Archive for December, 2007

Divided Koreas move closer to setting up joint fishing area in East Sea, statement says

Sunday, December 16th, 2007


South and North Korea are still far apart over setting up joint fishing areas along their disputed western sea border but they have made some progress in establishing similar zones off their shared eastern sea border, a South Korean government report said Sunday.

In a statement posted on its Website, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said working officials of both Koreas made some meaningful headway on a proposal to open their shared eastern sea border to fishing boats from both sides.

“The South and the North agreed to actively cooperate to allow South Korean ships begin fishing at designated areas in the North Korean side of the East Sea within 2008,” the ministry said, outlining a six-point agreement reached at a two-day inter-Korean working meeting that ended at the North’s border city of Kaesong on Saturday.

The two Koreas have yet to agree on many specifics on the eastern sea border, including where to set up the proposed joint fishing areas, but they agreed on some details, including how South Korea should pay for its fish catch in the northern side of the border, it said.

North Korea, among other things, agreed to allow South Korean ships to pay in goods, not cash, the statement said.

The sides also agreed to hold a new round of working talks early next year to discuss Seoul’s provision of “fishing implements and gears that will constitute its fishing fees” and other related issues,” it said.

They have also agreed to begin construction on a joint fishery research and storage center in the North before the end of the year, for which a survey team of some 20 South Korean officials will travel to the North on Dec. 21-25, according to the agreement.

It’s unclear how such agreement on the eastern sea border would affect efforts by the two Koreas to ease tension along their acutely disputed western sea border, the site of two bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

During an October summit, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to turn the disputed western maritime border into a peace zone in which fishing boats of both sides would jointly operate.

High-level military officials of both sides met at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom last week to discuss the western sea border but failed to reach agreement.

North Korea insisted that the proposed joint fishing areas in the West Sea must be established south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), an interim border unilaterally set by the American-led U.N. Command right after the 1953 end of the Korean War.

South Korea turned down the North’s demand, counterproposing that any joint fishing area in the area must conjoin waters on both side of the NLL.


North Korea Google Earth (Version 7)

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered v.7
Download it here

koreaisland.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include: A Korean War folder featuring overlays of US attacks on the Sui Ho Dam, Yalu Bridge, and Nakwon Munitians Plant (before/after), plus other locations such as the Hoeryong Revolutionary Site, Ponghwa Revolutionary Site, Taechon reactor (overlay), Pyongyang Railway Museum, Kwangmyong Salt Works, Woljong Temple, Sansong Revolutionary Site, Jongbansan Fort and park, Jangsan Cape, Yongbyon House of Culture, Chongsokjong, Lake Yonpung, Nortern Limit Line (NLL), Sinuiju Old Fort Walls, Pyongyang open air market, and confirmed Pyongyang Intranet nodes.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.


Launch of Support Program for North Korea’s Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis Patients

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Eugene Bell Foundation
Fall 2007 newsletter

Medical Support for Individual Patients Now Possible

The Eugene Bell Foundation, a non-governmental organization that provides medical support for North Korean tuberculosis (TB) patients, announces that countermeasures are urgently needed for the recent increase of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients in North Korea.   

After years of visiting and providing TB medicines for TB Care Centers in North Korea, EugeneBell estimates that over 30% of all TB patients in the country may be infected with MDR-TB. Evidence suggests the number of patients is increasing year-by-year.  

In response to this growing crisis, the delegation visited six different North Korean TB Care Centers in early 2007 and collected sputum samples from 20 patients thought to be infected with MDR-TB and brought them to South Korea for study. The test results identified at least two or more strains of MDR-TB virus in over 60% of the samples.   

In response, EugeneBell began a support program for MDR-TB patients when a delegation returned to North Korea (November 15 – 27, 2007). This fall, a follow-up delegation delivered a six-month supply of special MDR TB medication for the patient’s diagnosed with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.  

As part of the new support program, EugeneBell and North Korean medical authorities have agreed to establish special wards for multi-drug resistant patients in four long-term care facilities. One center will be located in each of the following locations: North Pyongan Province, South Pyongan Province, Nampo City and Pyongyang City. These MDR wards will serve as centers for treating patients who do not respond to regular tuberculosis medications.

“Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is a deadly, contagious disease that can spread resistant strains of tuberculosis that are extremely difficult and expensive to treat,” states Dr. Linton, EugeneBell Chairman. “Because MDR-TB threatens the health of every citizen, steps must be taken as soon as possible to meet this challenge.”

