Archive for October, 2011

Some interesting recent publications and articles

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

1. “Relying on One’s Strength: The Growth of the Private Agriculture in Borderland Areas of North Korea”
Andrei Lankov,Seok Hyang Kim ,Inok Kwa
PDF of the article here 

The two decades which followed the collapse of the communist bloc were a period of dramatic social and economic transformation in North Korea. The 1990-2010 period was a time when market economy re-emerged in North Korea where once could be seen as the most perfect example of the Stalinist economic model. The present article deals with one of the major areas of socioeconomic change which, so far, has not been the focus of previous studies. The topic is about the growth of private agricultural activities in North Korea after 1990. This growth constitutes a significant phenomenon which has important social consequences and also is important from a purely economic point of view: it seems that the spontaneous growth of private plots played a major role in the recent improvement of the food situation inside North Korea.


3. Korea Sharing Movement anti-malarial program (Via Cancor)
Read a PDF of on the project here


4. What is it like to teach at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST)?
Find out from one instructor here. More on PUST here.



1st Rason International Trade Fair (UPDATED)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

UPDATE 6 (2011-10-19): I finally received a list of companies participating in the first Rason International Trade Fair. Below is a picture of the names of participating companies listed on a display at the show and a PDF of their names (in English). I apologize for any typos:

Here is a PDF of the company names in English.

Most are obviously Chinese companies, though there appears to be at least one American company listed in the mix, White Stone Corporation Co., Inc. USA!

UPDATE 5 (2011-8-22): KCTV produced video footage from the fair.

UPDATE 4 (2011-8-25): KCNA announces the closing of the first Rason International Trade Fair:

First Rason International Trade Fair in DPRK Closes

Rason, August 25 (KCNA) — The first Rason International Trade Fair was closed with due ceremony on Thursday.

Present there were Jo Jong Ho, chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, officials concerned and exhibitors of different countries and regions.

In a speech a speaker referred to the fact that the fair was successfully progressed and an advance was made in conformity in favor of mutual interests in economy, exchange of science and technology and trade through wide-ranging contacts.

Diplomas were awarded to the exhibitors who presented excellent goods at the closing ceremony.

UPDATE 3 (2011-8-25)): KCNA publishes a short article advertising the economic advantages of Rason:

Rason Economic, Trade Zone with Bright Prospect of Development

Pyongyang, August 25 (KCNA) — Rason City, the DPRK, is situated in an important area which can link China’s three northeast provinces and Russia’s Far East region, both full of natural resources, and many Asia-Pacific nations with each other.

Rajin, Sonbong and Ungsang ports in Rason and Chongjin Port adjacent to the area provide good conditions for transit trade for Northeast Asia and other continents.

The sea off the ports does not freeze in winter, so they are not subject to seasonal restriction.

The reconstruction projects of the Rajin-Khasan railway and Rajin Port launched in Juche 97 (2008) will make it possible to reduce the transport distance from Asia to Europe, sharply cutting down the transport fee.

The Rajin-Khasan railway will serve as a transport route between the DPRK and Russia and between Asia-Pacific and European nations.

Rason City has seafood, agricultural product and wild vegetable processing bases operated by Korean trading companies. The city also boasts of many ponds, lakes and bays favorable for fresh-water fish culture and offshore farm.

Its natural and geographical environment is suitable to an international tourist resort. There are sea-bird, seal and other animal sanctuaries in the area with beautiful islets, like Pipha and Sol.

Some foreigners have already launched business in the area and an increasing number of investors are interested in the zone.

Rason City with amazing geographical and economic conditions is likely to greatly contribute to the development and prosperity of Northeast Asian nations.

UPDATE 2 (2011-8-21): The first Rason International Trade Fair opens Monday. Some interesting information below:

Pictured above (Google Earth): The Rason International Trade Fair Exhibition Hall (See in Google Maps here)

Also, a reader sent in this promotional flyer which is full of information on the trade fair:

See images of the flyer here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Video footage of the trade fair can be seen here.

UPDATE 1 (2011-8-17): The First “Rason International Product Exhibition” to be Held in Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Rajin-Sonbong or “Rason Special Economic Zone” is a co-development project developed by North Korea and China. The Rason SEZ International Product Exhibition is scheduled to take place from August 22nd to 25th — an exhibition targeted to attract foreign investors to the region.

