Archive for June, 2008

North Korea looks to recycle toxic waste

Monday, June 30th, 2008

UPDATE 3 (2013-3-15): Michael Rank offers more information on the DPRK – Taiwan nuclear waste deal:

North Korean-Taiwan nuclear waste deal thwarted over export permit
By Michael Rank

A Taiwanese report says one reason the North Korean nuclear waste deal fell through was that Taipower didn’t obtain an export permit for the waste from the Taiwanese Atomic Energy Council (AEC).

It also says that Taipower claims no final deal was ever signed, so there is no question of the agreement being violated. It quotes Taipower official Huang Tien-huang as saying the North Koreans blocked them from viewing the processing site at Phyongsan (Pyeongsan, 평산, 平山), while the AEC also had procedural problems with the North Koreans, leading it to refuse an export permit.

North Korea has hired a (presumably Taiwanese) lawyer, Tsai Hui-ling, to plead its case, and is claiming NT$300 million (US$10 million) compensation. Tsai can be seen on this English-language video clip.

A PRC report quoting Taiwanese reports says the first stage of the deal worth US$75.66 million envisaged shipping 60,000 barrels of nuclear waste, and a further 14,000 barrels in the second stage, with a total value of $150 million and that the North Koreans were after the deal as a source of foreign exchange at the height of the famine. There have been ten rounds of negotiations to try to resolve the dispute, the report says, adding that Taiwan decided in 1999 that it would process the waste domestically.

As I reported in 2008, North Korea signed a deal with a Chinese company to recycle industrial waste that is so polluted that other countries have refused to handle it.

A slightly fuller Chinese report than the one I cited earlier names the Chinese company involved as Dalian-based Huatai Recycling Resources Co Ltd and says it has close links with the North Korean National Defence Commission, foreign ministry, environment ministry and foreign trade ministry.

It also says the North Koreans have four large recycling sites at Sinuiju and Nampo, two for lead batteries and two for electronic goods, and that they are able to recycle a wide array of equipment, from plastics to refrigerators as well as computers, phones and scanners, including goods that are banned for recycling in China.

It is not clear if the Chinese-North Korean deal was actually implemented.

UPDATE 2 (2013-3-2): The DPRK intends to sue Taiwan for breach of contract in its failure to begin the Taiwan – DPRK waste management project. According to the China Post (Taiwan):

North Korea is poised to sue Taiwan Power Co. (台電) for damages of NT$300 million, over an alleged breach of a contract signed more than 16 years ago, according to lawyers working on Pyongyang’s behalf.
Litigation will begin March 4, North Korea’s legal counsel said.

In 1996, Taipower allegedly committed to a contract with North Korea in which nuclear waste from Taiwan would be shipped and stored in the isolated communist nation, according to reports.

However, the plans were halted due to North Korea’s then-inadequate waste storage facilities and the sudden eruption of international uproar over the scheme, with Taiwan paying US$8.72 million to preserve a five-year option period in 1998, according to the lawyers, who added that North Korea continued to invest in its waste storage facilities under the assumption that the deal would be completed.

After over 10 rounds of negotiation over the past 15 years, North Korea is now accusing Taipower of complacency and negligence, citing a lack of communication and effort to fulfill the agreed-upon obligations.

In light of North Korea’s unexpected litigation, Taipower has said that such a dated case needs a comprehensive internal review before a response can be formulated.

The lawsuit marks a surprising development in the ongoing row over the proposed plan to construct a fourth nuclear power plant in Taiwan, as the ruling and opposition parties wrestle over the terms of the proposed referendum, which would decide the fate of the plant.

UPDATE 1 (2009-1-8): A Taiwanese official is under investigation for activities related to the Taiwan – DPRK waste management deal. According to the AFP (via Singapore’s Straits Times):

The Apple Daily reported on Thursday that prosecutors had begun investigating claims that Chen might have pocketed 300 million Taiwan dollars of financial aid in 2004 and 2005 in exchange for North Korea handling the island’s nuclear wastes.

