9th Pyongyang International Trade Fair news (5/2006)

PYONGYANG ― In a rare visit to this reclusive communist country, a group of South Korean government officials, journalists, businessmen and economic experts attended a series of investment promotion events arranged this week by the North Korean government.

At a trade fair, South Koreans toured bustling booths set up by North Korean and foreign firms, and witnessed North Koreans buying goods there with U.S. dollars in their hands ― an indication that Pyongyang’s limited foray into capitalism, which began in 2002, is slowly progressing in the North’s strictly controlled economy.

The delegates on Wednesday visited the 9th Pyongyang International Trade Fair, where 196 companies from 12 countries set up booths. The delegates were allowed to look around the fair freely. Of the participating firms, 21 were from North Korea and the rest came from 12 other countries, including China, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Italy and Thailand.

At the fair, Jeil Trust Bank, a North Korean bank, advertised its savings account programs for foreign currency deposits. Cars, bicycles, tires and machinery made in the North were also displayed.

About 1,000 Pyongyang residents and North Korean businessmen also attended the fair, and most flocked around the sales booths of Chinese appliances. Some North Koreans purchased handbags, pots and other goods, making payments with dollars.

The 72-member delegation also visited a glass manufacturing facility southwest of Pyongyang on Wednesday. Daean glass factory, completed in October, was built with a $20 million investment from China. About 30 Chinese technicians are also training North Korean workers at the plant.

“In early 2000, North Korea decided to shut down all its glass factories, and decided to build a new plant,” Pak Jong-ung, deputy manager of the plant, said. “China learned about the plant and invested in it.”

The South Koreans also toured a ship repair plant in Nampo, South Pyeongan province. At the Yongnam factory, Cha Son-mo, senior North Korean maritime affairs official, gave a presentation. “Last year, we finished the second dock, capable of repairing a 50,000-ton ship,” Mr. Cha said. “Please use our facility to promote inter-Korean economic exchange.”

Jeong Nam-su, senior planning manager of STX Corporation, a South Korean ship maintenance firm, said the facility was better equipped than he expected. “It is also surprisingly modernized,” Mr. Jeong said. “I am considering asking the North Korean factory to repair one or two ships after I return to the South.”

On Tuesday, the group attended an investor-relations session hosted by the North’s Trade Ministry, with simultaneous translations into Chinese and English available. About 70 foreign investors attended. It is the first time South Koreans were invited to such an event. Rim Tae-dok, the trade ministry’s councilor, gave the presentation, promising tax benefits and land leases at low prices.

The delegation visited Kim Chaek University of Technology and Kim Il Sung University and toured Mount Myohyang. The group, which began its trip on Monday, will return to Seoul Saturday.


Comments are closed.