Archive for the ‘Chongryun’ Category

Pyongyang’s overseas business agents

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

According to the Asahi Shimbun:

Although they feel responsible for the future of their country, they generally work alone in a foreign land. Their family members are kept “hostage,” and they must resort to secretive tactics to bypass international sanctions to feed their leaders’ voracious appetite for Japanese products.

Yet being a trade agent is a favored occupation among North Koreans.

The job allows individuals to live a fairly free life outside of North Korea and can lead to the accumulation of wealth. That is, if everything goes well.

“In the past, the symbol of the wealthy were those Korean nationals who returned from Japan,” a trade agent said. “However, with the suspension of travel by the Man Gyong Bong-92 (cargo-passenger ship that sailed between Japan and North Korea), it has now become the time for trade agents.”

North Korean trade agents in China are under the strict control of Pyongyang.

To be chosen as a trade agent, individuals must have the right background, including not having any family link to the old capitalist class or relatives who are considered anti-state.

They must have also worked for a government institution or major state-run company.

Prospective agents are scouted by trading companies and are only approved by the government after a rigorous background check by state security, Foreign Ministry and other authorities.

Many seeking to become trade agents use their personal connections or even bribes, according to sources.

Trade agents allowed to work in China must leave behind at least one family member in North Korea to deter the agents from defecting.

One trade agent from Pyongyang established a base in a condominium in the central part of a Chinese city. At the start of every day, the agent bows to portraits on the walls of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, and his son, Kim Jong Il, to pray for successful business.

“We have the burden of the nation on our shoulders. We have to use any means possible to turn a profit,” the agent said.

About 300 North Korean trading companies have been confirmed. They are all affiliated with North Korean government agencies or the military.

Sources said Pyongyang has dispatched nearly 1,000 trade agents to Beijing and 600 or so to Shanghai. Major regional cities are also home to between 100 and 200 North Korean trade agents.

Every night, the trade agents must contact supervisors dispatched by the North Korean government to offices in various cities in China. The agents report on their business activities as well as on their personal movements. Those reports are then transmitted to the headquarters of the trading company that dispatched the agents and to related government agencies.

Every Saturday, the agents must gather at the regional offices for study sessions on the instructions and policies of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Depending on the experience of each agent and the size of the operation, between $5,000 (412,000 yen) and $60,000 from profits are transferred to North Korea. The trade agent has to use whatever is left over for future business and daily life.

Many agents barely eke out a living, and those who cannot fulfill the government-set quotas are recalled.

The trade agents sell North Korean mining resources, such as coal and iron ore, lumber and seafood. They buy foodstuffs, pharmaceutical drugs, daily necessities and equipment from China.

According to Chinese government statistics, North Korea’s total trade with China in 2009 reached about $2.68 billion, an increase of 5.5 times over 2000. As North Korea becomes more isolated, its trade dependence on China has soared to 73 percent.

The more elite trade agents are dispatched by state-run trading companies to major Chinese cities, such as Beijing, on long-term commercial visas.

Although they are company employees, the North Koreans are unlike the agents working for Japanese trading companies, who may have a large support staff.

The elite North Korean agents often work alone and handle large projects with huge piles of money handed to them by Pyongyang.

After North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, Japan banned exports of luxury items, such as expensive foods, cars and precious metals, from November 2006. After Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in 2009, Japan banned all exports to North Korea.

Despite the sanctions, high-quality Japanese products remain very popular in North Korea. That means the elite trade agents must find ways around the strict sanctions to buy Japanese products and secretly transport them to North Korea.

Generally, the agents make it look like the Japanese products have been purchased by a Chinese entity.

According to sources, the agents often have Japanese products transported to a bonded district in a Chinese port where duties do not have to be paid. Those products are then loaded onto another ship bound for North Korea.

Another method is to have Japanese products pass Chinese customs and traded among a number of Chinese companies before being purchased for shipment to North Korea.

“Japanese companies have become much more cautious because of the total export ban, so it has become harder to obtain Japanese products. Still, there are ways to purchase such products,” said a Chinese worker who trades with North Korea.

Sources said North Korean demand is particularly strong for Japanese-made pharmaceutical drugs, medical equipment, cars and cosmetics.