The daily, which did not name its sources, alleged the cash would be given to a high-ranking North Korean official through a contact who promised to help Taipei set up a ‘direct communication channel’ with Mr Kim Jong-Il’s regime.

However, Taiwan did not establish any form of contact with North Korea nor send its nuclear waste to the communist state after the foreign ministry paid the money, the report said.

Self-ruled Taiwan is formally recognised by only 23 countries and does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.

Read the full story here:
Funds were for N.Korea
AFP via Straits Times

ORIGINAL POST (2008-6-30): According to Michael Rank in the Telegraph:

North Korea is planning to recycle waste that is so polluted other countries refuse to handle it.

Through a Chinese-language website (link here) the country is seeking supplies of plastic and electronic waste which “can be processed in [a North Korean port] but which other countries and territories are restricted from dealing in”, reflecting the country’s dire economic plight and its scant regard for international norms.

Isolated and desperately poor, North Korea is a beginner so far as toxic waste is concerned, although in 1996 it signed a deal with Taiwan to dispose of its nuclear waste from atomic power plants.

South Korea reacted furiously to the deal and Taiwan was eventually forced to back down and cancel the agreement.

North Korea also offered to recycle the North Sea Brent Spar oil storage platform, which Royal Dutch Shell had proposed dumping in the deep Atlantic in 1995.

This caused an environmental furore, with Greenpeace claiming that the structure was full of oil and burying it at sea would result in serious pollution.

An enterprising young North Korean official in London unexpectedly offered to come to the rescue, suggesting that his country could dispose of the structure, saving Shell and the British government from further embarrassment.

The offer was turned down as Shell didn’t want to be seen turning to a regime as dubious as North Korea, but Greenpeace’s own reputation took a serious knock when it was forced to admit that it had enormously over-estimated the amount of oil remaining in Brent Spar’s storage tanks.

North Korea’s waste recycling plans are part of a much bigger, £5 million ($10 million) project to enlarge a port on its west coast and develop it into an export base including a duty-free zone.

“There are no limits, any business taking advantage of [North] Korea’s low labour costs for intensive processing is welcome,” the website states.

Although the port is not named, it is almost certainly Nampo, which is close to the capital and is the largest harbour on North Korea’s west coast. The development covers 30,000 square metres (320,000 square feet) and is “expandable”.

The port currently accepts vessels of up to 10,000 tonnes but the plan is to increase this to 50,000 tonnes.

The project is pitched at Chinese companies, and interested parties are asked to contact a firm in the Chinese city of Dandong on the North Korean border.

A deal with China would help to counterbalance a recent agreement with state-owned Russian Railways to build a £50 million ($100million) container terminal on North Korea’s east coast as part of a £1.5 billion ($3 billion) plan to create a rail corridor linking South Korea with Europe via North Korea and Russia.

Russian Railways wants to turn the port of Rajin into a hub capable of handling 320,000 containers a year for shipment from South Korea to Europe.

Russia and China have fought bitterly over rights to refurbish Rajin. A few years ago China appeared to have won out when a 50-year deal was announced with the Chinese border city of Hunchun, but this came to nought and Russia was the ultimate winner in the battle to revitalise the north-eastern port and ultimately link it with Europe.

The original source, a Chinese language website, is here.

To read the full story click here:
North Korea in bid to recycle toxic waste
Michael Rank


Chinese invest in DPRK mining

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Michael Rank, a China/North Korea specialist based in London reports:

A Chinese company has opened a joint venture iron mine in North Korea with registered capital of €36 million ($57 million), a Chinese website specialising in North Korea reports (link here).

The Chinese partner is S Group, whose main aim includes developing magnesite mines in North Korea, but for some reason it switched from magnesite to iron mining.

The mine in Ongjin-gun (gun=county), Hwanghaenam-do (South Hwanghae, do=province), south of Pyongyang, has been in operation since the second half of last year, and the company running it is the Xihai/Seohae (West Sea) Joint Enterprise, the website says, but gives no further details.

