Archive for the ‘Mansudae Overseas Development Group’ Category

Art in the DPRK

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

The Art Newspaper  published an interesting piece on how artists are trained and art is produced in the DPRK.

On artistic training:

All DPRK artists are members of state-run studio complexes where the art is actually created, and every artist has a formal ranking. These start at level C, move up through B and A, followed by “Merited Artists”, then “People’s Artist”. There are around 50 “Merited Artists” still working today and perhaps 20 “People’s Artists”, the best known being Son U Yong, Kim Chun Jon, Jong Chang Mo, Li Chang and Li Gyong Nam. Almost all artists working in oil and brush-and-ink are men but there are exceptions—for example Kim Song Hui, well known for her brush-and-ink work, is also a People’s Artist. There is also the Kim Il Sung Prize but artists normally have to be at least over 50 to receive this highest accolade, the most famous recipient being Jong Yong Man.

The top art institute is the Pyongyang University of Fine Art with various sections: brush-and-ink, oil, sculpture, ceramics, mural painting and industrial arts. Young artists are selected from around the country and if they are judged sufficiently skilled they will study here. Pyongyang University requires a minimum of five years study: at the moment there are 7-10 students studying oil painting and around 20 studying Korean brush-and-ink painting. In total there are around 150 students a year in the fine art department. Students enjoy class outings to local factories and much time is devoted to object and life drawing although not with nude models but, for example, girls in swimming costumes.

After finishing university the students are selected by various art studios—the Paekho or Central Art Studio, the Songhwa established in 1997 for retired artists, and the most active studio-compound, the Mansudae in Pyongyang.

On artistic style:

The art itself looks like classic Social Realist propaganda, that Beaux Arts technical tradition received through Russia, maintained by the Soviet Union and now, with the transformation of China, only being practised in North Korea, unchanged for more than 50 years. Abstract painting does not exist as it is deemed bourgeois and anti-revolutionary, and if some representational art can be purely aesthetic without political overtones, many landscapes do portray places of the revolution or of political significance.

Obedience to the ideology and excellence in its clear communication to others are what matter rather than any individual glory. This ensures an anonymity to much DPRK production that only its cognoscenti can penetrate. Experts can not only assign an artist’s name to a work, they can also determine whether it is an “original” or one of endless “copies” of an image.

Ever since the founding of the state in 1948, certain themes have maintained their place in the officially approved iconography of the “Fatherland” and it is hard to establish which artist first produced a specific image and when. These same images can be reproduced countless times over the decades. Thus much detective work is required to trace the origin of an image, the only real source being the annual “Yearbook” cataloguing official production.

As [Nick] Bonner explains: “The skill level is very high in academic drawing and painting, but the production is massive and it’s hard to find ‘pure’ pieces, you have to know the provenance or where things were first found.” Indeed, even the museums display copies, ostensibly to “preserve” the quality of the originals kept in storage.

More information on the Mansudae Art Company:

Here visitors, especially foreign tourists, are welcome to see the artists working in their small studios, watch the instructional video on the operation of the company, and buy some work from the large gift shop. Prices at the very top end for a “People’s Artist” can reach as high as €15,000, the favoured currency for all foreign transactions.

Woodblocks are a North Korean speciality, though nowadays they have been almost entirely replaced by lino prints with an attractive rich ink finish. The first ever exhibition of such prints in the United States, loaned from Bonner’s collection, opened last year at New York’s Korea Society, which is currently touring through the country. Initial editions are often very small, less than ten, but if the image proves popular the lino is either re-cut by the same artist or by a “copy” artist and signed by him.

At Mansudae there are also small-scale ceramic sculptures available, naturally of a propagandist nature, as well as more classical ceramics. There is even a startlingly realistic sculpture, reminiscent of Duane Hanson, of North Korea’s most famous ceramicist Uchi Soun (1919-2003) and examples of his widely-exhibited work for as much as €10,000 a pot. There are also striking large-scale figurative watercolours on paper and the highest-quality work, local ink paintings called “Chosonhwa”, some of which will be “thematic art” on revolutionary themes, as each artist will produce at least one a year for the state to show his support for the country. Mansudae employs some 150 of these ink-artists, compared with perhaps 60 oil painters. With some 1,000 members Mansudae produces at least 4,000 top level original works a year, though it also has a factory-style section producing copies for western hotels. Employees, who work a five day eight-hour week, are paid, dependent on level, at a similar rate to the national average, €35 a month for a worker and €70 for a technician.

