Archive for February, 2006

Japanese-Korean remittances

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Apparently the Japanes Post Office (who also holds many personal savings accounts) sends remittances from its depositors to North Korea.

In 2003, there were 503
In 2004, there were 506


Want to Study/Work/Visit the DPRK?

Monday, February 27th, 2006

I Updated the information on Kimsoft:

The DPRK UN Mission in New York does not issue any visas at all under an agreement reached with the United States. Visas to Americans are issued by the DPRK Embassy in Beijing. You may contact Mr. Kim Ryong Hwan (A representative in Beijing of the Korea International Travel Company, Fax 011-86-1-532-4862) for visa or travel information.
Non-Koreans can reach Pyongyang by train or air by way of Moscow or Beijing. Some Japanese and Koreans resident in Japan are allowed to come to Wonsan by ship.

1. Short-term teaching or other works in N Korea: A letter of recommendation or introduction from Graham Bell, the Eugene Bell Foundation, the Carter Center or a Christian church organization may enhance the chances. If you are a Korean compatriot, all you have to do is either to make a stopover at the UN Mission and identify yourself or to send a letter to the Overseas Compatriots Aid Committee in Pyongyang.

A. Contact the DPRK New York UN Mission by email or smail or phone or Fax or go to New York to visit the mission:

Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
515 East 72nd Street, 38-F, New York, N.Y. 10021
Telephone: (212) 972-3106
FAX (212) 972-3154

B. Write a letter direct to his or her target university or institution in North Korea, offering to teach English, history, engineering and etc. Upon receiving a positive response or letter of invitation, you are to visit the North Korean Embassy in Beijing (Phone: 532-1186 visa section: 532-4148 or 6639).

2.  Travel to the DRPK:
*Koryo Tours:
*I visited with the Korean Friendship Association:

A. AIR KORYO, Flughafen Schoenefeld, D-12521, Berlin, Germany: Fax: +49 (0) 30 – 60 91 36 65.
B. Korea Publications Exchange Association, Ri Chang Sik, Fax: +850-2-3-814 632.
C. National Directorate of Tourism, Central District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea Tel: (2) 381 7201. Fax: (2) 381 7607.
D. Kumgangsan International Tourist Company, Central District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea, Tel: (2) 814 284. Fax: (2) 814 622.
E. General Delegation of the DPRK, 104 boulevard Bineau, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Tel: (1) 47 45 17 97. Fax: (1) 47 38 12 50. Telex: 615021F.
F. Regent Holidays UK, 15 John Street, Bristol BS1 2HR, Tel: (0117) 921 1711. Fax: (0117) 925 4866. 
G. David Hunter — Edwards and Hargreaves Holidays Ltd, Portland House, 1 Coventry Road, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England LE7 7HG, Fax 01858 433427 Tel: 01858 432123
H. Mr. Pak Gyong Nam, Manager — SAM Travel Service, Korea International Travel Company, Central District, Pyongyang, DPR of Korea, Tel: 850-2-817201, Telex: 5998 RHS KP, Fax: 850-2-817607
I. North Asia Consultancy & Services Co, Ltd is in a position to organise business missions into NK for European businessmen.NACS is organising on a regular basis sectorial fact finding missions to North Korea on behalf of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in (South) Korea.

3. Information:
The European Union Chamber of Commerce : Tel : 822-543-9301~3; Fax : 822-543-9304; E-Mail : [email protected]

Young Koreans United of the USA, P.O. Box 12177, Washington, DC 20005-0677, tel. 202-387-2420

International Korean Alliance for Peace and Democracy, 2530 1/2 South Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016, tel. 213-733-7785.

Travel Time email, 1 Hallidie Plaza, Suite 406, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA ; phone +1-415-677-0799, fax +1-415-391-1856, 1-800-956-9327 (1-800-9-LOW-FARE) toll-free in the USA

Chugai (Phone: 81-3-3835-3654, Fax: 81-3-3835-3690) based in Tokyo. It is affiliated with Chongryun, the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. It arranges package tours to Pyongyang every month.

The Kumgangsan International Group ( email or Web Page) handles investments in N Korea. This group also makes travel arrangements. It is operated by Ms. Park Kyung Youhn, a Korean-American woman, who is not associated with Chongryon.

Ryohaengsa Korea International, Pyongyang, Korea; Tel. (850) 2-817 201, Fax (850) 2-817 607

The DPRK Committee for the Promotion of External Economic Cooperation, Jungsongdong, Central District, Pyongyang. FAX 011-850-2-3814664 and Tel: 011-850-3818111,2,3 & 4.