The Chinese report erroneously places Ongjin-gun in Hwanghaebuk-do (North Hwanghae) but it is confirmed as being in Hwanghaenam-do by  조선지도첩 (Joseon Jidocheop, Atlas of Korea, Pyongyang, 1997), p. 45. I have not been able to find any other reference to a Chinese mining company called S Group.

Chinese steel company Tonggang (Tonghua Steel), based in the northeastern province of Jilin, was reported by a Chinese newspaper in January 2006 to be spending four billion yuan ($506 million) to develop the Musan iron mine in Hamgyeongbuk-do (North Hamgyong province), said to be North Korea’s largest iron deposit – and the biggest in Asia, according to some estimates.

Magnesite (magnesium carbonate) is used in protecting the linings of steel furnaces, in the production of synthetic rubber and in making fertilisers.


US food aid arrives in DPRK

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

According to CNN:

A U.S. ship has arrived at a North Korean port carrying 38,000 tons of food aid to be distributed to some of the millions living in hunger, U.N. sources said Sunday.

The delivery is part of a new deal signed by U.S., U.N., and North Korean officials and others, which gives outsiders — including the U.N. World Food Program — much greater access to the country.

From the New York Times:

The ship’s visit and the North Korean agreement to invite an additional 50 international relief experts from the World Food Program, as well as a consortium of U.S. relief agencies, followed recent progress in six-nation talks on ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs.

For years, North Korea has guarded its people from contact with outside aid workers. The WFP, the largest international aid group operating in North Korea, currently has only 10 international personnel based in North Korea.

After sailing for several weeks from the U.S. west coast, the American-flagged M/V Baltimore arrived in Nampo, the North’s main port near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Sunday evening.

On Monday, it began unloading half of its cargo of 37,000 tons of U.S.-grown wheat, Risley said. The ship will discharge the other half of its cargo at Hungnam and Chongjin, ports on the North’s eastern coast.

The shipment is the first installment of 500,000 tons in promised U.S. aid that will be distributed by the WFP and U.S. aid groups, such as Mercy Corps.

Before the ship’s arrival, North Korea agreed on Friday to allow the WFP to deploy the largest number of international workers since it began operations there in 1996 amid a famine that eventually killed an estimated 2 million North Koreans.

Until now, the WFP has had access to only 50 of the North’s 200 counties, distributing its aid through nurseries, schools, hospitals and orphanages. Under the new agreement, the agency will have access to 128 counties, including the remote and traditionally deprived northeast region and some counties never before accessible to humanitarian agencies.

The wheat shipment arrived just days after North Korea delivered a long-delayed nuclear declaration.

Meanwhile, the North rejected a South Korean offer to ship 50,000 tons of corn, the Seoul government said on Monday.

From the Associated Press

Sunday’s wheat shipment will be enough for the WFP to expand its operations to feed more than 5 million people, up from 1.2 million people now getting international aid.

On the supply side, anticipation of this aid, plus Russian aid, and increased Chinese grain exports could be behind recent reports that grain prices are falling in North Korea’s markets

Read the full articles here:
Seoul offers corn aid to Pyongyang

Food aid reaches North Korea

U.S. Food Aid Arrives in North Korea
New York Times
Choe Sang-Hun

UN: US food aid arrives in North Korea
Associated Press
Burt Herman


Nuclear declaration and US Sanctions

Friday, June 27th, 2008

UPDATE 3:  Executive Order: Continuing Certain Restrictions with Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that the current existence and risk of the proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I further find that, as we deal with that threat through multilateral diplomacy, it is necessary to continue certain restrictions with respect to North Korea that would otherwise be lifted pursuant to a forthcoming proclamation that will terminate the exercise of authorities under the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.) (TWEA) with respect to North Korea.

Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. Except to the extent provided in statutes or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, the following are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

all property and interests in property of North Korea or a North Korean national that, pursuant to the President’s authorities under the TWEA, the exercise of which has been continued in accordance with section 101(b) of Public Law 95-223 (91 Stat. 1625; 50 U.S.C. App. 5(b) note), were blocked as of June 16, 2000, and remained blocked immediately prior to the date of this order.

