Archive for May, 2006

Kim Jong Il Gives On-site Guidance to Newly Built Pig Farm

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006


Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission, gave on-the-spot guidance to pig farm No. 110 newly built by KPA servicepersons. After being briefed on the farm before a huge painting showing its panoramic view, he looked round the exterior and interior of the farm to learn in detail how it was built and is being operated. He highly appreciated the merits performed by the soldier-builders, greatly satisfied with the successful construction of the farm.

He went round pig sties, assorted feed and processing factories and various other places of the farm to acquaint himself in detail with its technical equipment and breeding.

He set forth important tasks which would serve as guidelines in managing and operating the farm and increasing the pork production, pleased to learn that the employees of the farm are mass-producing pork and quality processed products by establishing a scientific production system.

In order to increase the production of pork on the farm, it is necessary to put the breeding on a scientific basis and make sustained efforts to raise the level of technical skill of the producers and, at the same time, to energetically push forward the work to introduce advanced technology, he said.

Noting that a scientific breeding system has been established at the chicken and pig farms that have mushroomed in recent years is now paying off profusely, he added that this reality eloquently proves that it is possible to bring about a change in the stock-breeding, too, in a brief span of time if full play is given to the people’s revolutionary spirit and creative ingenuity on the basis of the advantages of the Korean-style socialist system.

A solid material and technical foundation has been laid in the country to make a leap forward in the production of pork including the establishment of the system for breeding superior pedigree stock, he noted, underscoring the need to raise pigs in a big way by taking advantage of these favorable conditions.

He called on all fields and units to wage a dynamic popular movement to further develop the stock-breeding so as to provide the people with a more affluent and highly civilized life.

He was accompanied by KPA Generals Ri Myong Su, Hyon Chol Hae and Pak Jae Gyong.


South publishes 2005 DPRK trade figures

Monday, May 8th, 2006

From the Associated Press and Yonhap:

North Korea’s trade volume with foreign countries, excluding South Korea, rose marginally last year to reach its highest figure since 1991.  Trade is up 5% to $3 billion. The figure doesn’t include inter-Korean trade, which is considered “exchanges between the same ethnic group,” KOTRA said.

The [southern] Bank of Korea claims the DPRK’s economy has grown for six straight years. Modest economic reforms since 2002 have encouraged some private enterprise, allowing the limited emergence of an entrepreneurial class with money to spend on imported goods.

North Korea recorded a trade deficit of $1 billion last year, up 23%. Imports increased 9.1 percent to $2 billion, but exports fell 2.1 percent to $998 million, the agency said.

The trade agency attributed the drop in exports to plummeting overseas shipments of fisheries goods, one of the North’s key exports, and a 20% annual decrease in shipments to Japan.

The North’s imports grew on rising inbound shipments of energy-related natural resources as well as food from China. The neighboring nation’s increasing investments in the North also triggered a rise in machinery imports into the country, the agency said.

The rankings of the DPRKs trading partners remains unchanged: 1. China, 2. Thailand, 3. Japan and 4. Russia

CHINA:  Trade with China is up 14% from 2004 at $1.58 billion, 52.6% of North Korea’s total exports and imports last year.  Two-thirds of that trade was made up of North Korean imports, which grew 35.2% to $1.08 billion, much of it food and energy. 

“North Korea has to depend on China for most of its food and energy resources,” KOTRA said. “China has also been rapidly increasing its investment in North Korea in recent years, which leads to an additional boost to the amount of trade between the two countries.”

JAPAN:  Imports and exports between North Korea and Japan fell 23% to $194 million in 2005–the fourth straight year of decline since Pyongyang acknowledged abducting Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.

South Korea: Trade between the two Koreas reached an all-time high of $1.05 billion in 2005, boosted by commercial activity at a joint industrial complex in North Korea, KOTRA said. Including trade with South Korea, the North’s trade volume stood at $4.06 billion last year, with trade between the two Koreas accounting for 26% of the total, it said.


RoK proposes mining ventures in DPRK

Monday, May 8th, 2006

From Hankyoreh:
Why Is Danchon in North Korea Important?
South Korea Proposes Joint Developments with North Korea

South Korea suggested to the North a plan to designate Dancheon, South Hamgyeong Province, as a “special joint resource development district” in the 18th South-North ministerial talks held at Pyeongyang at the end of April. According to a statement, the South and North agreed to “consider a program to jointly develop resources,” but it is obvious that Dancheon is a candidate to become the third joint special economic zone, after the tourist district of Mt. Kumgang and the Kaesong Industrial zone.