4. Research and Other Scholarly Works: At present, no institution, center, school or university in the DPRK is ready for “official exchanges” with American counterparts. Such exchanges will likely come only after the two ‘enemy’ countries have signed a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations. However, Kim Il Sung University has established a sister rela tionship with Seton Hall University. American scholars and authors are allowed to examine North Korean archives on an individual basis. Contact the Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, Kim Il Sung University, the Party Revolutionaly History Institute or the Asia-Pacific Peace C ommittee.

5. Check with the DPRK UN Mission for the phone and fax number of other agencies: The DPRK UN Mission is not the only gate to North Korea. Americans and other foreigners are being invited to visit the DPRK by way of many other organizations in the States, Japan and other parts of the world.

North Koreans are being invited to visit the United States not necessarily through the good offices of the New York mission. Any American host can establish a direct access to North Korea by mail, fax, and phone or by personal courier.

Warning: There are ‘horror’ stories of bureaucratic bungling by the DPRK Beijing Embassy vis-à-vis invited American guests. They are partly true and partly untrue. A possible explanation is a poor communication between the prospective visitor, th e UN mission and the DPRK. The DPRK Embassy in Beijing makes it the iron rule not to issue a visa even to a carrier of a written invitation from a DPRK organization unless it has been instructed to do so by the Foreign Office in Pyongyang.

The prospective visitor is advised to make it double sure with the host organization or the UN mission that the host organization has arranged for issue of a visa through the Foreign Office and that a visa is ready in Beijing (Phone: 011-86-1-6532-1186 or 1189, FAX: 011-86-1-6532-6056. Visa Section: 011-86-1-6532-4148 or -6639).


Pyongyang restaurants

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

From the prolofic Andrei Lankov:

Koreans love eating out _ as every long-time Seoul resident knows from his or her own experience. Going to a restaurant is one of the most common leisure activities in this country. In this regard the North is not much different. Of course, decent restaurants are much more difficult to come across: Communist economies have never been particularly successful in meeting consumers’ demands in this area. Nonetheless, this does not mean North Korean cities do not have good restaurants. Perhaps, the very scarcity of such places, combined with the generally bad diet, make eating out there an even more remarkable experience.

For the last 25 years two major restaurants have defined the Pyongyang’s culinary life ㅡ Okryugwan and Chongryugwan.

Okryugwan (the Jade Stream Pavilion) is located on the left bank of the Taedong River. It commenced operations in 1960, and has since remained the major landmark of the North Korean capital. This large building, in a mock traditional style, boasts a number of dining halls including some special banquet rooms, and can seat up to 2,000 visitors. Obviously, the penchant for large-scale eateries has been common to all Communist regimes (the Soviet restaurants of the era also tended to be of truly mammoth size).

Okryugwan has an officially recognized standing as the major guardian of traditional Korean cuisine, functioning as a type of living museum of culinary arts. Recently it was reported that, together with a local college, it sent special research teams to the countryside. The teams were to gather data on traditional Korean cuisine in order to introduce new dishes onto the Okryugwan menu (I just wonder whether it was a good idea to look for new recipes at the time of famine).

Chongryugwan (the Pure Stream Pavilion) is almost equally famous. It opened much later, 1980, in a new building shaped to resemble a ship. The Chongryugwan sits on the banks of the Potonggang, a minor but capricious tributary of the Taedong River. It has two levels: the ground floor, occupied by a large dining hall, and the upper floor, used for small dining rooms and banquet halls.

Both restaurants specialize in traditional cuisine, with special attention given to cold noodles, a quintessentially North Korean dish. Generally, the cooking traditions in the North and South are slightly different, but South Korean visitors usually have a high opinion of the food in both of these famous restaurants.

Both Okryugwan and Chongryugwan are sometimes described in the South as ‘mass restaurants’, and this description is true. Open to the average North Korean, they are not reserved for bigwigs or dollar-paying foreigners alone. However, this does not mean anyone can wander in off the street and enjoy a bowl of cold noodles at whim. In order to get access, North Koreans initially had to get tickets, and these tickets were notoriously difficult to acquire. One had to have connections or endure hours in long queues. Only in recent years has the ongoing “dollarization’’ of the North Korean economy changed the situation: if one has money then tickets are available (that’s a big ‘if’ of course).

In the countryside there are local analogues to the two Pyongyang heavyweights. Each major North Korean city has its own `special’ restaurant. Usually, their names include the characters ‘kak’ or ‘gwan’. Both words are of Chinese origin: they can be roughly translated as ‘pavilion’ and ‘hall’ and have been a part of the names of the restaurants in East Asian countries for many centuries

Apart from Okryugwan and its less successful rivals, North Korea has a number of smaller eateries. They are not as numerous as eateries in the South, but in major cities they are not so difficult to find. In the past there used to be a clear-cut difference between the hard-currency restaurants, which were off limits to commoners, and establishments for the not-so-well-heeled. However, the recent few years have seen a gradual blurring of this once impassable border.