Unfortunately, even short-term countermeasures to meet the spread of MDR-TB in North Korea are difficult because no in-country testing facilities are available today. An even greater barrier to an effective national MDR program is the high cost of MDR medications. While it takes only six months to treat and cure a case of ordinary TB, MDR-TB requires at least 18 month, and special drugs that cost nearly 100 times as much as regular tuberculosis medications. In order to solve such difficulties, EugeneBell will initiate a ‘One-by-One MDR-TB Patient Support Program’ beginning in 2008.  This program will connect one patient in North Korea with individual donors to insure that each patient in the program receives the necessary support for long-term treatment.

Dr. Linton notes, “This small but significant start toward an effective MDR-TB program for people in North Korea that will begin with 20 patients and grow as additional support becomes available. Every human life is precious. While we hope we can eventually reach all MDR patients in North Korea, just saving one person who would otherwise die from this dreaded disease is well worth the effort.”

“North Korean medical professionals are delighted with the new program. Doctors who formerly had no effective way of helping their patients who failed to respond to ordinary tuberculosis medications now have hope that even the most ill tuberculosis patient may be saved. The enthusiasm with which they pitch in to collect sputum samples from their most difficult cases is heart-warming” continues Dr. Linton.

Dr. Park Seung-kyu, Director of Masan National Tuberculosis Hospital in South Korea, will make his hospital’s state-of-the-art research facilities available for testing sputum samples from North Korea. “As a matter of fact, MDR-TB is considered a serious problem not only for North Korea but also for South Korea and the world,” says Dr. Park. “There is a need for experts from both South and North Korea to discuss countermeasures together for the treatment of MDR-TB on the Korean Peninsula”

A EugeneBell delegation just returned from visiting thirteen medical institutions located in North Pyongan Province and Pyongyang City. Next spring, a follow-up delegation will deliver medications for the patients who provided samples this autumn.

EugeneBell also started two other pilot programs in 2007, one for mothers and infants and another for school-aged children. These will provide a steady stream of assistance through ‘Mother and Infant Packages’ and ‘Children’s Health Packages’ to three local hospitals, one in North Pyongan Province and two in South Pyongan Province.


North Korea aiming to become a strong and prosperous country by 2012

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Institute for Far Eastern Studies
NK Brief No. 07-12-13-1

North Korea has paved the way to achieve its goal of becoming a strong and prosperous country by 2012, the one-hundred year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. This goal of reaching such a status in only five years was announced at the recent nationwide open assembly of intellectuals, the first such meeting in 15 years. Pyongyang first introduced the ‘Strong and Prosperous Country’ strategy in August 1998, announcing the national strategy of the Kim Jong Il regime through an article printed in the ‘Rodong Shinmun’, the newspaper of the North’s communist party.

Choi Tae-bok, secretary of the political department of the Workers’ Party central committee, stated in the closing speech of the recent intellectual’s assembly that the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung was deeply significant, and stressed that “every intellectual must open the doors to [the era of] a strong and prosperous country” by the 100th anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder.

Taking the position that North Korea has already become a strongly ideological nation by sticking to socialism, that on October 9, 2006, the North became a strong military nation by testing a nuclear weapon, and the focus in this year’s New Year’s Editorial on becoming an economically powerful country through economic development and improvement of the lives of the people, it appears that the North is proceeding with this national strategy on all fronts. This means that if the North can focus on its economic problems and become an economically strong nation over the next five years, it can proclaim to have become a Strong and Prosperous Country.

North Korea’s recent position on solving its nuclear issues and improving relations with the United States and South Korea adds some credence to the idea that Pyongyang has decided to solve its economic woes in a move to become this strong and prosperous country.

According to the North Korean point of view, the three issues of security, economy, and succession are related, and that security and succession issues cannot be resolved without first solving economic problems. North Korea showed a bold initiative in beginning to implement the February 13 agreement, and hosting the inter-Korean summit meeting was a reflection of Kim Jong Il’s ‘strategic resolve’.


Train Explosion in Hyangsan

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho

A source in North Korea informed the Daily NK on the 11th that there was a train explosion incident in Hyangsan, North Pyongan on November 12th that left 8 passengers dead.

The source said that “The train, traveling between Pyongyang and Manpo, was carrying a shipment of butane gas tanks when it suddenly burst into flames. It is speculated that the explosion resulted from a cigarette that was lit in the vicinity of a gas leak coming from the tanks, however this has yet to be confirmed.”

People use butane gas for lighters in North Korea and can refuel lighters at street stalls everywhere.

The source relayed that the Rail Safety Agents are undergoing interrogation, suspected of taking bribes in return for allowing traders to load butane gas tanks on the train. The wounded passengers were taken to the People’s Hospital of Hyangsan for treatment of their injuries.

