Archive for October, 2007

Kaesong factory-apartment opens new horizons for inter-Korean cooperation

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Lee Joon-seung

A newly opened factory-apartment at the Kaesong Industrial Complex promises fresh possibilities for inter-Korean business cooperation, the developer of the facility said Tuesday.

The state-run Korea Industrial Complex Corp. (KICOX) said the dual-purpose manufacturing and residential facility is specifically designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are currently being phased out of South Korea due to the lack of workers and high labor costs.

At the formal opening ceremony of the factory-apartment, KICOX President Kim Chil-doo said, “The new facility provides an ideal business model for South Korea’s labor-intensive SMEs trying to stay afloat, and is an ideal means to start off business in North Korea.” About 300 people from South Korea were present at Tuesday’s opening in Kaesong, including lawmakers and Vice Industry Minister Oh Young-ho.

The 32 companies that will use the new facility are generally small clothing companies that were at the critical juncture of deciding whether to move to China and Southeast Asian countries, or close their businesses altogether. The factory-apartment provides an alternative means to continue making goods and is beneficial to all sides, the developer said.

By moving to Kaesong, the companies can stay in business by hiring workers for about US$60 a month, while 2,700 North Korean workers benefit from new jobs. In addition, the dual arrangement permits cheaper operating costs, a better working environment and allows companies to cooperate with each other for logistics support, said the developer.

The corporation, which runs 11 similar factory-apartments in South Korea, said the five-story building covers 27,880 square meters and was built in 14 months at the expense of 21.1 billion won (US$22.8 million). It is equipped with a storage area, a training center, a product display room, two dining halls, a store and fitness center. The new building is equipped with 71 dormitories for South Korean workers and various support staff.

The monthly rent in the factory-apartments is 4,500 won (US$4.9) per square meter, and there are six different floor arrangements available, ranging from 396 to 1983 square meters.

KICOX said that based on the projected success of the first factory-apartment, up to seven more will be built in Kaesong by 2010. It said 19,489 square meters of land were reserved in May 2007 for the project.

A second factory-apartment is being built the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC), and is scheduled for completion by late 2008.

Companies that have moved into the new factory-apartment, meanwhile, said they are satisfied with the proficiency of workers and cheap labor costs.

Ok Sung-seok, president of Nine Mode Co. and chairman of the corporate management committee at the KICOX factory, said Kaesong plants cost a third less to operate than similar plants in China. He added that his shirt-making company should turn a profit by next year.

“I ran a factory in Qingtao, China for four years, but the operating cost there is skyrocketing,” the businessman said. He said Nine Mode closed its Chinese factory and plans to downsize its operations in Seoul so it can concentrate on its efforts in Kaesong.

Ok said that depending on the type of business and size, four or five factories in the factory-apartments should turn a profit by the end of the year.

The Kaesong complex lies 60 kilometers northeast of Seoul, and is hailed as the crowning achievement of the historic 2000 inter-Korean summit. It has played a key role in expanding two-way economic exchange that stood at just $300 million in 1999 to $1.35 billion last year.

Construction of the industrial district began in June 2003, with 3.3 square kilometers of factory land have been built to house up to 450 firms. By 2012, 11.6 square kilometers of industrial park is to be laid down that can hold several thousand South Korean factories and hire over 200,000 North Korean workers.

There are at present about 13,000 North Korean workers employed by 57 South Korean firms in Kaesong that have churned out garments, watches, kitchen utensils, auto parts and other labor-intensive goods since 2004.

The complex just north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas has been in the spotlight after the second inter-Korean summit. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to build a region of peace and prosperity centered around Kaesong and the North Korean city of Haeju, 75 kilometers west of Kaesong.

“People at Kaesong expect progress to be made in such areas as communications and travel, which had previously been an obstacle to the development of the industrial district,” said a KIDMAC official. The prime ministers of the two sides are to meet in November to implement follow-up measures to the summit.

There is only one telephone line linking Kaesong with Seoul, while no mobile phones are allowed in the area. People and materials are also prevented from moving in and out of the complex.


South Korea’s Average Life Span 78 years – North Korea’s 64…a 14-year Difference

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Daily NK
Namgung Min

North Korean civilians’ average life span was disclosed to be approximately 14-years lower than the average life span in South Korea.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said through inspection documents of the administration on “North Korea’s Health and Medical Situation,” which was recently submitted to the National Assembly.

According to this document, the North Korean civilians’ average life span is 61.4 years for males and 67.3 for females, an average of 64.3 years. For South Korea, the average is 78.1 years, with 74.4 for males and 81.8 for females.

The significant difference in average life span for North and South Korea reflects the fact that the severely worsened medical environment in North Korea.

According to the document, North Korean teenage boys’ smoking rate is supposed to be at an extremely alarming level. In the case of 16-year old males, the smoking rate is around 59.9%. This exceeds by 20.7% the smoking rate of South Korea high school students, provided by the Korean Association of Smoking and Health.

Cigarettes in North Korea, in contrast to South Korean cigarettes, contain a very high level of tar and nicotine content as well as higher toxicity, due to the fact that cigarettes lack filters or are hand-made.

