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Mongolia, DPRK Sign Economic Agreements

29 Oct
Mongolian Minister of Industry and Agriculture Khaltmaa Battulga (L) shakes hands with DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam (R) after signing an economic cooperation agreement at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photo: KCNA).

Mongolian Minister of Industry and Agriculture Khaltmaa Battulga (L) shakes hands with DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam (R) after signing an economic cooperation agreement at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photo: KCNA).

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.”

DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam and Mongolian Minister of Industry and Agriculture Khaltmaa Battulga sign an economic cooperation agreement in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam and Mongolian Minister of Industry and Agriculture Khaltmaa Battulga sign an economic cooperation agreement in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

Chair of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries Kim Jong Suk and Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Luvsanvandan Bold sign an agreement on sports and cultural exchanges and tourism in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

Chair of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries Kim Jong Suk and Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Luvsanvandan Bold sign an agreement on sports and cultural exchanges and tourism in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

Deputy Director-General of the DPRK General Bureau Software Industry Jong Song Chang and Mongolian Ambassador to the DPRK Manibadrakh Ganbold sign a technology exchange agreement effective from 2013 to 2015 in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

Deputy Director-General of the DPRK General Bureau Software Industry Jong Song Chang and Mongolian Ambassador to the DPRK Manibadrakh Ganbold sign a technology exchange agreement effective from 2013 to 2015 in Pyongyang on 28 October 2013 (Photos: KCNA screen grabs).

Kim Jong Un Attends Soccer Game Prior to Liberation Day

14 Aug
Kim Jong Un attends a men's football (soccer) game between the Ryongaksan and Pot'onggang Teams at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on 14 August 2013, one day ahead of Liberation Day (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

Kim Jong Un attends a men’s football (soccer) game between the Ryongaksan and Pot’onggang Teams at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on 14 August 2013, one day ahead of Liberation Day (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

View of a men's football (soccer) game between the Yongaksan and Pot'onggang Teams at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on 14 August 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

View of a men’s football (soccer) game between the Yongaksan and Pot’onggang Teams at Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on 14 August 2013 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

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 Premier Visits Mushroom Production Sites and Pyongyang Metro

2 Aug
DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (2nd R) inspects products at a mushroom production site managed by the Korean People's Army (Photo: KCNA).

DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (2nd R) inspects products at a mushroom production site managed by the Korean People’s Army (Photo: KCNA).

DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (L) inspects a mushroom production facility operated by the Korean People's Army (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (L) inspects a mushroom production facility operated by the Korean People’s Army (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

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 Cabinet Holds Second Plenum

16 Jul
DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (1) and DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol (2), seen touring a KPA livestock breeding facility in May 2013, delivered the reports at the DPRK Cabinet's second plenary meeting held on an disclosed date in July 2013 (Photo: KCNA file photo).

DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju (1) and DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol (2), seen touring a KPA livestock breeding facility in May 2013, delivered the reports at the DPRK Cabinet’s second plenary meeting held on an disclosed date in July 2013 (Photo: KCNA file photo).

DPRK state media reported on 13 July (Saturday) that the DPRK Cabinet held its second plenary meeting (plenum) in 2013.  Neither Korean nor English news items on the Cabinet meeting disclosed the date (KCNA reported on 15 July [Monday] that the meeting was “held recently”) of the plenary session.  Attending the meeting were DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju and Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, “senior functionaries of the organs under direct control of the cabinet; directors of management bureaus; chairman of provincial, municipal, and country people’s committees; chairmen of provincial rural economic committees; chairman of provincial district planning committees; directors of provincial and daily necessities industrial management bureaus” and attending as observers were “managers of major plants and enterprises.”

The first agenda item at the Cabinet meeting was “death defyingly implementing the militant tasks set forth in respected and beloved Comrade Kim Jong Un’s historic letter of appeal ‘Let Us Usher in a New Heyday on All Fronts of Socialist Construction by Creating the Masikryo’ng [Masik Pass] Speed.”  Premier Pak Pong Ju delivered a report on the first agenda item.  The Cabinet meeting’s second agenda item was a report on “the fulfillment of the people’s economic plan in the first half of the year and on measures for successfully fulfilling the people’s economic plan in the third and fourth quarters.  Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol reported on the second agenda item.

