Rolling Reforms: Reflections on Visits to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, by Rudiger Frank

[On visits to North Korea since Kim Jong Un came to power, CanKor Brain Trust member Rudiger Frank has seen growing evidence of a more diverse and cash-based economy. These signs of creeping reform are evidence of North Korea’s desire for change, but achieving real transformation remains a long and delicate process. Rudiger Frank is Chair Professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna and Head of the Department of East Asian Studies. He has visited North Korea numerous times. This article appeared in Global Asia, a publication of the East Asia Foundation in Seoul, Vol. 8, No. 2, SUMMER 2013. The full article, as published, with numerous pictures may be accessed here: Rolling Reforms. –CanKor]

Rollerblading has become a hot new hobby on the boulevardes of Pyongyang. (Photo by Rudiger Frank)

Rollerblading has become a hot new hobby on the boulevards of Pyongyang.
(Photo by Rudiger Frank)

Painting a masterpiece and reforming North Korea have a surprising number of things in common. We know the necessary ingredients, tools and available techniques. There are numerous cases for comparison and a large body of literature to study. Still, few if any of us can create art to equal that of old masters such as Rembrandt or Kim Hong-do.

In theory, realizing North Korea’s potential seems easy. State socialist systems have been well researched and understood for decades. We possess a growing amount of empirical knowledge about North Korea. We can look at transformations in China, Vietnam and Eastern Europe for guidance. Incentives have to be set right, so that resources are allocated more efficiently. China has demonstrated that this does not require a fully-fledged Western-style democracy, just a stable currency, markets where demand and supply result in realistic prices, private ownership and an economy that can freely import and export goods, services, capital and technologies.

We know that North Korea has a food, energy and transportation problem. We know that it can, theoretically, produce more food with more inputs of fertilizer, electricity, fuel and machinery, but that, for the time being, importing food would better reflect the North’s comparative disadvantage in agricultural production. We know that North Korea has abundant natural resources, that these are a potential source of hard currency and that a smart strategy would be to process these resources before exporting them. Read the rest of this entry »

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DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.5

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current June 2013 edition (which this month comes in two files) here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.5 Part 1 and  DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.5 Part 2

The nearly deserted Kaesong Industrial Complex (Photo by Arirang News)

The nearly deserted Kaesong Industrial Complex (Photo by Arirang News)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • “Stunned Disbelief” at Cancellation of Talks
  • Mongolian Firm Buys Stake in NK Refinery

  • NK to Import Chinese Smartphones
  • North Korea Building “World-class” Ski Resort
  • N-S Trade Virtually Zero in May
  • P’yang Hosts International Organic Agriculture Workshop
  • NK’s Android-based Achim Tablet on Video
  • Visible Progress Toward Economic Reform
  • Invitation for International Public Tender
  • Work Going Ahead on NK-China Economic Zone
  • New Law on Economic Development Zones
  • N.K. Plans New US$200 m International Airport Read the rest of this entry »

How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea, by Justin Rohrlich

[We are pleased to present another article by New York-based Canadian journalist Justin Rohrlich. CanKor Brain Trust member Matthew Reichel is one of the people interviewed in this article, which was featured in the newly-launched NK News Pro on 6 June 2013, and is re-posted here with permission. We encourage you to view the original article on the NK News website, where you can see more pictures and embedded videos from and about Songdowon International Children’s Camp. For those wishing to read more content like this, click here to get a free trial of NK News Pro. –CanKor]

How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea

by Justin Rohrlich , NK News Pro, 6 June 2013

“Parents are responsible for about 300 Euros in fees and travel costs, with all other expenses being met by the Korean side.”

Songdowon International Children's Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

Songdowon International Children’s Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

While some kids are being sent away to summer camps in New England right now, others are on their way to the Songdowon International Children’s Camp in Wonsan, North Korea.

Songdowon is one of the last vestiges of a type of cultural exchange seen in similar countries from across the Communist bloc in decades past, not entirely unlike the Soviet Artek camps and East Germany’s Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation.