According to the KCNA article released on August 14, “The exhibition will display a wide array of items from various countries including vehicles, pharmaceutical and clothing products.” It was said that the exhibition promises be an important event to encourage cooperation and exchange with various countries in trade, economic and science, and technology sectors.

This event is expected to not only bring Chinese but also European and other foreign companies into the economic zone, pushing investment into the area.

There is also talk of developing Rason into an international tourism zone to attract tourists from China, Russia, and Japan.

After the closing ceremony of the exhibition, visits to Rajin Harbor, Mangyongbong ferry, and the amusement park are scheduled in order to provide sightseeing tours for the participants to the exhibition.

Mangyongbong ferry, well-known in the past for transporting North Koreans living in Japan back to North Korea, is gaining special attention itself as a new tourist attraction. This cargo-passenger ferry is expected to be utilized further for tourism in the near future, including bringing Chinese tourists from Dairen and other harbors in China to Nampo Harbor close to Pyongyang.

In the late 1950s, Mangyongbong ferry began to shuttle North Koreans in Japan from Niigata Harbor to Wonsan Harbor near Pyongyang. From 1984, it was used to transport cargo into Japan, but this was halted in 2006 due to economic sanctions against North Korea which followed in response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

There are two ferries in North Korea with the name Mangyongbong. The Mangyongbong-92 will be introduced in Rajin Harbor to maximize the demonstration effect. The Mangyongbong, weighing 3,500 tons, is much smaller and older and inadequate to be used as a ferry.

The Mangyongbong-92 was built in 1992 to commemorate the 80th birthday of Kim Il Sung. The ship was built with funds collected from Chongryon (i.e., the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan). It was estimated to cost over 4 billion JPY at the time, weighing about 9,700 ton with a capacity to hold 350 passengers.

On another note, the fourteenth annual Pyongyang Spring International Product Exhibition held this May hosted over 280 companies from 10 countries. 100 Chinese companies participated in the exhibition. Since then, Chinese corporations from Liaoning and Dandong are reported to have placed contract orders worth 800,000 USD.


ORIGINAL POST (2011-8-15):

Pictured above (Google Earth): Rason geographic border (in red) and security perimeter fence (Yellow).

According to KCNA:

First Rason International Trade Fair to Be Held

Pyongyang, August 14 (KCNA) — The first Rason International Trade Fair will be held in the DPRK from August 22 to 25.

Vehicles, medicines, garments, etc. presented by companies of different countries and regions including the DPRK will be displayed at the fair.

The fair will contribute to boosting cooperation and exchange among countries and regions in fields of trade, economy, science and technology.

The DPRK is no stranger to trade fairs. By my calculations, the DPRK has hosted the Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair since 1998 and the Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair since 2005. These events, which draw vendors from across the planet, are held at the Three Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang.

This is the first trade fair of which I am aware that is being held outside of Pyongyang. The Rajin-Sonbong area was the site of the DPRK’s first experiment with special economic zones. Although it did not generate the expected level of interest, North Korean authorities are hoping that this time around they will be able to capitalize on their proximity to the Chinese market (see here and here).

Additional Information:

1. Previous posts on Rason here.

2. Previous Posts on the Pyongyang International Trade Fair here.

3. The Chinese have been upgrading the road that links the Rason port with the Chinese border.

4. A few days ago I posted a preliminary list of DPRK trade companies published in Foreign Trade magazine. I imagine that more than one of them will have a presence at the trade fair.


Orascom plans to offer mobile Internet service in DPRK

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Via Geoffrey See at Choson Exchange:

On my last trip to Pyongyang, I had the opportunity to catch up with some Egyptian expatriates from Orascom Telecom Holding over popcorn and whiskey. They were also kind enough to bring our team clubbing into the wee hours of morning.

Orascom Holdings is three companies each headed by a different brother of the Orascom family. Orascom Telecoms is headed by Naguib Sawiris, while the resorts arm Orascom Development is run by Samir Sawiris, and the construction arm Orascom Construction by another brother. All three brothers have stakes in different assets in North Korea, with the infamous Ryuggyong Hotel owned by Samih Sawiris. As of May 2010, when I had met Samih Sawiris in Switzerland, he had yet to visit Pyongyang. Recent pictures from Pyongyang indicate that this has changed.

