Archive for the ‘Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Committee’ Category

South Korean banks preparing for inter-Korean improvements

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Korea Herald had an interesting article about South Korean banks and Kaesong the other day, not least about the blurred lines between the public and private spheres in South Korea’s financial sector:

Fired up by the thawing peninsular mood built on the latest inter-Korean summit, banks here have buckled down on establishing business in the North in the near future, their initial focus fixed on the resumption of the Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tours.

Steering the move are the state-run banks that strive to win an upper hand in infrastructure financing, as well as Woori Bank and NH NongHyup Bank, which had operated businesses in the joint operations zones in the past.

On Wednesday and the second day of the three-day summit, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that they will resume inter-Korean projects at Kaesong and Kumgangsan as soon as conditions are met.

Rejoicing at the news was Woori Bank, currently poised to kick off banking operations at any given time in the Kaesong industrial park, according to officials Thursday. The bank had operated in the zone for eight years from 2004, providing deposits, withdrawals, remittances and all other basic banking services to resident companies and workers.

It once withdrew in April 2013, upon Pyongyang’s third nuclear test, but soon resumed business in September that year, until the final termination in February 2016.

Even after Seoul’s government shut down the industrial facilities amid heightening inter-Korean conflicts in 2016, the bank maintained a temporary bank window of the Kaesong office on the basement floor of its headquarters, in the hopes of resuming business in the North Korean region.

This special corner is in charge of the follow-up financial management of the companies that evacuated from the now-deserted industrial zone.

“Woori Bank’s qualification as the bank in charge (at Kaesong) remains valid to this day. It is just the geopolitical situations that have been keeping us off over recent years,” said an official of the bank.

“The resumption of the banking business in Kaesong is for the Unification Ministry to decide, but once the government approves, we are fully ready to take the related computing system and database and start operations.”

Another hopeful is NH NongHyup Bank, which had provided currency exchange, deposit and loan services at Kumgangsan from 2006-2009, when the tourist business was active.

Full article:
Banks ready for inter-Korean economic cooperation
Bae Hyun-jung
Korea Herald


The heads of the Central Bank and State Price Commission appointed

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 11-03-15

Recently, Paek Ryong Chon was appointed as the new President of the Central Bank of the DPRK. Paek is known as the third son of late Paek Nam Sun, the former Foreign Minister of the DPRK.

According to the DPRK’s official news agency KCNA, a national meeting of commercial officials was held at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang on March 7, 2011. The list of attendees at this event included Paek Ryong Chon as the President of the Central Bank.

The senior Paek served as the Foreign Minister of the DPRK from 1998 to 2007 before he passed away in January 2007. His third son, Paek Ryong Chon, 49, made his public political appearances at the North-South Premier Talks and the Joint Committee for Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation meetings in Seoul on December 2007 as a department director of the Secretariat of the Cabinet.

Previously, he visited South Korea as a part of the North Korean delegation in 2002 at the first working-level talks of inter-Korean economic cooperation and again in June 2006 for the Inter-Korean Joint Event held in Kwangju.

The Central Bank was established in 1946 and is responsible for issuing bank notes, currency control and regulating other banks. The Central Bank also operates as a savings and insurance institution that provides services for the general population of North Korea through regional branch offices.

Paek’s new appointment is believed to be largely in consideration for the late foreign minister, Paek Nam Sun.

Meanwhile, Ryang Ui Gyong was appointed as the Chairman of the State Price Commission, which was formerly known as the State Price Bureau.

The KCNA made a referral to Ryang Ui Gyong as the Chairman of the State Price Commission in a recent report on a national meeting of commercial officials.

Not much is known about Ryang. He is speculated to have built his career in the State Price Bureau as a technocrat.

The State Price Commission is responsible for the price control of agricultural and industrial prices and wage systems, calculating the living costs for the people. The recent upgrade from a bureau to a commission is analyzed by many experts as North Korea’s move toward stronger price control policy to stabilize prices.

The Commission is also in charge of regulating import and export prices twice a year. This is evaluated as an attempt to prevent imports from being imported at a higher price and exports from being exported at a lower price than the international market average.

In the past, the State Planning Commission and the State Science and Technology Commission were the two main commissions in North Korea. However, since June 2010, the number of commissions has risen to five, a result of the reorganization of the Ministry of Education to Education Commission, the Joint Venture and Investment Guidance Bureau to the Committee of Investment and Joint Ventures, and the State Price Bureau to the State Price Commission.