One defector said, “In North Korea, even very young children smoke cigarettes without reservation and easily come in contact with them because they do not have much else to do.”

The document also revealed that 32~40% of North Korea’s 20~34 year olds show signs of malnutrition and approximately 34~36% of them are anemic patients.

These results can be attributed to North Korea’s continuous food shortage situation; disease rates due to malnutrition and anemic are high.

North Korea’s birth rate is 1.94, higher than South Korea’s 1.19. However, the infant mortality rate, between `99~`02, was 23.5 per 1,000 persons, but conversely, the `06 mortality rate was 42 persons, 14 times higher than South Korea’s (at 3 persons).
The health span (a period without sickness or handicap) is 52.3 years old (based on 2000 data), a significant decrease from South Korea’s 67.8 years (in 2005).

The reason why North Korea’s health and medical situation is so tenuous as shown above is due to the lack of the state’s investment in this area. The actual situation is that there is an unmistakable gap between North Korea’s single dollar payment for a person’s health and medical fee and South Korea’s $625.

Further, in North Korea, it is extremely difficult to obtain basic medical goods, such as cold medicine or antibiotics.

One defector who escaped in 2005 said, “In North Korea, even if one wants to go to the hospital, he or she cannot receive treatment without any money and there is not even a full equipment of medicine. It is much easier to buy medicine in the jangmadang than in a hospital, because there is more variety and it is more easily obtainable. Only, the price of medicine, compared to other products, transcends the imagination.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to invest 294 million won (approx. USD316,120) to modernize the People’s Hospital in Gosung and Songdo in Kaesung next year, besides continuing medical support for North Korea.


Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School, the Best Elite Training Institute in North Korea

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Daily NK
Yoon Il Geun

As part of special education policy for the talented, North Korean government established in 1984 Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School, whose education course corresponds to the national curriculum for high schools in South Korea. By 1985, the North Korean regime had finished establishing No.1 Senior-middle School at every seat of provincial government and started a full-scale special education for the gifted.

The competition for No. 1 Senior-middle School is fierce because only those graduates from these schools can get into universities. The No. 1 Senior-middle School is different from the ordinary schools in terms of teaching materials and the quality of teachers. However, there is a huge difference even among No.1 Senior-middle Schools. The best one is Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School.

Located in the Shinwon-dong of Bontongkang-district, Pyongyang, Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School has a total floor space of 28,000 square meters, a four-story building for primary school, a ten-story building for Senior-middle school, dormitories, cafeteria, and other accessory buildings. It is surely the best school in North Korea.

The entrance quota is approximately one thousand students with around 300 selected from the countryside. The dorms for these students from provinces have better facilities than the dorms of Kim Il Sung University have.

The predecessor of the present Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School was “Pyongyang Namsan Advanced Middle School,” that Kim Joing Il attended between 1957 and 1960. In those days, the school only received as its students the children of army general, anti-Japanese fighters, the cadres of the central party, cabinet members, and renowned artists or intellectuals. It was “the school for the nobility.”

As part of Kim Jong Il’s policy for special education, the school changed its name into Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School. The latter now boasts about having best education and experimental facilities, and prominent teachers. The school buildings which were constructed at a cost of 5.8 million U.S. dollars are very modern. All facilities were imported from Japan including desks and chairs, interior decorations, laboratory tools, reagents, musical instruments, and sports equipment

Also called as Kim Jong Il’s alma mater, the school has a pool of teachers, most of whom are graduates from Kim Il Song National University, Kimchaek University of Technology, and Kim Hyong Jik College of Education. It also has twenty (or so) up-to-date laboratories, an excellent specimen room, and the scanning electron microscope, one which is not available even in Kim Il Sung University.

At the 10-story and its accessory building, there is the “Kim Jong Il Memorial Hall,” which exhibits materials from Kim Jong Il’s school days, and is used for idolization education of Kim Jong Il. Moreover, the school has an auditorium with the sitting capacity of 500 persons, libraries, gyms, swimming pools, dispensaries and a barbershop.

Inside the 10-story building are the principal’s office, the room for party secretaries, teachers’ rooms, classrooms, laboratories, audio-video classroom for foreign language studies, “Kim Il Sung Revolutionary History Study” room, modern computer labs, and a studio fully equipped with Japanese electronic musical instruments.

Those students originally from Pyongyang are mostly the children of the central Party or central ministry members, anti-Japan fighters, army generals, and rich Pyongyang citizens including some Korean-Japanese. Unlike the children of the upper classes, students from the countryside are selected not based on family background but talents. Most of these students are transfer students from provincial Senior-middle Schools. Therefore, there is a stark contrast between less qualified students from affluent Pyongyang families and highly talented transfer students from not–so- rich families.

The students from provinces display real talents.

In fact, it is these transfer students from provincial No.1 Senior-middle School who really raise the prestige of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School. For the most time, it is them who won awards at the International Math Olympic or computer tournament, or achieve academic success later in college.

Apparently, Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School serves two purposes. It is both an aristocratic school for the upper-class children and a special school which offers education for the gifted and produces the most brilliant men in North Korea.