The most exciting development to us was Orascom’s 3G Internet service which was still under the testing phase. The plan is to roll out this service in the near future, although the service will only be available to resident foreigners in the initial phase. Approval for this service to be provided on a larger-scale to North Korean citizens, in any censored form, has yet to be given although the infrastructure to do so is in place. For foreign residents in Pyongyang, the service could offer cost-savings of up to 60-80 percent over current satellite internet offerings. There is no information on what security trade-off such a service might entail.

We also discussed text advertising and the current mobile service business. While text advertising is possible, there has yet to be approval for the company to run such a service. Currently, handsets cost Euro 50 each and there is a monthly subscription fee of 900 Won (we are not sure how this cost scales with usage). For reference, the unofficial exchange rate has fluctuated around 2500 to 3500 Won to 1 Euro this year.

Click here to see previous posts about Orascom and cell phones in the DPRK.


Rice price increasing in northern provinces

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

New information suggests that the price of rice across North Korea now stands at more than 3,000 won per kilo, the highest market price since the currency redenomination of November 2009.

A source from Yanggang Province told The Daily NK on Friday, “The price of a kilo of rice has finally hit 3,000 won, having been only 2,600 won at the start of October. The won has gone down against the Chinese Yuan too, with one Chinese Yuan worth 515 North Korean won.”

Yesterday, a source from Sinuiju revealed that the cost of rice there has also risen to 3,000 won a kilo, saying, “People are bewildered as to why the cost of food has gone up so much, even though even the corn harvest has been gathered.” Sinuiju is always among the cheapest place to buy rice in North Korea due to its proximity to the major Chinese trading city of Dandong.

The situation is particularly surprising because the arrival of the autumn harvest would ordinarily be expected to drive down grain prices, or at the very least hold them steady. However, this year has seen poor weather feed concerns over crop yields, leading to rising prices throughout August and September. The average price in July, 2,000 won, was 2,500 won by late August. The exchange rate for Chinese Yuan has also been rising.

Some are predicting that the price fluctuations will level off with the end of the autumn harvest, while others believe that prices will simply move with the exchange rate, meaning greater uncertainty.

Read the full story here:
Rice Price Spike Defying Expectations
Daily NK
Kang Mi Jin


DPRK air force short on capital

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Pictured above (Google Earth): The DPRK’s underground air force base under construction near Wonsan.

According to Strategy Page (2011-10-19):

South Korea recently revealed that North Korea had gone looking for someone to sell them new combat aircraft, and had been turned down by China and Russia. South Korean diplomats were pleased to find this out, and South Korean Air Force officers were not surprised that the North Koreans were desperate to upgrade their air force.
This was it had earlier been revealed that in late 2010, after North Korea artillery fired on South Korea (Yeonpyeong Island), North Korea quickly made preparations for war. These preparations were apparently ordered without much warning. So too, apparently, was the attack on Yeonpyeong Island.

What the South Korean intel analysts were particularly amazed by was the poor performance of the North Korean air force during this hasty mobilization. It was known that North Korean pilots had been getting less and less flying time in the past decade, but when ordered into the air on a large scale for this hasty mobilization, the results were amazingly bad. The flying skills of combat pilots were particularly unimpressive, as was the performance of many aircraft (indicating poor maintenance). There were several crashes, and many near misses in the air, and a general sense of confusion among the North Korean Air Force commanders and troops.

While North Korea was apparently trying to impress, and intimidate, South Korea with this display of aerial might, the impact was just the opposite. With the exception of ten MiG-29s, the North Korean air force consists of several hundred Cold War era Russian and Chinese warplanes. The Chinese aircraft are knockoffs of older Russian designs, and most of the North Korean fleet consists of aircraft designs that were getting old in the 1970s. The North Korean Air Force training exercise merely confirmed what many South Korean and American intelligence analysts already suspected; that the North Korean Air Force could barely fly, and hardly fight.

Neither China nor Russia wants to encourage North Korea to undertake any more such misadventures; thus the refusal to provide new aircraft. Moreover, North Korea is difficult to do business with, often refusing to pay, or delaying payment for a long time. North Korea is not a good customer, and even China and Russia, who supported the north for over half a century, are fed up with North Korea’s increasingly bizarre behavior.

