December 2018
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Trump Open to Talks with North Korea's Kim

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says he is open to talking with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in order to try to halt the country’s nuclear program.

“I would speak to him, I …read more

Little to be hopeful of after N.Korea’s Seventh Congress

By Rob York

The WPK’s Seventh Congress recently ended. Although it was the first Congress since 1980, it was covered relatively poorly by the international media.

Most likely this is caused by the DPRK’s treatment of foreign journalists. Approximately 150 foreign media correspondents and some activists sympathetic to North Korea were invited to the Congress. However, at the last moment they were not allowed to the Congress hall: The authorities merely organized a few trips for them and on the Congress’ final day approximately 30 people were allowed to the hall for 15 minutes. The authorities explained their decision rather simply – “We don’t have enough chairs in the hall” – leaving the journalists to speculate as to the real cause for such behavior.

This is probably somehow related to the delay of the Congress’ opening. In March the South Korean intelligence service reported that the Congress had been scheduled for May 7, but later the Rodong Sinmun announced a slightly different date: May 6. However, on May 6, the DPRK TV did not mention the Congress at all, and it started later, probably at night on May 6 until May 7. Thus, quite paradoxically, the South Korean intelligence turned out to be right all along.

As expected, a variety of topics were discussed on the Congress and one of them was the state of the DPRK economy.


How can the state make the DPRK economy work? There are at the very least three conditions to fulfill.

First, one should reject the idea of central planning: the USSR and the Eastern Bloc’s experience teaches that nothing good comes of it. Second, the state should set up mutually beneficial relations with North Korean businessmen, who are de facto in control of a significant part of the country’s economy, and guarantee their private property. Third, the country needs foreign …read more

S.Korea protests North Korea’s massive water release from dam

By JH Ahn

South Korea criticized North Korea for releasing large amounts of water into the Imjin River on late Monday night, without any warning, resulting in unusually high water levels on the South Korean side of the river.

Seoul strongly urged that Pyongyang issued a clear warning before such discharges in the future, as similar incidents in the past have resulted in fatalities on the South Korean side.

No such casualties were suffered this time.

“We express our strong regret that North Korea released the water without telling South Korea first,” the Ministry of Unification (MoU) spokesperson said during the Monday regular briefing.

The spokesperson explained that Seoul and Pyongyang in 2009 held working-level group talks to prevent the flooding of the Imjin River, which crosses the DMZ that separates the two Koreas, resulting in a inter-Korean agreement to warn the other prior to the discharge of water.

But that system is no longer active, as Pyongyang a few months ago disconnected its communication line with Seoul.

“North Korea in the past usually communicated through its military communication lines (before releasing the water). But since it was cut off, we should keep an eye on the water level of North Korea’s Hwanggang dam to counter the possible unwarned discharge in the future.”

Right-most colum “whole discharge” is the amount of water that South Korea’s Gunnam Dam had to discharge every seconds to prevent the flood by torrenting North Korean water. Original chart provided by K-water, translated and edited by NK News.

The military line was disconnected by Pyongyang in February, amid increasing tensions and South Korea’s decision to close down the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).

On February 11, the day after Seoul’s announcement that it would suspend participation in the complex, the North’s Korea Central News Agency said that “military communication and the …read more

North Korea outlines plans for SEZs near Nampho

By Leo Byrne

North Korea announced plans for two existing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) near Nampho on the DPRK’s west coast, in the most recent issue of quarterly journal Foreign Trade.

The article outlines plans for the Jindo and Waudo Processing zones adjacent to the DPRK’s busiest port.

The article entitled “Booming Economic Development Park” seems to imply the Jindo zone is already up and running.

“By taking advantages of the Port of Nampho nearby and tens of years of development of the machine-building, electronical (sic) and light industries in Nampho, it processes various goods and exports them,” the article reads.

Earlier articles from North Korea media also said plans at the Jindo zone were moving “full steam ahead.” In 2014 a Chosun Sinbo article said numerous “countries have expressed great interest in the Jindo Export Processing Zone, and investment contracts have already been signed with a few targets such as Hong Kong.”

The plans for the nearby Waudo zone also include projected investments of $100 million, which will be used to develop an export-oriented processing industry.

The investment should cover the construction of nearby power plants for the area, which would include a 600,000 kilowatt power station and a 100,000 kilowatt tidal power plant in the near the West Sea Barrage.

Both zones would have a cooperation period of 50 years and the Waudo area would be populated by joint ventures or fully foreign-owned enterprises.

North Korea will likely face an uphill battle in securing large-scale foreign investment, however, with stricter UN and unilateral sanctions, plus a lack of clear legislation and trust in their ability to create a challenging business environment.

“All the SEZ plans had inflated targets for investment. ‘Aspirational’ would be the polite term to describe it,” Andray Abrahamian from Choson Exchange told NK News.

“The only investment of that size was by the Russians in Rason, and that’s …read more

North Korea adopts anti-money laundering law

By Hayoung Choi

North Korea has adopted a new law that prohibits money laundering and financing terrorism, the Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday, indicating its desire to join the international anti-money laundering organization.