As the most elite school, Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School values not only science and technology education but also art and physical education. This is what makes Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School different from other provincial No.1 senior-middle Schools. The physical education program emphasizes activities such as basketball, swimming, and apparatus gymnastics (horizontal bar, parallel bars), and offers lessons of boxing, soccer, and table-tennis. It is mandatory to make swimming lesson two times per week. In addition, the music education program offers classes such as singing and composition course, and electronic piano lessons. There are also music bands in the school.

As a result of the broad-based curricula of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School, the graduates of this school are taller on the average than their counterparts from No.1 provincial Senior-middle Schools, and display better performance at physical and music education. The self-confident students of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School are also good at dating.

On the streets in Pyongyang, people can easily spot schoolboys with school badge of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School flirting with school girls from No.1 or No.2 Geumsung School Special Art Schools.

Thanks to Kim Jong Il’s favoritism, Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School enjoys many kinds of privileges. In 1997, the students received exemption from military service. Furthermore, they have great advantage over the students of No.1 provincial Senior-middle Schools in obtaining the nomination letter needed to get into top universities,

When it comes to entering into Kim Il Sung University, each No. 1 provincial Senior-middle School is allowed to write about 5~9 nomination letter whereas Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School can write about 80~90. Similarly, the provincial schools can write no more than 1~2 nomination letters for Pyongyang Medical School whereas Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School can write 20~30 nomination letter. Almost all students who graduated from Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School go to top universities. Those graduates who were poor at school performance go to Pyongsung College of Science.

The graduates from Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School also enjoy special treatment in their universities. They are more likely to be selected as student leaders and to receive attention from professors. As Kim Jong Il’s alma mater, Pyongyang Senior-middle School No.1 draws national attention and support. It is surely the best elite school in North Korea.


Privileged Pyongyang Citizens No Longer Enjoy Privileges in the Market.

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin
(Click on image for original size)

dprkmarketprices.jpgAccording to DailyNK’s research on prices in North Korea conducted in late September, the prices in Pyongyang are similar to the prices in other parts of the country. The finding shows that Jangmadang (markets) economy has been going through integration and similar distribution process across North Korea.

In the past, domestic commodities were sold cheap, and foreign products were sold expensive in Pyongyang.

DailyNK has been conducting quarterly research on prices in the central such as Pyongan Province and Hamkyung Province and northern areas.

This time the research result shows that the price of rice in a Jangmadang in Pyongyang is 1,350 won/kg, which is similar to the price of rice in Sinuiju, 1,400won/kg. In North Korea, the rice price serves as a gauge for price trends.

In Pyongyang, the exchange rate is about 330 thousands won to 100 dollars, which is the same as the exchange rate in other places. The most famous imported cigarettes, Cat (Craven A) is sold at the same cost of 1,500 won in Pyongyang and other areas.

Subsidiary food is more expensive in Pyongyang. The price of cabbage is 400 won/kg, 50 won/kg higher than cabbage price in Sinuiju. The price of pork ranges from 3,500 to 4,000/kg, 500~1,000 won/kg higher than the pork price in other areas.

The prices of seafood such as brown and green seaweed, and dried Pollack are cheaper in Pyongyang. Seafood caught in Kangwon Province and neighboring areas is transported to markets in Pyongyang in refrigerator car. Since the demand is high, seafood is sold in great quantities, and the price remains low in general.

Movie ticket prices range from 200 to 400 won. Telephone service is charged five won per minute. Overall, the price range for each commodity is high, and many different kinds of goods are available in Jangmadang.

Imported items from China such as socks, sports shoes, or underwear are expensive being sold at a cost of 1,000 won in Pyongyang. That is because there are extra shipping rates and labor costs imposed on Chinese goods transported to Pyongyang. On the contrary, in Sinuiju, imported goods from China are circulated on the market right away.

Often, retail prices are higher in Pyongyang because of high levels of consumption among Pyongyang citizens. However, cigarettes or liquor produced in Pyongyang, or clothes from South Korea circulated to other areas via Pyongyang are sold cheap in Pyongyang.

However, in these days the differences in regional price levels have almost disappeared.

A defector from Pyongyang, Ahn Chul Min (a pseudonym) who came to South Korea in 2006 said, “Prior to 2002, there were individuals who hung around from place to place and made money on price differences. But nowadays, the retail prices are almost uniform across the country because people just use a telephone and find out where to get items they want at what prices.

“Since there is no big difference in retail prices, retailers are not doing well in business,” Ahn added, “Instead, individuals driving a truck and selling goods wholesale are making good money.”

Ahn said, “Not everyone who lives in Pyongyang is well-to-do. Despite of their locations whether in Pyongyang or Chongjin, all markets have goods from South Korea and China. The poor people even if they live in Pyongyang should buy cheap and low quality of products from China. In contrast, those who live in Chongjin and have money can buy goods from South Korea anytime.”

Market Prices Consistent Throughout DPRK
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 07-10-25-1


The results of a survey conducted by Daily NK on the price of goods in Pyongyang at the end of September show that prices in the capital were similar to those in rural areas. This is an indication that markets throughout the country are integrated, and evidence that goods can be circulated from region to region.

