Hyundai projects picking up this year – still not profitable

UPDATE: Although the Daily NK originally reported stellar growth rates in 2008 for Hyundai’s North Korea projects, today the Choson Ilbo highlights that profits are still elusive:

According to the Financial Supervisory Service on Sunday, Hyundai Asan suffered a net loss of W9.64 billion (US$1=W1,041) in the first quarter this year, three times greater than the W3.34 billion in the corresponding quarter last year.

Despite the large number of tourists, which, at 125,000 as of mid May this year, nearly doubled since last year, it is the largest loss reported since the tours to Mt. Kumgang began in 2004. Over 45,000 people have traveled to the North Korean city of Kaesong since the tour program began in December 2007, and it is almost certain that the company would reach its goal of 100,000 tourists for this year.

So what is the explanation given for this?

The reason for such struggle is the weakness of the won against the U.S. dollar, since North Korea charges admission fees to Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang in dollars — US$ 100 for one and $80 for the other per person for three days and two nights. As the dollar has risen more than 10 percent since the beginning of the year, from W940 to W 1,040, so has the initial cost. The tour program to Kaesong has reportedly gone into the red already. Moreover, Asan has to pay off $200 million of North Korean foreign debt in return for the license to develop Mt. Kumgang granted in 1999.   

From the Daily NK:

According to the Ministry of Unification, despite the stalemate between North and South Korea, cooperation and exchange at the civilian level have increased rapidly in the months of January to April compared to the previous year.

Compared to the same period last year, North-South trade increased by 37% (corresponding to USD 410.099 million the same period last year) and the coming and going of people and the tour of Geumgang Mountain increased by 144% and 76% respectively, contributing to a significant rise in civilian cooperation and exchange.

Related to the North-South trade, following the expansion in economic cooperation, commercial transactions (regular trade + processing of brought-in materials + economic cooperation) increased by 53.3% (to USD 531,960,000) compared to the same period last year (USD 346,990,900). Only, uncommercial trade decreased by 53.8%, recorded at USD 29,570,000 according to the reduction in aid to North Korea.

69 enterprises are operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex as of April 2008 and 44 of them seem to be constructing factories. It is anticipated that 100-some enterprises will be operating by the end of the year.

The first quarter production volume increased 71% or by USD 6,770,000 compared to the same period last year. The export amount declined 58% to USD 13,280,000. The total number of North Korean workers is 26,885 and South Korean sojourners 1,018, the latter rising by 52.6% from the previous year, despite the evacuation of South Korean personnel.

The Mount Geumgang and Kaesong tours, compared to last year, are maintaining a huge growth rate. The number of Mt. Geumgang tourists have increased 76% to 100,510 and the Kaesong tour, which began in December of last year, logged 40,525 visitors thus far.

The number of coming and going of people, excluding the Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong Complex tourists, increased by 144% within the year to 93,019 and such a growth rate seems to have originated from the hike in visitors related to economic cooperation and North-South trade as well as the Complex itself. Only, the number of visitors related to aid to North Korea was reduced from 2,935 to 1,129.

Although the increase in tourism numbers was expected, the positive spin put on the Kaesong Zone contradicts earlier reports.  

Read the full stories here:
North and South, Politics at a Stalemate, Economic Cooperation Is Bright
Daily NK
Jeong Jae Sung

Hyundai Asan Losses From N.Korea Tours Mounting
Choson Ilbo


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