“Although Chinese products are cheap and readily available, their reputation is not good because the quality is bad,” a Chinese source said. “There is strong demand among the affluent for Japanese-made drugs and foods.”

The North Korean leadership understands the importance of the traders and their roles.

Sources said that when Kim Jong Il visited China last year, he heard about complaints from Chinese companies that they were not receiving payments from North Korean trade agents.

After returning to North Korea, Kim Jong Il is said to have ordered trade officials to settle the unpaid accounts to restore trust in North Korea.

The sources said sudden payments of such unsettled accounts became more frequent from late last year.

Read the full story here:
Trade agents do the dirty work for Pyongyang
Asahi Shimbun
Daisuke Nishimura


Pyongyang Information Center (PIC)

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Pyongyang Information Center and Annex

* AKA Pyongyang Informatics Center

Choi Sung, Professor of computer science at Namseoul University, writes in the IT Times:

I have been writing about North Korea’s IT industry since the start of this year. In this installment, I would like to introduce North Korea’s major information and communications institution. If the Choson Computer Centre (KCC) is called the centerpiece of North Korea’s IT R&D, Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC) is the mecca of their software development. The PIC, founded on July 15, 1986, was jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Jochongnyeon (the pro-Pyongyang federation of Korean residents in Japan). It is situated in Kyong-Heung dong near the Botong River in Pyongyang.

The PIC was created as the Pyongyang Program Development Company and changed its name to Pyongyang Electronic Calculator Operator in October of 1988 and then again to Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC) in July of 1991. As of now, the best and the brightest of North Korea’s IT talent is developing various kinds of programs and devices at the PIC: nearly 300 IT professionals, who graduated from the North’s most prestigious universities such as Kim Il-sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology and Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), are on the payroll of the PIC.

On the overseas front, the PIC has its branches in China, Japan and Singapore, where PIC IT experts are working on software development, and has teamed up with foreign companies to jointly develop software programs and expedite technology transfers. The PIC, North Korea’s major software developer, has been at the vanguard of these following areas: language information processing, machinery translation, document editing, global IMEs (Input Message Editor), computer-aided design (CAD), networks, database systems, fonts, multimedia, dynamic images, etc. For instance, the PIC’s database development taskforce consists of about 40 IT experts, who are all working on the development of information management systems for production lines, companies and other institutions. The PIC’s publishing group has been engaged in various R&D projects from the development of Chang-Deok, a PC word processor, to DTP (desk top publishing) systems for Mac computers. Last but not least, the PIC’s application software group is keen on CAD, virtual reality and the development of project management devices. The PIC has been developing a plethora of software products: embedded software, CAD, image processing, Korean-language information processing and systems, network management systems, multimedia dynamic images, etc. The PIC’s 3D CAD has been widely employed by North Korean and foreign architectural design companies and more sophisticated versions of it are coming out. What’s more, the PIC is ramping up its joint R&D efforts with overseas IT developers with a focus on the development of diverse image processing programs. Korean-language information processing and systems are about developing the technologies for character recognition, voice recognition, natural language processing and primary retrieval while the development of network management systems includes fire walls, security solutions, encryption, e-commerce, IC cards, instant messenger programs, mobile game programs, etc. They are also working on the development of multimedia and dynamic images: technologies for producing 3D materials, 2D cartoon production and the technology for adding accompaniments to images are being developed. The PIC’s font development team has developed 300 Korean fonts and a myriad of calligraphic styles for imported mobile phones and dot fonts for PDAs.

The PIC has thus far scaled up its IT exchanges with overseas information and technology companies as well as R&D institutions. A case in point is the North-South joint venture, HANA Program Center, which is located in Dandong-si in Liaoning, China and was jointly invested in May of 2001 by the PIC and North-South HANA Biz, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Dasan Network. Another showpiece of the PIC’s effort for joint R&D is the software development for fonts and Chinese character recognition in collaboration with Soltworks (an e-publishing software developer). On top of that, the PIC’s IT exchanges with overseas institutions have been on the rise.