In the past, the price of domestic goods in Pyongyang was relatively cheep, while imported goods were sold at high prices. During that time, Daily NK carried out local price surveys in central regions such as Pyongan and Hamkyung provinces, as well as in northern areas. According to this latest survey in Pyongyang, the cost of one Kg of rice, the standard measure of the cost of goods in North Korea, was 1,350 won, similar to the 1,400 won price in Sinuiju, and the 1,250 won cost in Hyeryung. An exchange rate of 3,300 won per USD is also in line with rural exchange rates, as is the 1,500 won price tag on a pack of Craven A cigarettes, the most favored imported cigarette in North Korea.

Non-essential food goods are more expensive in Pyongyang than in outlying areas, with one Kg of lettuce selling for 400 won, 50 won more than in Sinuiju. Also, pork in the capital runs between 3,500 and 4,000 won per Kg, which is 500 to 1,000 won more than it would cost elsewhere in the country.

On the other hand, seaweed, dried Pollack, and other marine products are cheaper in Pyongyang than elsewhere. Ocean harvests from Kangwon and neighboring provinces are brought to Pyongyang markets by way of refrigerated trucks. Because of high demand, a variety of goods get delivered, yet overall, prices are held fairly low.

Overall, the price range on a particular ware was very wide, indicating that there was a variety of products available in the markets. The survey found that goods such as undergarments, socks, sneakers imported from China were selling for the high cost of 1,000 won each. In Sinuiju and other northern areas, goods from China are brought directly to markets, but by the time these same goods reach Pyongyang, additional labor and transportation costs force prices up. Pyongyang residents typically have more money to spend than those in rural areas, also leading vendors to raise prices on some goods, however cigarettes and alcohol produced in Pyongyang and distributed to rural areas, as well as South Korean goods which reach DPRK markets by way of Pyongyang, are slightly less expensive in the capital.

Recently, regional price differences have nearly disappeared. Prior to 2002, some traders earned their living traveling from region to region exploiting price differences. However, now with one simple phone call, North Koreans can find out where and for what price goods are being sold, leading the majority of retail prices to be similar throughout the country.


D.P.R. Korea Export and Import 2007

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

book.jpgD.P.R. Korea Export and Import 2007
Price JPY39,900.-(tax included)
Date of issue October  2007
Size B5/Page 514
Publisher WTS
ISBN Code ISBN978-4-9903339-2-8-C3033

This book summarizes foreign trade statistics in fiscal year 2006 of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  Since DPRK does not publish the trade statistics, it is not even certain whether or not statistical data on trade are systematically collected.  Therefore, WTS drew up this book by investigating foreign trade with DPRK, based on customhouse statistics of 190 or so countries (and regions) which are trade partners of DPRK.

The statistical format applied in this book was created, based on the HS code (the commodity classification list based on “International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System”) which is the international standard.
Amounts in various currency units were all converted into the U.S. dollar on the basis of the annual total.

We would be delighted if this book could serve as reference for concerned parties.

Contents of “D.P.R.Korea Export and Import 2007”
1. Overview
2. Statistics by country
3. Statistics by product group
4. Statistics by country and product group (20 high rank countries = China, South Korea, India, Thailand, Yemen, Russia, Brazil, Qatar, Japan, South Africa, Singapore, Mexico, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherland, Chile, Taiwan, Peru, Paraguay)
5. Topics:
1) Oil import
2) Export of gold and silver
3) Export of rare metals
4) Export of other subterranean resources
5) Import of luxury items
6) Export of apparels
7) Export of fishery products
8) Data on imports to DPRK after the nuclear test
9) Partial confusion of the statistics of DPRK with those of South Korea
6. Statistics by product group and country (HS6ST)- EXPORT 3,161 all articles
7. Statistics by product group and country (HS6ST)- IMPORT 4,294 all articles

Information provided by:
Miyagawa Jun
Korea Specialty Bookstore, Rainbow Trading Co.
TomodaSanwaBldg. 2F, 1-37,
KandaJinbocho1-37, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo101-0051 Japan
tel/ fax +81-3-5283-6100,
[email protected]


The Education Craze in North Korea

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Daily NK
Yoon Il Geun

Since the 10th, registration for new students at the Foreign Language High School, International High School, and other special-purpose high schools in Gyeonggi Province started for the 2008 school year. According to the Gyeonggi Department of Education, over 19,000 students out of 156,000 students sat for the examination for special high schools displaying the fervor for special-purpose high schools.

“Special-purpose high schools” also exist in North Korea and the efforts by parents to send their children to these schools are highly cut-throat.

North Korea has free education system, but it is not an exaggeration to say that Senior-middle school education (equivalent to high schools in South Korea) is an elite education for a minority of students entering “special-purpose high schools.”

North Korea’s compulsory education system, in contrast with South Korea, is an 11-year required education system, which consists of 1 year of pre-school, 4 years of elementary school, and 6 years of Senior-middle school.

North Korea’s special-purpose Senior-middle schools exist in the form of No. 1 Senior-middle Schools. foreign language schools and art schools in each site, including Pyongyang. The most-representative special-purpose high school is the No. 1 Senior-middle School, equivalent to South Korea’s Science High School.

