Friday Fun: North Korean Hockey Jersey

June 15th, 2012

A reader named Justin pointed out to me a North Korea national team Tackla hockey jersey for sale on ebay:

The selling price is US$400, and for those of you who are cynical (like me) the seller “canucks109610” has a great reputation on ebay.

I was curious how the seller managed to come across the jersey so I searched around on the internet and found this story:

Out [sic] latest reader submission comes from international jersey collector and expert Anthony Ferra, who we know from being a fellow board member at the forums. He’s also personally responsible for several gems in the Third String Goalie collection, as his pursuits of rare and obscure jerseys has led to him having numerous contacts around the globe which sometimes make available to him some really hard to find and wonderful jerseys which don’t fit his personal collection, but are too hard to find to pass up.

His “Holy Grail” (or is it his “White Whale”?) remains the elusive North Korea Nike jersey. While he has obtained a couple of more recent vintage post-2002 North Korean jerseys from Tackla, the older Nike era style remains elusive no doubt due to the scarcity of the jerseys, the language barrier between him and any players who may have one, and the isolationist policies of the North Korean government, which limit it’s few hockey playing citizens from having access to the internet in order to even give Anthony a chance to even contact them.

So if any readers out there have a rare Nike North Korean hockey jersey, or they know how to get one, canucks109610 seems like a motivated buyer!


Exploring North Korean Arts

June 15th, 2012

Rüdiger Frank has edited a new book, Exploring North Korean Arts, which was published in April of this year. Other authors include: Aidan Foster-Carter, Koen De Ceuster, Frank Hoffmann, Keith Howard, Kate Hext, Jane Portal, Brian Myers , Dafna Zur, James E. Hoare.

You can read Frank’s article in the book, “The Political Economy of North Korean Arts”, here.

Michael Rank has written a review of the book in the Asia Times.

If you are interested in this topic, also check out Art Under Control in North Korea, Illusuve Utopia, Art of the DPRK (Koryo Tours), North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection.

Here is my humble contribution to the topic: “Where do NK artists find inspiration

I have a list of the most relevant North Korean books and films here. Please let me know if there should be additions.


Statistics Without Borders in the DPRK

June 13th, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2013-1-18): The Wall Street Journal has published a couple of pieces on statistics education in the DPRK. The first piece is here.  The second piece is here.

Here is a blurb from the first piece:

The Pyongyang Summer Institute in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology last year began teaching students at North Korea’s first private university about such topics as probability, correlation and survey methodology. More than 250 students, mostly in their 20s, learned from 13 instructors from the U.S. and Europe. This summer, the institute hopes to have 30 teachers instructing 250 students and 100 government workers.

Funded in part by the International Strategy and Reconciliation Foundation, a small Washington, D.C., nonprofit that focuses on North Korea, the institute has an annual budget of about half a million dollars, Dr. Chun said. The group sent an email this week to members of statistical organizations—including the American Statistical Association, which helps run the institute through its international outreach arm—soliciting instructors for the summer. The institute made clear it wouldn’t be able to fund most travel costs. Dr. Chun expects 60 to 70 applications for 30 spots.

Here is a blurb from the second piece:

The institute’s organizers steer well clear of politics. “PSI stays away from controversial courses,” said Yena Lee, co-founder of PSI. She added, “Through dialogue over these nonpolitical issues, we hope to pave the way to greater scholarly and professional engagement with DPRK and to long-term sustainable science diplomacy.”

“I had to change some of my ‘go-to’ examples about political polling, but discussion of politics and religion were off limits,” said Fisher, who in addition to — and unconnected to — his work in North Korea is a statistician at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Our purpose was one of science diplomacy and we all viewed it as an educational humanitarian mission.”

Governmental constraints extend to instructors while they’re in the program — for instance, barring them from leaving campus unaccompanied. Rules also kept students from PSI and PUST from being interviewed about the program. “That would not be allowed” by the North Korean government, said Norma H. Nichols, director of the International Academic Affairs Office at the institute’s host university, PUST. “If I were in Pyongyang and had the students nearby, it would still be a near impossibility to get permission even for one of them to participate with me in a Skype call.”

Instructors spoke positively about their students in the stats classes. The institute’s director, Asaph Young Chun, described how in one of his two classes last summer, students had to share textbooks because there weren’t enough to go around. “Most of the students now know by heart what survey is about, why pretest is essential and how data analysis should be planned in advance,” Chun said. And most, Chun said, “were so engaged, responsive, and interactive, I observed. They did not hesitate asking questions when in doubt or when I gave them opportunities to ask questions.”