Sec. 2. Except to the extent provided in statutes or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, United States persons may not register a vessel in North Korea, obtain authorization for a vessel to fly the North Korean flag, or own, lease, operate, or insure any vessel flagged by North Korea.

Sec. 3. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 4. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Sec. 5. The Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit the recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).

Sec. 7. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.



June 26, 2008.

UPDATE 2: How much plutonium does the DPRK have?

From the Daily Times (Pakistan):

But there may be problems ahead with the declaration. Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported an informed source as saying the North declared it produced around 30 kg (66 lbs) of plutonium, while US officials have said they think it is closer to 50 kg. Sung Kim, a State Department envoy who witnessed the cooling tower blast, told reporters in Seoul on Saturday that there might not be enough time to complete the North’s denuclearisation before President George W Bush leaves office in January 2009.

‘Emotionally attached’: Kim said North Koreans engineers appeared to have formed an “emotional attachment” to their atomic programme that has become apparent during international efforts to dismantle it. Kim told reporters that he saw emotion in Ri Yong-ho, head of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and his colleagues when they all witnessed Friday’s demolition of the plant’s cooling tower. “I think I detected a sense of sadness when the tower came down but I thought he put it well when he was asked what this all meant for him and he said that he just hoped this would contribute to peace and stability,” said Ri.  

“US Treasury says N.Korea sanctions remain in place”
Reuters via Guardian
David Lawder

U.S. Treasury financial sanctions aimed at ending North Korean money laundering, illicit financing activities and weapons proliferation remain in effect despite the easing of other sanctions against Pyongyang, a Treasury spokesman said on Thursday.

The move by the Bush administration to lift some sanctions after North Korea delivered a long-delayed account of its nuclear activities will not restore the country’s access to the international banking system, Treasury spokesman John Rankin said.

North Korea was largely cut off from the international banking system in 2005 when the Treasury named Banco Delta Asia, a small bank in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, as a primary money laundering concern.

The Treasury accused the bank of circulating counterfeit U.S. currency produced by North Korea, and of knowingly handling transactions by North Korean entities involved in illicit activities, including the narcotics trade and sales of counterfeit cigarettes and other goods.

Both North Korea and Banco Delta Asia have denied the Treasury’s allegations.

Although about $25 million in frozen North Korean funds in Banco Delta Asia was released last year, the sanctions against the bank, which prohibit transactions with U.S. banks, remain in effect, Rankin said. International banks have largely shunned Banco Delta Asia as well.

As recently as April, Treasury officials said so called “supernotes” — high quality counterfeit $100 bills produced by North Korea, were still surfacing.

“The lifting of sanctions associated with the Trading with the Enemy Act, and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism does not represent North Korea’s re-integration into the international financial system,” he said.

Sanctions that prohibit U.S. companies from owning, leasing, operating, insuring North Korean-flagged shipping vessels, as well as registering vessels in North Korea, remain in place. 

ORIGINAL POST: Today North Korean made the nuclear declaration required by the February 2007 six-party agreement.  This web site does not focus on the nuclear issue, but this turn of events represents a significant US policy shift with economic implications for the DPRK.  The coverage has been overwhelming, so below are media excerpts that cover most of the angles:

“Pyongyang Submits Nuclear Declaration”
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad

After keeping the U.S. and other countries waiting for 15 months, North Korea delivered a description of its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, setting up the next – and more difficult – stage in an international effort to disarm and reshape the isolated, authoritarian country.

North Korean diplomats gave a declaration of its nuclear-weapons program to Chinese counterparts in Beijing who have been coordinating the six-nation talks. In return, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the lifting of some trade sanctions and beginning of the process of removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terror. (Read the text of the White House statement here).

Under the February 2007 deal, North Korea also agreed to disable a nuclear plant that provided fuel for its nuclear weapons, a step that’s also nearly complete. On Friday, it plans to blow up the cooling tower at the nuclear plant and invited TV crews from several countries, including the U.S. and South Korea, to record the event.

