Archive for April, 2007

N. Korea, Switzerland try new bank program to help N.K.’s farmers

Monday, April 30th, 2007


Years of efforts to cultivate North Korea’s mountainous farmland is beginning to yield results, and Swiss and Korean officials are testing a bank credit program for the farmers in the Asian country, a Swiss aid office said on Sunday.

North Korea is showing “many promising signs of changes in progress,” including the emergence of consumer markets that are now established as part of the country’s economic system, Adrian Schlapfer, assistant director-general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), said on the agency’s Web site.

Schlapfer was comparing the current situation to that during his previous visit to Pyongyang four years ago.

“The farming land in which the starving people started to work back then is now recognized as providing scope for agricultural initiative,” he wrote.

“The SDC, together with North Korea’s Central Bank, is therefore in the process of testing a micro-credit program to encourage farmers to base their investment decisions on economic feasibility considerations — an innovation for North Korea,” he said.

But North Korea still suffers from food scarcity, and aid is still essential, he said.

The SDC, an agency of the Swiss Foreign Ministry, has maintained an office in Pyongyang since 1997, focusing on agricultural programs to improve food production and on supporting domestic reform. The Swiss government started providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea in 1995.

Schlapfer described North Korea as the most little-known and enigmatic partner of the SDC, and acknowledged there are constant doubts on whether Swiss engagement there will yield results.

“Are there any meaningful approaches for long-term development partnership in this country with its planned economy, backwardness and secretiveness? Given the context, is it at all possible to initiate change?” he asked.

Pyongyang is “not an easy partner,” he said. “The key values, priorities and methods of Switzerland’s development cooperation have to be repeatedly insisted upon.”

“However, the projects implemented over the past 12 years are encouraging,” Schlapfer added.


Kaesong Site Expedites S-N Economic Integration

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Korea Times
Ryu Jin

At a quarter to 7 a.m. on a normal weekday, a rush to work opens the morning of a North Korean town seated just minutes away from the heavily fortified border with South Korea.

Several blue commuter buses, just like ones that can be seen in downtown Seoul, stop in front of a sign reading, “Kaesong Industrial Zone’’ and spew out hundreds of North Korean workers.

As the working time draws near, they hasten their steps toward their respective workplaces, owned and managed by people from across the border. Some 13,000 North Korean workers, mostly women in their 20s and 30s, spend most of the daytime in the small capitalist enclave in the southwestern part of their Stalinist nation.

“Welcome!’’ “Good Morning!’’ Several South Koreans say as they greet their North Korean colleagues in front of the main gate of Shinwon Ebenezer. Hwang Woo-seung, director of the apparel company’s Kaesong branch, says that they have never skipped a day _ regardless of rain or snow _ without such greetings since the factory went into operation in 2004.

Closing hours are by and large around 5 p.m. But almost half of the 13,000 laborers work overtime until 7 p.m. in order to return home early on Saturdays. By the first half of 2008, the number of North Koreans working in the joint industrial park is expected to reach 100,000, according to South Korean officials.

From Seeds to Young Plants

Launched three years ago, the Kaesong Industrial Complex has been a gauge of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, where hundreds of thousands of troops confront each other across the border, which remains as the last flashpoint of the Cold War era.

Operations, for example, had nearly stopped late last year in the wake of a nuclear test by the North. Since the Feb. 13 denuclearization agreement, however, businesses have gone back to normal.

A free trade agreement (FTA) struck in April between South Korea and the United States, which opened up the possibility of the Kaesong products being exported to America as “made in Korea’’ goods, also breathed a fresh enthusiasm into the industrial zone.

Foreign eyes watching the complex are also changing. A growing number of foreign delegates are coming to the zone, and their evaluation has been quite positive. Moody’s Investors Service analysts Thomas Byrne, who visited the site on Feb. 9, said Kaesong is the “optimistic future’’ of South and North Korea.

Currently, 22 firms _ mostly small- and medium-sized ones _ are making clothes, shoes, watches and kitchen pots in the 1 million-pyong (3.3 million-square-meters) pilot site of the Kaesong complex, which will sprawl over a total 20 million-pyong (66 million-square-meters) in the coming years.

Since the first products came out in December 2004, annual output has increased from $14.9 million (13.8 billion won) in 2005 to $73.7 million (68.4 billion won) in 2006.

Despite potential risks stemming from political uncertainty, the zone has an inescapable economic logic _ the cheap labor and land of the North combined with the capital and technology of the South.

