the sanctioned method of storing one’s membership card. “The authorities constantly drill into us that Party membership cards must be protected like one’s own life,” the source said. “There’ll probably continue to be strong controls on that, too.”

Read the full story here:
Dues Rise as Timely Payments Decreed
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin
2013-11-1

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DPRK doctors working in China

November 1st, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

North Korean doctors are being dispatched to the Yanbian Autonomous Korean Prefecture of China in order to bring in much-needed foreign currency, a source has reported.

Lee Wong Jong, the manager of an oriental medicine clinic in Yanji, the capital of the autonomous region, contacted Daily NK on the 1st.

“Most North Koreans in Yanji work in North Korean-run restaurants and IT companies, but lately it’s not been hard to find North Korean doctors, too. These doctors are working legally at Chinese hospitals,” he said.

He continued, “They are obtaining official visas from the North Korean government and moving to China to work. They are not in the country as the result of an agreement between China and North Korea, however. North Korea is providing individual doctors with visas so that they can go and earn foreign currency.”

“I know a North Korean dentist working at a hospital. At the same time, he works to help people like himself who have been granted Chinese visas. He essentially plays the role of an employment agency and helps them find work in other hospitals. Many IT workers have come to China too, and he connects those people with companies and factories, too.”

Lee now fears for his friend, however; “A few months ago I started to see less and less of him, and now he has disappeared without a trace.” He explained, “If the North Korean authorities receive a report that one of their citizens has met with a South Korean they order them to return home, no exceptions.”

On the North’s move to provide visas to its doctors, Lee revealed, “North Korean doctors are not well-regarded in China. No one wants to get treated by a doctor from a backward country, so the authorities can’t form an official agreement with China to send them. Granting visas to individual doctors instead is an unofficial way to bring in foreign currency.”

Doctors are not the only profession to receive permission to work and live in China, Lee explained. “In Yanji there are many North Koreans. You can see young Chinese-Koreans in their early 20s driving around in foreign cars. They manage IT companies that employ North Korean labor, and make good money that way.”

He added, “The number of North Korean workers employed in Chinese firms has skyrocketed over the last few years. They now show no outward signs of awkwardness adapting to life in China.”

Read the full story here:
NK Doctors Working in China
Daily NK
Oh Se Hyek
2013-11-1

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FIFA supporting development of sport in the DPRK

October 31st, 2013

2013-10-31-international-football-school

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The Pyongyang International Football School and support facilities

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

International soccer’s governing body FIFA has provided funds worth $500,000 to build infrastructure to update a soccer academy in Pyongyang, a media outlet reported Thursday.

The International School of Football opened earlier this year and has been training North Korean youths between the ages of 6 and 13, according to a report by Radio Free Asia.

The Washington-based broadcaster said support was given as part of its “goal project” to help build football-related infrastructure in less affluent countries.

FIFA started providing support to the North from 2001 onwards, with around $2 million having been spent so far on six development projects.

Related to the school, North Korean media said its leader Kim Jong-un in June personally designated a name for the new facility that opened on May 31.

Read the full story here:
FIFA gives funds to improve soccer academy in N.K.
Korea Herald (Yonhap)
2013-10-31

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DPRK population at 24.9 million (estimated)

October 31st, 2013

According to Yonhap (2013-10-31):

North Korea’s population stands at 24.9 million, the 49th-largest in the world, a report by a United Nations fund showed Thursday.

According to “State of World Population 2013” published by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the North Korean population is expected to grow 0.5 percent in the 2010-15 period.

It said that boys born during this five-year period could expect to live an average of 66 years, while the female life expectancy was estimated at 73 years.

The latest findings also said a woman in the communist country is likely to give birth to two children, smaller than the overall average of 2.5 kids for the 202 countries checked.

The UNFPA said that 16 percent of the North’s population were between the ages of 10 and 19. This is just shy of the global average of 16.7 percent, although it is 3 percentage points higher than the comparable figure for South Korea.

In the number of people in the 10-19 age group, the North ranked 118th, with South Korea trailing far behind at 151st, the report showed.

The report said that despite various deprivations affecting the isolationist country, 100 percent of childbirths were assisted by trained medical personnel such as doctors, nurses and midwives.

