DPRKs only joint venture bank to change hands

From the Asia Times:

Global player wins N Korea’s only JV bank
By Tom Tobback (founder of Pyongyang Square)

“Dr. Johnny” Sei-hoe Hon, formerly of Hong Kong and now chairman of the UK-based Global Group of Companies, agreed to take over North Korea’s only joint-venture bank, Hon told Asia Times Online on Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Hon, 32, identified by the KCNA as “chairman of the British Global Group”, is a British citizen with roots in Hong Kong who received a PhD in psychiatry from Cambridge University, but his psychiatric expertise was apparently not the reason he visited Pyongyang. He was officially received by Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the North Korean parliament, or the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). Hon presented Choe with a gift for the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-il.

As usual, KCNA reported nothing more than that the two parties had “a friendly talk”, but it is clear that the visit was related to Pyongyang’s efforts at economic reform, initiated in July 2002, and possibly to new plans for its problematic special administrative region (SAR) of Sinuiju, which Pyongyang announced in September 2002.

The Global Group, of which Johnny Hon is founder, chairman, and chief executive officer (as described on his website), defines itself as “an evolving organization with diverse business ventures spanning the globe. Every new undertaking illustrates our skill in choosing the right opening in the right market – and most importantly, at the right time.”  The group specializes in financial consultancy, wealth management, high-growth companies, and online betting.

Hon revealed to Asia Times Online that his Global Group is taking over the majority stake in the Daedong Credit Bank (DCB), the only foreign joint-venture bank in North Korea, from a British company based in Hong Kong. The Daedong Credit Bank, run in Pyongyang by Nigel Cowie, has been serving the expatriate community and the few foreign business ventures in North Korea for many years.

“Our stake in the DCB will facilitate further investment projects; the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] has offered us business proposals which we will consider in due time,” Hon said. Currently he is awaiting the due-diligence report by Deloitte & Touche for his Daedong Credit Bank deal.

It remains to be seen what advice the Global Group can offer to revive the North Korean economy, but probably professional help from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would be a safer bet than venture-capital companies such as Hon’s Global Group.


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