After the reports were delivered, speeches were delivered by the plenary meeting’s participants.  According to KCNA, Pak, Ro and the meeting’s speakers said “soldier-builders on Masik Pass are pushing forward several projects in a three dimensional way and breaking levels and records set in the past amid a high- pitched drive for creating the ‘speed on Masik Pass,’” that “reclaimers of the Sep’o tableland made shining achievements with the goal to reclaim more than 50 000 hectares of grassland and finish the construction of stock-breeding management center within this year” and that “fresh successes and innovations are being made in the construction of major projects including the construction of the Ch’o’ngch’o’ngang Power Stations in Tiers and apartment houses for scientists.”  According to Minju Joson, all participants of the expanded meeting of the cabinet plenary session renewed their firm resolve to achieve great successes in this meaningful year’s economic work by thoroughly implementing the militant tasks set forth in the respected and beloved marshal’s New Year Address and historic letter of appeal.”

KCNA also reported that the meeting’s speakers noted that “unprecedented production swing is being effected in the different sectors of the national economy amid the efforts to carry out the tasks advanced by Marshal Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address and appeal” and said “the service personnel and people of the DPRK are faced with the heavy yet responsible tasks to usher in a new heyday on all fronts of socialist construction by working hard to create the “speed on Masik Pass” in hearty response to the historic appeal made by the Marshal while carrying through the tasks laid out in his New Year Address.”  The meeting’s reporters and speakers also said that “in the midst of a hot wind of productive upsurges fiercely sweeping through all sectors of the people’s economy, including light industry and agriculture — the main fronts of this year’s economic construction — and the four leading sectors, the Ministry of Coal Industry, the Ministry of Machine Industry, and many other units overfulfilled the people’s economic plan in the first half of the year, and brilliant success was achieved particularly in fulfilling the June people’s economic plan through the vigorous struggle of the functionaries and working people of various sectors of the people’s economy who rose up vigorously, holding high the respected and beloved marshal’s historic letter of appeal” and that “the production of key industrial products increased amid a struggle to fulfill the people’s economic plan by each index during the first half of the year.”

The Cabinet plenary meeting’s speakers and debate participants “unanimously emphasized that all these achievements are the results of the wise leadership of the respected and beloved marshal, who clearly indicated the direction and ways of doing the economic work in this meaningful year’s New Year Address, led various sectors of the people’s economy by the hand every step of the way in the course of giving them on-the-spot guidance despite being so busy with leading the military-first revolution, and roused millions of soldiers and people to achieve great innovation and great leap by issuing his historic letter of appeal.”  In the official report of the Cabinet meeting,  Minju Joson quoted Kim Jong Un’s remark that “it is our party’s intention and determination to raise a hot wind of great innovation and great leap throughout the country by following and learning from the indomitable fighting spirit and fighting traits displayed by soldiers in the construction of the Masik Pass Skiing Ground.”  According to KCNA after the reports, speeches and debates the DPRK Cabinet “adopted a relevant decision.”

The DPRK Cabinet resolved that “firm priority should be given to the equipment and materials needed for construction over carrying out construction work and should be responsibly supplied so that the Masik Pass soldier-builders can finish building the Masik Pass Skiing Ground within this year as intended by the respected and beloved marshal.”  To that end the Cabinet instructed that “the building materials, metal, and forestry industrial sectors and other sectors should supply cement, steel materials, logs, and other materials needed for construction in a timely manner, and the machine industrial sector and other units should responsibly fulfill the tasks of supplying equipment by meticulously carrying out the production organization and command, and support the construction both materially and morally.”

The DPRK Cabinet also resolved that using the Masik Pass Skiing Ground workers as model, “important construction projects should be further accelerated, including the Sep’o tableland reclamation battle, the construction of the terraced Ch’o’ngch’o’n River Power Plant, Mt Paektu Military-First Youth Power Plant, and Wo’nsan Army-People Power Plant, the construction of Munsu Wading Pool, and the reconstruction and repair of the sports village in Ch’o’ngch’un Street” and that “relevant units should carry out all construction work strictly in accordance with the requirements of technical regulations and standard construction methods and decisively reinforce the struggle to improve the construction quality and construction supervision work, thereby erecting all buildings and other structures at the best level as monumental creations of the times, and supply units should unconditionally give priority to supplying the building materials over carrying out construction work.”