The findings, meanwhile, showed the maternal death rate in the country at 81 deaths for every 100,000 births, while infant mortality rate reached 28 for every 1,000 children under the age of 5.

The population fund said it based its report on data provided by various U.N. organizations including the United Nations World Population Prospects.

The UN report can be found here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s population stands at 24.9 mln, 49th-largest in the world: report
Yonhap
2013-10-31

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Chongryun education subsidies

October 31st, 2013

 

Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) The Chongryon headquarters building in Tokyo. (R) The Chongryon’s Korea University

UPDATE 8 (2013-10-31): According to the Choson Ilbo, Yokohama has cut Chongryon education subsidies:

The Japanese city of Yokohama has decided to stop annual subsidies to pro-North Korean schools this year, citing North Korea’s nuclear test and other provocations, the Tokyo Shimbun daily reported Wednesday.

The schools are affiliated with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan or Chongryon, a Pyongyang mouthpiece.

The education committee in Yokohama informed three of the Chongryon schools in the city last week that they would not be receiving the subsidy of 2.5 million yen set aside in this year’s budget.

They include two primary and one secondary school.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said she is halting the subsidies as long as the issues of “North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and abduction of Japanese citizens remain unresolved.”

Earlier in February, the Japanese government cut Chongryon schools out of federal subsidies. Seven regional governments, including Saitama and Hiroshima, have followed suit.

Read the full story here:
Yokohama Stops Subsidies for Chongryon Schools
Choson Ilbo
2013-10-31

UPDATE 7 (2013-6-15): The Economist follows up with a story on the state of the Chongryun schools in Japan:

Japan’s government excluded the schools from a scheme to waive tuition fees in other schools two years ago. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, is now focusing on public funding. Tokyo has led the way, ending its 6m yen ($63,000) annual subsidy to this Korean high school. Local authorities around Japan are following suit. “We’ll survive, but many won’t,” laments the headmaster, Shin Gil-ung.

The funding assault is part of what may be the end-game in a low-level war between Japanese conservatives and the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, known as Chongryon. The organisation, which runs the schools, is North Korea’s de facto embassy and is suspected of involvement in the North’s bizarre abduction of over a dozen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The Japanese want the surviving citizens returned. The North Koreans say they are all dead.

The schools and the community they serve are in deep trouble anyway. Thousands of Koreans are abandoning their ethnic identities to take Japanese citizenship. Enrolment at Mr Shin’s school has fallen to 600 students from a high of 2,300 when he attended in the late 1960s. Parents pay for 80% of the institution’s costs; cash from North Korea, once a lifeline, has dried up.

UPDATE 6 (2011-10-24): According to the Daily NK:

The network of schools in Japan operated by the General Association of North Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon, saw the overall scale of its government funding shrink by 27% in the year 2009-2010, according to a report today from Sankei Shimbun.

Documents reveal that in 2009, ‘Chosun Schools’ received 549.73 million Yen ($7.2 million) in support, but by 2010 this had shrunk by 147.29 million Yen ($1.9 million) to 424.3 million Yen ($5.5 million).

Chosun Schools have courted controversy in recent times with assertions that have angered the Japanese authorities, in particular stating in history textbooks that “The Japanese authorities are emphasizing the abductees issue to cultivate anti-Chosun discord,” but also by calling the 1987 Korean Air disaster a fabrication.

The greatest reductions in funding were felt in four places; Tokyo, Osaka, Saitama and Fukuoka. Two, Tokyo and Saitama, gave no funding at all during 2010, with Osaka authorities explaining their choice in terms of cutting links with Chongryon as an organization which places portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on the walls of classrooms.

Elsewhere, consistently falling student numbers have also reduced the applicability of central funding for the schools.

UPDATE 5 (2011-6-3): The Chongryun schools seem to have corrected a number of historical points to please the Japanese.  According to the Choson Ilbo:

Pro-North Korean high schools in Japan changed textbook entries about North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals and the bombing of Korean Air passenger plane in 1987 to receive local government funding, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday.

Kanagawa Prefecture on Wednesday said pro-Pyongyang high schools in the prefecture removed from their modern history textbook the sentence “Japan exaggerated the kidnap issue,” and the entry claiming South Korea “fabricated” the bombing was amended to the bombing “occurred.”