Kim Jong-il visited an aircraft factory in Russia on his last visit there.  See a satellite image of that factory here. Some speculated he was trying to make a deal for the procurement of Russian fighter jets.


Hamhung traders taxed to fund Pyongyang construction projects

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities in Hamheung are demanding 150,000 won from each trader in local markets to support construction projects in Pyongyang, according to a source from the city.

“Since the start of October, Hamheung Municipal People’s Committee has been taking money from market traders on the premise that ‘You have to give material support to Pyongyang construction workers,’” the source told the Daily NK today. “In the case of traders in the markets in Hoisang and Sapo, they are being asked for as much as 150,000 won each.”

Hamheung is the most famous industrial city in North Korea, and as such has larger markets than many other places. Thus, given that each of the two markets mentioned by the source has more than 500 traders, if the authorities were to reach their goal figure then they would be able to take 75,000,000 won from each one.

However, the Market Management Office for each market already receives 300-500 won per day from traders in the form of a ‘stall tax’, with sellers of home appliances and other high priced goods paying 500 won and those who sell food only paying 300 won. Thus, 150,000 won represents a huge cost, and many traders are apparently reacting to the demand with incredulity.

The source also noted that this does not appear to represent a central Party directive, with only traders in South Hamkyung and Yangkang Province having been hit by it to date.

“In Hyesan Market in Yangkang Province, it is 100,000 won per trader,” the source revealed, adding, “It seems like a case of the provincial Party preparing funds to support Pyongyang construction by taking money from traders.”

Elsewhere, although traders are now angry at the demand for funding, everything else is good, with official market controls being very lightly implemented at the moment, according to the source.

“The market is open from morning to night, and with the exception of the usual crackdowns on grasshopper traders there are no notable inspections,” he revealed.

But then, he added sarcastically, “They are taking money from the market as if it were some kind of state industry, so maybe that’s why they are leaving it alone.”

Read the full story here:
To Hamheung Traders: 150,000 Won for Pyongyang!
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


North Koreans working in Mongolia

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Eermel Factory in Ulan Bator

Simon Ostrovsky, who produced this BBC piece on North Korean loggers in eastern Siberia, has produced a piece on North Korean workers in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator. I have posted his article in The Independent as well as a few related pieces and additional information below.

According to his article in The Independent:

Sitting astride rows of buzzing looms and distinguishable from their colleagues by the white make-up heavily applied to their faces, a few dozen North Korean women in a run-down Mongolian clothing factory are busily knitting garments to please minders from their Communist state.

They are part of a North Korean labour force tens-of-thousands strong, put in place across Asia to help the Stalinist regime meet its financial targets. And British consumers are unwittingly filling the dictatorship’s pockets through these workers, an investigation in Mongolia by The Independent and the investigative journalism project WorldView has found.

Sent in their hundreds, under an agreement between Mongolia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the North Korean workers take jobs on construction sites and in factories across this Central Asian state, where they are closely monitored by overseers from their homeland. Some of them were found to be producing goods for popular UK clothing brands such as Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM).

“They’re hard workers, they don’t complain and they get stuck in, they’re quite skilled,” said David Woods, a British textiles professional brought on as a specialist at the Eermel clothing factory in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator. North Korea has been able to transplant elements of its highly centralised state to Mongolia, where labourers keep to a tight schedule dictated by their embassy for the duration of their three-year contracts. They also have to seek permission to speak to outsiders, unlike their Mongolian co-workers.

Mr Woods showed a reporter a James Pringle-brand cashmere sweater made for EWM with a £140 price-tag already affixed, ahead of shipment to the UK, as he gave a tour of the factory. He described how its 80 female North Korean employees were housed and fed on site under a scheme managed by North Korea’s embassy, earning up to £200 per month.

Another Eermel employee told The Independent that the women’s labour fed the coffers of the North Korean regime, echoing the North Korean practice across Asia where tens of thousands of North Koreans are estimated to be employed on behalf of their government. “We are paying to Korean workers like Mongolians, the same salary,” said Bayar, Eermel’s director for exports, who like many Mongolians uses only one name. “But… we are transferring the money to the account of the [North Korean] embassy. How they split the salary, we don’t know.”