As such, inter-Korean cooperation projects will serve as the driving force behind the PIC’s IT exchanges with South Korea. To that end, non-military sanctions imposed on Pyongyang should be eased, such as the Wassenaar Arrangement (a multilateral export control regime (MECR) with 40 participating states) should be eased to move US – North Korea relations forward and the US’s EAR (Export Administration Regulation) on the North should be scaled back. Above all, IT-initiated unification of the two Koreas should be preceded by pragmatic dialogues with the North and North Korea’s efforts for reaching out to other nations. As of now, the North needs to draw up a future blueprint to embark on phased cooperation with the S. Korean government and companies in a bid to open its doors to the international community.

UPDATE from a reader who has spent some time there:

[T]hey are an interesting institution that not everyone has a chance to see from the inside. What was interesting is that they really work on software for foreign markets (i.e. mobile software for well known international cell network providers). In addition to that they have an impressive library of books on all topics of software development which was up-to-date at the time I visited.

In contrast to the other institutions they immediately showed commercial accomplishments instead of where the leaders have walked. Employees have access to a gym too. A place out of place in Pyongyang. What I found interesting in the article is that the mentioned developments match some of those the KCC presents in their building. The PIC made much more an impression of a service unit for foreign customers than for the country itself. However, they are training hardware specialists for the infrastructure there.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s IT Application Software Development Center – Pyongyang Information Centre (PIC)
IT Times
Choi Sung


KCNA re-launched on DPRK-owned IP address

Monday, December 6th, 2010

UPDATE 4 (12/6/2010): Martyn Williams informs us that the new KCNA web page has undergone a second round of changes:

Also new is the addition of Korean-language articles to the previously-available English and Spanish news.

The front page includes an image, the day’s headlines and links to seven category menus. I had problems with some of the links and the menus when accessed via Firefox, but they function with Internet Explorer.

It still has to be accessed via an ugly all-numeric address but new is a copyright line that states:

Copyright © 2000-2010 by all rights reserved.

This is the first time I’ve seen the name “” The Star could refer to “Star JV,” the DPRK-Thai joint venture that runs the North Korean IP address space. That company is planning to use “” for it’s own homepage. But the “edu” typically signifies an educational domain.

At present all KP domain names remain offline. The German server that was responsible for serving the dot-kp top-level domain has been offline for several months.

Because this is the second of an unknown number of versions, I will call this “new KCNA v2.”

Below is a screen shot of the original version:

Photo from Martyn Williams

UPDATE 3 (10/21/2010): Martyn Williams reports that the South Korean government is now blocking the new North Korean web pages.

Internet users in South Korea had been able to access the website earlier this week, but as of Thursday attempts to connect are redirected to a National Police Agency page that warns the site’s content is prohibited in South Korea.

The blocking isn’t a surprise. About 30 Web sites with North Korean connections have been blocked for several years by the South Korean government. They include a similar site operated from Tokyo that, like the new site, carries news in English and Spanish from the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

UPDATE 2: More in the comments.

UPDATE 1: You can see the new KCNA here (hat tip to “PR”).

ORIGINAL POST: Martyn Williams writes in Computer World:

North Korea appears to have made its first full connection to the Internet. The connection, planning for which has been going on for at least nine months, came as the reclusive country prepares to mark the 65th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea with a massive celebration and military parade.

A Web site for the country’s official news agency [KCNA] was the first to appear from among a group of 1,024 Internet addresses that had been reserved for North Korea but never used. The Korea Central News Agency’s new Web site is different from one operated by a group in Tokyo and carries news and photos a day ahead of the Japanese site.

Other North Korea-linked Web sites and a recently launched Twitter feed operate from locations outside the country or via direct connections to China’s national Internet.

The site appeared as Pyongyang welcomed foreign journalists to the city to observe Sunday’s parade. A press room for the journalists was set up at the Koryo Hotel and reporters were given full access to the Internet. Typically visitors to Pyongyang are only able to make telephone calls or send e-mails through designated computers.

“The North Korean IT guys at the press room really know their stuff. We’re logged on,” wrote Melissa Chan, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, in a Twitter message.

She later appeared live on the channel via a Skype link.

“We have access to Facebook, Twitter and here I am able to Skype with you,” she said.

The access is extraordinary for a country that keeps such tight control on how its citizens communicate.

While Internet access is believed to be available to small group of elite members of the ruling party, the rest of the country is not permitted access to outside sources of news.

Radios are pre-tuned to state broadcasts, magazines and newspapers from other countries are banned and the only Web access available is to a nationwide intranet that doesn’t link to sites outside of the country. As PCs are unusual at home, most access is via terminals in libraries.