More information on art in the DPRK: 

1. The Paekho Art Studio has partnered with Felix Abt to sell their art internationally.  Their web page is here.   The Mansudae Art Studio also launched a web page (click here).

2. Nick Bonner has a huge collection of North Korean art.  I have seen quite a bit of it, and it is impressive.  He also sells North Korean art through the Pyongyang Art Studio.

3. There are a couple of books on North Korean Art.  They are very different: North Korean Posters: The David Heather Collection and Art Under Control in North Korea.

4. (h/t Werner) The Mansudae Overseas Development Group, which has been building monuments and buildings across the developing world (mostly in Africa) is part of the Mansudae Art Studio.  

Read more below:
Inside the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea
The Art newspaper
Adrian Dannatt


North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here


The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).

DPRK relic in Ethiopia

Thursday, January 29th, 2009


The Dialachin Monument (a.k.a. Victory Monument, Derg Monument) was a gift from Pyongyang to Addis Ababa’s Derg regime in the 1970s.

You can see the location of the monument in Wikimapia here.

You can learn more about the Derg here.

See more photos of the monument here.

*This location will be added to the next version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth).  If readers are aware of other construction projects the DPRK has supported, please let me know.  I am especially interested in locating the North Korean restaurants in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.  Are there others?


Nautilus Institute: DPRK Reform and PRC relations

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Policy Forum Online 06-70A: August 23rd, 2006
DPRK’s Reform and Sino-DPRK Economic Cooperation

Analysis by Li Dunqiu

I. Introduction
II. Analysis by Yi Li Dunqiu
I. Introduction
Li Dunqiu, Director of Division of Korean Peninsular Studies at the Institute of World Development Center of Development Studies, writes, “Sino-DPRK economic cooperation is growing in depth and width but both sides adopt a low-profile and practical attitude… In fact Chinese enterprises, both private and state-owned, are looking for greater room for their future development as a result of the constantly improving market economy in China. Amid such backdrop, the DPRK naturally becomes their target…It is not difficult to see that laws of the market economy are the most fundamental reason behind Chinese enterprises’ investment in DPRK.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Nautilus Institute. Readers should note that Nautilus seeks a diversity of views and opinions on contentious topics in order to identify common ground.

II. Analysis by Li Dunqiu
– DPRK’s Reform and Sino-DPRK Economic Cooperation
by Li Dunqiu
DPRK’s change is by no means accidental. It has its profound international and domestic backgrounds. DPRK has made tremendous efforts in shackling off the shadow of the Cold War and integrating into the constantly changing international community, but with little result. Leaders of DPRK have no choice but to explore a new way that suits its country. Amid this backdrop, DPRK is slowly but steadily promoting its reform, which is low-profile but pragmatic.

From the end of 1990s, DPRK has begun to make adjustments to its economic theories and policies, putting forward such new views and propositions as pragmatism, building a strong socialist country, focusing science and technology, new concepts and improving economic management modes. A series of “Measures to Improve Economic Management Order” was issued on 1 July 2002. The adjustment this time, comparing with previous ones, was strong in enforcement and wide in the areas involved, thus injecting new impetus in its economic recovery and development. Though DPRK’s economic reform is only introducing rational elements of the market economy to make up pitfalls of its planned economy with the prerequisite of adhering to the latter, it should be commended as a major innovation in DPRK’s theories and practice in building socialism. Early this year, we saw new phenomenon from the DPRK side. It started with Kim Jong Il ‘s visit to China accompanied by premiers of the State Council in mid-January to learn the successful experience of China’s reform and opening up, followed by Chang Song-taek’s eleven-day China inspection tour accompanied by over thirty high-ranking economic officials, and then Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju’s elaboration of this year main tasks in economic work on the Fourth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Supreme People’s Congress. These new changes were not only widely reported but also aroused great interest among the international community in the country’s economic changes.

I. DPRK’s Guiding Principle Undergoing Quiet Changes.

Basic Theories of DPRK’s Economic Reform

At present DPRK has not yet established systemic theories to guide its economic reform. But Chairman Kim Jong Il has proposed new ideas which have become the basis for its economic reform.


