Following a meeting of senior DPRK and Mongolian government officials at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on 28 October (Monday), the two countries signed two economic agreements, along with a technology exchange agreement. DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam and Mongolian Minister of Industry and Agriculture Khaltmaa Battulga signed a cooperation agreement on industry and agriculture. Chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries Kim Jong Suk and Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Luvsanvandan Bold signed a cooperation agreement on cultural and sports exchanges and tourism. DPRK Vice Minister of Land and Marine Transport Kwak Il Ryong and Mongolian Ambassador to the DPRK Manibadrakh Ganbold signed an agreement on cooperation in the road and transportation sectors. Jong Song Chang Deputy (vice) General Director of the DPRK General Bureau of Software Industry and Ambassador Ganbold on behalf of theMongolian IT, Post and Telecommunications Bureau signed a 2013 to 2015 technology exchange agreement “in the field of IT.”
Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) attended a men’s football (soccer) game between the Ryongaksan and Pot’onggang teams at Kim Il Sung (Kim Il-so’ng) Stadium in Pyongyang on 14 August (Wednesday). Also attending the game were Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau members and alternates including Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Premier), VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department), Jang Song Taek (Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, Chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission and Director of the KWP Administration Department), Col. Gen. Jang Jong Nam (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), Kim Kyong Hui (KWP Secretary and Kim Jong Un’s aunt), Kim Ki Nam (KWP Secretary and Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Tae Bok (KWP Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly), Kang Sok Ju (DPRK Vice Premier), Gen. Kim Won Hong (Minister of State Security), Kim Yang Gon (KWP Secretary and Director of the United Front Department), Kim Yong Il (KWP Secretary and Director of International Affairs), Kim P’yong-hae (KWP Secretary and Director of Cadres’ Affairs), Kwak Pom Gi (KWP Secretary and Director of the Finance and Planning Department), Mun Kyong Dok (Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang KWP Committee), Ro Tu Chol (DPRK Vice Premier and Chairman of the State Planning Commission), Gen. Choe Pu Il (Minister of People’s Security) and Jo Yon Jun (Senior Deputy [1st Vice] Director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department), along with “members of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, leading officials of the support organizations for various sports events, officials of the party, armed forces and power organs, working people’s organizations, the Cabinet, ministries and national institutions, those in the sports field, sportspersons, working people from all walks of life and school youth and children in the city.” Kim Jong Un’s last observed appearance was his visit to the construction of two apartment towers earmarked for Kim Il Sung University science faculty and researchers.
The game began with a kick-off from the Pot’onggang Team. According to KCNA, “Ryongaksan Team made attempts to score goals through flank attack and short passes which helped a forward make strong kick 16 m from goal mouth, scoring the first goal at around 33rd minute of the first half” and “when the Pot’onggang Team had a chance of penalty kick, its forward scored a goal through his skillful kick at around 36th minute of the first half.” The game was tied at halftime. In the second half “back of the Ryongaksan Team made a smart heading, scoring a goal at around 11th minute of the second half.” The Ryongaksan Team beat the Pot’onggang Team 2-1. According to KCNA, after the game Kim Jong Un “expressed great satisfaction over the nice match and congratulated the players on their success.”
DPRK state media reported on 1 August (Thursday) that Premier Pak Pong Ju toured Pyongyang Metro stations and mushroom growing production sites. Pak visited Pyongyang Metro stations, described by KCNA as “associated with the undying leadership feats of the peerlessly great men of Mt. Paektu” where was briefed about the stations’ operations and management. He held a meeting with the Pyongyang Metro’s managers which “took measures to satisfactorily settle the issues arising in operating Pyongyang Metro.” Pak also toured undisclosed mushroom production facilities constructed and operated by the Korean People’s Army [KPA]. He toured “production processes including preparation of raw materials, sterilizing, cultivation of fungus and mushroom growing” and was briefed about the mushroom factories’ operations and management. According to KCNA Pak “called upon all units to learn from the experience gained by the People’s Army in putting the mushroom production on a higher scientific and intensive basis” and he said “for the present, the relative units should standardize the design of mushroom production centers, deepen researches, cultivate lots of mushroom spores and send them to the centers.”
DPRK state media reported that Minister of Railways Jon Kil Su and a delegation returned to Pyongyang on 21 June (Friday), after attending a conference of the Organization for Cooperation of Railways [OSJD]. and visiting Russia. Jon attended the OSJD’s 41st Ministerial Meeting held in Talinn, Estonia from 11 June through 14 June. Estonia is one of two countries in the European Union (with France being the other) with which the DPRK does not have diplomatic relations. Ahti Asmann, CEO of Estonian Railways, told Estonian media “North Korea is a member of the organization and therefore there is nothing special about the fact that their transport minister is taking part in the event.” The DPRK was a founding member of the OSJD when it was organized in 1956. Pak Chol Ho, of the Ministry of Railways, is a member of the OSJD’s Commission on Freight Traffic.