It’s a surprising move for a regime that regularly tries to keep its citizens in the dark about world events and strictly controls access to information at home. The fact that North Korea has allowed so many of its citizens to leave and glimpse the outside world reflects the severe economic situation the country has faced since the collapse of its one-time sponsor, the Soviet Union, and, more recently, international sanctions over its nuclear-weapons programme. It’s also an example of how Pyongyang has been able to adapt and continue profiting from a globalised economy while keeping most of its population at arm’s length.

In Mongolia, the practice goes back to 2004, according to leaked US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks in August. The cables, penned in 2006, describe how a representative of North Korea, who was “extremely professional in both manner and appearance”, approached a Canadian-owned gold mine to offer workers for $1.50 (90p) per day.

Another 2006 cable says: “The working and living conditions of these labourers raise the concern that they are subject to coercion, and are not free to leave their employment… the DPRK workers are monitored closely by ‘minders’ from their government, and many are believed to be subject to DPRK government pressure because of family members left behind in North Korea. The workers reportedly do not routinely receive direct and full salary.”

North Korea watchers warned that the work-abroad programmes should not be seen as a step by Pyongyang towards more openness. “As far as the regime is concerned, sending groups of people to foreign countries where they don’t speak the language and can be sequestered in barracks or factory dorms is a much safer option than granting to foreign investors in North Korea the kind of freedom and mobility they demand,” Brian Myers, a Seoul-based North Korea analyst, said.

The scheme has been hugely successful with businesses in Mongolia, which are attracted by the North Koreans’ rock-bottom labour costs and an unparalleled work ethic. One of the few countries with warm ties to the Stalinist state, Mongolia has increased its quota of North Koreans allowed to work in the country from 2,200 to 3,000 in 2011, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

The workers are even more popular in Russia, where 21,000 laboured in the first quarter of 2010 alone, according to the Russian migration agency. And many more are believed to be working in China, where the statistics are not made public.

Part of that army of workers are the seamstresses at Eermel, a hulking Soviet-era cashmere factory in the Mongolian capital that produces sweaters and other cashmere garments for the EWM retail chain and a number of lesser-known UK labels including Hush, Moray and Brodie. Clothing racks in Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan and beyond are also stocked with Eermel garments, according to Mr Woods. That means international isolation has not stopped North Korea from tapping global consumer markets.

North Korea’s culture of secrecy makes it difficult to get accurate data on the workers’ contract terms. The private interests using its labour force seem to understand that continued co-operation depends on maintaining the code of silence. After a short phone call to the North Korean embassy, Eermel factory officials refused to allow The Independent to interview any of its North Korean employees.

And at the Mongolian foreign ministry, officials were tight-lipped about how much the North Koreans’ labour is worth to Pyongyang in cash transfers, preferring to focus on benefits to the individual labourers. “For the families of the individuals who work [here] that could be helpful,” State Secretary Tsogtbaatar Damdin said. But when asked if he knew what portion of their salaries the North Korean labourers were allowed to keep, he said: “If they owe some commitments to their county we would rather not intervene in that area.”

The deal could be worth over £7m annually to North Korea if the Eermel factory workers’ wages are representative of those across Mongolia. It’s no small sum when compared to North Korea’s gross national product, estimated by the CIA to equal only $40bn in 2008. EWM, for its part, confirmed that it was supplied by the Eermel factory in Mongolia and that there were North Koreans among the workforce there, but said it was told by the factory that the North Koreans’ wages were paid directly to the workers, not the North Korean government.

The Scottish company quoted Eermel as telling it: “We do not pay any commission to the North Korean government, any North Korean Agency or anyone else. We pay the workers directly.” That stands in stark contrast to what The Independent was told by factory officials in Mongolia. But even though their contract terms are secret and are likely in violation of a raft of international agreements on workers’ rights, the practice has its supporters among North Korea watchers. They believe North Koreans working abroad will share their experiences of the outside world when they return home, perhaps in the long run leading to social and political change within the country.

“It’s every North Korean worker’s dream to be selected [to work abroad],” Andrei Lankov, a professor of Korean studies at Kookmin University in Seoul, said. “They cannot make even remotely as much inside North Korea. And on top of that, they are coming back and they bring knowledge about the outside world. They are closely supervised and they have to be very cautious, because their families back in North Korea are essentially hostages, but… this knowledge in the long run is going to change North Korean society.”