According to the source this is the second serious explosion since last July. The first occurred at the “January 20 Munitions Factory” located in Eundeuk, North Hamkyung Province. Resulting from the ignition of large stores of gunpowder, it produced mass casualties.

The January 20 Munitions Factory manufactures trench mortars, cannon balls, anti-tank guided missiles and bombs for aircrafts.

The source reported that around 50 workers having their lunch died in the factory and around 100 workers were wounded. However, the numbers were relatively small considering that most of the workers had left the factory on their lunch hour.

Party authorities in Eundeuk considered this incident to have been the work of spies and started educating workers on anti-socialist activity. However, the explosion was later found to have been caused by an electrical fault.


U.S. senator demands conditions to removing N.K. from terrorism list

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007


(NKeconWatch: Joshua over at OFK also has a contribution to this)

A senior U.S. senator introduced a resolution setting conditions for removing North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring nations, one of the key incentives offered for Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) submitted Resolution 399 on Monday and so far has three co-sponsors.

The resolution urges the administration not to lift the designation until it can be demonstrated that North Korea is no longer engaged in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and no longer counterfeiting American currency.

It also demands proof that a North Korean ruling party bureau, believed to be running illicit financial activities including drug trafficking and counterfeiting, has been made inoperable.

The senator also demands that the terrorist-nation designation remain until all U.S. overseas missions have been instructed to facilitate asylum applications by North Koreans seeking protection as refugees.

North Korea was put on the list in January 1988, soon after its agents blew up a South Korean civilian aircraft. Brownback’s resolution demands North Korea’s accounting of Japanese nationals abducted by the North as well as of surviving South Korean prisoners of war.

“If the United States takes the step of removing North Korea from the terrorism list, let’s at least make clear the conditions for such a removal,” Brownback said, adding, “I question the merits of the State Department’s decision to remove North Korea from its terrorist list.”

“It is important that the United States sends a loud and clear message to the North Korean regime that we will remain vigilant,” he said.

Delisting North Korea is one of the key benefits the U.S. offered in return for Pyongyang’s disablement of its core nuclear facilities and full disclosure of its atomic programs, the steps toward full dismantlement agreed on by six nations — South and North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
Getting off the list would free North Korea from a number of restrictions prohibiting meaningful economic and political assistance and exchange from the U.S. and the international community.

In Seoul, a Foreign Ministry official expressed concerns the resolution, if passed, could undermine progress in the nuclear disarmament talks, but said it did not pose any immediate threats to the six-nation deal on the denuclearization of the North.

“Delisting North Korea does not depend on the resolution, but whether the North fully discloses its nuclear programs,” the official, who is deeply involved with the nuclear talks, said, asking not to be identified. “Obviously, nothing has been changed so far. The U.S. administration can still delist the North if and whenever it chooses to.”


NK Forced to Revert to Agricultural Market System?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho

Several sources in China have relayed that it is rumored North Korean authorities are planning to take extreme measures to prevent the sale of industrial products at the jangmadang (markets) next year.

One Chinese merchant, whom DailyNK met in Dandong, China on the 6th, said, “Rumors are circulating that a measure preventing all kinds of Industrial products from being sold in the jangmadang will be implemented next year, making Chinese merchants involved in trade between North Korea and China nervous.”

He informed that “In place of industrial products, only farm produce from the fields of homeowners will be allowed to sell in the jangmadang. Marine products that up to now have been selling in the jangmadang will only be made available at appointed marine shops, meat products at food shops, and industrial products at state operated stores.”

The Chinese source also maintained that, “There are quite a few overseas Chinese who, not knowing what will happen, have bought loads of industrial products with the idea that this might be their last chance, and they have brought them into the North.”

The North Korean authorities began unfolding a series of market regulations immediately following the Inter-Korea Summit in October. These included such policies as limiting the types of items for sale and imposing a minimum age limit on female merchants. However, limiting the sale of industrial products themselves, after having abolished permanent markets, can be seen as a means of returning to “agricultural markets,” where farmers traded only vegetables and a surplus of produce.

According to other Chinese merchants with whom DailyNK met in Dandong on the 3rd, “Under the name of the North Pyongan Party Committee in Shinuiju, a three-day meeting was held between the Secretaries of the Party and of the Army and enterprise managers, from November 20th to the 22nd.”

They informed that “The meeting was held to discuss whether to prohibit jangmadang operations and put people who have been trading in the market to work at enterprises or factories, since regular provisions will resume starting next year.”

The recent efforts to regulate the markets have been analyzed as means to revert the standard of societal regulation to that of the pre-90s by restoring the provision system and normalizing factory operations. However, such an extreme measure is likely to give rise to serious civilian opposition, so there are doubts as to whether or not it can be realized.