North Korean specialities are noodles and, of course, dog meat. Incidentally, the latter is not called ‘dog meat’ (kae kogi) in North Korea. Once upon a time, Kim Il Sung decided that such a name was too unceremonious, and had it renamed ‘sweet meat (‘tan kogi’)!

The restaurant industry was one of the first in which private enterprise was reintroduced. This happened at a surprisingly early stage, in the late 1980s, when state control of the economy was still sound. In recent years, these private eateries have sprung up in very large numbers, reflecting the steady disintegration of the Stalinist economy.

According to a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, in 2005 there were 500 restaurants in Pyongyang. Most of them charge prices well beyond the reach of the average North Korean, and cater to the tastes of the three major groups with money: foreign ex-pats, black-market dealers, and officials. These groups are large enough to sustain a number of quite sophisticated eateries.

There is sashimi to be eaten in the Galaxy, there is ostrich barbecue at the Arirang, and there is a micro-brewery where 5 people can feast on the locally produced dark ale and good noodles for a mere $15! A bargain, of course, at $3 per person ㅡ but, after all, the $3 is exactly how much the average North Korean worker is paid for one month… Some people have this money, of course. How? That is another story…


Art under control in North Korea

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

This new book could be interesting: Art Under Control In North Korea

Jane Portal’s book is the first to be published in the West which explores the role of art in North Korea, a role that has been based on pronouncements made by the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung and his son the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, about what the State expected of its artists. Portal makes comparisons with those of other, similar, regimes in the past, and finds a clear connection between North Korean art and the socialist realism of the Soviet Union and China. She places North Korean art in its historical, political and social context, and discusses the system of producing, employing, promoting and honouring artists. Painting, calligraphy, poster art, monumental sculpture, architecture and applied arts are included, together with a review of the way in which archaeology has been used and even created for political ends, to justify the present regime and legitimize its lineage. Jane Portal thus reveals much about art made under totalitarian rule, as well as how the art subverts the regime.


North Korean Propoganda

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Here are two sites that have good examples of the DPRKs socialist-realism paintings: (Pyongyang Art Studio run by out friends at Koryo Tours)


North Korean Bath Houses

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

According to Andrei Lankov in the Korea Times:

The North boasts a huge public bathing facility, one that probably exceeds in size any comparable enterprise in the South, and one that is not much inferior in service quality. This is Changgwangwon, a mammoth bathing complex that opened to the public in March 1980. In 2001 North Korean media reported that during the first two decades of its existence Changgwangwon was visited by some 37 million people.

Changgwangwon can be described as a ‘super-bathhouse’. This granite and marble structure is replete with swimming pool, an impressive array of spas and showers, saunas, and the like. It has its own bars and tearooms. And it is open to the general public.

However, not everybody can just walk in: one has to have a ticket, and the ticket is only valid for a limited time. Actually, the Changgwangwon complex serves some 5,000 patrons a day, but it is not enough to satiate the wishes of the capital residents: many more people would like to get in. Thus people wait in the early morning, from 4:00 AM, in a long queue. Foreigners are luckier: they have a designated day (Saturdays) when the entire complex is reserved for their exclusive use ㅡ much to the dismay of the common people. However, foreigners pay hard currency for the privilege

In the 1980s a handful of other top-class bathing houses were built in Pyongyang. These are moderate if compared to Changgwangon, but quite impressive by the standards of the ‘normal’ North Korean public bathhouses. However, a visit to Changgwangwon is a rare event, even for the inhabitants of privileged Pyongyang; it is the humble public bathhouse that is for daily use.

And what about private bathing facilities? These are nearly absent. Rare is the dwelling in the countryside that has any bathing facilities at all. This is often the case even with the multi-story buildings, especially outside Pyongyang: a tap in the kitchen is the best that one may hope for. Only a minority of North Koreans can wash themselves in their own apartment building, but even then it is seldom done in a private bathroom. The better apartment complexes have small bathhouses for the exclusive use of the residents. Sometimes there is a shower room on every floor, and sometimes a bathhouse is located on the ground floor of a building. Only in a handful of the best apartments in Pyongyang is every flat equipped with its own bathroom.


DPRK agrees to Chinese aid based on market principles

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Kyodo News:

China has reached an agreement with North Korea to let the private sector, rather than the government, take the initiative in providing economic aid to Pyongyang and to respect market principles, sources familiar with China-North Korea relations said Saturday. According to the sources, the market-based approach is contained in a cooperation agreement in economy and technology signed by the two countries when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited North Korea in late October.

One of the objectives of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s visit to China in January was to confirm this approach, the sources said.