ORIGINAL POST (2012-6-13): According to the group’s press release:

Statistics Without Borders Participates in Unprecedented Science Diplomacy Program between North Korea and the US/International Community
Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) June 13, 2012

Statistics Without Borders (SWB), an outreach group of the American Statistical Association (ASA), this summer will provide pro-bono instructors for the Pyongyang Summer Institute (PSI) in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology in North Korea. The PSI is an intensive, international teaching program at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the first and only private and international university, which was launched in North Korea in the fall of 2010.

PSI is the first program of its kind in North Korea, which has now approved visas for 15 visiting faculty. PSI students are expected to be upper level undergraduates and graduate students whose academic credentials are comparable to those students in Ivy plus schools.

The Summer Institute is jointly administered by the International Strategy and Reconciliation Foundation (ISRF), PUST and SWB. The ISRF is a 501(c)(3) organization recognized by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce for its humanitarian and educational programs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The PSI will begin as a three-year pilot program that will take place from July 2012—July 2014.

SWB members make up the majority of the 15 instructors who will provide pro-bono instruction during July for seven four-week courses that will provide training in areas including sampling, statistics, survey methods, census methods, questionnaire design, computer-assisted data collection and analysis, both fundamental and advanced courses. The courses are modeled after those of the 65-year-old Michigan Summer Institute, a renowned international survey training program.

PSI instructors with expertise in survey research methods are: Sunny Bak, statistical consultant; Dr. Annelies Blom, Germany; Dr. Woody Carter, University of Chicago; Dr. Young Chun, an alumnus of Michigan Summer Institute and PSI Director; Bob Colosi, an alumnus of the Joint Program in Survey Methodoloy of the University of Maryland; Michael Costello, RTI International; Justin Fisher, George Washington University; Dr. Mark Griffin, Australian Development Agency for Statistics and Information Systems; Professor Patricia Gwartney, University of Oregon; Professor Ryung Kim, Einstein College of Medicine; Adam Molnar, University of Georgia; Dr. Rene Paulson and Dr. Jacquelyn Pennings, Elite Research in Texas; Pinar Ucar, Qatar Statistics Authority; and Elena Zafarana, Swiss Federal Office of Communications.

The DPRK Working Group of SWB, all ASA members, was formed for planning and implementing the PSI. Co-chairs of the working group are Dr. Gary Shapiro, chair of Statistics without Borders and former mathematical statistician, U.S. Census Bureau; Justin Fisher; and Dr. Young Chun. Other members of the group are: Professor Duncan Thomas, Director of the Biostatistics Division, and Verna R. Richter Chair in Cancer Research, University of Southern California; Dr. Griffin; Dr. James Cochran, professor, Louisiana Tech University; Michael Costello; Professor Sunghee Lee, University of Michigan Joint Program in Survey Methodology; Professor Dominique Haughton, Bentley University; and Professor Mary Gray, American University, Washington, D.C.

About Statistics Without Borders
Statistics without Borders is an apolitical group that was formed in late 2008 to provide pro-bono statistical support to organizations involved in not-for-profit international efforts, mostly involving survey planning and/or analysis of survey data. The goal of the group is to achieve better statistical practice, including statistical analysis and design of experiments and surveys. SWB has more than 500 members from some 30 countries.

About the American Statistical Association
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the American Statistical Association is the world’s largest community of statisticians and the second oldest continuously operating professional society in the United States. For more than 170 years, the ASA has supported excellence in the development, application, and dissemination of statistical science through meetings, publications, membership services, education, accreditation, and advocacy. Its members serve in industry, government, and academia in more than 90 countries, advancing research and promoting sound statistical practice to inform public policy and improve human welfare. For additional information about the American Statistical Association, please visit the ASA web site at or call 703.684.1221.

For more information:
Rosanne Desmone
703.302.1861 (direct)
703.946.3820 (mobile)
Rosanne (at) amstat (dot) org


Ari Sports Factory

June 11th, 2012

The Hankyoreh has published an interesting about a inter-Korean economic project in Dandong, China.

According to the article:

Taking its name from the traditional song “Arirang,” Ari Sports was established in Nov. 2011 with a 500 million won investment from the city of Incheon and 23 workers from North Korea. It is managed not by a North or South Korean organization, but by China’s Yunnan Xiguang Trade.