The first signs of a greater interest in the Internet came late last year when a batch of Internet addresses, long reserved for North Korea, were assigned to a North Korean-Thai joint venture.

The numeric IP addresses lie at the heart of communication on the Internet. Every computer connected to the network needs its own address so that data can be sent and received by the correct servers and computers. Without them, communication would be impossible.

Frequent monitoring of the addresses by IDG News Service repeatedly failed to turn up any use of them until now.

An analysis of the connection to the news agency Web site shows it is connected to the wider Internet via China Netcom.

It’s impossible to tell if the access given to journalists in Pyongyang marks a turning point in the way the country regulates access to communications, or if it’s simply a courtesy made available to create a good impression among journalists.

The founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea is a big deal for the country every year, but this year is especially important. Kim Jong Eun, son of leader Kim Jong Il, has just taken his first position within the party, which rules North Korea. His appointment to the party’s Central Committee and the Central Military Commission are first steps towards a likely future position as leader of the country.

I have had a hard time locating the new web page (Google has not scraped it), but I will post it here soon.

The KCNA site run by the Chongryon in Japan is here.  The new version also seems to offer both English and Spanish versions.

Read more here:
North Korea opens up Internet for national anniversary
Computer World
Martyn Williams

…and Martyn’s personal web page:


Chongryon losing tax breaks

Friday, August 13th, 2010

According to Asahi:

The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), the main pro-North Korea organization in Japan, is rapidly losing its tax-exempt status on facilities throughout the country.

On Wednesday, the government released the property tax collection practices for Chongryon-related facilities at 130 local governments throughout Japan.

According to officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, no local governments completely exempt Chongryon from paying property taxes on its facilities.

Kushiro in Hokkaido ended its total property tax exemption last fiscal year. It was the last community to grant Chongryon a complete tax exemption. The ministry began its annual surveys in fiscal 2005.

Other municipalities have also toughened property tax collection on Chongryon-related facilities.

Nagoya ended its partial exemption, while the cities of Kyoto, Okayama, Kiryu in Gunma Prefecture and Nishinomiya in Hyogo Prefecture, all effectively raised property taxes on Chongryon facilities.

There are now 94 local governments that no longer reduce property tax amounts for Chongryon facilities, while 30 still have a partial exemption. The remaining six local governments are reviewing their tax policies for the organization.

Local governments previously exempted property taxes on Chongryon’s headquarters and local chapters on the grounds that those facilities were of a public nature.

However, local governments began reviewing their practices after the Supreme Court declared a tax reduction measure by the Kumamoto city government illegal in November 2007.

Among other things, Chongryon serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan.

Read the full story here:
Pro-North Korea group losing tax breaks
Asahi Shimbun


Chongryun on YouTube?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

UPDATE: As noted in the comments and in this post, Uriminzokkiri is run by the North Koreans, not the Chongryun.


The pro-Pyongyang ethnic Korean community in Japan (Chongryun, Chosen Soren) has apparently opend a YouTube channel named “uriminzokkiri” (“On our own as a nation”) where they are uploading pro-DPRK and DPRK-made videos.

The Chongryun operate a number of web pages on behalf of themselves and the North Korean government (, Naenara,,, and more) all of which host video content.  So why open a YouTube account?  All these web pages are blocked in South Korea—so I am wondering if South Korean readers see these YouTube videos? 

UPDATE: Gag notes the following in the comments: “The ‘uriminzokkiri’ account is presumably run by the website of the same name, which links to it. The homepage lists two email addresses on, so I doubt that it’s run by the Chongryon either. (, which is in Japanese, has an email address on its own domain.)

I wonder also whether it is just a matter of time before the US Justice Department/Treasury Department goes knocking on YouTube’s door.  If this account is sponsored by the official Chonryon organization, the US government might have a problem with that.  I suspect, however, that the account is “maintained” by a “private” individual so that it cannot be construed as engagement in a business trade with the DPRK.  In the past, on line chat services owned by Yahoo and Linkedin have been asked to close accounts of individuals in sanctioned countries like the DPRK.  

As of now, the account hosts nearly 40 videos.  Unfortunatley not a single one is of the North Korean evening news.  The North Korean news is usually posted on, but has not been updated since July 26. Rather than running 10 pages poorly, they might consider consolidating and running 2 pages well!

