Archive for June, 2013

Peering into the North Korean economy, via satellite

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

My article in the BBC is up. You can see it here.


New Pyongyang – Phyongsong Road

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Naenara offers news of a rare DPRK international public tender:

Invitation for International Public Tender

The Ministry of Land and Environment Protection of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea plans to build a new road between Pyongyang and Phyongsong in order to facilitate public transportation in the western region of the country, including Pyongyang.

To this end, the ministry is going to purchase equipment and materials necessary for the project through international public tender. It also intends to employ international consultation services for technical assistance.

The international consultancy services will include road design, building operations and technical supervision (land fill, sand and gravel bedding, cement stability, paving, bridge construction, construction of small structures and protective guard and installation of road signs) and use of equipment and machines for road construction.

The equipment and materials to be purchased are as follows:

Hydraulic excavator, cement truck, self-propelled road liner, measuring equipment, bus, bulldozer, fuel truck, concrete cutter, geological testing equipment, cement, grader, trailer, voltage regulator, examination equipment, round steel, loader, sprinkler, water pumping equipment, drilling equipment, angle iron, Macadam roller, crane truck, dredger, printer, steel pipe, Dandem roller, stone crushing plant, horizontal vehicle for bridge construction, plotter, iron sheet, composite roller, mobile compressor, guniting machine, laptops, timber, tired roller, hammer drill, welder, laser surveyor’s rod (LEICA TCA 2003), asphalt, concrete paver (with the framed rails), rock-driller, electric generator, digital theodolite (SOKKIA DT 610S), fuel, concrete mixing station, asphaltic emulsion truck, pressure pump, automatic leveling instrument (SOKKIA C32II), aluminum sheet, asphalt mixing station, automatic truck, vibratory pile hammer, fork-lifter, luminous paper, mixture truck, asphalt paver, pressure pump, light reflection sign, and car.

Letters of tender invitation will be issued early in July 2013.

For more details, please contact:
International Implementing Office for Road Construction Project
Add: Pothonggang-dong No.1, Pothonggang District, Pyongyang, DPR Korea
Fax: 850-2-381-4416/4410

UPDATE 1 (2013-6-22): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies wrote about this tender:

North Korea to Acquire Road Equipment and Materials via International Auction

North Korea has revealed plans to acquire equipment and materials for new road construction through an international auction.

In the May 29 economic news section of ‘Naenara,’ a website run by North Korea, it was reported that a new road is being built between Pyongyang and Pyungsung, South Pyongan Province. It announced that “with regards to the construction, the Ministry of Land and Environment Protection will purchase the necessary equipment and material through an internationally competitive auction.”

Naenara speculates that the ministry will purchase hydraulic excavators, buses, cement, and transformers, among fifty other items, with the auction invitation to be issued this July.  Naenara also announced that the construction and technological management of the roads will receive voluntary international consulting.

It is uncommon for North Korean media to publicize plans for receiving goods via an international auction. Whereas North Korea has usually made direct contact with foreign companies based in China, it has recently diversified its reception of foreign capital.

As the international society’s trust in North Korea is low, North Korea is pursuing changes in its methods of acquiring capital through avenues like international auctions. This can be interpreted as an intentional effort to show that North Korean liberalization and development policies are following international norms. Furthermore, in addition to adopting the law on economic development zones, North Korea is starting to focus more on developing a ‘special zone’, with construction of the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ scheduled to start soon.

At first, the ‘Sinuiju Special Zone’ was intended to develop by sections, receiving capital from not only Chinese companies but also Korean companies. However, due to faltering relations between the North and South, China has emerged as the sole partner of North Korea to co-develop the special zone.

Also, following the 12.1 Policy from last year, an umbrella organization will be set up to comprehensively manage the economic development zones pursued by the thirteen cities and provinces, and the two hundred twenty districts. While the North Korean Joint Venture Committee (Chaired by Lee Kwang-keun) was in charge of securing foreign investments for the development of the special zones, the new organization will manage not only all the specialized zones but also all the development zones.