Proximity also makes for an attractive alternative for South Korean firms looking to move their plants to China. The distribution cost in Kaesong is one-tenth that of China, land price one-fifteenth and the labor cost one-twentieth, according to statistics.

Some 300 companies are expected to fill up the whole first-stage experimental site by the first half of next year, hiring up to 100,000 North Korean workers.

“It means that an up-and-coming new city is being created in the border area with a total population of about 300,000 to 400,000, when the families of the workers are added,’’ says Kim Dong-keun, chairman of the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC).

Kaesong hopes to invite as many as 3,000 companies eventually, employing some 350,000 workers by the mid-2010s, when the fully-fledged complex (roughly the same size of Changwon) is completed with apartment buildings, hotels, shopping centers and even an amusement park and golf courses.

Way to Integration

North Korea, for its part, envisions Kaesong as its own version of Shenzhen, one of the first “special economic zones’’ in China, and hopes that the new industrial site could jump-start its near-bankrupt economy.

Since the mid-1990s, when it was severely hit by great famines amid the first nuclear standoff with the United States, North Korea has remained a wasteland plagued by the so-called triple distresses _ the shortage of food, cash (foreign exchange) and energy.

With the end of the Cold War, North Korea lost hefty aid from China and the now-defunct Soviet Union, which had propped up its flagging economy. In a desperate move, Pyongyang launched an experiment with the free market in July 2002, deregulating prices and hiking salaries.

North Koreans had also anticipated the businesses with South Korea, which started in the wake of the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, to bring money into the cash-strapped country.

But the ambitious tour project at Mt. Kumgang above the eastern side of the border had been too fainthearted to turn profitable because it was limited only to tourists.

Kaesong was a different story. While South Koreans saw the tour project largely as symbolic, they were ready to offer more financial incentives for companies to invest in the border town.

For the South Korean decision-makers, Kaesong became the site of an experiment to transplant capitalism to the Stalinist state, plagued by an inefficient bureaucracy and pervasive malnutrition.

Of course, the venture poses risks for the tightly controlled hermit kingdom, which has been ruled by hereditary “monarchs’’ _ the late leader Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il _ for more than half a century. A major city with about 150,000 residents, Kaesong will inevitably be exposed to what the North Korean leadership calls decadent Western culture.

Suh Ye-taik, an executive director of Hyundai Asan, selected by the North as its major business partner, recalls that it was an offer that nobody expected when the North Koreans first proposed Kaesong. Pyongyang originally wanted to develop other places such as Shinuiju and Haeju.

“It was an unexpected offer in political terms,’’ he said. “But we decided to opt for Kaesong in consideration of the proximity and other conditions of location.’’

Kaesong, seated about 140 kilometers south of Pyongyang and some 60 kilometers north of Seoul, is on a point of strategic importance in the case of a military conflict between the two Koreas. North Korea even yielded some kilometers by withdrawing its conventional artillery.

Kim Jong-il, however, seems to be well aware of the fact that his own hold on power depends on reviving the economy. Kim Heung-kwang, a defector from the North who had worked as a professor at Pyongyang Computer Technology University, predicted in a recent thesis to the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) that North Korea would open up the Internet to individuals as early as 2009.

“Security guarantees and restoration from the economic plight are the top priorities for the survival of the North Korean regime,’’ said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “They realize opening is the only way out of their predicament.’’

While Kaesong is a touchstone for economic integration in the unification process, the workplaces in the industrial zone are test boards for cultural and societal assimilation of the two Koreas, which have walked different paths for the past several decades since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Shinwon is a good example. South Korean managers say they now see drastic changes in the attitudes of North Korean workers. People from across the border had kept an awkward silence in the first years. But smiles and small chatter has become part of the atmosphere.

“The quality of the products here is good because the Northern workers are very productive,’’ said Hwang, the head of the apparel company’s Kaesong factory. “They now learn skills much faster than they did in the initial years.’’

They are also getting familiar with dialects from the other side of the border. In the three-storied factory of Stafild that produces medical walking shoes by some 1,800 North Korean workers, visitors overheard “One for all, all for one’’ _ the motto of the Stalinist state.

For Brighter Future

While its ambition is grand and lofty, the Kaesong complex still faces major hurdles _ both from inside and outside. One of the biggest problems is the U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea, which ban the sale or shipment of key strategic goods such as high-tech computers.

Though the South Korean government is trying to attract the investment of some information-technology (IT) companies in the long term, no high-tech firms have so far advanced in to Kaesong.

