Inter-korean resource deveopment growing

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-12-1-1

Much time and energy has been devoted recently to the promotion of a scheme to further develop North Korean natural resources. In July 2005, the Committee for the Promotion of South-North Economic Cooperation agreed to cooperate in the joint development of the North’s underground resources, and in July of last year a project was launched. A total of 17 agreements with the North have been reached, through which target mines have been selected and inspection methods, time-frames, and other details have been worked out. Many difficulties were faced during negotiations, but through continuous information gathering, it was decided that there was sufficient cause to invest in the project, so a proposal was made and the very first inter-Korean resource development enterprise was launched.

Since last August, forty-seven experts in mining, infrastructure, and other areas have carried out general as well as detailed inspections of all aspects of the Kumduk Zinc Mine and Ryongyang and Daeheung magnesite mines, including infrastructure such as railway and road access, harbor facilities, and electrical capacity. The North was convinced to allow photography and surveying of mining sites, as well as the 90km of rails and roads stretching between the mines and Danchun Station and the nearby Kim Chaek Harbor. Through these surveys, enough information was gathered to satisfy investors, and to publish three volumes worth of inspection reports and pictures.

The Danchun region mining project is one that has been thouroghly prepared through long negotiations and numerous inspections and surveys. Now, based on the results of last year’s surveys, the project’s feasibility study is scheduled to be completed by the end of March. The on-site inspections confirmed the quality and marketability of the mining resources, and the potential for mining development.

In addition, because the mines are currently operational, the risk is much lower than that of an exploratory project. It was assessed that only some parts of the power and railway systems need improvement. Of course, full investment in the project would come about only after completion of the feasibility study currently underway.

A DPRK natural resource development project is necessary for both North and South Korea. For the South, mineral resources can be expanded through investment in production, while the North can benefit economically by increasing production through South Korea’s capital infusion and the introduction of mining technology.

This venture can also play an important role in accomplishing the denuclearization and development plans of the incoming Lee Myung-bak administration. Direct investment in locations in North Korea is the preferred method for advancement of the North’s resources. In particular, investment into energy infrastructure necessary for the processing and transport of these mined goods is preferred over other forms of investment. It is important for South Korea to invest in developing the North’s resources before other outside investors take advantage of the opportunity.


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