Furthermore, there are plans to link Sinuiju, Pyongyang, and Kaesong via highway and high speed rail, an investment which is expected to cost 14.1 trillion KRW. The highway is expected to cost 4.7 trillion won and the high speed rail carries an anticipated price tag of 9.4 trillion won. In order to secure funding, North Korea plans to sell underground resources and secure sources of private investment. In terms of financing procurement methods, North Korea is considering BOT (build-own-transfer), BTL (build-transfer-lease), resources development rights as collateral, etc.


Recommendations of President Park´s transition team related to unification

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

The English language PDF is here.

Translation courtesy of Lee Kyungmin, currently working at Hanns-Seidel-Foundation Korea.



Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

UPDATE 4 (2014-10-2): North Korea reveals Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourism Zone development blueprints (IFES):

North Korea recently released blueprints for a new tourism zone in the Kangwon area, which is designated as the location for the national goal of developing a global tourist attraction. This area has been officially named as the “Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourism Zone.” The Wonsan District Development Company, an affiliate of North Korea’s Ministry of External Economic Affairs, introduced large-scale development plans for the Wonsan-Tongchon-Mt. Kumgang “tourism belt” to a crowd of over 200 members of the World Federation of Overseas Korean Traders Association (World-OKTA) at an investment forum held in Dalian, China on September 20, 2014.

At the investment forum, North Korean representatives emphasized that the focus city of this project, Wonsan (population 360,000), is merely 1 to 2 hours away from neighbors China and Japan, and is within a three-hour plane ride from over 40 other cities each with populations of over 1 million. The nation anticipates that, provided tourism infrastructure developments are completed according to plan, the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourism Zone could potentially attract up to 1 million visitors annually.

North Korea marked the fourth quarter of 2013 with the opening of the Masikryong Ski Resort and the remodeling of the Songdowon International Children’s Union Camp as iconic projects leading the development of the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang area. Representatives were quoted as saying, “The Masikryong Ski Resort enjoyed incredible popularity during its opening season last winter, attracting more tourists than hotel facilities could accommodate. . . . The Masikryong Ski Resort has become a huge asset to our nation’s tourism industry, capable of entertaining tourists even during the winter off-season.” Increasing hotel and lodging facilities were emphasized as the next most urgent task.

The Masikryong Ski Resort, located 25 kilometers from the city of Wonsan, was introduced as a resort capable of competing in the international market with its 49.6 kilometers of slopes, outdoor ice rink and swimming pools, and hotel accommodations for up to 360 guests. In addition to accommodation facilities for 12,000 people in Wonsan, 7,000 in Tongchon, and 14,000 people in the Mt. Kumgang area, North Korea also revealed plans for new and additional construction of infrastructure facilities in the Wonsan area—including airports, ports, railroads, roads and electricity—and for expansion of recreational facilities such as golf courses and casinos.

More specifically, construction is planned for a large-scale airport in the Kalma (Galma) Peninsula area of Wonsan which will be able to accommodate thousands of passengers per day [Learn more here and here]. Once completed, foreign tourists will be able to visit the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang zone directly, with no need to pass through Pyongyang. While the most important project is to repair and expand the roadways connecting inner Wonsan with the Masikryong Ski Resort, Ullim Waterfall, Sokwangsa and Mt. Kumgang areas, North Korea also plans to construct or remodel service facilities within inner Wonsan such as hotels, exhibition centers, athletic facilities, and other business and commerce services necessary to satisfying the needs of tourists.

Overseas investors’ requests to visit the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourism Zone for inspection and consulting can be processed within ten days, and North Korea is planning to invite potential investors to an on-site investment briefing to be held in April 2015.

UPDATE 3 (2014-7-29): According to the Pyongyang Times:

Thongchon to be developed as tourist zone

A project is to be launched to develop an international tourist zone in Thongchon County, Kangwon Province, which has lots of tourist resources.

The project is part of the development plan for the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone, according to a decree released on June 11 by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Thongchon County is situated 52 km south of Wonsan, the capital city of Kangwon Province.