So, what the zone really needs is a genuine political thaw between North Korea and the U.S., government officials as well as experts point out. A strong inter-Korean relationship is another important factor to affect the joint project.

Labor conditions in Kaesong are a problem of its own. The average wage is only $57.50 per month, which is not provided in cash. North Korean workers receive coupons to get the necessities of life, though their standard of living is much higher than those in other areas of the country.

Largely focused on red brick industries, which led the economic growth of the South until the 1980s, some workplaces in the zone are exposed to dangerous environments and workers are not entitled to the core labor rights, such as the right of collective action.

Foreign investment will be a touchstone of the venture’s success in the long term. South Korea plans to invite U.S. investors to the industrial estate in October in an effort to expedite foreign investment.

“Foreign investment will help stabilize the operation of the industrial complex and will be a good experience for the management of other firms,’’ said Kim Dong-keun, the KIDMAC chairman.

South Korean officials also expect that from now on some large South Korean enterprises will come into the zone to continue the development of the Kaesong industrial park.

“So far, the zone has been occupied largely by small- and medium-sized companies,’’ Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said at a breakfast lecture late last month. “We expect the international credit rating of Kaesong will improve if leading enterprises move in.’’

On April 27, the National Assembly of South Korea passed a law that supports the industrial zone. Firms operating in Kaesong will be provided with the same benefits enjoyed by the small- and medium-sized companies in other areas such as a 7-percent tax exemption. South Korean workers in Kaesong will also be eligible for the Labor Standard Act and the country’s four major insurance policies.

“Kaesong Industrial Complex is a win-win situation for both the South and the North,’’ Kim said. “Both economies will complement each other through the project and will be the steppingstone to national unification and integration.’’


Cable Cars to Run on Mt. Geumgang

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Korea Times
Kim Yon-se

Hyundai Group is gearing up to activate its inter-Korean businesses as negative factors, such as North Korea’s nuclear test last October, have started to settle down.

As early as this year, Hyundai Asan, the group’s tourism unit, plans to operate cable cars on Mount Kumgang to attract more South Korean tourists. The company has been in talks with North Korea to run cable cars on part of the mountain.

“It usually takes about one year or more to complete the construction of a cable car system. We launched the construction last year,” a company official said, suggesting that tourists could enjoy the service in 2007 or early 2008.

He said cable cars will run between the mountain’s top and the Sejonbong ridge, one of Mount Kumgang’s peaks. As the peak is located near the East Sea, tourists will enjoy scenic views of the mountain and sea simultaneously.

Hyundai Asan has set the goal of attracting 400,000 tourists, including South Koreans and foreigners, to Mount Kumgang this year, compared with 234,446 last year.

Its rosy outlook comes largely from the six-party agreement to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programs in February. Hyundai Asan officials say the event will help normalize inter-Korean businesses.

“The landmark accord will enable our inter-Korean projects, including Mount Kumgang tours and the Kaesong Industrial Complex, to get revitalized,” the official said.

Along with the scheduled opening of tours to inner Mount Kumgang from May 27, Hyundai Asan has decided to hire more than 10 fresh employees.

As the number of tourists fell to fewer than 250,000 in 2006 from 301,822 in 2005 and 272,820 in 2004, the company had to conduct layoffs and cut monthly payments to some employees amid deteriorating profitability last year.

Now the company plans to restore the salary level and pay delayed bonuses in a bid to encourage workers.

The tour project accounts for about 70 percent of Hyundai Asan’s total sales. It has set a sales target of 300 billion won for 2007.

Hyundai is also poised to push ahead with a plan to begin tours to Kaesong, a North Korean historical city near the border that is home to the South Korean-invested industrial complex. It plans to hold working-level meetings with the North in order to hasten the start of the tours.


Christians Find Innovative Ways to Smuggle Gospel into N. Korea

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The Christian Post
Michelle Vu

In a country described as a spiritual vacuum surrounded by the watchful eyes of a totalitarian regime and oppressed by a quasi religious cult centered on its leader’s family, North Koreans desperate to keep the Gospel alive have found innovative methods to smuggle in the Word of God.

Whether it is through human transport of Bibles or North Koreans risking their lives to testify to their families upon return or balloons filled with Christian tracts, the Word of God is penetrating the country where being openly Christian can result in execution.

From within the country, evangelism is taking place through disguised missionaries and North Korean Christians repatriated by China or returning on their own free will, according to North Korean defectors at the Open Doors USA panel discussion this past week on religious persecution in North Korea.