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has apparently registered an account with the iconic U.S. video-sharing site YouTube, uploading clips that praise the isolated regime and defend itself against accusations that it attacked a South Korean warship.

The name in Korean means “on our own as a nation” and was registered July 14.

The uploaded footage contain regurgitations of official cant that honor the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and the usual South Korea bashing. The Aug. 2 upload contained an elaborately produced three-minute clip lashing out at South Korea’s foreign minister.

Another clip, uploaded the same day and also produced in Korean, ridicules Seoul for its failure to stop the U.N. Security Council from placing Pyongyang’s denial in its statement deploring the deadly March sinking of the Cheonan warship.



Chongryon’s Korea University

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

North Korea’s red, white, and blue flag flutters on the campus, signs are written in Hangul, and female students stroll through the corridors wearing the traditional jeogori costume. Professors lecture beneath iconic portraits of the father-and-son hereditary dictatorship that has run the reclusive Stalinist state since 1948.

Roughly 800 miles from P’yongyang in Tokyo’s leafy western suburbs, Korea University is an anomaly, an intellectual oasis in a society that distrusts and even despises the ethnic group it caters to—native Koreans loyal to P’yongyang. The institution has never received financial support or even official recognition from the government of Japan.

The university is part of a network of educational institutions established decades ago to serve the Korean population here. Its students wrestle with politics and computer science but also the philosophy of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and the merits of their isolated country’s fossilized centralized government. Surrounded by one of the planet’s most high-tech cities, undergraduates spend their entire four years in Spartan on-campus dorms designed to encourage shared collective identity.

“Part of what we do here is protect our culture,” said the institution’s president, Chang Byong-tai. “Our country and our identity were stolen from us by Japan.”

While unusual, the university for the most part resembles other higher-education institutions, with some notable exceptions. A tour reveals a quiet campus, with aspiring teachers taking a music lesson and students reading in the library, where yellowed English-language newspapers from P’yongyang sat on shelves.

The university offers a standard range of courses, including languages, history, economics, and hard sciences, and has carved out a niche offering legal and other specialist qualifications to Koreans. It has become an academic pit stop for Korean students on their way to Japanese graduate universities.

Set up in 1956, the university is struggling to survive. Hit hard by the decline in Japan’s Korean population, enrollment has plummeted to just 800 students, down from 1,500 in the mid-1990s. Student fees pay for 70 percent of the institution’s costs; donations and endowment investment earnings pay for the rest. Cash from P’yongyang, once a lifeline, has dried up to a thin, unreliable trickle.

“We’re very worried about the future,” said Mr. Chang.

A Political Punching Bag

Mostly left alone for decades by Japan’s authorities, the institution—like any with connections to North Korea here—has recently become a political punching bag. Ultrarightists have driven up this quiet cul-de-sac and blasted the campus with anti-P’yongyang slogans from loudspeakers. Political conservatives have zeroed in on the roughly 70 P’yongyang-affiliated Korean schools that feed the university, demanding they be excluded from a new tuition-waiver system.

“The atmosphere now is very, very bad,” said Kim Yang-Sun, an administrator at the university. Like most of the staff here, Mr. Kim resents the recent attention, which comes on the back of growing tensions between Tokyo and P’yongyang and what he sees as unfair long-term treatment by the Japanese authorities. “Donations to universities are tax deductible in other parts of the world, but not for us. We have been discriminated against.”

Mr. Kim’s ancestors have been in Japan since its annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910. When occupation ended in 1945, about 700,000 Koreans stayed on rather than return to their homeland, which was then sliding into a war that would eventually split the country into two bitterly opposed states.

These refugees were rendered stateless when Japan’s postwar government ended the citizenship of former colonial subjects in 1947. Well-documented discrimination meant that many found the typical postwar route to prosperity in Japan—lifetime employment in large companies—effectively barred.

When Tokyo normalized relations with South Korea in 1965, Koreans in Japan had to choose essentially an administrative category—to opt for life as a South Korean with permanent residency or to leave the word “Korean” on their alien-registration cards and so become de facto North Koreans. Most declined South Korean citizenship—ironic given that the vast majority originates from the geographic south. South Korea was then a poor dictatorship backed by the United States, while North Korea, though offering little freedom, at least boasted the rhetoric of a “workers’ state.”