It was first proposed by Kim Jong Il after he became General Secretary of the DPRK Labor Party. There is no works which systematically elaborates Pragmatism. But according to economists from DPRK, pragmatism has two meanings, i.e. to bring actual benefits for the people, and to be profit-oriented instead of suffering losses. The former is the principle while the latter is the detailed content.

To follow the rule of pragmatism in economy is to seek economic benefits and for companies to make profits. To this end, the Fiscal Law amended by DPRK in April 2004 changed the ultimate goal of companies from “reducing cost” to “increasing net income”, so as to help them be profit-oriented. At present, pragmatism is the principle that must be followed in all DPRK’s economic work. Its economists have vividly compared it with China’s “seeking truth from facts”. It is fair to say that pragmatism will become theoretic basis for people in DPRK to liberate their minds and promote economic reform.

Theory with Economic Development at the Core

The strategy that DPRK has established with economic development at the core is mainly embodied in its goal of “building a strong socialist country”. Entering into the new century, DPRK has proposed three targets including building its country into a strong military, political and economic power. It maintains that it has already achieved the first two with the third one yet to achieve. As a result, the goal of “building a strong socialist country” means that economic development is its core task at the moment.

Theory of “New Thinking”

Labor News, DPRK People’s Army and Young Pioneers DPRK, in their joint editorials on the New Year Day of 2001, put forward the “new thinking”, stressing that “priorities at the moment were fundamental changes in ideas, ways of thinking, styles of struggle and work to meet requirements of the modern times”. Chairman Kim Jong Il also pointed out that, having entered the modern times, it is necessary to update thinking according to the new times instead of living the old way on the basis of the past, and that they should boldly abandon those that should be abandoned instead of being restricted to the old ideas and sticking to the past and the outdated. “In the 21st century efforts should be made to approach and solve all questions with new ideas and from new height.” In addition, DPRK’s Labor News pointed it out in its editorials that “they should be bold in reform”, “further improve DPRK’s economic management system to meet the requirement of the new environment and new atmosphere”, and that priorities for the Labor Party in the 21st century is to ensure that the ideas, ways of thinking and working styles conform with the requirement of the new century.

Approach the Word “Reform” with Prudence

Though DPRK introduced elements of the market economy through constitutional amendments in 1998 and consequently adopted some reform measures, it strongly dislikes such words as “reform” and “opening up” and they are forbidden in the adjustment of its economic policies.

Despite this, the essence is “reform”, though different in word, evidenced in their newly issued policies for economic adjustment which were targeted at the outdated demands and practices that were divorced from reality. DPRK’s Labor News pointed it out in an article entitled “On the Rules of Socialist Economic Development” on 21 November 2001 that “those who manage the economy, i.e. people of DPRK, do not have enough experience, there are still room for improvement and perfection due to short history of socialism, and that the economy cannot be developed if those that are outdated, backward and separated from reality are not abandoned.” It is clear that this kind of “abandoning” has the implication of “reform”. Therefore it is reform unsuitable for DPRK instead “reform” itself that it is opposed to. In fact it is nonetheless progressing with economic reform both in theory and in practice in spite of it all. It was not until June 2003 that DPRK’s Central News Agency finally used the word “reform” though it quickly dropped the word again. The reason behind its prudence with the word “reform” is because it once openly expressed its opposition to and criticism against reform in China and former Soviet Union in its major official media.

Learn Reform Experience from Foreign Countries

DPRK’s supreme leader Kim Jong Il has visited China for four times since 2000, most of which were aimed at inspecting China’s economy. His unofficial visit to China from 10 to 18 January 2006 and inspection of China’s economic work in Beijing, Hubei and Guangdong Provinces attracted great attention from the international community.

The nine-day visit in China was rich in content, clear in objective and profound in significance. Kim brought his team to Beijing, Wuhan, Yichang, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and they listened carefully to introductions made by government officials and companies managers in those provinces and cities, with the aim of learning and drawing upon China’s experience. He was deeply touched and impressed and even had “sleepless night” when he arrived in Beijing following the tour in China’s south. He said that he was unwilling to see the current situation in DPRK and hoped to see further progress in its economic and social development by absorbing the vigor and vitality from the market economy while continuing its planned economy; that he hoped to learn from China and do a good job in DPRK’s future economic development by combining its national conditions with actual situation. It was the first time for him to voice such opinions, indicating that leaders of DPRK were transforming their mode of thinking, acknowledging and accepting China’s development concepts; and that they were exploring laws of economic development in order to prepare for profound and comprehensive reform with DPRK style.