The county boasts Chongsokjong—a group of basaltic stone columns which is known as one of the eight scenic beauties in the northeastern part of Korea, four picturesque lakesides, six sand beaches, nine scenic sites and a treatment mud resource of over 3 280 000 cubic metres.

The tourist zone area covers well over 9 000 hectares.

Tourist facilities for sea bathing and boating will be added to Chongsokjong so that visitors could enjoy sightseeing day and night.

Accommodation facilities with a capacity of over 5 600 people are to be built in the area of Lake Tongjong while the Lake Sijung area will turn into a health and treatment hub with an accommodation capacity of over 1 000 people and a sanatorium equipped with health and fitness facilities.

Detailed plans are being mapped up.

UPDATE 2 (2014-6-12): KCNA has formally announced the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone:

Pyongyang, June 12 (KCNA) — The world-class Masikryong Ski Resort and Songdowon International Children’s Camp were successfully built and areas of Wonsan, Ullim Falls, Sokwang Temple and Thongchon are being peculiarly spruced up as cultural recreation grounds for people in Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang area under the wise guidance of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Koreans and world people are showing ever-growing expectation and interest in world famous Mt. Kumgang and other scenic spots. 

The DPRK decided to set up Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone in Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang area in Kangwon Province to reenergize the international tour of scenic spots in the area of Wonsan and scenic spots on the east coast now in the process of turning into world famous tourist destinations.

The international tourist zone includes areas of Wonsan, Masikryong Ski Resort, Ullim Falls, Sokwang Temple, Thongchon and Mt. Kumgang.

The Wonsan area comprises some parts of Wonsan City and Anbyon County, the ski resort area includes some parts of Wonsan City and Popdong County, the area of Ullim Falls comprises some parts of Munchon City and Chonnae County, the area of Sokwang Temple includes some parts of Kosan County, the Thongchon area comprises some parts of Thongchon County and the area of Mt. Kumgang includes the international tourist special zone and some parts of Kosong County and Kumgang County.

The DPRK law on Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Special Zone, the law on economic development zone and the laws related to foreign investment are applied to the relevant areas and objects in the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone.

The DPRK decided to increase new tourist destinations, depending on the progress made in the development of the Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang International Tourist Zone and tour.

The Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly promulgated a relevant decree on June 11.

UPDATE 1 (2013-6-27): The JoongAng Ilbo claims to have a North Korean document called “General blueprint for the Wonsan District”. This document has not been made public, so I cannot vouch for its authenticity or content. However, as reported in the paper, the contents seem fairly congruent with established facts.

According to the article:

According to a document entitled “General blueprint for the Wonsan District” obtained exclusively by the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday, North Korea is in the process of constructing three special districts in Wonsan: a financial district, an entertainment and sports area and a tourist destination.

The report says Kim is planning to develop Songdowon Beach in Wonsan into a holiday destination for summers and a ski resort on Mount Masik for winters. Mount Masik is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Wonsan.

Sources in Seoul say the plan to develop the eastern naval city was actually his father’s.

In fact, in the transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit that was declassified Monday, Kim told former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun that “Wonsan is a holiday destination,” rejecting Roh’s proposal to develop the city into an industrial park like the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“Wonsan is a bay,” Kim said. “Waste comes into the bay and it can’t be properly managed because of Masik Mountain behind the city. So we will shut down all of the factories and shipyards in Wonsan right away.”

Sources said Jong-un might have decided to turn the city into a tourist resort based on the Kumgang resort, which was jointly run with the South but has been closed since July 2008.

“In Wonsan, there are a series of heavy industry factories, such as automobile plants and shipyards,” a source said. “But North Korea has a plan to close the aging factories and turn the city into a resort.”

Sources told the JoongAng Ilbo in March that North Korea appeared to have moved their MiG jet fighters from an airfield in Wonsan to a frontline unit in Kuup. They also reportedly shut down some factories in the city.

Still, the plan obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo didn’t elaborate on the length of construction or the cost.

“North Korea is hoping to lure investment of more than $1 million from a company in Singapore [for the project],” the source said. “Completion of the project relies on whether they attract foreign investment.”

