Archive for November, 2012

DPRK ships missile parts to Syria

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

According to the Korea Herald:

A shipment of graphite cylinders usable in a missile program and suspected to have come from North Korea was found in May aboard a Chinese ship en route to Syria in what appears to have been a violation of U.N. sanctions, diplomats said Tuesday.

South Korean officials seized the shipment of 445 graphite cylinders, which had been declared as lead piping, from a Chinese vessel called the Xin Yan Tai, U.N. Security Council diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

South Korean authorities stopped the ship at the South Korean port of Busan, the envoys said, adding that the cylinders were intended for a Syrian company called Electric Parts.

South Korean officials informed the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee about the seizure on Oct. 24, the envoys said, adding that China had offered to help investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

“It appears the cylinders were intended for Syria’s missile program,” a diplomat said.

“China assured us they will investigate what looks like a violation of U.N. sanctions.” Diplomats said the graphite cylinders appeared to be consistent with material usable in a ballistic missile program and that South Korea would investigate the case with China.

The shipment to Syria was arranged by a North Korean trading company, diplomats said. One diplomat said the Syrian company that was to have received the cylinders may be a subsidiary of the North Korean trading firm.

North Korea is barred from importing or exporting nuclear and missile technology under U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Pyongyang because of its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Read previous posts about the DPRK and Syria here.

Read the full story here:
Suspected N.K. missile parts seized en route to Syria
Korea Herald


Noland DPRK trade statistics compendium (2012)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

This fall Marcus Noland has posted three blog entries which feature DPRK trade statistics with China, the European Union, and Russia. I have put the graphs from these posts here as both an archive and as a quick reference for myself. See Dr. Noland’s original posts (linked above) for his analysis.

Chinese Luxury Goods Exports to the DPRK (Published 2012-9-17):

European luxury exports to North Korea (Published 2012-10-18):

Russian luxury good exports to North Korea (Published 2012-11-14):


UN FAO/WFP crop and food security assessment report

Monday, November 12th, 2012

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) visited the DPRK from 2012-9-24 to 2012-10-18 (25 days). They assessed the 2012 main crop harvest; forecasted the 2013 production of winter and spring crop; estimated cereal import requirements for the 2012/13 marketing year (November/October); assessed the household food-security situation and estimated food assistance needs.

Read the full report here (PDF).

It is full of data/statistics and well worth reading. You can find even more information on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

Here is media coverage of the report: Associated Press 1, Associated Press 2Yonhap 1, Yonhap 2.



North Korea diversifying tourism programs to earn foreign currency

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea is developing its tourism industry as a way to increase its foreign currency earnings. Recently, there appear an increasing number of tour packages targeted attracting Chinese visitors to the DPRK, with new tour packages actively being promoted.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on October 8 that there are new professional tour programs that are gaining international attention. In the article, new and creative tours were featured, including Mount Paektu tours with [Air] Koryo Airlines and bicycle tours. Mini-golf tours are also reportedly scheduled for next year.

Along with North Korea, Chinese tour companies are also taking interest in this effort and are developing various tour packages via air, land, and sea routes. In June, charted plane tours from Shenyang started, and now new tours from Dalian to Mount Kumgang are also being launched.

Across the border from the North Korean city of Sinuiju is the Chinese city of Dandong, where there are over ten travel agencies that operate daily train tours between the two cities. In fact, during holidays and weekends, more and more Chinese tourists are flocking to the China-North Korean Friendship Bridge that traverses the Yalu River, connecting the two cities.

The recent rise of Chinese tourists to North Korea is attributed to the aggressive marketing schemes of the North Korean government. The State Tourism Bureau teamed up with a Chinese travel company to run a tour to Mt. Paektu. North Korea, faced with international economic sanctions, has limited means to earn foreign currency. The new Kim Jong Un regime is actively seeking ways to earn foreign capital through the tourism industry. Chinese companies are responding positively and swiftly to this change and are coming up with new tourism programs.

North Korea is utilizing its image as ‘closed country’ and ‘hermit kingdom’ to stimulate curiosity among tourists. More and more Chinese are able to enter North Korea without a visa (requiring only their passports) and this is adding to the spike in Chinese tourists to the country. Most Chinese travel agencies are able to make all the necessary travel arrangements to North Korea in less than a week once the interested person submits his/her passport and photos.

However, there are comments from returning visitors that tours are limited to historic and famous sites and somewhat insular as contact with the locals is prohibited. North Korean national security agents accompany all tour groups. Despite this fact, many experts expect the number of Chinese visitors to the DPRK will continue to increase in the future.

*NKeconWatch: For additional information, see “North Korean minders endure Chinese invasion” in the Asia Times (2012-11-8).


Inflationary coping mechanisms…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

The Korea Times (Yonhap) reports the following:

The official North Korean won is increasingly giving way to the U.S. dollar and the Chinese yuan in asset holdings of North Koreans, as well as in North Korean markets, South Korean experts said Tuesday.

Circulation of foreign currencies is on the increase and a vast number of North Koreans are holding their assets, including banknotes, in foreign bills, University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Moon-soo and Kim Seok-jin, an analyst at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade, said in a joint paper released at a conference in central Seoul.

Giving the reported simultaneous use of the major world currencies their own term of “dollarization,” Yang said, “It is almost becoming abnormal in the North to hold more than a certain amount of bank notes in North Korean won.”

High-value assets such as houses are being increasingly valued and traded in dollar terms while in the North Korean market, dealers are increasingly relying on dollar-based prices, the professor said.

Devaluation of their own currency due to steep inflation, coupled with fears of a potential government decision to confiscate won notes mainly fueled the “dollarization,” he said.

Read the full story here:
NK sees jump in dollar, yuan-denominated sales goods, assets: experts
Korea Times (Yonhap)


KPA Journal Vol. 2, No. 9

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Joseph Bermudez, Senior Analyst with Digital Globe’s Analysis Center and author of The Armed Forces of North Korea, has posted the latest issue of KPA Journal.

You can download the PDF here.

Topics include:

“KPA Land-based MR-104 DRUM TILT Radar,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

A December 2010 DPRK propaganda video of a Korean People’s Army (North Korean Army) combined arms exercise contained a scene depicting a land-based variant of the former Soviet MR-104 drum tilt naval target acquisition and fire control radar. This is the first readily available open source image of the land-based variant.

“KPA 17th Tank Brigade (Tank Division, Mechanized Brigade, Mechanized Division), Part II,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

While much is now known concerning U.S. and U.N. units, organizations and operations during the Fatherland Liberation War (i.e., Korean War) very little reliable and detailed information is available concerning those of the Korean People’s Army (North Korean Army). Ths is especially true for its armored forces, which played a brief but important role during the first year of the conflict. This paper represents an initial e ffort to recount the organization and operations of one of the KPA’s first armored units—the 17th Tank Brigade.

“KPA Wartime Propaganda Leaflet”

Michael Webster, who contributed 4 images of the Han-gang bridges from his collection to the March 2011 (Vol. 2, No. 3) issue of KPA Journal, has provided a KPA propaganda leaflet from his Korean War collection.

“Unusual Visitor to Wonsan Airbase,” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

On November 1, 2012 DigitalGlobe acquired an image of the Wŏnsan-si area, including the Korean People’s Air Force (North Korean Air Force) Wŏnsan Airbase. Aside from capturing the normal collection of MiG-17/-19s and MiG-21s stationed at the airbase the image also captured an An-24 coke taxiing for takeoff at the northern end of the main runway.