The Cabinet meeting also “presented a task of fiercely raising fiery winds of great innovation and great leap in the leading sectors of the the people’s economy above all else.”  The coal industry “should give firm priority to prospecting and tunneling, expand coal production capacity by accelerating the development of new coal mines and pits, and increase coal production by actively introducing advanced coal mining methods.”  The electrical power industry “should concentrate its efforts on operating existing power generating facilities at full capacity and systematically increase electric power production by mapping out measures for increasing the efficiency of power generating facilities.”

In order for “efforts. . .into shoring up” the metal industry the electric power and coal industries, in cooperation with the Ministry of Railways “should unconditionally produce and supply the electric power and coal needed for production at iron works and steel mills according to plan and channel efforts to materials transport.”  The metal industry should also “shold fast to the chuch’e-orientation of metal industry as a lifeline and put spurs to the production of steel materials.”   The Ministry of Railways should also “further increase the transport capacity by intensifying the production and repair of locomotives and freight cars, and meticulously carry out the transport organization and command to establish a strong discipline like the army, thereby further increasing the railway cargo transport.”

The DPRK Cabinet’s plenary meeting also “placed key emphasis on the need to bring about productive upsurges in light industrial and agricultural sectors — the main fronts of this year’s economic construction.”  The country’s light industries “should adhere to the normalization of the people’s consumer goods production as a priority task and operate the modernized people’s consumer goods production bases at full capacity by meticulously carrying out the work for the supply of raw materials and other materials, and make a strong drive for improving the product quality, thereby making sure that more consumer goods are supplied to the people in this meaningful year, while also further accelerating the technical reconstruction of light industrial plants.”

With regard to food production, the DPRK’s agricultural sector “should do the fertilization and management of crops thoroughly in line with the demands of the chuch’e-based farming method without losing the momentum created in finishing the rice planting and sowing the seeds of field crops at the right time, thereby fulfilling this year’s grain production goal without fail” and the country’s fishing industry should “increase fish production by harmoniously combining deep-sea fishing and inshore fishing and expand sea farming, while more firmly consolidating the material and technical foundation of the fisheries industry.”

The cabinet meeting called for the machine-building industry to “make good use of the existing production foundations to produce more machine tools, vehicles, tractors, and various other machine products, and actively develop new modern machine products”, for the chemical industries to “increase the fertilizer production and put spurs to the production of synthetic fibers and synthetic resins, thus thoroughly achieving localization of light industrial raw materials,” for the building materials and forestry industries to “normalize the production at existing cement factories and increase log production” and for mining industries to “decisive increase the production of various minerals and processed products.”

On the matter of science and technology the DPRK Cabinet “indicated the need for all sectors and units of the people’s economy to vigorously carry out the battle of breaking through the ultra-cutting edge, holding high the party’s intention” saying that it “is necessary to decisively improve and reinforce guidance over the work of science and technology in line with the demands of the development of reality, firmly organize specialized scientific research institutes, reinforce the research and development activities of universities, and decisively increase the technology and product development capabilities of factories and enterprises” and that “investment in the work of science and technology should be increased, and the social traits of attaching importance to science and technology should be established in the whole country, while firmly adhering to the work for guaranteeing the working and living conditions of scientists and technicians.”  The Cabinet also “set forth important tasks that arise in thoroughly implementing the party’s strategic line on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of a nuclear armed forces,” but did not disclose what those “tasks” were.

The Cabinet plenary meeting also addressed “issues of provincial, municipal, and county people’s committees revitalizing local industries according to the characteristics of their local areas; vigorously waging a struggle to develop all cultural fields, including education, public health, literature and art, and sports, to the level of an advanced civilized country; and all functionaries and working people inscribing Kim Jong Il patriotism deep on their hearts and sprucing up their villages, streets, and workplaces and parks and pleasure grounds in line with the demands of the military-first era and normalizing their management and operation, thereby bringing about a turnabout in the work for putting a new face on the land in this meaningful year.”

The DPRK Cabinet also reiterated its role “for further enhancing the responsibility and role of the cabinet and the functionaries of economic guidance organs” and “emphasized the need to resolve all issues that arise in the economic work by concentrating them on the cabinet according to the demands of the cabinet system, the system centered on the cabinet; the need to establish a strong discipline and order of unconditionally executing the cabinet’s decisions and instructions; and the need for economic guidance functionaries to make sure that leaps and innovations take place in every sentry post, while taking the lead in guiding the work of their respective sectors and units.”