Jon Kil Su and the MOR delegation also visited Moscow. Jon met with Russian Railways (RZD) President Vladimir Yakunin. Russian Railways and the DPRK signed an agreement on the reconstruction of the Rajin-Khasan line which was reported to be “in its final stages.” According to Railway Gazette, the agreement “outlines plans to create a single control centre for the entire North Korean rail network. This will be created with participation from the RasonKonTrans joint venture of Russian Railways Trading Company and the port of Rajin, as well as the North Korean Ministry of Railways. Timetables will also be jointly developed.” The project “involves laying 54 km (33.55 miles) of dual-gauge track (1 520 mm and 1 435 mm), the reconstruction of three tunnels, the repair of a bridge over the border, and the construction of a freight terminal in Rajin port with a capacity of 4 million tonnes per year.” The agreement “sits in the context of the framework of co-operation between Russia and North Korea established in 2000″ and “is also part of a wider ambition to revive transit freight on the Trans-Korean main line.”
DPRK state media reported on 13 June (Thursday) that DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju visited the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory and the renovation of the Yanggakdo Football Stadium. Pak’s first visit was to the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory, following up a visit by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) which was reported in state media on 7 June. Pak toured the food factory and “congratulated its officials and employees upon presenting a great pleasure to Kim Jong Un.” He also convened a meeting with the factory’s managers and officials which “which stressed the need for the factory to activate the production on the basis of production potentiality. It also pressed for the measures for relevant units to substantially provide necessary raw and other materials.” Pak later visited Yanggakdo Stadium, currently under going renovation work by construction units of the Ministry of Railways. Pak “encouraged officials and employees of the Ministry of Railways all out in the drive to carry out the on-the-spot instructions given by the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un on successfully remodeling the stadium into an exclusive one that can represent football stadium of the DPRK” and “underscored the need for the officials and builders to keep in mind the undying exploits of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il for the development of the Chuch’e-oriented sports and bring about great innovations in remodeling the stadium,” according to KCNA. Pak held a “consultative meeting” with construction managers and officials and “discussed the matters arising in sprucing up the stadium.”
Yonhap News Agency reported and confirmed on 1 February (Friday) that the Korea Taep’ung International Investment Group has dissolved. Taep’ung began as an energy provider selling oil and gas (via Sinu’iju) to the Korean People’s Army [KPA] and Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Central Committee. Its leading executive was Pak Chol Su, a Korean resident in China. Through his sales of energy supplies to the party and army, Pak became part of the Pyongyang social scene and eventually developed close ties with senior KPA and KWP officials. In 2006 Taep’ung was formally organized as one of the country’s direct foreign investment entities. Until 2010 there was little reported about Taep’ung’s activities in the country.
In early 2010, Taep’ung was designated as a key investment entity of the DPRK through authorization by Kim Jong Il and the National Defense Commission. On 20 January 2010, the Korea Taep’ung International Investment Group was formally incorporated and held a meeting of its 7 member board of directors in Pyongyang. KWP Secretary and United Front Department Director Kim Yang Gon was appointed director-general of the board in his capacity as Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee with Pak Chol Su appointed a deputy director-general of the board. According to DPRK state media Taepu’ng was organized under the auspices of the DPRK National Defense Commission, the DPRK Cabinet and Ministry of Finance and the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Incorporated and organized alongside Taepu’ng’s expansion was the State Development Bank, which would be led by Jon Il Chun, a proxy for the National Defense Commission and a close aide to the late leader Kim Jong Il. Jon, also (and currently) a deputy director of the KWP Finance and Accounting Department, was elevated to head the State Development Bank at the same time he was appointed to manage the powerful DPRK conglomerate Taeso’ng Group and as the key head of Office #39, lucrative entities earning foreign currency for the DPRK. Taep’ung had attained such a flavor-of-the-week status that one of its key KPA contacts appeared on an April 2010 military promotions list.
Despite several attempts, including the internal transfer of several state-owned enterprises, and a high profile trip by Jon Il Chun at the head of a large delegation of executives under the auspices of Taepu’ng, the company attained little to no foreign direct investment. There were also unconfirmed (and likely erroneous) rumors Taepu’ng became the business rival to another DPRK entity, reportedly established as a competing venture by Gen. O Kuk Ryol. According to Yonhap, Taep’ung “oversaw the now-suspended joint tourist program in Mount Kumgang on the eastern coast of North Korea” and was dissolved along with “another extra-governmental organization in charge of trade promotion and foreign investment with its work believed to have been reassigned to the government’s Commission for Joint Venture and Investment.” It appears that a lot of direct foreign investment has now been consolidated under the Joint Venture and Investment Commission [JVIC], which is under the direction of Ri Ryong Nam and Ri Chol, along with the heavy hand of the Ryo’ngdoja, Jang Song Taek. There also became problems with Taepu’ng’s Chinese backer Pak Chol Su and it did not help Taepu’ng’s external activities to have the imprimatur of the National Defense Commission, which is subjected to numerous United Nations and unilateral sanctions.