The sources also said a cooperation agreement in economy and technology signed by a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wu Yi during their visit to North Korea in early October is separate from the agreement with the same name signed during Hu’s visit later that month.

The earlier agreement calls on China to continue providing materials and technological cooperation for the Da’an Friendship Glass Factory near Pyongyang. It also allows North Korea to export glass products made at the factory.


Thomas J. Payne Market Development

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

From their website: 

Tom J. Payne frequently travels to the north of China to Liaoning Province and the commercial region of the DPRK.  Specifically, we are active in the Dandong region which is the main city bordering on North Korea.   This allows us a close up view and quick jaunts into the Worker’s paradise.   Our friends at the Liaoning Import Export Corporation conduct around 90 percent of their business with the North, and trade food, for steel.  They operate duty free stores and restaurants in the capital city and even sell automobiles to VIP communist leaders.  Here are just a few images from the frontier.  Give Tom a call if you want to learn more about what is really going on in North Korea.  [email protected]   (Although we are not allowed to do anything, there, we certainly know people who are!) Until last week!  The doors are now open, and we will be presenting information on doing business with the Hermit Kingdom! 

He ansers the following quesitons:

What is the business climate like?
Do the North Koreans Pay their Bills?
Are there small business opportunities?
Are there private businesses operating in the DPRK?
What about all of the aid organizations etc…
What can a foreigner source in the DPRK?
What do the North Koreans Need? 
Will the political climate change?
How does a westerner survive there?
Can you access the internet from there?


The end of KEDO and “nuclear” energy

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

From the Donga:

South Korea has agreed to pay the termination costs for a light-water reactor project in Sinpo, North Korea that was canceled earlier last month.

The total reactor termination costs are estimated to be roughly $200 to $300 million. Most of the cost is damages with penalties and money that needs to be given to construction companies and component suppliers. The costs could snowball even more if additional costs for moving equipment and construction vehicles out of the North are taken into account. The additional costs could amount to as much as $4.7 million

North Korea currently refuses to return the equipment, however. The North is also likely to demand compensation for ending the light-water reactor project. If that is the case, who else can North Korea turn to for compensation but South Korea?

Should the project be restarted, South Korea will end up covering most of the construction costs. In short, they will end up paying for the termination costs first, and then construction costs if the project is restarted.

Despite all this the South Koreans still have to provide two million kilowatts of power to the North. Providing power is now a separate issue from light-water construction due to the government’s hasty offer.


Insurance and Compensation in the DPRK

Friday, February 17th, 2006

The Daily NK speculates about how much money the family of the victim of the accidental death in the Mt. Koumgang resort will receive.  What is interesting about this article is the exploration of dispute resolution without courts or insurance companies…something that most westerners could not imagine.

Here are some bullet points from the article:

  • Allegedly from a North Korean defector: “In North Korea there is no such national compensation for car accident causalities. So it is pitiful to think that the North Korean government did take away this compensation without giving it to the car accident-related families.”
  • “Because of the system of no car insurance in North Korea, offenders must compensate the injured parties for the car accident themselves. If the offenders do not have the ability for compensation, then they must go to prison. And if they have the ability, they pay money for it. The compensation is usually a TV or about one hundred thousand won ($35). “
  • If one dies in North Korea, the death is not dealt with seriously.
  • The aleged defector again describes an accident in which his friend was killed by a Mercedes: “[After the accident, I put my fired in the back seat of the car].  As soon as I informed those instructors of the hospital who were in charge of Jeong Hyeok’s car accident, they ran to the Red Cross Hospital. In the meantime, Jeong Hyeok had died, and was moved to the mortuary. The vice-president and the teacher in charge of the college construction required the driver to be responsible for drinking and driving and to compensate his parents for the car accident. The chief demanded to finish up this accident, saying that he will give a TV and a refrigerator to Jeong Hyeok’s parents. The teacher repelled the suggestion, ‘This is not enough. If you do it this way, then I will accuse you to the Central Committee.  The next day, a secretary of the Primary Party Committee called the college. He said, “Just follow the suggestion that the Security Safety Agency gives the funeral expenses and a color TV.” It was evident that the Security Safety Agency gave a certain kind of hint to the secretary of the Primary Party Committee. The situation was saying that the chief will evasively save the driver. However, who can refute the instruction of the Party? Despite the undeserved death, the North Korean government just issued one ‘patriot certificate’. Seeing the TV exchanged for her son, she continued sobbing.

I have some personal experience with this topic.  When I visited the DPRK in August 2005, I asked one of my guides how traffic disputes were resolved.  He said that those involved simply had to work out the details.  there were no insurance companies.  This would put the average citizen at a severe bargaining disadvantage in the event of an acident.