The textbook is used in 10 pro-North Korean high schools in Japan. Kanagawa Prefecture added the modified version of the textbook was checked during a survey of high schools as part of a national tuition fee waiver program at the end of May.

Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa said on Thursday, “We agreed to provide 63 million yen of funding to the schools as they promised to use the supplementary book that says North Korea ‘officially admitted’ the kidnapping, and reflect this when the textbook is revised in 2013. Whether we will continue to provide funding after next year depends on the teaching in these schools.”

Kanagawa Prefecture withheld financial assistance to five pro-Pyongyang primary, middle and high schools in the prefecture last year, and demanded modification of history textbooks and transparent management of schools.

Shin Kil-woong, who leads a group of head teachers at high schools run by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Koreans in Japan or Chongryon, said, “We decided to remove the parts on the kidnapping issue to seek understanding from Japanese people.”

UPDATE 4 (2011-3-8): Congryun education subsidies in Japan appear to be on the wane again. According to Kyodo:

Students of a pro-Pyongyang high school in Tokyo called on the government Sunday to include their school in the national tuition waiver program.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government had planned for the program to cover pro-Pyongyang schools by the end of the current fiscal year through March, but Prime Minister Naoto Kan suspended procedures to expand the program in the wake of North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island in November.

Pro-Pyongyang schools have close ties with the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), which serves as the de facto government mission for North Korea in Japan because of the absence of diplomatic relations.

“We would like to study with the same rights as Japanese high school students,” said Pak Su Gi, 18, in a speech addressed to Kan at a graduation ceremony at the pro-Pyongyang school in Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

The students of the school have been collecting signatures for a petition and held a march in the past year.

“We feel frustrated because our voices have not reached the government,” said Om Ri Hwa, another 18-year-old graduate of the Tokyo school.

The government has since last April waived tuition fees for students attending public high schools in line with the ruling party’s pledge in the August 2009 general election.

UPDATE 3 (2011-2-5): Chongryon schools’ history spin hurt tuition waiver bid. According to the Japan Times:

Flipping through a copy of a recently obtained Korean history textbook used in pro-Pyongyang junior high schools in Japan, journalist Ryo Hagiwara points his finger to a section describing how North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, and his Korean People’s Revolutionary Army defeated the Japanese occupation forces in 1945 and drove them off the Korean Peninsula.

“Well, this reads as if Kim and his army single-handedly liberated the North, but this is not true. It’s a known historical fact that Kim was an officer of the Soviet army’s 88th Brigade at the time,” Hagiwara said.

According to outside historians, the KPRA was a North Korean propaganda term for what was actually the Second Army Corps of a Chinese communist-led force that Kim was a part of during the 1930s and early 1940s before he joined the Soviet army.

“It’s as if students are studying Kim’s biography, not real history,” Hagiwara said, explaining that out of the textbook’s 119 pages, 62 are dedicated to Kim Il Sung and his family.

The expert on North Korea is heading a group translating the textbook into Japanese to highlight its content for the Japanese public. He expects the group’s version to be published later this month.

Hagiwara is a proponent of abolishing all subsidies for these schools, which he claims are giving students distorted history lessons that glorify and instill loyalty to Kim Jong Il’s hermit regime, and have strong ties with an organization with direct links to the dictatorship — Chongryon, the Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

It appears his argument has been gaining ground in recent months following North Korea’s bombing of a South Korean island in November, which prompted the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to temporarily freeze procedures for including pro-Pyongyang schools in its high school tuition waiver program.

Under a law that took effect last April, students at public high schools are exempt from paying tuition. Private schools and other schools equivalent to high schools receive between ¥118,800 to ¥237,600 per student annually, depending on their household income.

Foreign schools and international schools are eligible for the tuition waiver program if they are considered equivalent to Japanese high schools after checks with their home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by international organizations.

But while the DPJ initially planned on including the pro-Pyongyang high schools, the increased tensions in the region in recent months have led Prime Minister Naoto Kan to apply the brakes.

Making things worse for these schools, the increased publicity has prompted several municipalities to review the annual grants they have been doling out to them for decades.

Reports from the education ministry and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea (NARKN) show that 27 prefectures have been handing out a total of around ¥800 million a year to pro-Pyongyang schools.