One North Korean defector, Ms. Eom Myong-Heui, said that she was evangelized through a Chinese-Korean missionary disguised as a businessman while still living in North Korea.

Eom – who is now an assistant pastor of a church in South Korea for North Korean defectors – said that she was desperate for food during the North Korea famine in the 1990s and had resorted to partnering with the disguised missionary businessman to earn money.

The Korean-Chinese missionary would teach her the Bible whenever they met and eventually Eom became a Christian.

Yet she and the other North Korean defector on the panel agreed that the best method to spread the Gospel in the closed society is through training North Korean refugees.

“The best and most effective way is using the North Korean refugees,” stated Eom, who said defectors can call their family and relatives in North Korea and share the Gospel.

Eom explained that she speaks to her two daughters still in North Korea through a cell phone from China that cannot be monitored by the North Korean government.

“We can train those North Koreans as strong believers and connect to relatives in North Korea … and conversations can spread [the] Gospel,” she said.

“Philip Lee,” a North Korean defector now living in South Korea. added that some North Koreans are even willing to return to the North and spread the Gospel. Lee, whose real name is withheld for security reasons, said that one of the main ministries in his church composed of North Korean defectors is to train strong Christian leaders who are willing to return to North Korea and witness.

But he noted that even refugees forcefully returned to North Korea can become powerful witnesses.

Lee recalled a repatriated North Korean Christian named Brother Luke who would daily urge his prison guards and officers, “You should believe in Jesus! You should accept Jesus!” Luke reportedly continued his exclamations even during torture and before a judge in court, according to Lee. Before his martyrdom one year later, one prison guard had accepted Christ.

Meanwhile, other North Korean defectors have found innovative ways to spread the Gospel in the North while still remaining in South Korea.

Lee Minbok, founder of North Korea Christian Association, began sending large balloons filled with thousands of Christian tracts across the North-South border about three years ago. Lee, previously a scientist in North Korea, is mostly joined by a small group of defectors or those who have worked with North Korean refugees. The balloons are said to land in North Korea within 20 minutes to 1 hour from its departure in the South.

“I’m proud that North Korea is angry,” said a grinning Choi Yong-Hun, a volunteer at NKCA and a South Korean who spent nearly four years in prison in China for helping North Korean refugees, to The Christian Post. “They ask, ‘Who sent it?’ We say that God sent it. It is a very effective way to send the Gospel.”

Other ways given to evangelize North Koreans include smuggling in Bibles, as Open Doors has done over the past ten years; Christian radio broadcast; and through organizations working with North Korean refugees along the border in China.

Last week’s panel discussion in Washington was part of North Korea Freedom Week, Apr. 22-29, which seeks to raise awareness of the brutal North Korean regime and to urge stronger actions by the U.S. government and international community to press North Korea on its human rights abuse.

The week mainly ended on Saturday with international protests against China’s violent treatment or North Korean refugees at Chinese embassies around the world.


Australia to provide $4m aid to N Korea

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Austrailian Associated Press

Australia will provide almost $4 million in humanitarian aid to a hungry and malnourished North Korea.

Millions of the 23 million people in the communist country are living in poverty.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia’s $4 million commitment will focus on improving the health, hygiene and nutrition of North Koreans.

“Thirty-seven per cent of North Koreans suffer from chronic malnutrition, and two-thirds of North Korean children do not receive enough food because of a one million tonne food shortfall,” Mr Downer said in a statement.

“Many North Koreans also lack access to clean water and sanitation.”

Mr Downer said Australia’s assistance will be provided through a number of United Nations agencies and the International Red Cross.

About $1.5 million will go towards UNICEF’s water and sanitation program.

A further $1.5 million will provide food for 1.9 million people through the World Food Program.

The rest of the money will be spent on emergency health and essential medicines, disaster management, water supply and sanitation.


Burma, North Korea restore diplomatic ties

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
ser Myo Ja

North Korea and Burma, two of the world’s harshest dictatorships, agreed yesterday to restore diplomatic ties 24 years after Pyongyang was implicated in a deadly bomb attack which targeted South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was visiting Rangoon.

North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Kim Young-il, arrived in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma, also known as Myanmar, on Wednesday. Kim and Kyaw Thu, Burma’s deputy foreign minister, signed an agreement yesterday to reestablish relations between the two countries, Thu said.

The specifics of the agreement were not released.