The contents of North Korea’s declaration weren’t immediately disclosed. In recent weeks, U.S. diplomats have said they didn’t expect it to include a key piece of data – how many nuclear weapons the country has built. The document also is believed to be limited to North Korea’s efforts to develop plutonium as a nuclear fuel, but doesn’t mention suspected research into highly-enriched uranium as a fuel nor its suspected proliferation efforts to Syria.

“North Korea removed from US ‘axis of evil'”
London Times
Jeremy Page and Richard Lloyd Parry

The US move, which will also see a lifting of long-running sanctions, would mark the most significant thaw in relations between Washington and Pyongyang since the 1950-53 Korean War. Mr Bush said that it was intended to reward and encourage North Korean co-operation and accelerate the tangled negotiations on the country’s nuclear disarmament.

In the first instance, America will exempt North Korea from sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act, a piece of First World War legislation that was employed during the Korean War, and which restricts trade with Pyongyang by US companies and citizens. The only other country subject to its provisions is Cuba.

It also gave notice that it would start the 45-day process of removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it stands alongside Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. Sanctions against them include a ban on arms sales, economic assistance, and an obligation on the US Government to oppose loans to listed countries by such international institutions as the World Bank.

“Diplomacy Is Working on North Korea”
Wall Street Journal
Condoleeza Rice
6/26/2008; Page A15

In its declaration, North Korea will state how much plutonium it possesses. We will not accept that statement on faith. We will insist on verification. North Korea has already turned over nearly 19,000 pages of production records from its Yongbyon reactor and associated facilities. With additional information we expect to receive – access to other documents, relevant sites, key personnel and the reactor itself – these records will help to verify the accuracy and completeness of Pyongyang’s declaration. North Korea’s plutonium program has been by far its largest nuclear effort over many decades, and we believe our policy could verifiably get the regime out of the plutonium-making business.

Getting a handle on North Korea’s uranium-enrichment program is harder, because we simply do not know its full scale or what it yielded. And yet, because of our current policy, we now know more about North Korea’s uranium-enrichment efforts than before, and we are learning more still – much of it troubling. North Korea acknowledges our concerns about its uranium-enrichment program, and we will insist on getting to the bottom of this issue.

Similarly, we know that North Korea proliferated nuclear technology to Syria, but we do not know whether that is the end of the story. Rather than just trying to address this threat unilaterally, we will be more effective in learning about North Korean proliferation and preventing its continuation through a cooperative effort with Japan, South Korea, China and Russia.

And in return for these steps, what have we given thus far? No significant economic assistance. No trade or investment cooperation. No security guarantees or normalized relations. And our many sanctions on North Korea, both bilateral and multilateral, remain in place.

“‘Good start’ to UN’s Syria probe”

The head of a UN team investigating allegations that Syria has been working on a secret nuclear weapons programme says their work is off to a good start.

The IAEA official, Olli Heinonen, said inspectors had taken samples at the al-Kibar site in the Syrian desert.

“It was a good start, but there’s still work that remains to be done,” he said.

“For this trip we did what we agreed to. We achieved what we wanted on this first trip. We took samples which we wanted to take. Now it’s time to analyse them.”

Mr Heinonen also said he was generally satisfied with the level of co-operation by Syria.

Additional information: 

To read a hawk perspective, see Josh’s post at One Free Korea.  Also, the Telegraph (UK) reports that Vice President Cheney tried to block the deal.

David Kang spoke to NPR’s Market Place.

US move reduces Japan’s negotiation leverage over DPRK.


POSCO looks north

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Kim Dong-Jin, head of South Korean steel company POSCO‘s China branch, visited Pyongyang Tuesday for talks on purchasing more of the DPRK’s coal, iron ore, and other raw materials.

According to the AFP

POSCO, the world’s fourth largest steelmaker, has imported 200,000 tons of coal from North Korea every year.