ROK government to leave Kaesong office unstaffed

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

According to KBS:

South Korea says it will not re-station personnel at the inter-Korean economic cooperation office inside the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea.

An official from the Unification Ministry in Seoul said Tuesday that the decision was made as there is no work to be done at the office.

Seoul banned inter-Korean economic cooperation and trade in May of last year as part of its retaliatory measures for Pyongyang’s sinking of South Korea’s “Cheonan” naval vessel in March.

North Korea notified the South on Monday that it plans to resume operations at the economic cooperation office in the business park.

Meanwhile, the South accepted North Korea’s proposal to reopen the Red Cross communication channel at the truce village of Panmunjeom. The ministry official said that a South Korean liaison officer will answer the phone if North Korea attempts to contact the office Wednesday morning.

Read the full story here:
Seoul Will Not Send Officials to Gaeseong Office


Inter-Korean economic cooperation office closes after 3 years; cross-border cooperation withering

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-12-19-1

On October 28, 2005, an office housing the Inter-Korean Council for Economic Cooperation was established in order to create a channel for routine dialog between North and South Korean authorities and to assist with direct business deals between the two countries. Now, three years later and as inter-Korean relations have stalled, the office has completely closed its doors, causing economic cooperation to wither.

For over three years, the office served as a window fro North and South Korean businesses and workers, assisting with agreements between businesses, passing on documents, delivering samples, and more. In particular, it facilitated a total of 1,269 consultations and deliberations, with a mere 43 in 2005, growing by more than one thousand percent to 446 in 2006 and continuing to grow to 510 in 2007, while only 270 were held this year, bringing together a total of 4070 South Koreans with 3634 North Koreans, for a total of 7704 people making use of the services this office had to offer.

The office also served as a go-between for 10,539 documents sent from the South and 10,656 documents drafted by the North, and mediated the drafting of 668 new regulations for enterprises in the complex. This includes company proposals and promotions, delivery of samples, letters of recommendation, notarization of authentication, and other documents related to economic cooperation.

Of the 1354 samples that passed through the office, 560 were from the South, while 794 were from the North. There were eleven officials from the Ministry of Unification, Ministry of Finance, and other related South Korean government bureaus in the office, as well as another ten officials from the South Korean Trade Council, KOTRA, the Export-Import Bank, the Small and Medium Business Corporation, and the North Korean National Economic Cooperation Federation.

However, on March 24 of this year, North Korea ordered all South Koreans to evacuate the office after Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong stated that “it would be difficult to expand the Kaesong Industrial Complex if the North Korean nuclear issue is not resolved,” and three days later, all eleven government officials were ordered out, leaving only three officials, from KOTRA, the Export-Import Bank, and the Small and Medium Business Corporation behind, along with two employees to manage the facilities.

Now, with North Korean measures restricting land crossings over the military demarcation line, the full closure of the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Office, and the expulsion of South Korean workers implemented on the 24th of last month, all South Korean workers in the office had to return to South Korea on the 28th. This is causing considerable difficulties for small and medium businesses that could previously trade with or invest in North Korea at lower costs through the office.


ROK flood aid to DPRK II

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

North Welcomes Aid
Korea Times 

North Korea’s Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Committee took a positive stance yesterday toward accepting humanitarian aid from South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported.

“There’s no reason for us to reject flood relief from the South as long as it’s not politically motivated,” Kim Song-won, head of the committee said from Dandong, China.

The remark is the first positive comment from a North Korean official on flood relief from the South amid chilly inter-Korean relations following last month’s missile threats.

Hyundai to Deliver Aid for NK Flood Victims
Korea Times

Hyundai Asan, a South Korean company in charge of North Korean business projects, said Tuesday it will send relief goods to victims of flooding near a scenic mountain on the southeastern coast of the communist country.

From Wednesday to Saturday, Hyundai Asan will deliver 500 tons of cement and 200 tons of flour, worth about 100 million won ($104,000), by trucks across the inter-Korean border for North Korean victims in the inner part of Mount Kumgang, the company said. It would be the second relief delivery from South Korea after North Korea was devastated by torrential rains late last month.

On Monday, a pro-North Korea newspaper in Japan, the Chosun Sinbo, reported at least 549 North Koreans were killed and 295 others missing, hit by floods last month.

The casualty figures were seen as the highest so far in North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated nations. y

North wants aid, just not those noodles
Joong Ang Daily
August 10, 2006 ㅡ North Korea formally asked South Korean civic groups for humanitarian aid for its flood victims ― but it doesn’t want instant noodles.