In the early stages of the 1994 Agreed Framework regarding the curtailing North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for investment, North Korea proposed to the U.S. that it invest in two mines and a port in the Dancheon area. Peter Hayes, executive director of the U.S.-based public policy think tank Nautilus Institute, expressed regret that the U.S. missed an opportunity to make the North dismantle its nuclear weapons program, in an article published May 2 on the institute’s web site. Is it possible for Dancheon to become another symbol of South-North cooperation? Since the North has suggested the development of the zone to the U.S. in the past, the North will surely accept the South’s interest in the project.

Why Dancheon?

If the two Koreas designate a special district for joint resource development, government officials and experts agree that Dancheon is an ideal place. In short, the area has infinite potential. Dancheon has deposits of 25 kinds of minerals, including zinc, magnesite, lead, gold, silver and asbestos.

There also are mining industry-related factories. The Dancheon refinery, which came into operation in 1985, produces 100,000 tons of zinc in a year, and the Ryongryang plant processes the raw slag that can be supplied to brick factories.

Many experts say that Dancheon has a better distribution infrastructure than other mining areas. Dancheon has its own port, and Cheongjin and Sinpo ports are just 40km and 80km away from Dancheon, respectively.

Benefits for both Koreas

The South imports all of the zinc and magnesite it uses. If the special economic zone program succeeds, the Dancheon area will provide the South with a steady flow of needed minerals.

Politically, the success of the project could bring about a certain degree of ‘restraint effect’ against foreign capital in the North, including putting a check on China, which has been of late coveting the mineral resource potential of the North.

If the North increases the operating status of its mines, currently between 20 and 30 percent of total employment capacity, with the help of capital and technology from the South, the project will both generate more jobs and help the North earn foreign currency. With this kind of success, a “special district” would mean a win-win economic cooperation.

Obstacles remain

The largest problem is whether the North Korea will accept the program. Fortunately, Dancheon is known to have no military facilities. But it is not clear if the military will agree to the terms of a special economic district, which means a near-complete opening of the area to the South. Due to this, the statement issued in the recent ministerial meeting regarding further development did not specify the Dancheon area, analysts point out.

Experts forecast that even if the two Koreas agree to develop another special district, it will take a long time before goods can be produced. In addition, the North will have to settle a few problems before the project can get underway, such as legislation concerning foreign investments and ownership.

A cost problem exists, as well. In light of the previous cases of Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang, the South will have to provide almost all the infrastructure necessary to develop the special district. An industry official has estimated the cost at more than one trillion won (about one billion US dollars), due to the condition of the North’s transportation routes and electricity grid.


US admits first north korean refugees

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

From the Washington Post:

Senator Sam Brownback has announced the arrival in the US of the first North Korean refugees admitted to the US under the North Korean Freedom Act. 

The six person group, including four women who say they were victims of sexual slavery or forced marriages, came from an unnamed south east Asian nation (Vietnam, Laos, Thialind, Cambodia).

Jay Lefkowitz, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights, “We will press to make it clear to our friends and allies in the region that we are prepared to accept North Korean refugees for resettlement here.”


Inter-Korean financial settlement

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From the Korea Herald:

the ROKs Ex-Im Bank has focused on bolstering economic cooperation with developing countries and promoting reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea. Ex-Im Bank is the official inter-Korean settlement bank for South Korea with Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea as its counterpart.

A number of initiatives were carried out to promote better operation of the state-run lender’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund and the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.

Active policy dialogues with partner countries, for example, has significantly increased effectiveness through simplified procedures and co-financing approaches with multilateral development institutions. The Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund supported infrastructure projects such as the construction of roads and railways connecting the two Koreas, while providing humanitarian aid to North Korea. The fund also provided loans to South Korean firms involved in trade with North Korea.



Asian Development Bank avoids DPRK

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From the Korea Herald:

The 39th annual meeting of the board of governors of the Asian Development Bank will be held at Hyderabad International Convention Center in Hyderabad, India’s fastest growing high-tech corridor, for four days ending on Saturday.

The meeting this week will bring together more than 2,500 delegates from around the world to discuss issues including governance, poverty reduction, development finance, international finance architecture as well as economic and social development.