There is evidence that the North Korean workers will go to extreme lengths to avoid going home and live in perpetual fear that their minders will make them do so. “I met one man who broke his arm and was hiding it from his superiors for over a month because he was afraid he’d get sent back to North Korea if they found out about it,” said Koh Kwang Sub, a member of the South Korean business community in Ulan Bator. Mr Koh, who owns a local pharmacy, said he was able to meet workers and hand out medical supplies every few weeks when their managers were away. “It would be nice if they could work here and go back home safely, but they have no medical help and sustain a lot of work-related injuries,” he said.

The fully stocked store shelves and proliferation of mobile phones here must come as a surprise to a first-time visitor brought up to think North Korea is the world’s most advanced nation. Has the realisation led many of the workers to try defecting? “I really can’t talk about that,” said Ha Kyeong Yun, a South Korean entrepreneur who employs 30 North Korean army veterans at his farm in the northern Mongolian town of Sharin Gyol. But the answer is probably that very few, if any, have. “Their hierarchy is very rigid. They’re from the military and they maintain their rank relations.”

It’s also no coincidence that all of the male North Korean workers are at least 40-years old. All have families back home who would pay the price for what amounts to a crime against the state under the country’s system of hereditary discipline.

All of this makes the North Koreans very dedicated workers. At Eermel, Mr Woods said he was very proud of the company’s hard-won relationship with EWM and praised the North Korean staff. “Why they come over from North Korea to Mongolia I’m not entirely certain,” he said. “They work hard and we’re happy to have them here.”

A global market

Mongolia The practice of using North Korean workers goes back to at least 2004. A new deal was signed in 2008 that allowed for more than 5,000 workers to come to Mongolia until 2013. There are currently around 3,000 in the country.

Russia There are some 21,000 North Korean workers in the far east of the country, where they work in logging camps. They reportedly have just two rest days a year.

China No reliable statistics exist, but there are thought to be thousands of North Koreans working in China. The numbers in Dandong, a city close to the border, is said to have soared in recent years.

Here is a related story in the Daily NK.

Here is some information on Eermel (Evseg):

Founded in 1982 and privatized in 1994, Eermel (Evseg TM) is on its way to becoming a strong competitor in the world market of quality cashmere and camel wool products. Today, it is the second largest manufacturer of Cashmire in Mongolia, after Gobi Cashmere Industry.

Presently, Eermel has over 600 workers and has capacity of washing 500.0 tons and de-hairing 90.0 tons annually, making it highly efficient in key segments of Cashmire production. The company now has four production lines of textile, knitting, sewing and quilting, and produces more than 380 different types of end-products available for customers to purchase at prestige stores throughout Mongolia. The company exports dehaired cashmere to Switzerland, China, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan and the USA, and exports knitted yarns to Japan, Italy, China, United Kingdom and Mexico. Russia continues to be the largest recipient of Eermel Cashmire exports.

In addition to Cashmire, Eermel is Mongolian trading company that trades in coal, cobalt and copper and is also an importer of consumer goods to Mongolia. 50 percent of Eermel’s shares are owned by the everyday workers of the plant.

The company has been selling public shares since November 28, 1992 with the initial price of 100 MNT per 1 unit of stock.


Daepung International Investment Group established in North Korea: Goals for economic development from 2010 to 2020 set

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea’s Daepung International Investment Group, Ltd (Daepung Group) has announced its “Main Target Areas for Economic Development,” with plans to attract foreign investments for the next decade.

Daepung Group presented the “The DPRK’s Main Areas of Economic Development (2010 to 2020)” which included an outline of “Main Targets of Economic Development.” In it were specific plans outlining economic development projects. The projects are separated into industrial, transportation, energy and agricultural development sectors.

North Korean media has reported on the “Ten-year Strategy Plan for National Economic Development,” which was passed by the DPRK Cabinet earlier this year. As a part of the national economic development strategy plan, North Korean authorities commissioned the Daepung Group to fully take the lead in achieving the major targets of the national economic development plan which include substructure construction, agriculture, power, coal, oil, and metal; with heavy emphasis placed on basic industries and regional development as the main sectors for development.