The football sneaker and sports clothing production plant was originally planned for Pyongyang’s Sadong District. Efforts began in 2008, and the building was nearly complete when the May 24 measures were passed in 2010 and it had to be abandoned. The factory in Dandong is a temporary structure erected in its stead.

Inter-Korean Athletic Exchange Association standing committee chair Kim Gyeong-seong said, “It’s frustrating not to be able to use the good land and facilities we had in Pyongyang.”

“I hope we are soon able to produce and sell soccer shoes and clothes in Pyongyang,” Kim added.

Song said, “Things are difficult right now between North and South Korea, but if we all work together we can overcome it.”

He added that the company was a “small but meaningful project taking place at a time when economic cooperation has been shut off.”

The company has received orders for three thousand pairs of soccer shoes as of May. It currently plans to produce and sell two to three thousand pairs a month. To achieve this, it is organizing a football contest for working people nationwide at the first Incheon Peace Cup event to commemorate the June 15 Summit on June 16 and 17.

I have never heard of this project and I have been unable locate any other articles on the factory. Despite its relative obscurity, however, the North Korean workers know how to deal with the foreign press (they stay on message):

On June 9, the company was visited by around fifty participants in the Incheon-Dandong-Hankyoreh West Sea Cooperation Forum, including Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil and Hankyoreh Foundation for Reunification and Culture chairperson and former Unification Minister Im Dong-won. Located in a farming village on the outskirts of Dandong in China’s Liaoning Province, Ari Sports has 1,600 square meters of floor space on a plot of land also measuring 1,600 square meters.

North Korean workers expressed their frustration with the inability of economic cooperation projects to move forward due to the state of inter-Korean relations. Workers Kwon Ok-kyong, Kim Kum-ju, and Kim Myong-hwa said they wished production and sales could proceed smoothly.

When asked about working at the company, Cho Sang-yon said, “Well, it’s not as good as working in my home country.”

Pak Hyok-nam said, “I’d like to see bigger economic cooperation projects between North and South.”

I have been unable to learn anything else at all about this project.  If you are able to find company logos, web page, photos, or even factory locations on Google Earth, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
Factory in China continues producing soccer shoes in spite of frosty relations
Kim Kyu-won


DPRK and China to hold joint industrial trade fair

June 7th, 2012

According to KBS:

North Korea and China will jointly hold a fair on economy, trade, culture and tourism in the Chinese border city of Dandong for five days from October 12th.

A Dandong-based newspaper reports that this will be the first comprehensive fair covering several fields that the two countries hold. The paper said the fair will exhibit products, offer trade consultations, hold cultural and art performances and introduce both nations’ tourist attractions.

Roughly 400 Chinese companies exporting to North Korea will participate in the event. About 100 North Korean companies and cultural troupes will partake.

Dandong is China’s largest base for trade with North Korea, with 70 percent of its trade with North Korea running through the border city.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea, China to Hold Joint Industrial Fair in October


ROK investigates firms doing business with DPRK

June 7th, 2012

According to the Hankyoreh:

Prosecutors carried out a large-scale investigation of companies involved in inter-Korean trade over the past year. They were seeking evidence of violations of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act (IKEC Act) in their remittances to North Korea. Around 200 such companies were found to have been fined.

The fined companies argue that their penalties are attributable to differing interpretations and application of the law by the Lee Myung-bak administration. The same actions were not deemed problematic under the administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun (1998-2008). Those governments took a softer line on North Korea; things changed significantly when the conservative Lee Myung-bak government took office in 2008.

The Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Promotion Committee, under chairman Jeong Yang-geun, estimated that as many as 200 companies involved in inter-Korean trade had been fined as of late May. A biggest change was the Lee government’s May 24 measures, put in place after the March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan warship. The measures suspended almost all transactions with North Korea.

Companies that were already on the brink of bankruptcy were stuck with fines ranging from one million to eight million won. Companies with high transaction volumes were fined the legal limit of 10 million won (about US$8500).

They were accused of violating Article 13, Item 1 of the Exchange and Cooperation Act, citing Article 4 of a Jan. 2008 Unification Ministry notice stating that anyone sending a third-party remittance to North Korea through a Chinese bank account must receive separate permission from the Unification Minister.

The president of Company “H,” identified by the initial “K,” has been called and visited several times since late last year by police public security officers and detectives from in and around Seoul and elsewhere investigating items brought in from North Korea. In April, he was summoned to a police station in South Gyeongsang province.