North Korea has already started construction at Mount Masik, starting with a ski slope, three lifts, an office for ski rentals and a hotel. In phase two, it will build a larger slope, a gas station and a golf course.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-2-24): North Korea planning special economic zone in Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang regions
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea announced plans to develop a special tourism zone in the Mount Kumgang region and recently established detailed plans to connect five countries in the Northeast Asian region by land, sea and air routes. In particular, it specified construction plans for the Tongchon Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tongchon County of Kangwon (Gangwon) Province.

Currently, there are four SEZs in North Korea: Rajin-Sonbong (Rason) SEZ, Hwanggumpyong SEZ, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone. Tongchon will be a special case where a free economic trade zone will be located within the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone linking the areas of Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang.

Growing attention is being paid to the “Tongchon Special Economic Zone in the Mt. Kumgang Tourism Zone.” Industrial service facilities will be built in the Tongchon SEZ along the coastline including, “comprehensive industrial, merchandise, and communication service center zone,” “international multipurpose building zone,” “international finance, trade, and business center,” and a golf course.

Construction inland is currently underway for regular and high-tech industrial complexes in the following areas: IT, LCD, and electronics; home electronics; automobile; new energy and environmental protection; and biomedical and breeding.

Tongchon Port is equipped to accommodate 100,000-ton vessels and there are plans of constructing beaches, a marine park, hot springs, and luxury hotels, and vacation homes in the vicinity.

According to a five-page blueprint for the “Choson Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang Development Plan” (in Chinese), North Korea has set 10 million tourists per year as its goal and is preparing to attract large investment of over 10 billion USD over the next ten years.

Although it is unclear who has prepared the blueprint, it is most likely that North Korea has prepared the plan in Chinese to promote the SEZ internationally. North Korea recently distributed briefing materials in Chinese at the 7th China Jilin-Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo (JNIT), which was held last September.

The report included plans of constructing Wonsan International Airport at an estimated cost of 150 million USD.

The ten-year development plan is further divided into three periods: October 2011 to December 2013 (short-term); 2014 to 2016 (mid-term); and 2017 to 2020 (long-term).

In addition, the report included the detailed plans of road and facility renovations. The Pyongyang-Wonsan-Mt. Kumgang highway that stretches 310 km will be renovated with investments worth around 150 million USD. A four-lane highway will also be added. The seaside areas of Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang and the tourism zone will be reconstructed with major facilities and electricity worth 10 billion USD and a new town is also being designed to accommodate a population between 800,000 and 1 million people.

The report “Establishment of International Travel between Mt. Kumgang and Five Countries in Northeast Asia” included details of 18 air routes from Beijing, Changchun, and Shenyang to Wonsan International Airport; 8 sea routes to Nampo Port and the routes from South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the Northern Pacific rim using the port in Mt. Kumgang. In addition, a land route connecting Dandong of China to Mt. Kumgang is also included in the plan, via Shinuiju.

It is designed to develop Mt. Kumgang into an international tourism zone making it accessible by land, sea, and air transportation to South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

Specifically, Niigata Port of Japan, Vladivostok Port of Russia, and Jeju, Busan, and Sokcho Ports of South Korea were mentioned as the major ports for the sea travel to North Korea.

Travelers from China will be connected to Mt. Kumgang by rail (from Wonsan to Mt. Kumgang) and by sea (from Rajin-Sonbong Port to Mt. Kumgang Port).

Interestingly, no land route was designated for travel from South Korea. The previously used Donghae Line to travel from Kosung to Mt. Kumgang by road and railroad was omitted from the plan.

Additional information:

1. Check out previous posts on the DPRK’s “Law on Economic Development Zones“.

2. You can read about the DPRK’s plans for a new Wonsan International Airport in this article and in this article with James Pearson.

Read the full story here:
North is building ski, beach resorts in Wonsan
JoongAng Daily


UN food body approves $200 mn food aid to N. Korea

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

According to Agence France-Presse:

The UN food body on Saturday said it had approved $200 million of food aid for North Korea, targeting the country’s most vulnerable people who remain dependent on external assistance.