The ADB, which is dedicated to fighting Asian poverty, does not make any investments in North Korea, which could benefit from various education and training projects.  The prospect of membership would also encourage the nation prepare for it by reforming their economy.

Strong U.S. and Japan led-opposition has kept North Korea from becoming an ADB member nation so far, the insiders said.


Food aid update

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From Yonhap:

A U.S. human rights organization on Thursday urged North Korea to allow international monitoring of food distribution, saying its recent policy changes on outside aid may cause renewed hunger among its people.

Recent decisions by Pyongyang to suspend the operations of the World Food Program in the country and revive the food rationing system may leave many in hunger, said Washington-based Human Rights Watch in a press conference in Seoul.

“North Korea has gone back to precisely the same place, when the famine began,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director of the organization, referring to the mid 1990s in which two million North Koreans supposedly died of hunger.

North Korea adopted a series of policies last year that irked international human rights organizations. It asked the U.N. relief agency to end emergency food aid and its monitoring in September and then announced the reinstatement of the public distribution system, in which the government provides rationing of food and equipment to individuals.

Citing interviews with North Korean defectors and World Food Program officials, the rights watchdog said the food rationing system operates on a priority basis, feeding Workers’ Party members and military and police officers while leaving many ordinary people in hunger.

Despite its improved harvest in recent years, North Korea still suffers from a chronic food shortage, it said, with the country needing approximately 6 million tons of grain a year to provide basic nutrition for its 22 million people.

The North’s grain production hovers at 4.5 million tons and it receives 750,000 tons in aid from South Korea and China, but still falls short of demand, the organization said, citing statistics from the South Korean government.

It urged Seoul to strengthen the monitoring in the North to make sure the needy people get the food.

South Korea shouldn’t “simply passively accept that it is inevitable that North Korea cannot be influenced,” Malinowski said.

North Korea experts in Seoul, however, said the recent decisions by the communist country suggest it is making efforts to stand on its own rather than depend on emergency donations. And the revival of the public distribution system illustrates its improved food situation, they said.

“When the rationing system was reduced (in the late 1990s) it was because the government didn’t have food to distribute. Now that it has expanded the rationing system, it is in a better situation,” said Chon Hyun-joon, senior research fellow with the Korea Institute for National Unification, a public research body on North Korea in Seoul.


American visits Kumgang

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From the Korea Times:

Rising dramatically from the East Sea, Mt. Kumgang _ about 20 miles (32 km) north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in North Korea _ is considered by most to be the most scenic area on the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese colonists even built a direct railway line to the area for sightseeing.

I didn’t comprehend the gravity of my excursion to Mt. Kumgang with my colleagues until the South Korean military escort pulled off the side of the road for our caravan of buses at the south end of the DMZ. We crossed the four-kilometer desolate and barbed-wire covered expanse, and picked up the North Korean military escort on the other side. As we approached North Korean immigration, a soldier goose-stepped into the road in front of the bus and held out a red flag to signal the buses to stop.

Upon entering North Korea the stark change in landscape was surprising. Unique clusters of rock formations rose up from flat, treeless, sandy plains. Looming dramatically and endlessly in the distance was the epitome of all Asian mountain images _ Mt. Kumgang.

But other changes were evident, too. The area was quite rural, with small, weathered clusters of traditional Korean homes that may in fact have been quite old. Instead of cars, there were pedestrians on dusty trails, bicycles instead of motorbikes and horse-pulled carts instead of trucks.

Citizens worked the fields with their bare hands and oxen pulled plows. My immigration stamp said “Choson,’’ the name by which North Korea refers to itself and the name of the Korean Kingdom that ruled the peninsula from 1392 until 1910. I had in fact stepped back to that time.

More striking still was the abundance of North Korean soldiers _ along the road, in the farm fields and on the sides of hills. They were stationed at every road and dirt path intersecting the tourist road, which was entirely separated from the rest of the world by continuous fences. Checkpoints were everywhere, both along our road and the ordinary North Korean roads.

The North Korean hotel and park workers were shy, modest, and polite with noticeably different accents and intonation. They often gazed at me innocently, with curiosity about the presence of a Caucasian American. In one conversation a woman who knew surprisingly little about other places in North Korea mentioned that it was her dream to go to Pyongyang.

“Why haven’t you been there?” my colleague asked.

She responded with three reasons: not enough money to travel; poor conditions of transportation making it a difficult journey; and difficulty in acquiring permission to travel.