The October 9, 1983 bombing was one of the most audacious acts of terror ever attributed to a nation-state. During an official visit, Chun planned to lay a wreath at a mausoleum dedicated to Aung San, the founder of modern Burma. Chun was delayed by traffic, but 21 people were killed, including three Korean cabinet ministers, when bombs in the roof of the mausoleum exploded. Burma quickly blamed the attack on North Korea.

Shortly after the bombing, Burmese authorities arrested three North Korean agents, one of whom killed himself. The other two were convicted and sentenced to death. Jin Mo was executed in 1985, but Kang Min-chol’s sentence was reduced to life in prison because he confessed.

Kang, 51, has been held at Insein prison near Rangoon. Irrawaddy, a magazine published by Burmese exiles, reported in its current issue that Kang did not wish to return to either Korea if he is released from prison. A former inmate told the magazine, “Kang said he did not want to go to the North because he would be treated as a traitor and he did not want to go to the South because he would be punished for the terror.”

North Korea has denied responsibility for the incident, claiming that it was a South Korean conspiracy to frame the North.

South Korea respects Myanmar’s decision to restore ties with N. Korea

South Korea respects Myanmar’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with North Korea, a government spokesman said Thursday.

The spokesman said that South Korea expects the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries after 24 years will provide momentum for North Korea’s opening and contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Myanmar severed ties with North Korea following a bomb attack by North Korean agents on the entourage of then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan at the Aung San Mausoleum in Yangoon in October 1983.

Meanwhile, North Korea confirmed foreign news reports that the two sides agreed to reopen diplomatic relations, quoting a joint communique on the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the Union of Myanmar.

DPRK is the acronym for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official title.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported, “According to the joint communique, the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the government of the Union of Myanmar, desirous of developing friendly relations and bilateral cooperation between the two countries and peoples, based on the principles of respect for each other’s sovereignty, non-interference in their internal affairs, and equality and mutual benefit, as well as the norms of international law and the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter, have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18th April 1961.”


S. Korea’s asset management company may take over BDA: sources

Friday, April 27th, 2007


South Korea’s state debt-restructuring agency may take over Banco Delta Asia (BDA), which is now virtually facing bankruptcy over accusations of engaging in money laundering for North Korea, diplomatic sources here said Friday.

Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department ordered all U.S. banks and companies to sever ties with the BDA, putting the Macao-based lender at risk of closing its business as global banks and companies are reluctant to do financial transactions with it.

“It is difficult for the U.S. to lift the sanctions on the BDA….so an option to let South Korea’s state-run agency take over the lender is now being reviewed,” a diplomatic source said.

According to the source, a way for the Korea Asset Management Corp. (KAMCO) — which buys bad debts from financial companies and turns them around — to purchase bad loans from the BDA is being studied, thus preventing the lender from going bankrupt.

KAMCO has been seeking to make inroads into overseas countries by taking over bad debts from troubled financial institutions.

North Korean funds frozen at the BDA, estimated at US$25 million, have not been transferred to the communist state so far, holding up progress in a landmark agreement over the North’s denuclearization.

Pyongyang said it will not implement the first 60-day denuclearization measures unless the funds are transferred to another bank, so the North can confirm the free transfer of its funds in the international financial system, upon which the U.S. Treasury Department has a strong influence.

North Korea has said that it will take the first steps toward nuclear dismantlement as soon as it confirms the release of its funds, which have been frozen at Banco Delta Asia since September 2005.

Under the Feb. 13 agreement, North Korea pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country within 60 days. In return, North Korea would receive aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea.


32 Out of 52 BDA Account Holders Revealed

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Daily NK
Nangung Min

While the transfer of BDA’s North Korea’s accounts continues to linger on, a defector once a high authority in North Korea, recently revealed the names of 32 account holders used in North Korea.

A list of 32 account holders (out of the 52 BDA North Korea accounts) were released on the internet site of “” on the 26th, in which the defector claims to be well acquainted or have conducted direct transactions with while working in foreign trade in North Korea.

This list recorded financial ministries including the No. 39 Department for Kim Jong Il’s personal funds, the People’s Military Department, National Security Agency and Safety Agency.

If this list is proven to be true, at present the international trades of North Korea’s 4 key financial centers, the Party, the military, the administration and the security agency can be analyzed to be in a frozen state.

In addition to unveiling the list of account holders, the defector informed, “BDA is commonly known as ‘Delta Bank’ amongst the elites in North Korea” and certified, “The North Korean government used this bank to import luxury goods, gifts and undoubtedly nuclear armaments and weapons of mass destruction.”