Similarly Taepu’ng’s existence may have presented a fundamental obstacle, or proven the wrong entity, for progress in the development of Special Economic Trade Zones in Rajin-So’nbong (Raso’n) and Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng/Wihwa Islands. Of course, one corporation is but a small obstruction to howeverUnited Nations Security Council reacts to the potential nuclear test. And yet, development in Raso’n (despite what one might read in the general lit.) seems to making some progress, likely in anticipation of the thaw of Unggi Bay. It remains to be seen if the upcoming nuclear detonation and its UNSC blowback will affect the activities and formation of various PRC-DPRK development working groups (anchored in China) in late December 2012, and the signing of additional and explicit agreements on infrastructure and design using both DPRK and Chinese entities (no one will use the term iron-clad, just yet).
On 23 January, Chinese media reported that the DPRK Government approved the opening of a Chinese commercial bank primarily to settle transactions in Raso’n. The bank was founded and a ribbon cutting ceremony held on 18 January. According to Hunchun Rexian “Chinese Commercial Bank was put together and founded by China Gold Trade Exchange (Dalian) Company Ltd. The bank’s primary business is renminbi settlement, handling letter of credit, bill of exchange, letter of guarantee, and guaranty for cross-border renminbi transactions, and offering savings, loans, banking, and other financial services. Chinese Commercial Bank was founded to conform with the needs of massive development of Sino- DPRK economic and trade at present as well as the needs of the “Outline of General Program for Joint Development and Joint Management of Naso’n Economic and Trade Zone As Well As Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng Economic Zone,” which was signed by China and the DPRK; it will act as a bridge and a bond in promoting and safeguarding Sino-DPRK economic and trade development.” Hunchun (PRC) Vice Mayor Ren Puyu said that, ”Agreement on Joint Development and Joint Management of Raso’n Economic and Trade Zone” between the Chinese and the DPRK governments, and is the bridge and bond for serving Sino-DPRK financial cooperation and trade interactions; it will definitely play a positive role in promoting Sino-DPRK economic and trade interactions as well as economic prosperity in the future.”
DPRK state media reported on 26 January (Saturday) that participants of the 4th Meeting of Party Cell Secretaries (Fourth Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the Workers’ Party of Korea) arrived at Pyongyang Central Railway Station during the day, “warmly greeted by officials of the Central Committee of the WPK [Workers' Party of Korea; Korean Workers' Party] and other officials concerned.” The first items on the itinerary were visits to Mt. Taeso’ng to the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery and to Ku’msusan Memorial Palace (of the Sun).
The party cells secretaries and meeting participants paid their respects with floral bouquets at the bronze memorial bust of Kim Jong Suk, first wife of the late DPRK President and founder Kim Il Sung, mother of late leader Kim Jong Il and current KWP Secretary and Department Director Kim Kyong Hui. The party cell secretaries also delivered a floral wreath and bouquets and “ observed a moment’s silence in memory of anti-Japanese revolutionary martyrs,” according to KCNA.
The meeting participants also visited the recently renovated Ku’msusan Memorial Palace. They gathered in the hall where the statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il stand. They paid their respects to the body of Kim Il Sung “who successfully accomplished the unique cause of party building and energetically led the party cells to grow stronger and raise their roles in every period of the revolutionary development and at its every stage.” They also paid their respects to the remains of Kim Jong Il, “expressing their inmost feelings that thanks to the dear respected Kim Jong Un who is successfully carrying forward and developing the Generalissimos’ idea of party building and feats performed by them, the revolutionary cause of the party, the Songun revolutionary cause of Juche is winning victory after victory,” according to KCNA. After paying their respects to the preserved bodies of KIS and KJI, the party cell secretaries and meeting participants toured the exhibition halls containing various documents, orders and honorary degrees of KIS and KJI, as well their personal affects including railway carriages, Mercedes Benz S-Class sedans and other items.
The 4th Meeting of Party Cell Secretaries begins on 28 January (Monday).
As a lagniappe to this posting, whilst watching the coverage of the party cell secretaries arriving DPRK state media captured an image of the section of Pyongyang Central Railway Station restricted to Kim Jong Il and other elites.