Far from just a getaway for North Korean children, thousands of young people from countries including China, Russia, Nigeria, Mongolia, Mexico, Syria (where North Korean military officers have reportedly begun advising Assad’s forces), Tanzania, and Thailand have attended the Songdowon camp since it opened in 1960, which expanded to accommodate 1,200 guests in 1993 “under the special care of President Kim Il Sung and the leader Kim Jong Il.” Read the rest of this entry »

Why North Korea places so much emphasis on organic farming, by Justin Rohrlich

[CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner and Brain Trust members Randall Ireson and Kathi Zellweger were among interviewees featured in this article by journalist Justin Rohrlich about North Korean farming practices. The resulting article was published on 31 May 2013 in NK News Pro. –CanKor]

“Let us thoroughly implement the Juche farming methods created by the fatherly leader Comrade Kim Il Sung!”

Picture panel at Sambong Farm, Pyongwon County, DPRK (Photo by Erich Weingartner)

Picture panel at Sambong Farm, Pyongwon County, DPRK (Photo by Erich Weingartner)

As reported recently by North Korean state news agency KCNA – and picked up by NK News Pro Media Monitoring – a “short course” in organic farming methods was held at the Pyongyang Centre for Cultural Exchange with Foreign Countries from 14-16 May 2013.

A delegation of experts led by Andre Leu, President of the Bonn, Germany-based International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (also the current Chair of the Organic Federation of Australia and former Chair of the Far North Queensland Lychee Growers Association), was in town to direct the two-day program, which included, among other seminars, “Multi-Functional Benefits of Organic Agriculture, Soil Health and Nutrition,” “Green Manure,” and “Humus Soil and its Making.” Read the rest of this entry »

What a Tangled Web We Weave, by Kim Dong Jin

[Kim Dong Jin is Director of the Peace Culture Institute in Korea (PCIK), a newly-founded research institution based in Seoul, Korea. The PCIK is dedicated to sharing information, knowledge and experience on peace-building in conflict-affected societies. Pursuing a collective peace intelligence and peaceful open source collaboration, the PCIK provides space for researchers, practitioners and experts from various disciplines to discuss issues related to conflict transformation by peaceful means on the Korean peninsula, in Asia, and beyond. This article was first published on the PCIK blog site on Thursday, 30 May 2013. –CanKor]

kaesong_ind_nk_624On 22 May, the North Korean Committee for the Realization of the 6.15 Joint Statement proposed holding a joint ceremony at either Kaesong or Mt. Keumgang, to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Statement issued at the conclusion to the 15 June 2000 Summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The South Korean counterpart Committee responded positively, interpreting the proposal in relation to the issues at the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“The suggestion to use Kaesong by North Korea as a venue for the event indirectly expresses their desire to restore the Kaesong Industrial Complex”, the South Committee said. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.4

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current May 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.4

Manpho Yonha Power Station (Photo by KCNA)

Manpho Yonha Power Station (Photo by KCNA)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Sanctions on NK’s Foreign Trade Bank Could Affect Millions
  • UNFPA Provides Medical Aid to NK mothers
  • Sanctions Hit Humanitarian Funding
  • Inter-Korean Business at a Standstill
  • Manpho Yonha Power Station Opened
  • June 28th New Management Methods in Force
  • Rason Could Be NK’s Shenzhen
  • Sinuiju Open to Western Tourists

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.3

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current April 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.3

Josh Thomas and Ms Yu, one of the North Korean guides, enjoy draft beers at the bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery. (Photo by Joseph A Ferris III)

Josh Thomas and Ms Yu, one of the North Korean guides, enjoy draft beers at the bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery. (Photo by Joseph A Ferris III)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • The Travails of a Beer Joint Venture
  • North Korea’s Surprising Microbrewery Culture Explored
  • NK Ups Chinese Fertilizer Imports
  • North Korea Accepts ShelterBox Disaster Relief Equipment
  • Medical Aid from ROK Enters North
  • Pyongyang Gets First Artisan Coffee Shop
  • 3G Now Covers Two Million in NK
  • Science Reporter Probes NK Fight against Multidrug-resistant TB
  • Tanchon to Become New Industry-Export Center
  • Kaesong Sets Up Light Industry College
  • Koryo Tours guide to mobile & Internet services in the DPRK

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

It’s been a bad month for business in the DPRK, but the ROK might be the biggest sufferer from all the saber-rattling on and around the peninsula. Read the rest of this entry »

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