The North Korean civilians, before the mid-90s, relied on a complete provision system supplied by the State, which included the provision of goods such as soap, clothes and other necessities. However, after the food shortage, the national provision system completely collapsed. As a result, civilians began acquiring most necessities, goods and food items through the jangmadang.

However, agricultural markets, where miscellaneous cereals, vegetables and other agricultural items raised in home gardens were traded, existed around the time when North Korea’s provision system was in normal operation.

Following the execution of the “July 1st Economic Management Improvement Measure” of 2002, the North Korean government established general markets which brought simple agricultural markets out in the open in February 2003. Since then, individuals leasing stands from the city mercantile department have been able to sell all kinds of industrial products as well.

One source in Chongjin stated in a phone conversation on the 6th regarding the recent rumors, “If the sources are Chinese merchants, than the rumor is not likely groundless. A majority of citizens sustain their livelihoods through the jangmadang.”

He agreed that “It is highly feasible that measures to toughen the regulation of industrial products in the market will be executed.”


The Number of Day Laborers Hired by Private Parties Increasing in North Korea

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

The number of day labor jobs offered by private parties is gradually increasing in the North. Unlike those with full time jobs at State-run factories, individuals with day labor jobs work by the day.

According to inside sources and many defectors who came to the South earlier this year, individuals looking for day labor jobs normally work as gold miners, construction workers in cities, as luggage carriers for train passengers and maids.

In North Korea, these day laborers are called “Bulbulee (which means a person sweats for labor),” “Sakbari (which means a person waiting for wages)” or “Ilkkun (workers).” It is reported that there are day labor hiring centers in big cities and around the closed mining areas.

Daily laborers’ wages vary based on the type of work. Laborers working at gold mines are provided with housing and food and get paid 1,500 North Korean won per day. In the city construction sites, skilled laborers such as plasterers earn 2,000 won daily whereas unskilled laborers make less than 1,000 won. Daily laborers are making good money compared to factory workers whose average monthly wages fall between 3,000 and 5,000 won.

Kim Yong Chul (pseudonym), a defector who used to work as a day laborer at a mine in Hoichang of South Pyongan Province said, “Since 2004, day labor hiring centers started to appear in the jangmadang (market) of Hoichang. Employers hired young men and women in good health on the spot and took them to workplaces.” He used to work at a mine well-known across the country since the Japanese colonial period. Mr. Kim said, “Day laborers not only dug for gold but were also mobilized to build or fix houses for their employers.”

In Hoichang, there are some gold mines closed by the authorities that were thought to be tapped out. In the mid 1990s, some locals dug the mines again and made a great fortune. Years later, around 2003, these locals began looking out for workers and started hiring individuals from other provinces. Now the county has a great number of day laborers from various provinces working at mines.

Good Friends, the Seoul-based relief organization dedicated to North Korea, said in a recent report, “On October 23rd at around 10 A.M., a gold mine in Hoichang of South Pyongan Province collapsed, leaving three miners dead and two wounded.” In the North, private parties are banned from trading gold and pine mushrooms by law, and only the State can make these types of transactions. However, it is well known that many officials in charge of enforcing the ban frequently take bribes and allow those who pay them to dig for gold in closed mines.

Gold miners usually stay underground between 15 to 30 days each time they begin a mining operation. The miners dig up the ore, crush it using a machine called a Maguanggi (ore-polishing machine) and apply mercury to extract gold. The whole process is done in underground tunnels, and the processed gold is sold to gold dealers in Pyongsung and Sinuiju.

Individuals who run the crushing machine are laborers from other provinces, and most of them are females. With food and housing provided by their employer, they make 1,000 won daily. If they work year-round this way, they can earn decent money.

45-year-old Park Jong Moo (pseudonym) who came to the South this year said, “I earned 2,000 won per day when I worked as a plasterer, building a house for a man who made his money from trade in Chongjin City.”

Mr. Park’s son worked as a cargo porter at the Chongjin railway station. Since there were so many “Sakbari (referring to cargo porters working for daily wages)” at the station, competition among “Sakbari” was fierce. Normally, these porters made less than 1,000 won per day.

It is becoming popular among party cadres and the new wealth to have a maid who does housework and takes care of children. These people introduce the maid to their neighbors as a ‘distant relative’ because having a maid is unthinkable in the Socialist North. While performing maid services and getting paid for the work that she does, the maid pretends to be a family member and acts as if she is merely helping out with the housework.

A source inside the North said, “There was once a party official in Chongjin who employed a girl as a maid after having paid her parents. When the official was accused of having a maid, the official said she was a ‘relative.’”