It is more important to note that the visit gave him a chance to see the fact that China’s reform had neither weakened the leading role of the Chinese Communist Party nor aroused social upheaval. It had instead enhanced the reputation of the Communist Party and its international influence, which removed his worry that reform and opening up might undermine the stability of the authorities. Shock waves continued among the high-level officials after he came back from the visit. Unprecedented views were voiced and new explanations made on major theoretic questions like what was socialism, how to evaluate capitalism. High-level officials were asked to theoretically keep abreast with the times and unify their thinking.

Only two months later, Chang Song-taek, First Deputy Minister of the Department of People’s Group and Capital Construction of the Central Committee of the DPRK Labor Party, headed an “expert team” of over thirty high-ranking economic officials to the places that Kim had just visited. His 11-day visit was yet another demonstration of DPRK’s aspiration to learn from China. In addition, DPRK also sent various economic delegations to China to study its experience in reform. It started to send trainees to China, Viet Nam and countries in Europe since its economic reform in 2002, equipping them with knowledge of market economy, finance, trade and hi-tech in particular. It thus started its nationwide campaign from the top down to study economics.

II. DPRK’s Economy and Current Policy Options

From 2000 DPRK has gained positive economic growth from the previous negative one. Of course the rate was very low, around 0.5%–1% for six years in running. Some estimated that growth rate in 2005 reached 2%, an opinion shared by some DPRK officials though genuine figures were hard to obtain in the country. DPRK’s economy has recovered and is poised to continue its steady growth in 2006.

There are two sets of mechanisms in DPRK, i.e. the military and the civilian. The most important economic sectors are controlled by the military, a noticeable feature of its economy. Strength and efficiency of the factories run by the military are higher than their civilian counterparts. Take the Taean Glass Factory for example. It was built with the assistance of the Chinese Government. At first a civilian factory was designated but its workers were low in efficiency and poor in quality, with which the Chinese side became dissatisfied. Consequently a military factory took up the role and all went well afterwards. With good cooperation, the project was successfully completed. This example showed that talents of economic development are mostly with DPRK’s military. It is therefore, like China in its first phase of reform and opening up, formulating policy to transform some military factories into civilian ones to support local economic growth.

All signs show that economic work has become the priority of DPRK. Leaders of the country and the Labor Party are concentrating their time and efforts on economic work. Main measures for this year are as follows:

Agriculture is the main task of this year’s economic development.

The Fourth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Supreme People’s Congress was convened on 11 April, on which Premier Pak Pong Ju delivered a report entitled Review of Work in 2005 and Plan for 2006. He stressed that the central task of the economic development for this year was “to develop agriculture in a decisive manner to successfully solve the food problem for the people in DPRK”.

In recent years DPRK has always taken agriculture as the “primary task” of its economic development. In order to solve food shortage it launched “Potato Revolution” and “Seed Revolution” in 2001, advocating the growth of agricultural crops with short mature periods and great harvests. Agricultural technicians cultivated new breeds of potatoes with no virus and high yields, in order to “supplement rice with potatoes”. Thanks to increased government input in agricultural production and development in agricultural science and technology, grain production has risen in recent years, reaching 4.6 million tons in 2005, the highest in ten years. With experience accumulated and benefit gained, DPRK has realized the importance of agriculture. It will continue to take it as the priority and central task of this year’s economic work. It is especially notable that when Kim Jong Il visited China last January, he went to the Crop Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, a sign which fully vindicated the importance attached to agricultural science and technology.

Work Hard to Develop Foreign Trade and Attract Foreign Investment.

Premier Pak Pong Ju stressed in his above-mentioned report that it was necessary to work hard to develop foreign trade and actively explore foreign markets to achieve diversification and multi-lateralization of trade in accordance with the changing environment and practical demands. DPRK has enhanced foreign trade up to an unprecedented height, which was a new change itself. Though US had begun its financial sanction against DPRK since the end of last year, its foreign trade increased by a large margin in 2005, reaching 3 billion USD in total, the highest since 1991. Trade between DPRK and ROK reached 1.05 billion USD in 2005 and this figure was not included in the total volume. It is estimated that this year DPRK will actively explore new markets in the EU and ASEAN countries while continuing to grow its trade with China and ROK.