South Korea’s investment in the North’s rich mineral resources has been sluggish due to the standoff over the North’s nuclear programme and mixed views on whether such investment can be profitable.

North Korea has promoted raw material exports as a means of generating much needed hard currency for some time.  Unfortunately, this development strategy will bring the fewest benefits to the North Korea people. Look at any oil-exporting country for comparison.  Raw materials exports generally enrich the politically connected—and workers, who in North Korea are unable to leave their jobs or negotiate their wages, generally (pun alert) get the shaft.

South Korean firms operating in the North, however, do tend to offer better working conditions than North Korean or Chinese firms.  If POSCO launches operations in North Korea, hopefully public pressure and the profit motive will see an increase in productivity, wages, and working conditions for the DPRK’s miners.

South Korea apparently also operates a graphite mine in North Korea.  If anyone has any information on this, please send it my way.

Read the full story here:
POSCO eyes NKorea raw materials


Inter-Korean trade up this year

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Although political tensions have risen between North and South Korea (list here), Yonhap reports trade between the two countries has increased this year!

According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s trade with North Korea in the first five months of this year surged 30 percent on-year thanks to brisk industrial exchanges that offset a sharp drop in humanitarian aid, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

Inter-Korean trade volume increased to US$734.25 million in the January-May period, up from US$562.92 million during the same period last year, according to ministry data. The increase was notable in the commercial sector, which posted US$685 million worth of trade over the months, up 52 percent year-on-year.

However, exchanges in non-commercial areas significantly contracted due to strained inter-Korean political ties. Non-commercial trade dropped by 56 percent to US$49.2 million.

I have been unable to locate this information on the MoU website.  Perhaps it is not listed in English.  If you find it, please send me the link. 

Read the Yonhap article, see below:
Inter-Korean trade rises despite political chills


Sejong Society event: Bradley Babson

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Sejong Society Event Details:
Perspectives on North Korea’s Financial System
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
6:45 – 8:00 pm
Johns Hopkins University SAIS
Kenney Auditorium (ground floor)     
1740 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20036  
(Closest Metro: Dupont Circle) 
Bradley O. Babson is a consultant on Asian affairs with a concentration on North Korea and Northeast Asia economic cooperation. He presently is consultant for the Stanley Foundation Project on Future Multilateral Economic Engagement with the DPRK and chair of the DPRK Economic Forum at the John’s Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. He worked for the World Bank for 26 years before retiring in 2000, serving as a Senior Loan Officer on Indonesia from 1983-87, Division Chief for Education and Health for eight Asian countries from 1997-92, Regional Representative in Bangkok, Thailand from 1993-94, and the first Resident Representative to Hanoi, Vietnam from 1994-97. From 1997-2000 he served as Senior Advisor in the office of the Regional Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific where he began his studies of the North Korean economy.

He has participated in projects on North Korea sponsored by the Center for Strategic International Studies, U.S. Institute for Peace, National Bureau for Asian Research, and the Stanley Foundation. He serves on the Advisory Council of the Korea Economic Institute of America and Executive Committee of the National Committee on North Korea, and is Vice President of the World Affairs Council of Maine. Mr. Babson received his BA degree from Williams College in 1972, and MPA degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs at Princeton University in 1974. He lives in Brunswick, Maine.

This Sejong Society event is free and will begin at 6:45 pm, and light Korean food will be served. Please RSVP here.


DPRK sends ambassador to Turkmenistan

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

This is interesting on so many levels…

Turkmen Mejlis speaker Akja Nurberdiyeva received letters of credence of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Korean People’s Democratic Republic to Turkmenistan Kim Yon Chje on June 23.

During the talks, the sides agreed on the need to boost interstate relations, in particular the cultural dialogue. The sides also supported the idea of establishing inter-parliamentary relations, the Turkmen State News Agency (TDH) reports.

On the same day, the North Korean ambassador held talks at the ministry of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan. The diplomat also visited the village of Kipchak to pay homage to the first president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov.