Only graduates from the No. 1 Senior-middle School can go onto college

“Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School,” “Shinuiju No. 1 Senior-middle School,” and other schools with the name “No. 1 Senior-middle School” are a type of advanced schools for gathering and educating prodigies.

After Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School was established in 1984 until 1985, such schools were built in each city under the direct control of the central government. 20-some schools were in operation and starting in 1999, up to 200 schools were set up in districts and counties across the country.

Afterwards, with reactions such as increased competitiveness and demand for the expansion of university quotas for No. 1 Senior-middle Schools, the number of schools was reduced again and presently, only one is left per city. In Pyongyang, there are “Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School,” a mid-level school for advanced students, and three other special schools–“East Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School,” “Changduk Senior-middle School,” and “Moranbong No. 1 Senior-middle School.” The children of the Party leaders can enter these schools regardless of their grades. In North Korea, granting special privileges for children of leaders is a normal occurrence.

In the provinces, elementary school graduates whose grades excel and have a talent in language and sciences are selected for Korean, mathematics, and natural science subject tests. Only by passing all preparatory exams in each region (per district) and formal exams administered by schools can one enter a No. 1 Senior-middle school.

In No. 1 Senior-middle schools, textbooks which differ from average Senior-middle schools are used and education conditions next to college, such as dormitories and modern laboratories are offered. Further, top teachers, degree holders for example, are stationed by priority.

Reputable colleges all filled with No. 1 Senior-middle school graduates

Graduates from No. 1 senior-middle schools go onto Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, Pyongyang Medical College, and medical schools, science schools, and top universities in each city. In college, they are educated in advanced classes separately formed for them.

When the all-civilian public service (military service duty system) was implemented in 2000, the effort of parents trying to send their children to No. 1 middle schools doubled. In the North, only graduates from No. 1 middle schools can immediately progress to college and the rest have to wait until the completion of their military duty.

Graduates from other middle schools have to go to the army, construction sites, or the field. Besides No 1. middle schools, college entrance quotas, with the exception of a few, are not even issued for average middle schools.

Moreover, among special-purpose middle schools in North Korea is a foreign language school equivalent to the Foreign Language High School in South Korea. Here, English, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and other foreign language are exclusively taught. Entrance exams for the language school are just as competitive to entrance exams for No. 1 middle schools. The foreign school also selects distinguished students among graduates of elementary schools.

Foreign language school graduates enter Kim Il Sung University’s Foreign Language and Culture Department, Pyongyang Foreign Language University, Kim Hyong Jik College of Education, Pyongyang Commerce School, Yalu River University (the foreign language university within the army), and foreign language and literature departments of master schools in each city. However, the volume of students moving onto college from foreign schools is smaller than No. 1 middle schools School graduates.

In North Korea’s special-purpose senior-middle schools there are also arts schools. In Pyongyang, there are “Geumsung No. 1 and No. 2 Senior-middle School” and arts schools in each city. Graduates of arts schools can advance onto Pyongyang Music and Dance College, Pyongyang Film and Theater School, etc. or can join performing arts groups or a military unit.

Recently in North Korea, the phenomenon of receiving special tutoring from talented teachers, who were monthly compensated with rice and money, increased in order to aid admission into special-purpose high schools.


Yanbian: Korea-in-China

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

When I was preparing for a trip to Yanbian, people told me that I would not have any difficulties in communicating with the locals: “They all speak Korean there.” It seems like an exaggeration, but it was not.

Every time my poor and broken Chinese was not up to the task, I asked if somebody around could speak Korean and such a person was found in seconds. Indeed, Yanbian is officially known as the Korean Autonomous Prefecture.

From the 1880s the Koreans began to move to the area in large numbers, and by 1949 when the Communists took power in China, they formed a majority in the borderland areas. In 1945 about 1.7 million Koreans lived in China. About 500,000 of those chose to move back to Korea in the late 1940s, but a million or so decided to stay.

Nowadays, the Korean population has reached two million, so some Korean nationalists even describe this part of China as “Third Korea,” together with the North and South Communist China emulated the Soviet approach to ethnic minorities. Ideally, each minority had to be given some kind of autonomous quasi-statehood.

Within such statehood, the ethnic minority would be provided with the education in their native language, the media in this language and some token representation of the minority in the government agencies. This scheme was applied to Yanbian as well, and in spite of all problems this policy has worked so far. On the one hand, Koreans of the area, unlike Koreans in the former USSR, Japan or U.S., have managed to keep their language.

On the other hand, their loyalties seem to remain firmly with Beijing. The Korean language is widely used in the area. Lively talks in Korean can be overheard during walks through the city of Yanji, the capital of the Prefecture. It is remarkable that the language is used not only by elderly people, but often by youngsters as well.

As stipulated by the law, all shops and government agencies have to display signs in two languages, and it is explicitly stated that the Korean text should not be smaller than its Chinese equivalent. The local newsstands sell a number of Korean language publications, ranging from pulp fiction periodicals with semi-nude beauties on the cover to a solid quarterly which publishes the work of local Korean-language writers (such a quarterly seems to be run on a government subsidy).