China is DPRK’s largest trading partner. Sino-DPRK trade reached a historic high at 1.58 billion USD in 2005, up 14%. China’s export accounted for two thirds of its total. DPRK mainly imported food and energy from China, up by 35.2% annually and reaching 1.08 billion USD in 2005. Growth in Sino-DPRK trade was partly attributed to decrease in bilateral trade between DPRK and Japan, which stood at 0.194 billion USD in 2005, down by 23%.

Meanwhile DPRK is working actively to introduce foreign investment, including capital and technology. It organized two international commodities fairs, one in the 1980s and the other in the 1990s, to be followed by annual fairs every spring since 2000. The fairs were then held twice every year since 2005, one in spring and one in autumn.

The 9th Pyongyang Spring International Fair was grandly held from 15 to 18 May 2006. The total area of the exhibition hall was 16.5 thousand sq meters and it hosted 217 companies from 13 countries and regions in the world including China, the Netherlands, France and Germany. Products on display ranged from chemicals, electronics, pesticides, agricultural machines to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and foods. Of the 196 foreign participating companies, 179 were Chinese, with 80% from China’s Liaoning Province. Contractual value topped 100 million Euros.

Ms Choe Lian-shi, Division Chief of DPRK’s Bureau of International Exhibition, said in her interview with the Xinhua New Agency that the main purpose for such fair was to help DPRK companies to know the world and for the world to know DPRK’s market. It was also to help DPRK companies establish links with their foreign counterparts in order to promote export, explore international markets and introduce advanced foreign technology to promote its economic development.

She pointed out that during the fair held last year, contracts, both for import and export and joint ventures, valued 70 million Euro, among which, export contracts amounting 30 million Euro, import contracts 32 million Euro and joint venture 8 million Euro.

She also stressed that Chinese companies took up the bulk of the participants. They came this time with the China Committee for the Promotion of International Trade, which made them more orderly and organized. All this showed that economic relations between China and DPRK were constantly developing and trade has become more active.

Apart from this DPRK also cooperates with the relevant sides in China to hold commodity fair and trade and investment talks in Beijing, Dandong and other cities in China several times a year.

Recently DPRK has organized some companies suitable for foreign markets to go outside the country to conduct foreign trade and economic cooperation. Construction companies in DPRK like Foreign Construction Co. sent thousands of experts and technicians to scores of countries and regions including Russia, Bangladesh, Kuwait and Libya to engage in project and labor contracting. Mansudae Overseas Development Group undertook to build bronze statues, monuments and other works of arts, and fit out buildings and parks in over 70 countries and regions to earn foreign currencies for the country. President statues in the seven African countries like Equatorial Guinea, Togo and Gabon, monument of the people’s heroes in Ethiopia, and the grain museum in Malaysia were all works of the company. DPRK Industrial Tech Co. opened branches in China and other countries to conduct trade in new technology, inventions and patents by replying on the institute and production bases attached to DPRK’s Academy of Sciences.

Improve Modes of Economic Management

Premier Pak Pong Ju also stressed in the report that efforts should be made to improve modes of economic management, to ensure practical benefits while reflecting socialist principles. DPRK has carried out factory and company reform through market price instead of planned price. It will also partially give up the state plan in production and sale. These measures are not only suitable for small- and medium-sized factories and enterprises but also for large-sized ones. Governments may purchase products from them according to market prices. They are also allowed to introduce foreign capital, establish joint-ventures or earn profits through trade within their capacity.

Speed up Development of Science and Technology

Another agenda of the Fourth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Supreme People’s Congress was extremely noticeable. It was the report entitled Speed up Development of Science and Technology to Build a Strong and Prosperous Country, delivered by Choe Thae Bok, Secretary General of the Central Committee of DPRK’s Labor Party. Development of Science and Technology as one of the priorities of DPRK’s future development, the report was regarded as indication of the importance attached to science and technology development and its aspiration to embrace the information society. A strategic goal of its science and technology development is to become a major software country by 2022.

It is not common for DPRK’s Supreme People’s Congress, its highest body of power, to add on the agenda the development of science and technology. Media in DPRK have stressed on many occasions that the 21st century is a century of science and technology and a century of information, and that without the development of science and development it is impossible to achieve the goal of “building a strong and prosperous country”. The Supreme People’s Congress deliberated carefully and adopted the report, fully testifying its importance on science and technology and the fact that science and technology development had become a nationwide consensus.

Special Economic Zones remains an important option for DPRK.