K had been involved in transactions since before the Kim and Roh administrations. He said there were no problems because the items in question were subject to blanket approval by the Unification Minister and had already passed through normal procedures.

The president of Company T, identified as Lim, was investigated on the same charge between January and April of this year. He confessed being cowed by the demand to travel from Seoul to a police station in Incheon and report to the security division there. He said he wasted time and suffered hardship submitting three rounds of documentation at the police’s request. Five companies had already been investigated by that same police station, Lim said.

“The police asked for an authoritative interpretation, and the officials at the Unification Ministry couldn’t make a proper judgment about whether there had been a violation. It was as though they had no idea such a rule existed,” he added.

The president of Company C, who goes by the initial “G,” paid a visit to Korea Exchange Bank in late 2007 to send a remittance to pay for sand, and was told that a third-party remittance was not possible. G went to the Bank of Korea. There, he was told they wouldn’t be able to do a remittance either. So he put one of the employees there in touch with the Unification Ministry. After that, he was able to notify the Bank of Korea and send remittances within their limit without a problem.

Some time around March of 2011, police launched an investigation and began calling him in. He asked them just what kind of permission he was supposed to receive. There was no information in the Jan. 2008 ministry notice about the procedure or documents for remittances. He also asked what kind of law for exchange and cooperation the IKEC Act was. G was fined according to another law after lawfully sending the remittance according to the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act.

Experts and attorneys countered that the transactions in question were already approved according to Article 13, Item 4 of the IKEC Act, which empowers the Unification Minister to issue blanket approvals to “items involved in transactions with North Korea, forms of transactions, and methods of payment.” And since North Korea does not have an international financial system, nearly all the companies’ remittances took the form of third-party transactions through Chinese banks.

Experts and attorneys said the fines could only be interpreted as prosecutors taking issue with the very notion of money being sent to North Korea. The businesspeople in question had also agreed with the ministry to follow a normal procedure of reporting third-party remittances to the Bank of Korea in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act, they said.

An attorney for Corporation “T” said, “Not only is there ample room for debate about judicial authorities punishing activities deemed lawful by Article 13, Item 4 of the IKEC Act on the basis of the Unification Minister’s notice, but it also shows a disregard for what the ministry has recognized over the past years.”

Indeed, a trade company sent a question to the ministry asking whether any of the 500 firms it knew to be involved in inter-Korean economic cooperation had requested approval from the minister for third-party remittances to North Korea. None, the ministry replied.

The ministry was also found not to have taken any follow-up measures on documentation or procedures in its presiding offices after specifying in its notice that the minister’s approval was required for third-party remittances.

University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Mu-jin, a onetime secretary to the Unification Minister, said, “After the May 24 measures, now they’re killing these businessmen twice.”

But a senior ministry official said there was no problem with application of the law in the prosecutors’ investigation, although it was done without prior discussion with the ministry.

Another senior official said the notice was issued “in the interest of ensuring transparency in remittances to North Korea.”

Those on the receiving end of the fines said the measures were tantamount to using the Exchange and Cooperation Act to kill off the companies involved in exchange and cooperation.

“They’re about to keel over anyway because of the state inter-Korean relations are in,” one said. “What good is the law once all the companies are gone?”

Unification Ministry figures show a steady increase in the amount of North Korean items brought in through inter-Korean trade (including consignment processing), rising from US$258 million win 2004 to a peak of US$645 million in 2007. The level stayed above US$600 million as recently as 2008, the first year of the Lee administration.

But as relations with North Korean headed downhill, the numbers plummeted below US$500 million starting in 2009, finally bottoming out at US$4 million in 2011 after relations were severed with the May 24 measures.

Read the full story here:
When it comes to trading with North Korea, it’s no longer business as usual
Kang Tae-ho


Smoking in the DPRK

June 5th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

May 31st was also the 26th ‘World No Tobacco day.” According to Rodong Shinmun, North Korea also observed ‘No Tobacco Day’ at an event held at Pyongyang People’s Palace of Culture. It was attended by WHO officials, government agency and affiliated union representatives and ordinary workers.

However, North Korea’s smoking rate is still one of the highest in the world. WHO reports claim that North Korea’s smoking rate among those age 15 years and older is 52.3%, the highest in Asia. This is partly because smoking in the streets and all major public facilities is allowed. Restaurants, parks, offices, theatres and public gathering areas are all places in which people are free to smoke. There are ‘no-smoking’ signs on trains, but many ignore these warnings as well.