The industrial districts under the target for development are Kim Chaek Mine and Refinery Complex, Chongjin Heavy Industrial Complex, Nason [Rason] Petrochemical Industrial Complex, and Nampo IT Industrial and Technology Complex.

Among the four, Chongjin Industrial Complex will be developed in an area of 50 square kilometers and investments running over 18 to 20 billion USD will be brought in over the next ten years for the construction of a shipyard, automobile manufacturing, electric equipment, and machinery factories and as well as a heavy industrial complex. As for the Nason Petrochemical Industrial Complex, it will be developed in an area of 20 square kilometers over the next ten years with similar amount of investments put in to construct a 20 million-ton capacity oil refinery, 1.2 million-ton capacity ethylene factories, and 1 million-ton fertilizer factories. The initial investments for the following projects are expected to be worth 1.5 million, 1.4 billion, and 8 billion USD, respectively.

Nampo IT Industrial and Technology Complex is expected to be developed at a 30 square kilometer site and is expected to receive 10 to 12 billion USD worth of investment over the next ten years. The development plans for Nampo will mainly focus on research and a combination of different industries in the areas of optical science, microsystems, information media, environmental biology, microelectronic and electronic information, energy science, and renewable energy development.

Kim Chaek Mine Refinery is expected to occupy about 500,000 square kilometers of land and 8 billion USD worth of investment will be brought in to build large-scale facilities such as a 120 million-ton harbor and 5 million-ton iron manufacturing factories. In the first stage of its development, Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex was to receive a capacity upgrade of 3 million tons, its harbor a 200,000-ton upgrade, and Musan Iron Ore Mine a 7 million-ton reconstruction upgrade from 2009 to 2011, with the cost expected to be worth 3 billion USD. However, the status of these reconstruction projects has not yet been confirmed.

According to the source, construction of transportation network will take place over the next ten years which includes building of double tracks in the railroad stretching 2,386 km, with the total distance running at 4,772 km. It is expected to cost about 9.6 billion USD. The specific route plans include tracks running from Pyongyang to Nason (780 km), Kim Chaek to Haesan (180 km), Pyongyang to Kaesong (186 km), for trains to run at the speed of 120 to 140 km/hr. In addition, other railroad linking projects are underway.

As for the highway routes, the Pyongyang-to-Nason highway will run about 870 km, Pyongyang to Shinuiju 240 km, Pyongyang to Kaesong 180 km, and other connection roads to mines are expected to stretch about 1,200 km. The entire cost of construction and reconstruction of highways is estimated to be about 15 billion USD.

Although most of the railway and roads have already been built, they are in serious need of repair and widening. This also includes linking the Tumen and Tonghua cities of China to North Korea.

In addition, there are also plans to upgrade Pyongyang International Airport, with an investment of 1.2 billion USD to be used to expand the airport’s capacity to accommodate up to 12 million people a year.

Agricultural development will mainly focus on increasing the size of agricultural pesticides factories to a capacity of 30,000 tons as well as improving the farming machinery and livestock industries.

As for electrical power development, 4 billion USD will be invested over the three years to develop coal mines which will be capable of producing 40 million tons. Specifically, mines in Anju will be upgraded to produce 30 million tons, mines in Bukchang 5 million tons, mines in Ryongdong 2 million tons, and mines in Onsong 5 million tons.

In addition, ten 60 kW thermoelectric power plants will be built across the nation including two in Pyongyang, two in Chongjin, four in Bukchang, two in Anju, one in Kim Chaek, and one in Najin. The plan is to secure 600kW of electric power over the five-year period by investing 50 billion USD.

In a written document, out of a total of 100 billion USD of investments, Daepung Group is planning to allocate 10 billion USD to the Industrial Development Bank, 54.5 billion USD to the Industrial Bank and 35.5 billion USD to basic energy and power sectors. The Industrial Development Bank was established in 2010 and has registered capital of about 10 billion USD and loan volume of 120 billion USD.

North Korea’s Daepung Group is pursuing the economic development plans under the guidance of the State General Bureauof Economic Development, as a part of the larger effort of the “Ten-year Strategy Plan for National Economic Development.” Although it is premature to measure the specific results of the plan, it is clear that focus has been placed on attracting more investments from China.


