Archive for the ‘Maebong Company’ Category

Friday Fun: Some new North Korean art

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Although the Korea-watching world is focused on Tongchang-ri at the moment, I thought I would offer a mild distraction this Friday with some rarely-see-by-the-outside-world North Korean art. (A big thanks to a reader for these).

On display in the Mansudae Art Studio (the DPRK’s premier art studio) at this very minute, “The girl with the cell-phone”:

Click image for larger version

And below we have a painting from a book on the art exhibition on the 65th birthday of the Korean Worker’s Party.  The painting is called “Sarangeui jib” (English title: “House of affection”):

Click image for larger version

I bet the painter was a man.

Blogging has been light as I try to clear a big project from my plate. I will play catch up on Tonchang-ri, SPA, KWP , and Google Earth this weekend.

For an additional smile, KCNA has an article today titled, “North Korea Launches Satellite of Love”.


Maebong Company-Ringleaders of Foreign Currency

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Daily NK
Han Young Jin

(UPDATE: On Oct. 23, [2008] the State Department blacklisted two North Korean companies, Korea Mining Development Corp. and Korea Taesong Trading Co., for violating U.S. bans on the sale of equipment used in building missiles or other weapons of mass destruction to Iran and Syria. Citation: “North Korean Plane Was Grounded at U.S. Request “, Wall Street Journal, Jay Solomon, 11/1/2008 )

Daesung Trading Company and Maebong Company, Two Pillars of North Korea’s foreign currency

In the 80~90’s, the aim of the People’s Army of North Korea was to make foreign currency and consequently, each division of the government began to operate trading companies. However, there were many kinds of trading companies.

The Maebong Company under the General Staff which was established in the 80’s, Birobong Trading Company, Yongsung Trading Company, Manpoong Trading Company and Danpoong Trading Company founded in the 90’s, all under the top 5 trading companies in North Korea. Of these, Maebong Company is the most well-known; once also known as Kwangmyung Trading Company until 2000.

Following “Military First Politics,” Maebong Company became one of North Korea’s active traders with Daesung Trading Company belonging to the Worker’s Party Division 39.

One of the reasons that the military became directly involved in foreign currency came from the fact that the nation was unable to acquire the necessary war supplies itself due to the economic crisis. Further, as the Soviet Union and the East European bloc collapsed, trade was changed from bartering goods to dollars and hence, North Korea was in a dire state of insufficient currency.

Presently, the Maebong Company’s main office is in Pyongyang with branches throughout the country such as the border districts of Shinuiju, Haesan and Hoiryeong.

In order to attract powerful Chinese traders, Maebong Company only appoints those who have experience with foreign money as regional directors such as North Korean citizens with relatives in China. After giving the title of regional director, a permit is given. Though the regional director is registered as a tradesman for the military, actually he/she is in fact not a soldier.

With a certificate which states their position of foreign tradesmen, regional directors have the privilege of freely entering and exiting China.

Trading branches in each city, trading with Japan in the opensea

Trading partners are mostly China and Japan. Traders from Maebong Company dealing with China exchange goods such as second hand cars, medicinal herbs, silk cocoons and seafood.

With copies of Kim Jong Il’s orders distributed by Maebong Company, trading partners are able to transport secured goods supplied by foreign currency directors as far as the border regions without much difficultly from security posts.

One defector from Shinuiju said “In 1995, hundreds of trading companies were established in Shinuiju… Maebong Company was one of these companies which served as a shabby storage factory stocking 10tons of flour and medicinal herbs in which people could exchange for aluminum. At that time, these people who were called foreign currency directors wore overcoats made of dogs fur and rode second hand bicycles made in Japan.”

At one point, Maebong Company illegally sold second hand cars along the border region and gained considerable income. Nowadays, medicinal herbs and minerals are more popular and whereas more of the traders from the West Coast export seafood such as shells and razor clams to China, expectedly, export seafood to Japan occurs mainly on the East Coast.

Conceal illegal foreign currency, smuggling of gold prohibited

In 1997, authorities conducted a thorough investigation against traders in order to straighten the chaotic mess created by border tradesmen. After the investigation, Kim Jong Il ordered every trading company to be merged under the control of each agency. As a result, trading companies which had once been organized by the military divisions were disintegrated and became incorporated as part of the Maebong Company, now an integrated trading group.

After becoming a director for Maebong Company in Hoiryeong, “Kim” who had once lived a tough life is now known to be one of the richest people living in the area, frequently traveling to China.

According to one defector who had worked under the Korea Service Bureau of Workers’ Party division 16, there were 6 employees at the Hoiryeong Maebong Company located in Manghyang, which planned to earn $100,000 annually. Also, additional funds are kept in celebration of national events such as Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s birthday.