“Koreans in Japan were very poor and had no civil rights, so it was a big deal that there was a nation that regarded them as fellow compatriots, that gave them help, and funded this university,” said Sonia Ryang, a professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Iowa.

Today at the university, the grandchildren of those first-generation Koreans struggle with profound identity issues. Many distrust the Kim Jong-il regime but remain loyal out of respect for their parents or the desire to preserve their cultural heritage.

“The reputation of the university is less important that what we study here,” said Ho Tae-jung, a political-economy student. “I’m a Korean, and I want to protect my culture, language, and identity. That’s why my parents and I chose this place.”

Said Ms. Ryang: “They do an amazing job of maintaining Korean culture in a hostile environment.”

Those familiar with the university say one of its unofficial roles is to act as an ethnic matchmaking service. “Most of us want to marry a Korean and have Korean children,” said Yun Minna, a third-year law and politics student at the college.

“I don’t hate Japan, but when you see how our community is getting smaller, it would be better to marry a Korean,” said Mr. Ho.

‘Education Gives Us Pride’

But many Japanese view the community and the college with mistrust since the 2002 revelation that the North Korean military had been kidnapping Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s in a bizarre plot to train spies. News-media interest, often prurient, has grown as relations have deteriorated with P’yongyang, which recently became a nuclear power. For conservatives, the university and the rest of North Korean network in Japan are a sort of Trojan horse, breeding disloyalty and even incubating spies. Students and graduates respond that they are the victims of McCarthy-style persecution.

“I don’t talk anymore to the Japanese media because I’m sick and tired of how they portray us,” said Chung Hyon Suk, a graduate of the university who now supervises press events at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Like most students who have graduated from the university, she says there are huge misconceptions about what goes on there. “Students discuss Marx and Lenin, of course, but they can talk very freely and criticize the [P’yongyang] government. A lot of us feel inferior, so education helped give us pride as Koreans, in our language and culture.”

Said Ms. Ryang, who is also a graduate of the university: “Depending on the occasion, students felt free to make jokes about North Korea, but by the same token, again depending on the occasion, students were able to conform with university orthodoxy, upholding North Korea as their glorious fatherland.”

With over 10,000 Koreans a year either assuming Japanese citizenship or swapping their affiliation to South Korea, according to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the minority community served by the university is shrinking, from a peak of 700,000 to just over 400,000. Many parents are sending their children to Japanese schools. For some, that’s an opportunity to bury the past completely and scrap their Korean names and identities.

“We have heard cases of schoolchildren finding photographs of their grandparents wearing Korean dress and being astonished at this background,” said Moogwi Kim, of the Korean Youth Association in Japan. “Their parents kept it from them.”

Mr. Chang, the university’s president, believes that government recognition as a foreign university, which is currently afforded very few Japanese universities, and allowing donations to be tax deductible might help his institution survive.

Ms. Ryang, however, wonders if the university would really welcome recognition by the government. “If it were recognized, it would have to receive periodic inspections, comply with certain levels of transparency, and it has no experience of that.”

She said few people understand how isolated the community and the university felt. “Japan is not a violently segregated community; it’s politely segregated. Until 1981 we were not able to travel outside Japan. I never had Japanese friends when I was a kid. That’s changing now, and the university is within reach of globalization, but is it ready for that?”

Read the full story here:
In Japan, a North Korean Campus Keeps National Identity Alive
Chronicle of Higher Education
David McNeill


Chongryon headquarters on block after ruling

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled that Chongryon headquarters are a legitimate Chongryon asset which may be seized and auctioned as part of proceedings to recover loans made by a defunct credit union to the organization, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday.

A collection agency recently took over a number of bonds issued by the bankrupt Joeun Credit Union, which loaned around $700 million to Chongryon, the organization of North Koreans in Japan. The agency then announced its intention to pursue collection by putting Chongryon headquarters land and buildings in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo up for auction.

However, since the land and buildings are registered under a separate firm, Chosun Central Hall Management Association, the collection agency was required to file a lawsuit to get the necessary recognition of its right to seizure.

The court initially dismissed the collection agency’s claim on the grounds that the assets are held by a separate entity, but accepted, “It is possible to seize (the assets) if they can be shown to be actual Chongryon assets.”