Kae-song Industrial Park is a successful cooperation between DPRK and ROK and the two sides have decided to expand its scale on the current basis. Covering an area of 10,000 sq meters, it is planned to expand to 1 million sq meters. Many small- and medium-sized enterprises in ROK intend to invest and start business in the park as labor price in China’s coastal region in the south east is rising. Products manufactured there can be regarded as ROK-made and exported to a third country.

The DPRK Government might copy China’s special economic zones to establish new such zones along the border areas between China and DPRK. It is reported that DPRK planned to establish a new economic zone on the Bidan Island on the lower reaches of the Yalu River and build it into a future financial center. The establishment of such zones remains an important option for DPRK but it is also very prudent due to previous failure.

III. DPRK’s Energy and Mineral Recourses

DPRK has severe shortage of energy, especially oil. 90% of its oil supply comes from China. It also has oil trade with Russia but the amount is trivial as it does not have enough foreign currency. Russian oil companies sell oil to DPRK at price lower than international market price. DPRK has almost no oil reserve to speak of. It is currently working actively with China to exploit oil in its West Sea.

Electricity is also in short supply in DPRK though its supply is slightly better compared to oil. DPRK is rich in water recourses so the Government tries to develop small hydro power stations. And in accordance with the principle of those who develop will benefit, local governments are encouraged to build such projects according to their own conditions, and with good results. It is claimed by DPRK officials that the country is in fact equipped with conditions to build large hydro power stations. That’s why Kim Jong Il and other high-level officials in DPRK visited China’s Three Gorges Hydro Power Project in Yichang early this year. But because of its tension with US and its fear of conflicts or wars, the Government only encourages small- and medium-sized hydro power stations before its relations with US has improved. In addition, it also stresses thermal power since it is rich in coal and able to provide sufficient fuel. Consumption of coal ranks the first among all energy, to be followed by hydro power.

DPRK is now studying new energy and hopes to convert it into actual use in production and life, i.e. solar power and biogas.

There are four important recourses in DPRK: rich forest resources; important mineral resources like abundant coal, iron ore, graphite, gold, silver, lead, zinc, magnesite, all of which now allow the participation of foreign companies; 8600-kilometer coasts with no pollution, which are rare in the world and hold great potentials for fishing, aqua-culture, processing of sea food once foreign capital and technology are channeled in; rich tourist resources, that may become one of its future pillar industries.

DPRK has abundant mineral recourses, with over 360 kinds confirmed and 200 kinds economically viable. It is noticeable that the reserve of its magnisite ranks the first in the world, accounting for 56% of the world’s total. Its top ten minerals include tungsten, molybdenum, graphite, heavy spar and fluorite. The reserve of copper and ilmenite is calculated in tens of millions of tons and that of white jade, jadeite, black jade and sand jade is also abundant. Since it has such a large reserve of metal and energy mines, 70% of its industrial raw materials and fuels are self-sufficient. But there is no oil and pitch coal (raw material for charcoal), both of which are necessary for iron and steel industry though anthracite and brown coal are abundant. Coal, iron ore, lead and zinc core, limestone and magnisite take up the bulk of DPRK’s mineral industry but only 30% of the capacity is utilized due to restrictions of outdated equipment and poor technology. Iron ore is exploited in over 20 mines represented by Musan Mine. With a reserve of 1 billion tons, it is a famous open mine in the world and the largest in a country with an iron output of 8 million tons. Production of iron ore grew by 2-3% since 1970s, as a result of expansion and development of iron mines. But the growth has slowed down recently due to poor results of prospecting and outdated equipment. Foreign capital is now being introduced.

DPRK’s coal is divided into anthracite and bituminous coal. The former is mainly located in Pyongan-namdo and Pyongan-bukto while the latter in Hamgyong-bukto and Hamgyong-namdo. According to administrative division, there are four major coal mines in DPRK, namely Pyongan-namdo Mine, Pyongan-bukto Mine, Hamgyong-bukto Mine and Hamgyong-namdo. Currently there are over 100 national coal mines, 70 anthracite mines and 30 bituminous coal mines, and over 500 small- and medium-sized local mines.