Failed state index

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Foreign Policy has published the 2008 Failed State Index.  North Korea comes in 15th place.  Ahead of it:

1. Somalia
2. Sudan
3. Zimbabwe
4. Chad
5. Iraq
6. Congo
7. Afghanistan
8. Cote d’Ivoire
9. Pakistan
10. Central African Republic
11. Guinea
12. Bangladesh 
12. Burma
14. Haiti

North Korea’s score was based on the following rankings (out of 10):

Domestic Pressures 8.2
Refugees and displaced persons 6.0
Group Grievance 7.2
Human Flight 5.0
Uneven Development 8.8
Economy 9.6
Deligitimization of state 9.8
Public services 9.6
Human rights 9.7
Security apparatus 8.3
Factionalized elites 7.6
External intervention 7.9


North Korea’s non-profit education fund

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Yonhap reports on the DPRK’s efforts to create an education endowment:

North Korea, which is marking the 60th anniversary of its foundation this year, has stepped up efforts to improve educational facilities across the country with help from foreign countries and overseas Koreans, a pro-Pyongyang Korean-language daily in Japan said Monday.

The program is being actively supported by Australian, Swiss, Vietnamese and Finish charitable funds as well as Korean residents in Canada, said the daily of Chongryon, or the pro-Pyongyang Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

Much of the funding is being used to construct a new building for Koryo Songgyungwan, a university of light industry in Kaesong, south of Pyongyang, and modernize educational facilities at Kimchaek University of Technology with a history of 60 years in Pyongyang, according to the report.

When I visited the DPRK in 2005 for the “60th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonialism (aka the end of WWII),” I picked up a brochure from this foundation—scans below:

kefsmall.JPG kef2small.JPG

(Click on images to view)

It is interesting to notice just how much they have learned from the Western non-profit world, including how to reward donors:

“KEF acknowledges and appraises the donations from contributors in different ways such as citation, issue of certificates, availability on publications, and arranging visit to project sites as well as tourism.”

Contributions are not tax deductible.

UPDATE: I have not had a chance to review all this material yet, but here are some more links:

KEF official web site

Information from Naenara

From KCNA:

Korea Education Fund Set Up

Pyongyang, June 7 [2005] (KCNA) — The Korea Education Fund (KEF) has been established. It is a legal non-governmental organization for public interests. Its mission is to regulate and strengthen financial and material support necessary to develop education in accordance with the requirement of the times.

Many Koreans at home and abroad and famous political, public and educational figures and organizations have rendered a lot of material and financial backing to the DPRK in its educational work, proceeding from the lofty humanitarianism of loving peace and valuing the future.

It has made a contribution to the improvement of educational conditions and the balanced development of education.

And many figures have advanced a proposal to establish an organization in the form of humanitarian fund for the purpose of strengthening the support to the educational work and have exerted efforts to realize it. Their efforts have resulted in founding the Fund in January last through an agreement and working procedure with parties concerned.

The Fund does not fix the regional limit in general activities such as raising fund and performing support. And it decides personnel selection according to relevant program and the agreed plan on specific objects, transcending the differences in political view, religious belief, race, nationality and sex.

The KEF welcomes all donators at home and abroad who are based on good intentions and voluntary principle.

Its support will be given mainly to the insufficient educational apparatuses and school things, improvement of infrastructure of educational establishments and studying conditions at schools and to training of personnel.

The KEF regards it as a supreme principle of its work to ensure trust in donators, receivers and volunteers. And it respects all those at home and abroad that join the assistance directly or indirectly and positively cooperates with them.

It organizes the work of recognizing and appreciating the donators and volunteers in accordance with the will of receivers and the principle of the Fund’s activity. Such activities include citation, issue of certificate, hanging of board, introduction through publications and organization of tour of the objects and scenic spots.

The KEF has its accounts in the Koryo Commercial Bank and overseas agent banks.

The KEF will be conducive to developing education in the country and rearing well the rising generation, the future of the humankind. (Fax: 0085-02-3814410, E-mail: [email protected])

Read the Yonhap story here:
N.K. renovating schools with foreign donations
Shim Sun-ah