DPRK Minister of Railways Attends OSJD Conference in Estonia

22 Jun
The DPRK delegation of the Ministry of Railways attends the opening session of the 41st Ministerial Meeting of the Organization for the Cooperation of Railways in Talinn, Estonia on 11 June 2013 (Photo: Tanel Meos/Ärilehe).

The DPRK delegation of the Ministry of Railways attends the opening session of the 41st Ministerial Meeting of the Organization for the Cooperation of Railways in Talinn, Estonia on 11 June 2013 (Photo: Tanel Meos/Ärilehe).

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.”

A view of the Khasan-So'nbong line (Photo: Google image)

A view of the Khasan-So’nbong line (Photo: Google image)

DPRK Premier Visits Yanggakdo Stadium and Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory

14 Jun

DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju (3rd R) inspects a lawn mower during his visit to the renovation of Yanggakdo Stadium in Pyongyang.  Also in attendance is DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro To Chol (2nd R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

DPRK Cabinet Premier Pak Pong Ju (3rd R) inspects a lawn mower during his visit to the renovation of Yanggakdo Stadium in Pyongyang. Also in attendance is DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro To Chol (2nd R) (Photo: Rodong Sinmun).

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.”

View of Yanggakdo Stadium and the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory (Photo: Google image).

View of Yanggakdo Stadium and the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory (Photo: Google image).

The Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory in east Pyongyang (Photo: Google image).

The Pyongyang Essential Foodstuffs Factory in east Pyongyang (Photo: Google image).

The Yanggakdo Stadium in Pyongyang.  Construction boats, some of which may be involved in dredging operations in the Taedong River to produce concrete, can be seen at the bottom of the image (Photo: Google image).

The Yanggakdo Stadium in Pyongyang. Construction boats, some of which may be involved in dredging operations in the Taedong River to produce concrete, can be seen at the bottom of the image (Photo: Google image).

Taep’ung Investment Group Formally Dissolved

1 Feb
A 2010 meeting of borad members of the DPRK State Development Bank, linked to the Taep'ung Internati

A 2010 meeting of borad members of the DPRK State Development Bank, linked to the Taep’ung International Investment Group. In this image are Jon Il Chun (R) and Ro Tu Chol (2nd R) (Photo: KCTV screengrab)

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.”

Party Cell Secretaries Arrive in Pyongyang

26 Jan
Party cell secretaries and participants at the 4th Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the KWP arrive at Pyongyang Centraal Railway Station (L) on 26 January 2013, as members of the Korean People's Internal Security Forces All-Female Brass Ensemble play welcoming music (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Party cell secretaries and participants at the 4th Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the KWP arrive at Pyongyang Centraal Railway Station (L) on 26 January 2013, as members of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces All-Female Brass Ensemble play welcoming music (R) (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

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).

KWP Central Committee officials (L) and electronic signage welcome participants at the 4th party cell secretaries meeting on 26 January 2013 (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

KWP Central Committee officials (L) and electronic signage welcome participants at the 4th party cell secretaries meeting on 26 January 2013 (Photos: KCTV screengrabs)

Party cell secretaries (L) arrive in Pyongyang, at the central railway station (R) on 26 January 2013 (Photos: KCNA)

Party cell secretaries (L) arrive in Pyongyang, at the central railway station (R) on 26 January 2013 (Photos: KCNA)

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.

Graphic of the KWP's Basic Party Organization (Graphic: Michael Madden/NKLW)

Graphic of the KWP’s Basic Party Organization (Graphic: Michael Madden/NKLW)

Party cell secretaries solemnly walk though the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery on 26 January 2013 (Photo: KCNA)

Party cell secretaries solemnly walk though the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery on 26 January 2013 (Photo: KCNA)

Party cell secretaries and participants at the 4th Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the KWP deliver flowers at the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery on 26 January 2013 (Photos: KCNA)

Party cell secretaries and participants at the 4th Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the KWP deliver flowers at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery on 26 January 2013 (Photos: 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.