In the 80-kilometer belt in the south of Pyongan-namdo stretching from east to west with Pyongyang at the center, the reserve of anthracite is abundant. Notable mines include Samsin (Samsindon, Daefon-gu) , Sadon (Sadon-gu), Ryongzen (Ryongzen-gu), Haelyong (Ladonza-gu, Haelyong, Gangdon-gun), Gangdon (Gangdon-gun), Gangso (Gangso-gun), Zencun (Zencun-gun), Wonstun (Wonstun-gun). There is anthracite in 668 sq kilometers in the north of Pyongan-namdo. Main coal mines there include those in Donstun, Syongbun, Jaenam, Joyang of Ganstun, Ganstun, Bonstun, Yamzum, Wyonlae, Xinlyon, Sonam of Bugstun-gun, Xiandon, Xinstun of Ensam-gun, Stunzen, Yongdae, Sunstun, Mujindae, Gigdon, and Ryongden, Ryongmun and Ryongcel of Kujang-gun, P’y?ngan-bukto.

Bituminous coal is mostly concentrated in the North Mine (north of Aoji) and South Mine (south of Chongjin) in Hamgyong-bukto and Anju Mine in Pyongan-namdo. Largest coal mines in the north include Aoji Mine in Undok-kun, Obun Mine in Musam, Hue Ryon Mine. There are seven ore strata that are 2-5 meters in depth in Anju Mine, producing brown coal of 5300kcal. With an annual output of 7 million tons, it is thus the largest mine in DPRK.

DPRK’s proven coal deposits are 14.74 billion tons, 11.74 being anthracite and 3 billion tons brown coal. Recoverable reserve, allowed by the current technology, is about 7.9 billion tons. Its coal production has dropped since the end of 1980s due to restrictions of technology and equipment. (See the table below for annual production since the 1980s)

*Unit: 10,000 tons

Year 1980 1985 1990 1993 1995 1999 2000 2002
Production 3,027 3,750 3,315 2,710 2,370 2,100 2,250 2,190

IV. Rapid Growth of Sino-DPRK Trade and Economic Cooperation

Sino-DPRK trade and economic cooperation grows at an eye-catching pace. With trade accounting for 40% of its total and investment 70%, China has thus become DPRK’s largest trading partner and source of investment. DPRK has been more dependent on China in food and energy supply. Main ports between the two countries have become or are becoming major vehicles of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The friendly visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to DPRK in October 2005 and Kim Jong Il’s China visit in January this year have further promoted political and economic cooperation between the two countries and injected new impetus in bilateral trade.

Trade between China and DPRK has increased by 14%, reaching 1.6 billion USD. DPRK import commodities like oil and corn from China, worth 1 billion USD, and export commodities like coal and iron ore to China, worth 0.5 billion USD. According to the statistics from Dandong Customs, 1.86 million tons of import and export went through the Dandong Port in 2005 at a value of 0.84 billion USD, up both in quantity and value by 10%, with 0.45 billion USD in China’s favor. It is estimated that DPRK will continue to expand trade with China this year. The two countries have planned to build a new road bridge across the Yalu River to meet the demands of the constantly growing trade.

Sino-DPRK Trade Volume from 1997 to 2005

*Unit: 100 million USD

Year DPRK’s Total Foreign Trade DPRK’s Trade with China China’s Export China’s Import

Year DPRK’s Total Foreign Trade DPRK’s Trade with China China’s Export China’s Import
1997 21.7 6.5 5.3 1.2
1998 14.4 4.1 3.5 0.6
1999 14.8 3.7 3.2 0.5
2000 19.7 4.8 4.5 0.3
2001 22.7 7.37 5.7 1.6
2002 22.6 7.33 4.6 2.7
2003 29 10.23 6.3 3.9
2004 31 13.85    
2005 40.5 15.8 10.8 5

In recent years Chinese businessmen have accelerated their investment in DPRK. Those who took the lead in investing DPRK mainly came from Zhejiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Jiangsu and Guangdong Provinces with Zhejiang businessmen taking up the bulk. In 2003, 40 businessmen from Wenzhou, Yiwu, Dongyang, Cixi and Hangzhou headed by Lu Yunlei, agreed on cooperation intent with the operators of Pyongyang No. 1 Store. Guhui Trading Co. lead by Lu, obtained, unexpectedly, operating right of 15,000 sq meters of the store and corresponding 9,000 sq meters of warehouse. The deal was signed on 6 August 2003. Lu commented that what he valued was the market potentials in a country that was opening up. Lu also disclosed that he would invest several million of RMB to renovate the store and that operating space in the store would cover 10,000 sq meters, divided into over 300 booths to be further rented to Chinese businessmen to wholesale and retail small Chinese commodities, daily necessities in particular. The Zhejiang businessman commented opportunities in DPRK like this: “It is better to have our presence in the country but don’t expect too much from the first phase”.

