Rimjingang, Imjingang, and the Sunchon Vinalon Complex

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Evan Ramstad notes the following information about Rimjingang and Imjingang:

Japanese publisher Jiro Ishimaru has gotten a lot of attention over the past month for his new English-language book of articles from Rimjingang – the magazine about North Korea that’s written by North Koreans.

Over the past six years, he’s worked closely with a few dozen North Koreans to get insiders’ stories published.

Less well known is the North Korean defector in Seoul, Choi Jin-i, who worked closely with him until recently. She published a Korean version of the magazine while he handled Japanese.

They split earlier this year over funding differences. Mr. Ishimaru’s magazine is commercially-funded while Ms. Choi’s is supported by charitable contributions. Ms. Choi’s magazine now has a slightly different name. It’s called Imjingang.

Their writers are mainly North Koreans with the political and financial ability to visit China, where they can communicate freely.

For both Ms. Choi and Mr. Ishimaru, the biggest challenge is getting contributors to verify the information they report.

Mr. Ishimaru’s favorite scoop came last year. It was a video report that showed a 20-year-old textile factory in the North Korean city of Suncheon, long touted as a showplace industrial plant by North Korea’s state media, is actually unused and crumbling.

“The factory might have only run on opening day when the Great Leader (Kim Jong Il’s father Kim Il Sung) was there,” Mr. Ishimaru says. “There had been rumors inside the country that the factory never ran, but nobody outside the nation confirmed that. Our reporter went there and for the first time filmed the factory in ruins.”

Ms. Choi says her favorite article appeared in the magazine’s first issue in 2007. It was an analysis of North Korea’s economic situation by a high-ranking government official. She said she worked for more than a year to persuade the official to give an interview.

The quality of information in that interview surprised North Korea watchers. “Many South Korean scholars said they didn’t know there was an intellectual in North Korea,” Ms. Choi said.

And the surprise for me: The factory in Sunchon mentioned in the story is the Sunchon Vinalon Complex (not to be confused with the 2.8 Vinalon Complex in Hungnam).  I actually used the video mentioned in this story and matched it up with Google Earth Satellite imagery to confirm it was shot in the DPRK.  You can see the blog post and video here.

Read the Wall Street Journal article here:
North Korea by North Koreans; How the Magazines Work
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad


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