The World Food Programme (WFP) executive board has this week approved a new two-year operation for North Korea starting on July 1, WFP spokesman Marcus Prior said.

“It will target about 2.4 million people – almost all children, and pregnant and nursing women – with about 207,000 [206,800] metric tons of food assistance at a cost of US$200 million,” he said in an email to AFP.

The WFP will continue to focus on the nutritional needs of young children and their mothers through food which will be manufactured in the North using ingredients imported by the food body, he said.

“WFP remains very concerned about the long-term intellectual and physical development of young children in particular who are malnourished due to a diet lacking in key proteins, fats and micronutrients,” added Prior.

In March, UN resident coordinator in North Korea Desiree Jongsma said timely imports from the WFP had contributed to avoiding a crisis this year but two thirds of the nation’s 24 million population were still chronically food insecure.

Nearly 28 percent of children under five in the North suffer from chronic malnutrition and four percent are acutely malnourished, according to a UN national nutrition survey last year.

Overall production for the main 2012 harvest and early season crops this year was expected to reach 5.8 million tonnes, up 10 percent on 2011-2012, UN agencies said in November.

But the poverty-stricken country is still struggling to eradicate malnutrition and provide its people with vital protein, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and WFP said.

North Korea suffered regular chronic food shortages under the Kim dynasty, with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts and mismanagement. During a famine in the mid to late-1990s, hundreds of thousands died.

International food aid, especially that from South Korea and the United States, has been drastically cut over the past several years amid tensions over the communist state’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The US last provided food aid to North Korea from late 2008 to March 2009. Some 170,000 tonnes out of an expected 500,000 tonnes was delivered, until Pyongyang expelled US workers monitoring the distribution.

Here is the official announcement.

Quarterly bulletin for WFP’s operation Nutrition Support to Women and Children in DPR Korea (Q1, 2013)

DPRK National Nutrition Survey (October 2012)

Read the full story here:
UN food body approves $200 mn food aid to N. Korea
Agence France-Presse


North Korea making visible progress towards economic reforms

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Under the new leadership of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been making gradual changes with new economic measures. Last year, task force was installed at a state level to configure new economic measures and details are being released one by one.

Details confirmed thus far include the authorities of the administrators of cooperative farms and enterprise are being expanded, which include surpluses can be disposed at the discretion of the administrators of individual organizations. This means voluntary incentives can be now paid to workers to increase production.

The North’s key industries of agricultural and industrial sectors were first to implement such change. The AP reported on April 1, the administrators of cooperative farms and factories were granted the discretionary rights for the promotion of production.

Specifically, the cooperative farms installed smaller work units and each unit of the organization are directly responsible for all the harvest. Whereas all the harvest were required to be sent to the state in the past, surpluses are now can be stored, sold, or exchanged with other goods.

In the case of factories and enterprises, worker’s wages were strictly controlled by the state but after the change, each factory and enterprise can now pay incentives to workers depending on the production results.

Professor Ri Ki Song at the North Korea’s Academy of Social Sciences stated, “individual workers are able to work more to earn more,” and “such policy decision was enforced from April 1 after a period of trial operation.”

New economic measures by the cooperative farms, factories and enterprises that granted each organizations the rights to freely dispose its surpluses is analyzed as an effort to increase production by granting incentives to workers. Increased production is expected to attract active participation of the people in the new economic measures, to achieve a ‘virtuous cycle’ in production.

The increase in goods exchanged between people is changing the existing distribution structure. North Korea is making efforts to ease the planned economy structure in commercial and distribution sectors. In other words, the number and variety of products distributed domestically is increasing and the state is intervening to amend the existing distribution system and strengthen the discretion rights of commercial and industrial institutions.

North Korea’s release of this information regarding the new economic measures to AP and other foreign media after it gained the confidence to properly manage the new economic measure from the successful pilot projects of the new economic measures. However, information released to the foreign media is still limited and changes in other areas including banking and finance sectors remain unknown.