There is a great number of Maebong Company employees who engage in corrupt activity and ultimately are defaced. There is a saying in North Korea, “earning foreign currency is educational punishment,” meaning that though earning foreign currency is an occupation preferred by the many, it does at the same time involve greatest risk. In 1997, an investigation was made targeting central authorities. Many of these directors in charge ended up receiving severe punishment.

Once, “Park” a director of Shinuiju Maebong Company was convicted under the suspicion of depositing foreign currency into a Chinese bank and while undergoing the preliminary hearing was known to have attempted self-injury by swallowing a spoon. On another occasion, ‘Kim’ of Chongjin Maebong Company was known to have been executed for being involved in a case of smuggling gold.


Chairwoman of Women’s Union Caught With Drugs Unsettles Hoiryeong

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Daly NK
Kim Young Jin

Chairwoman for Hoiryeong City’s North Korean Democratic Women’s Union, Suh Kyung Hee’s husband “K” has been dealing with drugs since the moment he managed his company, Maebong Company. However, as central authorities began to centralize businesses since last year, the company closed its doors and “K” adopted his driver “L” as drug runner and his daughter as the treasurer in charge of distributing illicit drugs to smugglers at wholesale costs to districts such as Musan, Hoiryeong and Onsung.

According to a source in Hoiryeong, K and his driver L had been in confrontation with one another since January. In the past K had procured his drugs from Chongjin and moved them to a base in Hoiryeong. Then, the drugs would be either sold to border smugglers or sold to Chinese tradesmen.

Here is where the conflict surfaced. While, L was in charge of delivering the drugs from Chongjin to Hoiryeong, K became suspicious that L was secretly hoarding the drugs elsewhere. Hence, K conducted an investigation trailing L’s steps at which a disagreement arose.

In early Feb, L voluntarily went to North Hamkyung Security Agency in Chongjin and exposed that Chairwoman Suh’s family had been disclosing in drug dealings. The motive behind L indicting Chairwoman Suh’s family is still unknown.

Some argue that the reason L went straight to the district security office and not the city office in Hoiryeong was because of Chairwoman Suh’s hierarchical position in Hoiryeong city. If L had carelessly reported this case to the city office, it is possible that L would have simply lost his self-dignity.

At present, it seems that rumors about this case are spreading rapidly across Hoiryeong creating unsettling feelings in the city.

People of Hoiryeong city are muttering “High officials must also be shown the seriousness of law,” criticizing Chairwoman Suh’s family for concealing such large amounts of dollars and yuan also Chairwoman Suh, who as the leader of the Women’s Union would advocate severe punishment for female defectors.

100g of North Korean drugs sell for 12,000 yuan

North Korean citizen Park Jong Shim (pseudonym, Sanup-dong, Hoiryeong) who lives in the same suburb as Chairwoman Suh, said in a telephone conversation with a reporter on the 26th “The whole city is raucous because of Chairwoman Suh’s story” and informed “Some people say that the power of law will be enforced properly this time as the district security agency has been involved. On the other hand, some question whether or not those people with so much money and power will be punished according to law, despite the district office being involved.”

Hoiryeong citizen Kang Eun Soon (pseudonym) who defected to China in January said “If I think about the times when Chairwoman Suh would go around making a racket, my teeth rattle.” Like second nature, Chairwoman Suh would prowl around advocating, “With the slightest nudge, Hoiryeong women jump to China, not only defiling their bodies but dishonoring the land where mother Kim Jong Sook (Kim Jong Il’s mother) was born.”

Kang said “Usually, Suh would conduct political meetings through her Women’s Union and argue that the reason there was so many public trials for border crossers and illegal acts in Hoiryeong was due to the fact that women could not look after their family. She would say that Hoiryeong women were obsessed over money and would go to any lengths to get this becoming shallow-minded people.”

“Even if a verdict was made stating that Chairwoman Suh was not linked to the drug dealings, she would still not be able to maintain her position because of all the things she has said in the past,” Kang added.

The drug known as “ice” made in North Korea is sold to Korea, Japan and even Macau through the intermediary of China. The drug “ice” as known to defectors, originated from the Heung Nam Pharmaceutical Company.

Though the going rate for “ice” differs according to quality, 100g of high-quality ice is 12,000 yuan, 9,000~10,000 yuan for standard and 7,000 yuan for low-quality ice.

In accordance with North Korea’s legislation Article 218 amended in April 2004, any person found producing or trading drugs is sentenced to a maximum of 5 years time at the Labor Education Camp. If this act has been repeated on numerous occasions or the drug dealings were large scale, a person could be sentenced to 5~10 years at the Labor Education Camp. If the conditions are even more severe, the law clearly states that a person could then be sentenced to more than 10 years time at the Labor Education Camp or sent to the Labor Education Camp for life.