The ethnic flavor has even become a tourist attraction. The dog meat restaurants are everywhere, and unlike South Korea, they are not hidden but openly advertise themselves. The images of the hanbok-clad ladies are another feature of local advertisements. The promotion of ethnic features seemingly targets both South Koreans and visitors from other parts of China. It is remarkable that until recently the local Koreans overwhelmingly sent their kids to Korean language schools.

The curriculum at those schools was identical to the schools attended by the Han Chinese, but Korean was the major language of tuition. After graduating from high school, young Koreans can proceed to the local university where they are officially granted preferential treatment at the entrance exams, sort of “affirmative action,” Chinese style. Of course, the life of Koreans was not always easy.

There were periods of restrictions and even open persecution, especially in the crazy decade of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. At those days, the relations between Beijing and Pyongyang went sour, and this influenced the local Korean community to some extent. A middle-aged ethnic-Korean businessman told me, “Back in the late 1960s, I seldom saw my parents. Because they were members of an ethnic minority, they had to go to ideologicalstruggle sessions every day and had to stay until very late.

”However, that period was an exception. The same person, who is buy no means a fan of the current Chinese system, still admitted when I asked him about discrimination: “Discrimination? Well, almost none, to be frank. They appoint some Han Chinese officials to supervise the administration, but basically I don’t think Korean people here have problems with promotions or business because of their ethnicity.

Sometimes being a minority even helps a bit — it’s easier to get to a university if you come from a minority group.” However, in recent years the situation in the area began top change fast. The Koreans began to switch from their native language to the Chinese (or, to be more precise, Chinese is increasingly seen as a native language by the children born in Korean-speaking families). Schooling in Korea faces a major crisis.

According to statistics, widely known and discussed, the number of children enrolled in Korean schools in 2000 was merely45.2 percent of the 1996 level. In the 1990-2000 period, 4,200 Korean teachers, or some 53 percent of the total, left their jobs because of school closures. It is remarkable that younger people with whom I could talk often have obvious problems with communicating in Korea, and whenever possible prefer to switch to Chinese. In families they still talk Korean to the elders, but Chinese is a natural choice between themselves.

In short, the assimilation began, and it might be unstoppable. Koreans leave their villages and go to the cities where they work and cooperate with Chinese. They often intermarry, and Chinese becomes the sole language of their kids. Like it or not, but the days of the “Third Korea” seems to be over.


Number of cross-border visitors surges on increased exchanges: ministry

Saturday, October 20th, 2007


The number of South and North Koreans who made cross-border visits during the first nine months of this year surged over 30 percent as economic, social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between the Koreas expanded, a government report showed Saturday.

According to the report released by the Unification Ministry, a total of 102,809 people from the two countries made cross-border visits during the January-to-September period, up 33.6 percent from the same period of the previous year.

Of the total that excluded South Koreans who visited the North’s Mount Geumgang, 102,079 were South Koreans going to the North, and only 730 North Koreans visited the South, it added.

Exchanges in the economic sector were most brisk with a total of 69,729 people crossing the border, followed by 9,924 for social and cultural exchanges, and 7,260 for humanitarian purposes, the report showed.

Meanwhile, inter-Korean trade during the nine months amounted to US$1.22 billion, up 12.7 percent from a year earlier, the report noted.

The countries remain technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


The Hermit Kingdom and I

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Asia Times
Michael Rank

This 38-year-old British soprano may not be a household name in the western world, but she’s a superstar in North Korea where she has given dozens of concerts and appeared countless times on the rigidly state-controlled television.

Suzanne Clarke has performed every year since 2003 in the culturally and politically isolated country, where she has sung everything from Mozart to Gershwin and from Verdi to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

North Korea may be highly repressive and deeply suspicious of foreign cultural contamination, but Clarke says the government has never attempted to censor what she sings. “There’s been no interference. I sing what I would like to sing,” she says.

She sings Korean songs as well as Western classics, but is careful to avoid being used as a tool of the Pyongyang regime, so she tactfully turns down requests to sing hymns of praise to the Great Leader Kim Il-sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong-il, around whom an all-embracing personality cult revolves, and which the North Korean government is always eager for foreigners to endorse.

“I come with a message of friendship and peace, not politics. I’m incredibly careful about what I choose to sing. I won’t sing anything in praise of any regime or any particular person,” said Clarke, an active member of Britain’s Labor Party who has nurtured ambitions to become a member of parliament.

She is strongly against capital punishment, which is widely carried out in North Korea, and does not hesitate to tell North Korean officials when she disagrees with their policies. “I tell them that I don’t believe in the death penalty. If I see something that isn’t correct I will point that out.”

Clarke, who has been a principal singer at La Scala, Milan and has been taught by Pavarotti’s singing teacher, Arrigo Pola, loves the Italian repertoire and has sung plenty of Puccini arias in Pyongyang. But she’s wary about including Madame Butterfly in her North Korean repertoire, as this is a sensitive area because of the undertones of American imperialism in the tragic love affair between a Japanese geisha and an American sailor.