Choson Exchange Update

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

According to Choson Exchange:

In August this year, Choson Exchange, a non-profit focused on economic policy, business and legal knowledge exchange with North Korea (DPR Korea), implemented a study trip for DPRK policymakers to exchange policy ideas and experience in Singapore with policymakers. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Swiss Cooperation Office DPR of Korea, we were able to implement an insightful and engaging series of discussion with participating Koreans. We focused our program on younger Koreans, with 6 of the 7 North Koreans being under 40 years old, out of which 2 were under 30 years old. 3 institutions were represented in the visit, which involved 10 intensive days of meetings and discussions.

In particular, some of the young participants we selected for the program were able to ask astute questions on development issues and coordination among economic agencies. During the post-trip debriefing, participants highlighted specific aspects of Singapore’s economic development experience which they found particularly interesting and relevant for their country. They also gave feedback on policy ideas which they believe could be adapted to their country. Choson Exchange followed up on the discussions with consultations in Pyongyang 5 days after the program ended.

We would like to thank speakers who volunteered their time and experience at this event in their personal capacities. Speakers included:

– The former Chairman of Singapore Airlines, Singapore Stock Exchange, Temasek Holdings, Development Bank of Singapore, Nepture Orient Lines and Permanent Secretary at various Ministries

– The former Minister for Finance and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office

– The Chief Economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Southeast Asia

– The CEO of Centennial Asia Advisers and former Chief Economist for SocGen Asia-Pacific

– Directors and Economists at various Ministries in Singapore

– Private sector speakers or hosts from McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Goldman Sachs and Capital Group

We would also like to thank Member of Parliament Lily Neo for hosting dinners for the visiting delegation.


Plans for SEZ between China and the DPRK to Come Out at Year’s End

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Dai Yulin, secretary of the Dandong Committee of the Communist Party of China, said in his interview with the China Daily on September 28 that concrete plans for the joint development projects between China and North Korea in the Hwanggumpyong and Rajin-Sonbong regions will be announced at the end of the year.

This past June, Dai stated both countries agreement to jointly develop Hwanggumpyong and Rajin-Sonbong as an economic development zone and reported smooth progress in its plans.

According to Secretary Dai, “The joint management committee between China and North Korea has already been formed to promote the Hamggumpyong development project. Both countries are getting up steam to advance the project.”

In addition Dai explained, “China has secured 10 square kilometers of national land to be used to support the joint development of Hamggumpyong.” He also added, “A think tank comprised of 72 experts was also established to advise and buttress the project.”

When DPRK Cabinet Premier Choe Yong Rim visited China last month, Dai commented, “Choe’s visit to China is underlined with North Korea’s strong interest in economic reform. All the high level officials in the economic sectors accompanied him on the trip.”

While visiting China for five days, Choe met with Premier Wen Jiabao and expressed strong motivation for strengthening trade and cooperation with China, especially to improve its infrastructure. He stated, “For those Chinese companies investing in North Korea, we will provide special accommodations to encourage more investments.” In response, Wen Jiabao commented, “China will do all it can to support North Korea, so that they may seek development method most appropriate for them.”

After the meeting between the two top officials, the two nations came to an agreement to cooperate in trade, investment, and infrastructure, resources and agriculture development.

Prior to meeting with Wen, Choe visited Lanxing Chemical Industrial Machine Co. After he paid his courtesy visit to President Hu Jintao of China in Beijing, he continued to make economic related visits to Baoshan Steel Group, Bailian Xijiao Goods Purchasing Center, and industrial facilities in Jiangsu Province.

After North Korea designated Hwanggumpyong Island as a free trade zone, China has signed a 50 year-lease agreement to develop the island. Despite being a “joint development” in name, in actuality, China has the exclusive development rights based on Chinese capital.

However, North Korea is requesting for revision of the name to “co-development between China and the DPRK,” a request that China is expressing some uneasiness over. The initial agreement was to “lease Hwanggumpyong Islands to China,” which gave exclusive and autonomous development and management rights to China in the zone.

China has articulated on many occasions the Hwanggumpyong project must be strictly based on market principles and expressed apprehension that Chinese businesses may be unwilling to invest in the area if North Korea continues to pursue to change it as a joint development.