Despite her having one of the more coveted jobs in North Korea, the 200-kilometer journey from Mt. Kumgang to Pyongyang was fundamentally impossible.



The role of China in DPRK liberalization

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

From the Daily NK:

The chief researcher of the SeoJong Institute, Yang Un Chul, presented his report entitled ‘The Political Economic Implications of Chinese Economic Cooperation with North Korea, ‘ and revealed that, “Recently North Korea has been isolated from the international community because of its nuclear weapons development program. This isolation has led to North Korea’s economic dependence on China. It has also caused some people to worry about the possible economic subornation of North Korea to China. However, this is just an unlikely scenario.”

Yang explained, “Recently the trade between North Korea and China has sharply increased. In 2004, its trade with China amounted to 40% of its total trade. As for Dandong, an advance trading partner with North Korea, in 2005 frontier trade grew dramatically enough to record a 26.5% growth rate.” Yang explained the concern over this this growth rate: “Due to such increasing support and investment, some people fervently insist that China is trying to economically transform and colonize North Korea into a fourth Northeast Chinese province (Jilin, Liaoning, Heilongjiang and North Korea).”

In his research, Yang points out, “The exceptional incidence that one country is in subordination to another country can only occur in a situation of very limited market availability.” He went on to explain that, “The fact that North Korea is dependent on China for food, energy and other necessities, is a result of North Korea’s choice to source only from China, despite the availability of resources from other markets.”

It is Yang’s assertion as well that, “The excessive precaution against China or even the exaggeration of China’s influence over North Korea, actually works against North Korea’s economic recovery.” Likewise, he states, “Since China currently has relatively more influence over North Korea than we do, its penetration of the North Korean economy – promoting liberalization and true economic reform – could be an effective way to promote North Korean economic development.”

Yang emphasized that, “Unlike in the past, the Chinese government is no longer able to control North Korea’s economic activity to serve Chinese interests. Instead, the Chinese government now faces the responsibility of trying to help North Korea develop a certain level of economic independence.”

“China knows that if North Korean economic cooperation could be established with the U.S. and South Korea, China’s burden would be more manageable and North Korea could reform more quickly,” Yang explained. However, he also noted that the reality of this level of international cooperation is highly unlikely, stating, “The problem is that since North Korea does not trust the intentions of the U.S. and South Korea, China cannot help but face the difficulty of taking on North Korea alone.”

Yang’s research contends that Chinese-style economic reforms are not the most efficient way to develop North Korea’s economy, however, they may be the only effective option at this time. He stated, “China’s main goal for assisting Norh Korea is simply to maintain the stability of the Northeast region. At the same time, China acknowledges the fact that it is unlikely North Korea will normalize relations with the U.S., and therefore North Korea, by default, will turn to China for economic guidance. The price of implementing the same style of reforms that has shaped 3 of China’s most backward provinces will be high, but the market growth and gradually increasing international influence over the North Korean economy that Chinese-style reforms can offer, are still the second best option for North Korea.”

On the other hand, Yang insisted that “It is not necessary to worry about Chinese companies occupying North Korea, as some South Koreans have raised concerns over.” Instead, he explained that companies are bound to carve out lucrative markets through investment and marketing, and that “Currently, due to the unique North-South relations, and the difficulty of investing in North Korea, Chinese companies should actually be encouraged to enter, invest in and sell commodities to North Korea; activity that will benefit both countries’ economies.”

Subsequently, Yang explained, “China’s influence over North Korea can be effective in teaching North Korea about international labor divisions and the principles of market economies. If China can bring about the concepts of reasonable pricing, and market and income redistribution, China’s intervention could be instrumental in discarding North Korea’s planned economy, and finally allowing a market economy to emerge.”


North Korea gets Chinese aid to fight bird flu

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

from the AFP:

North Korea received aid from China to help its fight against bird flu which has hit the impoverished state in recent years.

The Chinese aid, which included test kits, “will help prevent the spread of bird flu in the country via its border and trading ports,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea has recently launched public awareness campaigns against the avian influenza virus and has focused its efforts on isolating chickens and ducks from wild birds. No bird flu case has been reported so far this year.

The PDRK reported virus outbreaks in 2004 and 2005.

Early this year, a Japanese human rights activist said a North Korean woman had been infected in December. But Pyongyang has yet to confirm the case.