Saving the cranes: Hope flies in North Korea

Friday, June 7th, 2013

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Hall Healy, chairman of the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation, has been engaged for years in the effort to protect the migratory cranes in North Korea and restore their habitats. Since 2008, the group has been raising money and coordinating efforts to help a farming community on the Anbyon Plain, roughly 60 miles north of the DMZ.

Through helping the Anbyon farmers, Healy said they are also helping the cranes. When there’s more food for the farmers, there’s also more rice left over in the fields for the cranes, Healy said. The birds also benefit from a pond that was recently built and stocked with fish.

“You have to work with the people,” Healy said. “And if the people have needs, and they always do, you have to help them first.”

Founded in 1973, the International Crane Foundation works in countries around the world to protect the 15 species of cranes in existence.

The North Korea project — which focuses on the red-crowned and white-naped cranes — has special meaning for Healy, who’s been closely involved since its inception. He’s traveled to the DMZ more than a dozen times, and to the Anbyon Plain twice — most recently in November 2011. He plans to return in the fall.

Anbyon was targeted as a priority area, out of concern that a large wetlands area south of the DMZ, near Seoul, could be developed soon, Healy said. If that development occurs, Anbyon would give cranes a reliable haven.

Over the past five years, the foundation has raised about $200,000, including in-kind services, for machinery, fertilizer, training and building supplies, Healy said. Partnering with other groups — including the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, North Korea, the Anbyon farming cooperative, BirdLife International and the Germany-based Hanns Seidel Foundation — it has turned that relatively small amount of money into significant results, Healy said.

So far, it’s worked out well for the farmers. The primary crop in Anbyon is rice, Healy said, but the farmers are also now planting fruit trees and raising livestock. Organic fertilizer, new machinery and sustainable farming techniques have improved the crop yield and the health of the soil, he said.

On the crane side, it’s still a work in progress. Last winter, cranes circled but did not land in Anbyon. But they landed the two years previous, Healy said, and better results are expected this year.

Wildlife conservation that directly benefits people is becoming a more popular approach, said Jeff Walk, an ornithologist and director of science for the Nature Conservancy in Illinois. And cranes are an excellent focus, he said, because people are naturally drawn to them.

“It’s a good thing. You need that hook with people,” Walk said. “We call them ‘an umbrella species.’ You work to protect them and a whole other community benefits, too.”

Compared with working in other countries, Healy said communication with the North Korean farmers has been limited and indirect. Through the United Nations mission in New York, the International Crane Foundation communicates with the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, instead of directly with the farming cooperative.

Healy worked previously as president of the DMZ Forum, a New York-based group focused on ecological preservation in the DMZ.

Seung-ho Lee, current president of the DMZ Forum, said conservation work in North Korea is inherently “a trust-building process” with people who have been largely cut off from the Western world. The Anbyon project is effective because it yields results without ideology or politics, he said.

“It’s a very useful approach,” Lee said. “To give them a sense of volunteerism and work, but to also give them a real product.”

Previous post on the International Crane Foundation here.

Read the full story here:
Saving the cranes: Hope flies in North Korea
Chicago Tribune
Gregory Trotter


Legal issues for operating or doing business in the DPRK: Implications for NGOs, universities, and business

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013
Where The University Club of Washington, DC
1135 16th Street NW
8:30 AM-1:30 PM

To see the full agenda, click here

Register here (by c.o.b. on June 21)

We are pleased to invite you to participate in an off-the-record symposium, hosted by the National Committee on North Korea and the Export Control and Sanctions Committee of the American Bar Association, on legal compliance issues for U.S. non-governmental organizations, universities, and businesses operating in North Korea or with North Korean citizens.

This half-day symposium will feature panels on U.S. export control and sanctions laws and regulations pertaining to transactions with North Korea; the implications of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for organizations operating in North Korea; and North Korea’s legal system.

Adam Szubin, the Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury, will give the keynote address. Speakers will include James Min on North Korean laws; Susan Kramer and Parvin Huda of the U.S. Department of Commerce; George Kleinfeld from Clifford Chance on OFAC regulations; John H. Wood of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed on the FCPA; and Yuri A. Koshkin, Trident Group and Chris Ferguson, The Risk Advisory Group, will discuss due diligence.