Based on the schools’ enrollment, they would get additional funding of around ¥200 million under the central government’s high school tuition waiver program.

According to the education ministry, 73 pro-Pyongyang schools with an estimated 8,300 students were operating in Japan as of 2009. Of these, 10 were high schools with around 1,800 students in total.

In late January, Osaka Prefecture decided against distributing the ¥200 million in subsidies it has budgeted for fiscal 2011 for the 10 pro-Pyongyang schools within its jurisdiction.

Osaka, which has been providing financial aid to pro-Pyongyang schools since 1974, cited the schools’ reluctance to respond to guidelines the prefecture had set under Gov. Toru Hashimoto as the reason behind the decision. The guidelines include severing ties with Chongryon and removing photographs of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il from classrooms.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which has been handing out approximately ¥24 million a year to 10 pro-Pyongyang schools, has also suspended grants for fiscal 2011.

“Municipal subsidies to pro-Pyongyang schools have been handed out for decades without ever being widely reported, but the controversy over the DPJ’s tuition waiver program dragged it into the spotlight,” said Ryuichiro Hirata, chief executive of NARKN, a nationwide nonprofit organization working to secure the return of people abducted by the North.

Hirata said history textbooks used in pro-Pyongyang schools nationwide are edited and carefully checked in Pyongyang, and he believes Japan would send the North the wrong message if it hands money to its schools while issuing various other sanctions.

According to “Modern Korean History — Level 3,” used in pro-Pyongyang high schools and translated into Japanese and published last year by Hagiwara and his organization, the Association of Experts Against Spending Tax Money on Pro-Pyongyang High Schools, South Korea and the United States were responsible for starting the Korean War.

This claim is contrary to common knowledge that the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 was the direct catalyst.

The textbook also states that the 1987 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 by two North Korean agents, which killed 115 people, was a conspiracy hatched in South Korea to help Roh Tae Woo win the presidential election.

Lee Young Hwa, an economics professor at Kansai University and a North Korea expert, said it is fundamentally wrong that subsidies are being given to pro-Pyongyang schools, which operate under the guidance of Kim Jong Il’s Korean Workers’ Party.

“Unless Japan is a dictatorship, it should not be spending public money to fund schools operated by the KWP,” Lee said, arguing that such schools should only be allowed to continue operations if they severe ties with the North and operate under the principles of democracy.

But there are many who oppose cutting off grants to such schools because of diplomatic tension, arguing it would violate the children’s right to an education and could foster ethnic discrimination.

Pro-Pyongyang schools have been operating in Japan since the 1950s by Koreans who remained here after being conscripted by the Japanese military during the war, or who came here to work or were brought over for forced labor.

Lee Ji Seon, a 27-year-old ethnic Korean resident of Japan, received his elementary, junior high and high school education at pro-Pyongyang schools in Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures. He now works at a Japanese television station after attending Beijing University and studying in the U.S.

Lee said he believes a healthy society should guarantee freedom of thought and belief, and cutting off subsidies to pro-Pyongyang schools would deprive children of their right to an education.

“What would these children think in the future about Japanese society if they are excluded” from receiving grants, Lee said.

He said that during Korean history lessons, he studied Kim Il Sung’s biography and his battle against the Japanese occupation forces, but said he didn’t feel pressured to assume loyalty to Pyongyang, nor did he feel “brainwashed,” as Hiroshi Nakai, former minister in charge of the North Korean abduction issue, once asserted.

“But what’s notable is that many classes were taught in Korean, aimed at nurturing ethnic consciousness,” he said, claiming that world and Japanese history classes were taught free of any propaganda.

Park Il, an economics professor at Osaka City University’s graduate school, is critical of Japan for its indifference toward international schools in general, and said it is “unbelievable” that municipalities such as Osaka are trying to meddle with the content of textbooks used in pro-Pyongyang schools.

“It’s like overseas Japanese schools being ordered by the respective local governments to revise sections in textbooks that mention the Imperial system,” he said.

“Furthermore, North Korea’s bombing of Yeonpyeong Island is unrelated to students studying in pro-Pyongyang schools — I believe it’s outrageous that public support of education could be cut off due to political friction,” he said.