Regarding the rise in day laborers, an expert on North Korea says, “Those North Koreans who made a fortune from mining or trade privately employ laborers to further expand their businesses…However, since the regime will never allow the rich to become too powerful, it will begin to regulate the employment activities of private parties at the proper time.”


First Train in 56 Years Crosses Border

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki

The first regular freight service for over half a century began Tuesday operating across the heavily fortified border between South and North Korea.

The daily freight service is the first tangible result of an inter-Korean summit in October between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The two leaders agreed on a package of cross-border economic cooperation projects including the train operation.

The last regular rail operation was in 1951, a year after the three-year Korean War broke out.

The freight service, agreed upon at the inter-Korean prime ministers’ talks last month, will connect South Korea with the joint industrial complex in Gaeseong, in the North.

Earlier this month, the militaries of both Koreas signed a written security guarantee for the cross-border service at working-level talks in the truce village of Panmunjeom, clearing a major hurdle for the agreement.

The new service is expected to slash the cost of transporting products to and from the business complex, just north of the border, considered a major achievement of Seoul’s “sunshine” policy of engaging the North over the past decade.

Several South Korean firms are operating in the economic zone, dubbed a testing ground for mixing South Korean capitalism and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor.

Previously, trucks moved raw materials and finished goods back and forth across the border.

South Korean officials hope the cargo train service will lay the groundwork for a regular train service for passengers and the railway will be linked through North Korea to the Trans-China and Trans-Siberian railroads.

A 12-car train carrying curbstones and other construction materials left left South Korea’s Dorasan Station at 8:20 a.m. and arrived at North Korea’s Panmun Station 20 minutes later. A joint ceremony was held at the North Korean station around 11 a.m. with the attendance of some 180 officials from both Koreas.

The train returned to the South later in the day with goods including shoes, clothes and watches made at the industrial complex.

“We are reconnecting the last vein that has been severed for 56 years,” Lee Chul, president of the Korea Railroad, told reporters at Dorasan Station. “This looks like a humble start, but I hope this link will serve as a stepping stone for the inter-Korean railways to be connected to Europe through the Trans-Siberian railway.”

Lee also expressed hope that South and North Koreans could travel together vial rail to Beijing to cheer for next year’s Summer Olympics.

Trains will run daily on weekdays from Dorasan Station in Munsan to Panmun, carrying up to 10,000 tons of cargo on each run. The train service begins at 9 a.m. and returns from the North Korean station at 2 p.m. Trains are restricted to a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour when traversing the closely guarded frontier.

The original agreement was to connect a 25 kilometer section of track from Munsan to Bondgong in the North, next to the industrial complex, but the plan was modified because of the lack of loading facilities at Bongdong Station, according to Unification Ministry officials.

In May, two trains crossed the border on two reconnected tracks on the western and eastern sides of the peninsula in a one-off test run.

The two Koreas are technically still at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.


Builder to Set Up Venture With North

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Korea Times
Ryu Jin

Namkwang Engineering & Construction, a South Korean company which has recently been stepping up efforts for inter-Korean economic projects, plans to form a joint venture with a North Korean firm for construction works in the North and other countries.

Namkwang E&C CEO Lee Dong-chul told reporters Tuesday that his company, along with 516 Construction Company in the North, will seek to win construction orders in foreign countries including Angola as well as North Korean cities such as Gaeseong and Pyongyang.

“We signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for joint projects with the North Korean firm late last month,’’ he said in a press meeting. “They could be operated in the form of a joint venture, depending on the final agreement to be signed early next year.’’

Lee added that Namkwang would largely provide capital and construction technologies to the proposed joint-venture company while the North Korean firm would supply labor.

Founded about 50 years ago, 516 Construction Company is the only construction firm in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong where an inter-Korean industrial complex is located. It has constructed apartments in the city with more than 3,000 workers.

“Currently, the firm is building a steel-frame factory in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex including reinforced concrete, tiles and plaster work under a contract with us,’’ Lee said. “Maybe we can take part in construction works in Angola and Libya jointly.’’

Namkwang, which recently got government approval for cross-border projects, has invested some 7.6 billion won ($8.23 million) since October to build the steel-frame factory which would be used for the second-phase construction of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

Lee said that his company would also redouble efforts to get more orders for overseas construction in such countries as Angola, Libya and Vietnam next year. Namkwang has received orders worth $1.1 billion along with NIEC, a joint venture in Angola, since 2005.

Established in 1947, Namkwang has carried out a lot of large-scale projects in South Korea and also advanced to foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Philippines for construction of buildings, roads, dams and harbors on the back of its unique technology.