This off-the-record symposium will cover many practical legal aspects of North Korean law, US export control and sanctions as well as anti-bribery laws as they pertain to operating in North Korea or with North Koreans. However, it is informational in nature and is not intended to provide you with specific legal advice, which should be sought independently.


Mansudae Art Studio repaired German fountain

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

According to Bloomberg:

In November 2005, two Germans flew to North Korea on official business. Their goal was not to discuss nuclear disarmament or diplomatic relations. Rather, they went to check on the progress of a sculptural commission: the reconstruction of Frankfurt’s so-called Fairy Tale Fountain, an art nouveau relic from 1910 that had been melted down for its metal during World War II.

Blueprints for the original Fairy Tale Fountain had gone missing, and the City of Frankfurt needed sculptors who could work from old photographs to re-create the naked beauty gazing down on an array of cherubic children and enormous water-spewing reptiles and fish. For this intricate job, the Germans had turned to Pyongyang’s Mansudae Art Studio.

Klaus Klemp, deputy director of Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Art, discovered Mansudae back in 2004 and was impressed enough by the craftsmanship to convince Frankfurt officials to hire the atelier. “It was a purely technical decision,” he says. “The top tier artists in Germany simply don’t make realist work anymore. North Koreans on the other hand haven’t experienced the long evolution of modern art; they are kind of stuck in the early 1900s, which is exactly when this fountain was made.” North Korea’s price tag for reconstructing the ornate bronze fountain was also attractive: €200,000, including shipping and handling.

In Pyongyang, Ministry of Culture officials escorted Klemp and his colleague, Philipp Sturm, to an expansive, well-lit factory space hung with banners touting slogans like, “When the Party Gives Orders, We Execute!” and “Self-Sustenance Is the Only Path To Survival!” There, a full-size plaster model of the German fountain stood among other works-in-progress, including a 25-foot-tall white marble statue of North Korea’s first leader, and a smaller statue of three revolutionary heroes, one of them brandishing an enormous flag.

The quality of the work was impeccable, but the Germans did have one complaint: Their art nouveau fountain had been rendered with a slightly hard, angular communist touch. “The woman had kind of a cement block hairdo,” recalls Sturm. “It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed. We explained to the head sculptor that the socialist realist style wasn’t really in vogue in Frankfurt at the moment. He was very receptive and softened the look accordingly.”

Germany is the only Western democracy to have hired Mansudae’s art army, and it did so before North Korea further sank into isolation by launching the country’s first nuclear and missile tests in 2006. “There’s no question that North Korea was a criminal country, even then,” says Klemp, but Germany at the time hoped a policy of rapprochement might help the Hermit Kingdom embark on a better, more humanitarian path. “It would be very difficult to hire them today,” Klemp says.

Frankfurt’s Fairy Tale Fountain was completed entirely in North Korea, and went off without a hitch. The Germans took precautions early on to supply Mansudae’s sculptors with photos of European children, so the sculptures “wouldn’t end up looking too Korean,” says Klemp. “We knew that could be a problem, but so did they.” Once complete, the fountain got shipped from China to Hamburg, and then trucked to Frankfurt where it was installed. “We were all really pleased with the work,” says Klemp. “Everything was done on time, and everyone we worked with was exceptionally professional and personable … for me, the most interesting part was how normal it all was.”

Read the full story here:
Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory
Caroline Winter


China building new railway lines to DPRK border

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

According to the Wall Street Journal:

On a vast construction site outside this northeastern Chinese city, engineers are working around the clock on a project that could transform the economic—and geopolitical—dynamics of the region: a 223-mile, high-speed rail link to the North Korean border.

The $6.3 billion project is one of three planned high-speed railways designed to bring North Korea closer into China’s economic orbit, even as Beijing supports sanctions aimed at Pyongyang. China is also sinking millions of dollars into new highways and bridges in the area, and the first cross-border power cable.

China’s vision for closer economic integration with North Korea runs counter to a U.S. strategy aimed at piling pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear-weapons program and refrain from further threats.