It was the private companies that gave rise to the first wave of investing in DPRK. The second wave in 2005 was mostly generated by large state-owned enterprises, in areas like heavy industry, energy, mineral recourses and transportation, different from the first one.

At present DPRK has agreed to the joint-venture between China National Metals and Minerals Import and Export Corporation and its ??Coal Mine. This is not only the first established by China outside DPRK’s special economic zone but also represents an important measure by DPRK to open its recourses. Rydongden Coal Mine is the largest anthracite mine in DPRK. Covering an area of 18.8 sq kilometers, it has a reserve of 0.15 billion ton, 0.125 billion of which is recoverable. Its annual output is 1 million tons, equal to a medium-sized coal mine in China.

According to report issued by the Development and Reform Committee of Jilin, the province has reached a “barter” agreement with DPRK, transmitting electricity to the country in exchange of the mining rights of its Youth Copper Mine. With a total investment of 0.22 billion RMB, it is a typical experiment by DPRK to exchange electricity with mineral recourses. Jinlin Tonghua Iron and Steel Group will obtain 50-year mining rights in Musan Iron, the largest in DPRK, at a price of 7 billion RMB. Musan Iron, located in Hamgyong-bukto is the largest open mine in Asia, with proven reserve of iron powder about 7 billion tons. With iron content as high as 66%, it is able to be smelted directly.

Gold reserves in DPRK are also very rich. Guoda Gold Shareholding Co. Ltd., in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province signed an agreement in 2004 with DPRK on gold exploration and smelting project. According to the agreement, a joint-venture would be set up for gold mining in ??? and bring back the ore to the company for smelting. ??? Gold Mine, which was set up quite early, has a considerable reserve and at least 150 tons can be recoverabled. But due to the lack of capital and outdated technology, operation of the mine has been at a standstill.

In September 2005 DPRK sold the 50-year exclusive operating rights of Najin wharf to Huichun, Jilin, in order to get the latter’s support for building a road from Tongsungu, Wonstunli, Kasung-si, to Najin Port. Sources from the Administrative Committee of the Border Economic Cooperation Zone in Huichun, Jilin, disclosed that the sale this time of the wharf in Najin Port was more of a corporate instead of government act. It was said that Fan Yingsheng, a real estate developer from Hunan, was the mastermind behind the deal and he alone would channel half of the 60 million Euro in payment.

Capital from Hong Kong is also coming. Early investments were mainly channeled to hotels, restaurants and the entertainment industry. But according to a recent report from Hong Kong media, a local businessman Qian Haoming reached a 3-billion USD agreement with the DPRK Government and China’s Ministry of Railway to build a railway from Tumen, border city in China, to Chongjin, port in DPRK. The agreement signifies that the deadlock between railway authorities of the two countries is being broken. There used to be three pending questions with the DPRK railway, i.e. overstock, arrears and withholding of Chinese cargo carriages. This forced the Chinese railway authority to take measures to restrict transportation between the two countries, like intermittent loading and goods limits. Statistics show that over 2000 carriages were held up in DPRK in 2004, 260 of which were for coal. It is reported that Hong Kong International Industry Development Co. Ltd., headed by Qian Haoming, promised to provide 500 to 1000 carriages to DPRK as required by the agreement.

Preliminary agreements have been reached at the moment between China and DPRK concerning minerals, railway and port lease. Sino-DPRK economic cooperation is growing in depth and width but both sides adopt a low-profile and practical attitude. It is necessary to point out that such development has aroused concern from relevant countries in North East Asia, which mistake China for having political motives. In fact Chinese enterprises, both private and state-owned, are looking for greater room for their future development as a result of the constantly improving market economy in China. Amid such backdrop, neighboring country DPRK naturally becomes their target. There are plenty of Chinese enterprises with strength ready to come into DPRK, more active than the government policy allows. During the National People’s Congress last march, delegates from local enterprises proposed a motion to the Central Government, calling for policy and legal guarantees for expanded and deepened economic cooperation with DPRK, including the establishment of special economic zones and free trade areas. It is not difficult to see that laws of the market economy are the most fundamental reason behind Chinese enterprises’ investment in DPRK.