With the March 31 end of fiscal 2010 and the deadline for granting subsidies for schools approaching, it appears certain the debate will intensify in the weeks to come.

Kim Myung Soo, a sociology professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, said it is likely pro-Pyongyang schools will sue the government if the subsidies for fiscal 2010 aren’t distributed.

Kim, who attended a pro-Pyongyang elementary school in Fukuoka Prefecture before switching over to a Japanese school, said it is essential that Japan work toward fighting racial discrimination and protecting foreign residents and minorities, rather than fostering ethnic divides.

“The government is acting emotionally and based on anti-North Korean sentiment. Cutting off subsidies will only send out the message that Japan doesn’t care about human rights,” he said.

UPDATE 2 (2010-11-10): Apparently Tokyo will not take the Chongryon school curricula into account in determining eligibility for subsidies. According to Japan Today:

The Liberal Democratic Party adopted a resolution Tuesday opposing the education ministry’s policy of not factoring in curricula when considering a tuition waiver for schools catering to pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan.

Shigeru Yokota, whose daughter was abducted by North Korea in 1977 at age 13, also voiced opposition to the policy, saying, ‘‘Giving subsidies to (schools) that provide wrong education will cause trouble in the future.’‘

The main opposition party adopted the resolution at a joint meeting of intra-party panels on education and abduction issues. Yokota, 77, attended the gathering.

The government led by the Democratic Party of Japan has since April waived tuition for students who attend public senior high schools in line with the party’s pledge in the August 2009 general election.

Private and other schools equivalent to senior high schools also receive stipends for their students under the national program, but the pro-Pyongyang schools have so far been excluded, pending the establishment of criteria.

The ministry said Friday it has decided not to make the curricula of the pro-Pyongyang schools a factor in deciding whether they are eligible for subsidies under the tuition waiver program.

UPDATE 1  (2010-11-3): According to the AP:

The Japanese education ministry has decided to ask pro- Pyongyang high schools in Japan to use Japanese textbooks of politics and economics when the government includes such high schools in its tuition waiver program, government sources said Tuesday.

The decision is apparently in response to concerns expressed by some lawmakers who have claimed that anti-Japan education is being conducted at these pro-Pyongyang ethnic schools for Korean residents in Japan.

The Japanese government is expected to formally approve a proposal by an education ministry panel to include pro-Pyongyang high schools in Japan in its tuition waiver program, possibly this week.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshiaki Takaki appeared to have won the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s approval for the move at a meeting with DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada on Tuesday night, the sources said.

Given a law to respect the autonomy of individual schools’ education policies, including those of pro-Pyongyang schools, the Japanese government does not oblige the schools to purchase Japanese textbooks to benefit from the tuition waiver program, the sources said.

But given concerns about the inclusion of pro-Pyongyang schools in the tuition waiver program, the government will encourage students of these schools to use Japanese textbooks and learn the basics of Japanese society, such as the independence of legislative, administrative and judicial powers, they said.

Takaki is expected to require schools benefiting from the tuition waiver program to submit a document proving that money offered under the program was spent to cover students’ tuition, the sources said.

The government intends to formally decide on the inclusion of pro- Pyongyang schools in the tuition waiver program by the end of this year, and if it is decided, students will be eligible for the program, retroactive to April.

Under a law that took effect in April, senior high school students at Japanese public schools are exempt from tuition fees, while private and other schools equivalent to high schools receive between 118,800 yen to 237,600 yen annually per student depending on household income.

Foreign schools, such as international schools, are eligible for the tuition waiver program if they are recognized as equivalent to Japanese senior high schools after checks with their respective home countries, or if their curricula are accredited by international organizations.

But pro-Pyongyang schools have been excluded as, unlike other foreign schools, it could not be confirmed that they were equivalent to Japanese schools as Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic ties.

The education ministry set up the panel to consider the eligibility criteria for the tuition waiver.

According to the education ministry, there are 10 pro-Pyongyang high schools in Japan, with an estimated 1,800 students.