The country said it does want construction materials, construction equipment, blankets and medicine, according to a fax sent from the communist country to a South Korean civic group. The message was the first formal request from the North seeking aid. The North Korean Committee for Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration sent the message to its South Korean counterpart yesterday, thanking the civic groups here for helping the North’s flood victims. In the message, North Korea specified what they prefer to be included in the aid package. Instant noodles and clothes were singled out as less-wanted items.

The South Korean committee will meet with its North Korean counterpart tomorrow at the Mount Kumgang resort to further discuss assistance. The South Korean committee has launched a fundraising drive for North Korean flood victims. Aid packages by some civic groups have already been sent to the North, and more were on their way yesterday from Incheon.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok is scheduled to meet today with Han Wan-sang, South Korea’s Red Cross chief, to discuss the government’s flood relief program for the North. Floor leaders of the five political parties will also meet today to discuss the aid to the North. 

Government to give aid, rice, to the North
Joong Ang Daily

After consultation with the South Korean Red Cross, the government has agreed to provide an aid package including rice to help North Korean flood victims, a Unification Ministry official said yesterday. The government will announce today its official participation in an emergency relief program for the North, led by the Red Cross and civic groups here.

After the North fired seven missiles last month, the South withheld its previously promised rice and fertilizer aid in protest.

In his meeting with Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, South Korea’s Red Cross president, Han Wan-sang, asked the government to help send goods to benefit North Korean flood victims. Mr. Han said rice and construction materials are such items. Mr. Lee agreed to that proposal.

The government and the Red Cross will discuss further the shipment schedule and amount of aid.

Mr. Han was quoted by Yonhap News Agency yesterday as saying the aid package will be prepared by the end of next week.

Floor leaders of political parties, including the conservative Grand Nationals, also met yesterday to discuss the need for humanitarian aid to the North. They encouraged the government to send food, medicines and construction materials. A Grand National Party spokesman said that the food aid should include rice, although strict monitoring should follow to make sure the grain is provided to flood victims in urgent need.

The governing and ruling parties also agreed to approve a supplementary budget for the aid if necessary.

Seoul offers W10b in aid to N. Korea
Korea Herald

South Korea will contribute 10 billion won ($10.5 million) to civilian relief efforts for flood-hit North Korea, an official said yesterday.

The contribution is part of an aid package that Seoul plans to give to the North, reversing an earlier decision to suspend aid in protest against the North’s missile launches last month.

Besides the contribution, the South also plans to ship official aid supplies to the North via the Red Cross.

The decision came at a policy coordination meeting between the government and the governing Uri Party, which was attended by Seoul’s point man on North Korean affairs, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, as well as Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook.

Earlier this week, North Korea asked for help from the South to recover from devastating floods in mid-July that left at least 549 people dead and 295 missing.

The North had previously refused South Korean aid from the Red Cross, saying it would take care of the problem itself.

The Unification Ministry is to allocate the money from its inter-Korean cooperation fund, which will be used to match the funds raised by each civic organization, the ruling party official said.

A ministry official said civic organizations have so far raised over 9.8 billion won in funds and goods. Other ministry officials said the fund will be used to purchase emergency relief aid, such as rice, flour, medicine and equipment.

The government held a meeting with civic organizations yesterday to decide on the size of its support for each civic organization.

The ministry and the South Korean Red Cross agreed Thursday to provide large amounts of assistance, mainly rice, that would be “substantial enough” to help flood-hit North Korea, according to Red Cross chief Han Wan-sang.

Rep. Noh Woong-rae, a vice floor leader of the ruling Uri Party, hinted Friday that the Red Cross aid may amount to more than 70 billion won worth of goods.

“(The government) gave 70 billion won worth of support (to the North) through its Red Cross when the Ryongchon incident” took place, Noh said, referring to an explosion at a train station in a North Korean town bordering China in April 2004, which left over 160 people killed and thousands injured.

“This (the previous amount) would be considered in determining the size of its aid, but the fact that the size of the (flood-affected) area is so large this time will be considered,” he said.

South Korea has been cautious in providing assistance to the North because of its no-aid pledge over the missile crisis.

But growing public calls for aid to the North have emboldened the government. The country’s main opposition party, which has been skeptical of aid provisions to the communist state, has also been supportive of emergency aid to the North.

The aid decision boosted hopes for an improvement in inter-Korean relations, which chilled after North Korea strongly protested Seoul’s decision to halt rice and fertilizer supplies until the North resolves concerns over its missile and nuclear programs.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world after natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s. The country relies on foreign assistance to feed its 23 million people.