The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly declared the law, composed of six chapters with 40 articles, to be in effect. Its clauses include those on verification of customers’ data, building an internal reporting system for suspicious transactions and establishing an institution which supervises the process.

Experts said it appears North Korea is trying to achieve full membership in the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional body of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). Pyongyang joined the organization as an observer in July 2014, but was blacklisted by FATF with Iran.

“This blacklisting brings against (the) DPRK preventative counter-measures from the international financial system, such as enhanced monitoring and restricted financial access,” Tristan Webb, former senior DPRK research analyst for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told NK News.

However, further steps are required for full membership in addition to adopting the law.

“North Korea must reveal annual reports for three years for the purpose of monitoring to judge its sincerity,” Rhee Yoojin, research fellow for the Reunification Business Department at Korea Development Bank based in Seoul, told NK News.

Even though this measure doesn’t necessarily demonstrate North Korea’s intent for an open door policy or active economic reform, it does signify its desire to overcome international sanctions.

“This has been a bar that prohibits foreign finance organizations’ from advancing into North Korea,” Rhee said.

Other than the blacklisting by the FATF, foreign countries should not open new representative offices, subsidiaries, branches or banking accounts in the DPRK according to article 34 of the recent UN Security Council resolution passed in response to North Korea’s most recent nuclear test.

“It’s a signal from North Korea to lift the sanctions, but has …read more

Donald Trump says he’s open to direct talks with Kim Jong Un

By nknews

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would be open to direct talks with Kim Jong Un, in order to influence the North Korean leader to halt his countries’ nuclear weapons program.

“I would speak to (Kim Jong Un), I would have no problem speaking to him,” Trump told Reuters in New York, implying he would use dialogue to “talk some sense” into the North Korean leader.

Though Trump didn’t share details about any plan for negotiations, he further reiterated previous claims that U.S. pressure on China could help Washington find a solution with North Korea.

But Trump’s proposal would put his North Korea policy at direct odds with current and former U.S. Presidents Obama and Bush, neither of whom expressed any willingness to negotiate directly with Kim Jong Un or the late Kim Jong Il.

And direct talks would also be at odds with South Korea’s current policy, which since North Korea’s fourth nuclear test has maintained that Pyongyang show “sincere will” towards towards denuclearization before any further dialogue is possible.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) on Wednesday told NK News it had no comment about Trump’s proposals, with no questions on the subject emerging in a regular MoU press briefing taking place hours after the story broke.

But while the MoU did not respond, one local observer suggested the proposal – in combination with Trump’s remarks that South Korea foot 100% of the costs of keeping U.S. troops – could lead to Seoul becoming “out of joint with what potentially the next American president says he will do.”

“Trump is a disruptive force in a serious way right now,” said John Delury, a professor at Yonsei university in Seoul. “He has talked quite a bit about South Korean issues, and not just repeating the talking points.

“Now South Koreans are taking (Trump’s) presence seriously and considering the implications of his presidency,” Delury continued, adding that any North Korean response to the direct talks proposal would be important to look out for.

However, Troy University …read more

The highlights and hindrances of teaching N.Koreans entrepreneurship

By nknews

How does one persuade donors to fund programs designed to improve North Korean business capabilities in the face of growing international condemnation of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs?

It’s a challenge that Singaporean national Geoffrey See has been battling ever since his NGO, Choson Exchange, kicked off projects inside North Korea in early 2010, when inter-Korean relations sank to their worst point in years.

“We started our projects at the lowest point possible, shortly after the sinking of the Cheonan,” said See, referring to the 2010 incident that cost the lives of 46 South Korean sailors and which the South blames on the North. “We came in at a difficult period and the situation has never really improved over the years.”

Six years later, North Korea is now facing its harshest-ever sanctions environment, having been punished by the UN Security Council for its fourth nuclear test and attempted satellite launches.

“We started our projects at the lowest point possible, shortly after the sinking of the Cheonan”

It’s therefore not hard to understand why donors might think twice about supporting Choson Exchange, which See describes as supporting North Korea’s nascent entrepreneurship ecosystem, training local businesses people and promoting business-friendly policies and legislation.

Especially when considering the fact that catalyzing North Korean business capacities could, due to the fungibility of money, indirectly contribute to the weapons programs the international community is trying to discourage.

Yet See’s NGO nevertheless saw a record 450 North Koreans participate last year in its in-country programs, and a further 100 North Koreans sent abroad for training in places such as Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In-country, specialist volunteers donate their time and money to fly to the DPRK to lead Choson Exchange workshops designed to educate participants in international business and entrepreneurship. Externally, the NGO sends North Koreans overseas to participate in projects in neighboring …read more

North Korea's Kim Largely Ignores Economy at 7th Party Congress

The 7th Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party concluded in Pyongyang in early May. Well, actually, it was a remarkably inconclusive gathering. While some observers in the few months ahead of the Congr …read more

Trump on North Korea, Wall Street regulation, tech stocks

NEW YORK – Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump told Reuters in a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday that he would be willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

…read more

Russian yacht detained by North Korea arrives in Far Eastern city

Russia’s Elfin yacht earlier detained by a North Korean coast guard vessel arrived in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, the Sem Futov yacht club’s spokeswoman says… …read more