Read the full stories here:
Pro-Pyongyang school wants tuitions waived
Kyodo News (via Japan Times)
3/8/2011

Recent tension, pro-North schools’ history spin hurt tuition waiver bid
The Japan Times
Alex Martin
2/5/2011

LDP opposes funding policy regarding pro-Pyongyang schools’ curricula
Japan Today
11/10/2010

Gov’t to ask pro-Pyongyang schools to buy Japanese text books
Associated Press (via Breitbart)
11/3/2010

ORIGINAL POST (2010-8-26): According to KBS (h/t NK news.org):

A Japanese daily says schools in Japan run by a pro-North Korean organization will also soon benefit from high school tuition assistance.

The Mainichi Shimbun says that the schools, which currently do not qualify for subsidies due to their disputed curricula glorifying North Korea, will soon be included on a list of institutions that qualify for state tuition assistance.

The ten such schools, which are operated by an organization of Japanese residents of North Korean descent, have a total of 18-hundred students.

Read the full sotry here:
‘Pro-NK Schools in Japan to Get State Subsidies’
KBS
8/26/2010

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DPRK revises law to boost railway cooperation with foreign nations

October 30th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has revised a law to help the isolated country expand railway cargo cooperation with foreign countries and attract investment, a report said Wednesday.

According to the report by the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI), Pyongyang changed its international railroad cargo law in December 2011 that regulates contracts, damage claims, fares, restrictions and dispute settlements.

The North had created its first railway law in 1987, but this revision marks the first related to cooperation with foreign countries, it said.

“The changes in particular are noteworthy because it outlines investment protection and pledges that the government will legally uphold the rights of investors and their interests,” the transportation institute said.

Pyongyang will take administrative and legal actions against people who obstruct international rail traffic, and promises to take disputes that cannot be settled through negotiations to court or through a binding arbitration process, it added.

The think tank, meanwhile, said that the changes were primarily made to transform the port of Rajin near the Chinese and Russian borders into a regional logistics hub.

Last month the North announced the reopening of a railway service linking Rajin with the Russian city of Khasan. Work on the railway line took five years to complete.

In addition to the railway law, KOTI said Pyongyang has shown interest in attracting foreign investors who will carry out so-called built-operate-transfer contracts, aimed at modernizing the country’s dilapidated infrastructure.

“The move by the North to emphasize profitability reflects signs that the country is becoming more open to the outside world compared to the past,” said Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

He said such changes aim to entice much needed foreign investment by offering actual profits.

Read more about the Rason -Russia railway project here.

Read full story here:
N. Korea revises law to boost railway cooperation with foreign nations: report
Yonhap
2013-10-30

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DPRK crop imports from China hit annual high

October 30th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea’s crop imports from China more than doubled to hit a yearly high in September, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data compiled by Kwon Tae-jin, a senior researcher at the Korea Rural Economic Institute, North Korea imported 67,208 tons of grains and legumes such as flour, rice, corn and bean in September from its neighboring country, compared with 26,804 tons a month earlier.

The surge was attributed mainly to Pyongyang’s increased imports of corn. The impoverished nation bought a total of 50,613 tons of corn last month, nearly nine times the amount imported the previous month, the data showed.

“The big increase in imports would either mean that Pyongyang is running out of its stock amid the regime’s efforts to increase the ration to people since this spring or that it is try to stabilize market prices,” Kwon said.

“Factoring in the forecast of good harvests for the autumn, the North is expected to enjoy a relatively stable supply of crops at least for the rest of the year,” he added.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s crop imports from China hit annual high in Sept.
Yonhap
2013-10-30

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DPRK debt will hamper development of Economic Development Zones

October 30th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea’s unserviced external debt will make it difficult for the country and its partners to implement plans for special economic zones, it has been pointed out. North Korea, which defaulted on its external debt decades ago, needs to recover its sovereign credit rating through repayment or rescheduling, but has not shown any intention of doing so.

“North Korea’s outstanding foreign debt is between $120 billion and $150 billion; if the state cannot repay this, they cannot get access to international financial institutions,” Yoon Deok Ryong, a senior researcher with the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy explained to Daily NK. “The North Korean regime must take steps to restore trust. One of the ways this could be done would be to join the Paris Club of debtors, a structure within which developing nations can borrow money without incurring interest.”

“For a number of years, the Chinese government has been distributing investment guides to Chinese businessmen that outline the risks of investing in North Korea. These guides were previously shared privately, but have now been made public by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce,” Yoon went on. “We can see in this that China, too, is wary of investing in North Korea; it is therefore imperative for the North Korean government to adopt trustworthy measures such as servicing its debts. This is the only way that their development plans can work out.”