Clarke said that despite frequent media attacks on cultural imperialism, North Koreans have “a certain level of knowledge of western music”, and their orchestras play works by Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and even the decidedly modernist Shostakovich. In fact, Shostakovich’s Seventh (or Leningrad) symphony seems to be something of a favorite, judging how often performances of it have been reported by the official North Korean news agency KCNA, although it is unclear whether the government is aware that it is sometimes seen as a veiled attack on Stalin.

Clarke said North Koreans love to be challenged by music that is technically difficult, “so I deliberately try to perform some of the more difficult pieces in the repertoire”. She finds North Korean audiences highly appreciative and they are especially fond of Danny Boy which is surprisingly something of an old favorite in Pyongyang (as it is with older Koreans across the DMZ). “I like trying to win them over, and they do reciprocate,” she says.

Clarke suffered a nasty attack of food poisoning when she visited North Korea for the first time for their annual Friendship Festival in 2003, but this didn’t put her off in the least. She enjoys the country so much that she has twice taken her mother, also a Labor Party activist – “They love my mother because she comes from a poor family and always looks immaculate” – and this year she took her partner Chris to Pyongyang. But next year she may have to skip a visit because she is expecting her first baby in January.

Clarke became a star in Pyongyang via a highly unexpected route. She hails from the northeastern English town of Middlesbrough, which is where North Korea sensationally beat Italy in the quarter finals of the soccer World Cup way back in 1966. In 2001 the remaining members of the North Korean team returned to Middlesbrough as part of a film documentary, The Game of Their Lives, and Clarke sang the North Korean Song of Friendship at the town’s new stadium.

This was the beginning of a remarkable relationship which is continuing not only with concerts but also with fundraising. Clarke has raised money to buy musical instruments for North Korean schools, and now she is hoping to bring a North Korean orchestra over to London next year.

This would be the first ever visit by a North Korean orchestra to the West, and despite the enormous hurdles Clarke is hopeful that she will succeed. “Things are going very well but we need more sponsorship,” said Clarke, who is working with, among others, David Heather, who this summer brought the first North Korean art exhibition to London.

The New York Philharmonic is discussing a possible concert in Pyongyang next February, so North Korea is clearly opening up musically, and Clarke is ready to give the Americans some expert advice should they request it.


DPRK Chamber of Commerce

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

The DPRK Chamber of Commerce was inaugurated on August 25, 2004 with the purpose of developing economic and trade relations with different countries over the world.

The Pyongyang Chamber of Commerce (PCC), the predecessor of the DPRK Chamber of Commerce, had been established on March 1, 2000 and granted an associate membership of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at its 33rd World Congress held in Budapest, Hungary in May, 2000.

The PCC had conducted such service activities as trade, finance, arbitration and consultation helpful to the domestic and foreign trade and economic organizations in close relations with the ICC, national chambers of commerce and world trade and economic centres.

It was registered in the directory of addresses published by the ICC, the International Trade Centre and other international economic organizations.

With a view to expanding exchange and cooperation with foreign countries in all fields of the economy, the PCC was developed into the Chamber of Commerce of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

At present, it is extensively carrying on its commercial business in closer ties with the ICC and national chambers of commerce around the world.

The DPRK Chamber of Commerce makes efforts to promote bilateral and multinational exchange and investment with Korean joint venture and individual enterprises in foreign countries as its full members and with foreign individual enterprises and entrepreneurs residing in Korea, overseas compatriots and foreign enterprises who hope to have business transactions with Korean partners as its associate members.

It has an organizational structure consisting of secretariat, trade information committee, trade arbitration committee and exhibition committee as well as non-permanent credentials committee for full members or associate members.

The trade information committee engages in such business as collection and distribution of information data on world economy and trade, international commodity and financial markets.

The trade arbitration committee handles correct examination and settlement of disputes relating to economy and trade.

The exhibition committee organizes the opening of national trade fairs at home and abroad and provides every convenience for the participation of its members in the fairs.

The DPRK Chamber of Commerce will make a positive contribution to the promotion of foreign trade, invitation of investment and economic exchange with other countries.


The DPRK Chamber is headed by Ri Hak Gwon.  I have been unnable to determine any other posts he might have held in the past.


The Chamber has two addresses on line:

DPRK Chamber of Commerce
c/o Ministry of Foreign Trade
Central District
D.P.R. of Korea
E-Mail: [email protected]
(This address seems to indicate it is an office within the Ministry of Foreign Trade)

DPRK Chamber of Commerce
Jungsong-dong, Central District,
Pyongyang, DPR Korea
P.O.Box 89
Tel: 850-2-3815926
Fax: 850-2-3815827
E-mail: [email protected]


Externally, the DPRK Chamber liases with numerous external business organizations to promote DPRK exports and foreign direct investment (FDI):

European Business Association

The EBA cooperates with the DPRK Chamber of Commerce and supports it as well as the Korea International Exhibition Corporation under the Ministry of Foreign Trade to help European companies participate [in the Pyongyang International Trade Fair].  European companies participating at the European booth [in the most recent fair] said they were very satisfied. European businesses that would like to participate at the European booth during the next trade fairs (11th PYONGYANG SPRING INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR, May 12 – 15, 2008 and the and the 4th PYONGYANG AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR, September 22 – 25, 2008) are welcome to contact EBA from now on. Details on these fairs will also be given shortly on the EBA-website under “Services”