Read previous posts on tobacco here.

Read the full story here:
No Smoking Day Lacking NK Traction
Daily NK
Choi Song Min


Cyber attack capabilities and speculation

June 5th, 2012

According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

North Korea was caught attempting cyberattacks on Incheon International Airport using viruses planted in game programs, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

A 39-year-old South Korean game distributor was arrested on Sunday for involvement and charged with violating the National Security Law. The National Intelligence Service helped arrest him, police said.

According to the police, the South Korean man, identified by the surname Jo, traveled to Shenyang, northeastern China, starting in September 2009 and met agents of an alleged North Korean trading company. He allegedly asked them to develop game software to be used in the South.

The North Koreans were actually agents from the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, and Jo was aware of that, police said.

Jo purchased dozens of computer game software for tens of millions of won, which was a third the cost of the same kind of software in the South. The games were infected with malignant viruses, of which Jo knew, an official at the police agency said.

Jo sold the games to South Korean operators of online games. When people played the games, the viruses used their computers as zombies, through which the cyberattack was launched.

So-called “a distributed denial-of-service attack,” this cyberattack against Incheon International Airport occurred two or three times in March 2011, police said. The attack was fended off by the intelligence authorities in the South.

The police and intelligence authorities also suspect that the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau is behind a technical glitch in the flight data processor that paralyzed air traffic control at Incheon International Airport for nearly an hour last Sept. 15. It’s not clear if Jo’s viruses were linked. The glitch disrupted the departures of 18 airplanes from the airport. Initially, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said it wasn’t linked to North Korea.

AFP reports some slightly different details:

Cho, who was detained on May 23, sold the programmes to South Korean game operators, according to police.

They said the malicious software would paralyse users’ computers and steal personal information. It was not immediately clear how many computers may have been infected.

Cho is also accused of allowing North Korean agents to use his server for distributing denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the South’s online systems.

He is alleged to have kept personal information on hundreds of thousands of people from major portals at his home.

Read the full stories here:
Incheon Airport cyberattack traced to Pyongyang
Joongang Ilbo

S. Korean held for selling N. Korean malware


Kim Jong-un makes field guidance visits in various community facilities

June 1st, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Recently, Kim Jong Un is making a series of visits around various sports and recreational facilities in Pyongyang including Mangyongdae and Kaeson Youth Amusement parks, Ryugyong Health Complex, and People’s Outdoor Ice Rink.

Kim Jong Un is reported to have made field guidance visits to the construction site of Changjon Street, which is approaching its completion. The street will be home to 5 to 45-story apartment buildings with preschools, kindergartens, secondary schools, pharmacy and other educational and health facilities as well as various welfare and service facilities in the vicinity.

The KCNA reported on May 25 the details of Kim Jong Un’s visit to the site.

Kim Jong Un went round various restaurants, shops and stalls and parking lot in the basement, etc. to acquaint himself in detail with the construction of the street.

He looked round various parts of Haemaji Restaurant built in a peculiar style and was satisfied with it.

He made the rounds of various other restaurants including the combined restaurant of the Jung District and Unjong Teahouse built in diverse styles to learn in detail about their size, furnishings, decorations, ventilation, etc.

He personally sat on a chair of the restaurant and underscored the need to thoroughly abide by the principle of guaranteeing convenience first and architectural beauty next when designing and manufacturing any furniture so that it may be convenient for use and look nice.

The KCNA elaborated on Kim’s comments as he looked around the establishment.

He said with pride that the successful construction of the modern street by the efforts of Koreans as required by the new century is a demonstration of the validity of the WPK’s idea of architectural aesthetics and the potential of the Juche-based self-supporting economy.

He indicated important tasks to serve as guidelines for building Pyongyang into a more magnificent city as required by the Songun era

It is also necessary to distribute well educational, healthcare, sports, cultural and welfare facilities and welfare service bases on the principle of ensuring popular character, national identity and modernity.

In addition to these visits, Kim previously gave a talk “On Effecting a Drastic Turn in Land Management to Meet the Requirements for Building a Thriving Socialist Nation” on April 27 with leading officials of the party, state economic bodies, and working people’s organizations to propose a large scale plans for land management.


Babson on FDI in the DPRK

June 1st, 2012

38 North has launched a video interview series. The first interview is with Bradley Babson and focuses on foreign investmetn in the DPRK:

(This is also the first video I have successfully embedded into my web page!)