Therefore, the collection agency filed a separate lawsuit to ask for recognition of the Chongryon headquarters estate and buildings as such an asset, and the Supreme Court has now ruled in its favor.

If the judgment is allowed to stand, the collection agency will be able to legally seize the estate and buildings of the Chongryon headquarters, adding to the organizations mounting woes.

Read the full story here:
Chongryon HQ on Block after Ruling
Daily NK
Yang Jung A


What happened to Naenara and .kp?

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Is anyone else out there having trouble accessing the Naenara site (aside from those of you in South Korea)?

The North Korean web service, Naenara (Wikipedia page here, though not much info), used to be posted on two domains: and  It looks like these sites are down—as well as their foreign language services: /en (English), /fr (French), /ja (Japanese), /ru (Russian), /ko (Korean), /ch (Chinese).

In addition, the Korea Education Fund site is also down ( I picked up one of their brochures last time I visited the DPRK and posted it here.

..and the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (CCRFC or Taemun) web page is also down:

A quick search of the .kp domain (The DPRK’s country level domain assigned by ICANN) reveals only three other functional web pages:

1. The domain registry lookup site:

2. KPNIC domain registration guidelines (which are well worth reading):

3. And this document:

조선민주주의인민공화국 망령역이름

1. 변경신청목적
2. 변경신청기관명
3. 변경신청기관주소

1. 등록된 망령역이름
2. 변경하는 망령역이름
3. 신청자
3. 변경신청기관의 영문표기
4. 변경신청기관의 영문략자표기


Japan, USA extend DPRK sanctions

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

According to Business Week:

Japan will tighten controls on sending money to North Korea next month as part of additional sanctions in response to a suspected sinking of a South Korean warship.

The cap on undeclared cash transfers will be lowered to 3 million yen ($32,800) from 10 million yen, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance.

The ministry also will reduce the amount of money an individual can take into North Korea to 100,000 yen from 300,000 yen. The change will take effect on July 6, the statement said.

Read the full story here:
Japan to Tighten Control on Sending Cash to North Korea
Business Week
Kyoko Shimodoi and Keiko Ujikane

According to the White House web page:


Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, is to continue in effect beyond June 26, 2010.

The existence and the risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula constitute a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency and maintain certain restrictions with respect to North Korea and North Korean nationals.


June 14, 2010.


North Korea Looking to Makkoli Business

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Daily NK
Hwang Ju Hee

Showing Pyongyang’s desire to reach new markets, Uriminzokkiri (Being amongst Our Nation), a website managed by the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, recently covered “Rakbaek Makkoli,” taking its lead from an article published in the latest issue of monthly domestic publication “Deungdae” (Lighthouse).

Makkoli is a traditional Korean drink made from fermented rice which has its roots in agricultural areas. Recently it has experienced a resurgence of popularity in South Korea.

The Uriminzokkiri report explained of the North Korean makkoli, “The makkoli produced by Rakwon Department Store in Pyongyang is a healthy beverage and good to drink. It is consumed internationally as well as domestically.”

Given that Uriminzokkiri is targeted at South Koreans, the appearance of “Rakbaek Makkoli” looks like an attempt to profit from the thriving South Korean makkoli business.

Although North Korea has exported “Pyongyang Soju” to the U.S., Japan and China in the past, consumers didn’t take to it due to its expensive price and strong taste. Therefore, North Korea may be looking to makkoli.

One defector, who used to be involved in trade in North Korea, explained in an interview with The Daily NK, “Bottled makkoli is thought of as a luxury beverage, but the general populace can drink it only on holidays when the state distributes it.”

He added, “But the common people, especially those who live in agricultural areas, brew their own with spoiled rice or bread and yeast. Cadres don’t usually drink this.”

The South Korean makkoli industry is thriving under the influence of a South Korean cultural wave which is in evidence in Japan, China, Taiwan and even as far away as the U.S. The most famous traditional makkoli, which is made in the southwest provinces of South Korea, has recently begun to be produced for export, while marketing men in Seoul recently hit upon calling makkoli “Drunken Rice” in an attempt to forge an international makkoli brand image.

To that end, makkoli has been promoted several times at summits and other international events by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.