“North Korea has been pushing for foreign capital via investment symposiums and talks, as well as the enactment of appropriate trade legislation. But the truly vital concern they should deal with is the building of trust to improve their battered image, one that is often associated with massive outstanding sovereign debt,” a second economic expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed.

All joint ventures require a North Korean business partner. However, many previous JV agreements have seen the North Korean side not service its financial obligations properly. This makes it harder every time Pyongyang makes a new attempt to attract foreign capital.

“During the peak of joint ventures with China in the mid-2000s, there was this hotel in Pyongyang designated solely for Chinese visitors, Kim Seong Ryong, a recent defector who worked on trade issues for a provincial people’s committee in Hwanghae Province, revealed to Daily NK. “Of the 1000 Chinese staying there, most had come to collect their debts. Eventually, however, most could not get their money back and had to close down their businesses.”

Kim went on, “No matter how the Chinese government goes about spurring investment in North Korea, it remains uncertain how much money Chinese businessmen will willingly give in light of the calculations involved. In particular, Chinese traders are fully aware that North Korea does not service its debts properly; thus, the likelihood that Chinese traders will refrain from participating in the development zones is very high.”

Read the full story here:
Debt Burden Set to Trip Up SEZ Plans
Daily NK
Oh Se Hyeok
2013-10-30

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Agreements on Cooperation between DPRK and Mongolia signed

October 28th, 2013

According to KCNA (2013-10-28):

Agreements on Cooperation between Governments of DPRK, Mongolia Signed

Pyongyang, October 28 (KCNA) — An agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture and an agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism were signed here on Monday between the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia.

Present there from the DPRK side were Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, Pak Ui Chun, minister of Foreign Affairs, Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade, Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, Pak Kil Yon, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Kwak Il Ryong, vice-minister of Land and Maritime Transport, Hong Kyu, DPRK ambassador to Mongolia, Jong Song Chan, vice general director of the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK, and officials concerned.

Present from the Mongolian side were Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Luvsanvandan Bold, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Manibadrakh Ganbold, Mongolian ambassador to the DPRK, Khaltmaa Battulga, minister of Industry and Agriculture, Tsagaandari Enkhtuvshin, secretary general of the National Security Council, Tserendejid Byambajav, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Khabshai Erjan, vice-minister of Road Transport, Lundeg Purevsuren, national security and foreign policy advisor to the President, Amgalanbaatar Ganbaatar, advisor for mass liaison and mass policy to the President, Pureb Altangerel, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, officials concerned and staff members of the Mongolian embassy here.

The agreement on cooperation in the fields of industry and agriculture was inked by Ri Ryong Nam, minister of Foreign Trade, and Khaltmaa Battulga, minister of Industry and Agriculture, and the agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and tourism by Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and Luvsanvandan Bold, minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on behalf of the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia.

Meanwhile, the 2013-2015 plan for exchange in the IT field between the General Bureau of Software Industry of the DPRK and the IT, Post and Telecommunication Bureau of Mongolia was signed.

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DPRK imports of Swiss watches declines

October 25th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

North Korea imported 386 high-end Swiss watches this year, it has been revealed.

According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, mechanical and digital watches with a combined value of US$76,000 were purchased by the North in 2013.

This figure represents a 50% decrease from 2012.

“North Korea purchases a very small number of watches, as the domestic market for watches is small,” Head of the Economy and Statistics Department at the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry Philippe Pegoraro told Radio Free Asia on the 24th.

Some North Korea watchers have questioned if the reduced import volume reflects worsening economic conditions.

North Korea imported approximately 2000 Swiss watches in 2005, but this figure dropped precipitously to 26 the following year as a result of United Nations economic sanctions initiated in response to the North’s nuclear test.

Imports have been on the rise since 2007, with 450 watches imported in 2008, 660 in 2009 and 590 in 2011.

Kim Jong Eun is known to engage in “gift politics” by presenting watches and other luxury items in exchange for loyalty.

Read the full story here:
Sharp Decline in Swiss Watch Imports
Daily NK
Jin Dong Hyeok
2013-10-25

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