Friedrich Nauman Foundation

“It is a great honour and a token of both appreciation and trust” , said Mr. Kim Myeong-ho, Deputy Director of the Department of International Relations of the Korean Workers’ Party welcoming two representatives of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation at the Headquarters of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) in Pyongyang. Since their meeting at the beginning of February this year the international political situation has changed dramatically: the February 13 Agreement on the Denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula was signed between the six parties DPR Korea, USA, China, Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia. Meanwhile, the parties have taken necessary steps to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and to move towards denuclearization. Both the U.S. and the DPR Korea have started negotiations on the normalisation of bilateral relations within the framework of the Six-Party Talks. Finally, both Koreas agreed to hold a second summit on 2-4 October.

Mr. Kim Myeong-ho expressed his appreciation of the training activities of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in the DPR Korea. Referring to the New Year’s editorial of the Rodong Shinmun, the KWP’s newspaper, he mentioned the priority of modernizing the economy in the sectors of agriculture, light industry, IT and banking. According to him, of particular interest are methods of farm management, renewable energy and food security but also city management.

The representatives of the KWP accepted FNF’s offer of having a study tour to Germany for party officials in 2008 presuming further progress in the Six-Party Talks. The members of the delegation would have “fresh ideas” after being back in the DPR Korea, FNF was told.

Walter Klitz, Resident Representative of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Korea, also had meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the DPRK’s Chamber of Commerce. In cooperation with the European Union, FNF will hold the 3rd EU-DPRK Economic Workshop in October, its fourth seminar this year.

Here is the agenda for a training seminr held last April. Here is their summary of the event.

New Clients:

South-North Korean Economic Cooperation Forum

A major South Korean business organization said Thursday (Sept. 27) it plans to form a civilian body for economic cooperation with North Korea on the occasion of the 2007 South-North Korean Summit next week.

The envisioned body, tentatively named the South-North Korean Economic Cooperation Forum, is to be set up in October and have 50 members, including 35 entrepreneurs, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said.

It would be the first non-governmental channel for inter-Korean economic cooperation. Currently, the South’s Ministry of Unification and the North’s National Economic Cooperation Federation are the sole channels for inter-Korean economic cooperation.

“The establishment of the body is designed to further promote inter-Korean economic cooperation on a civilian level,” said Kim Sang-yeol, vice chairman of the KCCI.

The planned group will conduct economic cooperation projects with the North and help improve North Korea’s investment environment, the KCCI said.

To that end, the chamber will try to sign a deal with its counterpart, the DPRK Chamber of Commerce, and send an investment inspection team to the North after the end of the summit. DPRK is the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Established in March 2000, the chamber of commerce, which includes members of 100 major companies, has carried out external economic exchanges and attracted foreign investment in the North, according to the KCCI.     

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from Oct. 2-4 in Pyongyang. Seoul has hinted that the promotion of economic cooperation will be high on the agenda of the 2007 South-North Korean summit, as it was in the first summit in 2000.

Alejandro Cao de Benos

In his own words: “[The KFA is] looking into development of new areas to expand into, especially those related to economy that are critical also for the development and life improvement of the DPRK. Since KFA has played an important role in building friendship, now we also can play our part in building business.

For accomplishing this goal, I announce the creation of the IKBC (International Korea Business Center).  As a sister organization of the KFA, the IKBC will strictly take care of business issues, facilitate business information to private investors and companies around the world.

In close collaboration with the DPRK Chamber of Commerce, IKBC will become the reference link between the DPRK and foreign businessmen. The spirit is to build a DPRK Chamber of Commerce outside the DPRK that will approach the countless possibilities in trading that will benefit all sides involved.

Alejandro’s involvement raises questions about the relationship between the DPRK’s cultural diplomatic efforts (since he is a client of the Committe for Cultural Relations with Foreign countries) and its business outreach efforts auspiciously under the Ministry of Foreign Trade.  I suspect that various DPRK agencies have been blurring the boundries between the two activities for fiscal reasons.  As access to hard currency comes to play a greater role in the DPRK system, I predict that we will see more of this kind of mission creep on the DPRK side.

They also undertake external activities:

A delegation of the DPRK Chamber of Commerce (KCC) took part in the 5th China International Equipment Manufacturing Exposition on Aug. 29, 2006 and the 2nd China Jilin Northeast Asia Investment & Trade Exposition on Sep. 2, 2006.

During its participation in the expositions, the delegation held an interview on investment and discussed matters of investment in the development of a vanadium mine, stone dressing, the production of agrochemicals and calcium carbonate, seafood breeding and processing and so on.

The KCC secretary-general made an introductory speech entitled “On the trade and investment policy of the DPR Korea”.

At the interview, a series of technical matters on joint ventures and processing trade as well as investment guaranty were discussed and agreed between traders.

A trade and investment seminar for European businessmen was held in Pyongyang under the sponsorship of the KCC on October 30, 2006.

There was the general explanation on the DPRK trade and investment policy and the investment environment.