Furthermore, the defector said that “22% of all North Korea’s transactions were conducted through BDA” and implicated that BDA played a vital role as Kim Jong Il’s personal funds.

The U.S. State Department recently accused BDA of engaging in counterfeit dollars and hence all U.S. transactions with BDA was terminated. Since, the U.S. suspended its transactions with BDA, any official bank has also been placed in a difficult position to transact with BDA.

For now, the Bank of China, Hong Kong’s HSBC and 27 other Macau banks are known to have suspended transacting funds with North Korea.

For the past 2 weeks, North Korea has refused money regarding the 52 accounts. Meanwhile, the U.S. and China are urging that either each of the 52 account holders send the money directly or a third party remits the whole amount and the frozen measures returns to normal. As a result, North Korea’s part in the preliminary implementations of the Feb 13 Agreement continues to be delayed also.


Medical doctors from two Koreas start working together in Kaesong

Thursday, April 26th, 2007


Medical doctors from South and North Korea on Thursday started working together at a hospital inside an industrial complex just north of the inter-Korean border, officials said.

“We will make efforts to develop it into a general hospital in Kaesong. I thank a lot of people who help us,” said Jeong Geun, secretary-general of Green Doctors, which is in charge of running the medical facilities inside the Kaesong industrial complex.

Since Green Doctors established facilities for emergency medical services in January 2005, it has provided free medical services for about 20,000 workers from South and North Korea. It plans to open a general hospital in Kaesong by early 2008. 

The doctors held a ceremony in front of the medical facilities and about 200 officials from the two Koreas were present, Jeong said.

So far, there have been piecemeal inter-Korean exchange programs for medical doctors, but this marks the first time that doctors from the two Koreas have worked together at the same hospital since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

According to officials, the South will handle dental, surgical and internal disease affairs, while the North will specialize in eye care, oriental medicine, obstetrics and gynecology.

Medical officials from the two sides have been preparing for the launch of the joint medical services for several months, and about 30 medical staff, including nurses and paramedics from the two sides, will provide assistance for the medical team.

The complex, located just north of the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas, is a jointly-operated project in which South Korean businesses produce goods through the employment of cheap North Korean labor. Twenty-one South Korean factories employ about 11,160 North Korean workers in Kaesong. 


Capitalism vs. Socialism, Crackdown at Shinuiju

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Daily NK
Kwon Jeong Hyun

Since February, the Party began inspections at Shinuiju customs in an attempt to punish and prosecute customs officers that were requesting irrational demands to the people. In particular, authorities conducted strict investigations over customs officers in charge of rail cargo.

A source in North Korea said, “Authorities identified that an employee of a trading company in Shinuiju, Kim Jung Man (pseudonym) had secretly transported about 1000 tons of copper to sell in China over the past 3 years” and added, “It seems that organized groups incorporating Chinese customs officers have been engaging in smuggling.”

He said, “He (Kim) disappeared instantly. He is probably sentenced with a serious punishment. The atmosphere is melancholic as 6 other customs officers were also caught.” In addition to this, bag inspections are conducted and at the end of every day, customs officers must report the total amount of goods that passed through as well as receive feedback.

“Not only is the central authorities conducting inspections, the National Safety Agency has sent 3 pair teams to run investigations on customs at the station, ports and bridges” he said.

Inspections were conducted until April 15th, Kim Il Song’s birthday. Though the most part of North Korea’s social regime is corrupt, customs officers have received the greatest complaints and have the worst reputation for bribery. It seems that North Korean authorities have used inspections at Shinuiju customs as an example to set public order over the city of Shinuiju.

The moment inspectors enforced control over customs, the reduction of cargo trucks entering North Korea was quite noticeable. On average about 50-60 trucks passed through customs daily. Today only 20 are in operation of which Chinese cargo trucks are transporting the goods. Overall, the amount of trade has returned to the days of the past.

Further, investigations are being held throughout all of Shinuiju city. Authorities, the Safety Agency and investigating teams have united to confiscate items such as foreign CD’s, capitalist-style clothing and computer programs. Also, any devices that could be used as a means of foreign communication such as TV’s, radios and mobile phone are also being strictly regulated.

The source said, “Authorities are enforcing strict control over Shinuiju city to use it as a confrontation with capitalism and socialism” and “An order was made to protect the border gateway and that the former guard post (Shinuiju) must not be shaken.” The source confirmed that the goods caught at customs included computer software, CD’s, and foreign books including the bible.