Pyongyang Centraal Railway Station's VIP section (annotated).  Also annotated is a car belonging to Inspector O's foils from the Pyongyang Traffic Bureau (Photo: KCTV screengrab)

Pyongyang Centraal Railway Station’s VIP section (annotated). Also annotated is a car belonging to Inspector O’s foils from the Pyongyang Traffic Bureau (Photo: KCTV screengrab)

Where did KJI Pass Away in a “State of Agitation”? (revised)

16 Jan
Kim Jong Il (front) at his last reported public appearance at the Kwangbok Market in December 2011.  This was the last image of the late leader when he was alive telecasted in DPRK state media before he died on 17 December 2011 (Photo:  Rodong Sinmun)

Kim Jong Il (front) at his last reported public appearance at the Kwangbok Market in December 2011. This was the last image of the late leader when he was alive telecasted in DPRK state media before he died on 17 December 2011 (Photo: Rodong Sinmun)

Chosun Ilbo, citing an anonymous source, reported in January that Kim Jong Il’s death on 17 December 2011 was precipitated by his anger after major leaks were discovered in a dam at the Hu’ich’o’n Power Station’s construction.  According to the unnamed source, “It wasn’t just a crack. The safety of the entire dam was in question.”  The leaks in the dam may have been due to rushed construction work, to complete the power station by April 2012, in time for celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late DPRK President and founder, Kim Il Sung (KJI’s father).  DPRK state media editorials and essays published in 2010 and 2011 termed “Hu’ich’o’n Speed” the new “Ch’o’llima Speed” and one piece described the power station as the “forefront of the drive for building a thriving nation.”  The power station was completed and opened during a ceremony held on 5 April 2012 and, as of October 2012, was supplying electricity to Pyongyang.

The railway route Kim Jong Il would utilized if, as Chosun Ilbo claims, he traveled from Pyongyang to the Hu'ich'o'n Power Station, then died en route (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden)

The railway route Kim Jong Il would have utilized if, as Chosun Ilbo claims, he traveled from Pyongyang to the Hu’ich’o’n Power Station, then died en route (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden)

A view of the railway stations from which KJI would traveled from Pyongyang to the Hu'ich'o'n Power Station in December 2011, showing his main railway station in Ryongsong District, near the residential compound there, or the Pyongyang Central Railway Station VIP area which he also utilized (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden)

A view of the railway stations from which KJI would traveled from Pyongyang to the Hu’ich’o’n Power Station in December 2011, showing his main railway station in Ryongsong District, near the residential compound there, or the Pyongyang Central Railway Station VIP area which he also utilized (Photo: Google image; route drawn by M. Madden)

According to Chosun Ilbo‘s unnamed source, “After being briefed about the leak, Kim Jong-il lambasted officials and ordered them to repair it.  He rushed to make an on-site inspection of the facility unable to contain his anger and died suddenly.”  The South Korean (ROK) daily also reported that “Stress about the trouble at Huichon was apparently the last straw after Kim learned that steel and textile manufacturing plants, also touted as key projects, had serious defects as well.”  Kim Jong Il’s last reported public appearance was his visit to the Kwangbok Department Store.  At the time of KJI’s demise, the DPRK was also conducting two major interactions with the US in Beijing, one with US Ambassador Glyn Davies and one with US Special Representative Robert King.  Also, in Beijing on an official visit at the time, was DPRK Minister of Electronic Industry Han Kwang Bok, who was later removed from office.  It is possible that reports to KJI about these interactions, in addition to problems with the Hu’ich’o’n Power Station, sent KJI’s delicate cardiovascular condition over the edge.  Alastair Gale wrote a fascinating essay about this report for Korea Realtime.  The policy and political circumstances under which Kim Jong Il passed away may have affected a number of personnel and political decisions and activities that Pyongyang watchers beheld during 2012.

Chosun Ilbo undercut its own story, writing that “Kim Jong-il was famous for his nocturnal lifestyle and normally got up around noon.”  This information is a bit dated.  For many years, KJI was a night owl.  In the early years of his succession drive he stayed up awaiting ‘phone calls from his father (who also worked in the wee hours).  Later on, as he assumed more operational power and policy control, Kim Jong Il would start completing his office work late at night.  If he was hosting a close aide party or “secret” banquet he’d slip away early and head for his office where he’d read reports, documents and policy proposals until the early hours of morning.  He would retire to his quarters for a few hours’ rest and then appear back at whatever office out of which he was operating during the late morning or early afternoon.  KJI’s kept this nocturnal schedule until around 2007.  In 2007 he began to experience headaches and trouble with his eyesight while working.  This foreshadowed the subsequent health problems that culminated in a transient ischemic attack [TIA] followed by a major stroke during July and August 2008.

Even before his strokes in 2008, KJI had curtailed his late night office work.  At dinner party in the PRC Embassy in Pyongyang in January 2008, KJI smiled and said, “I am physically so much weaker than when I was younger.  Lately, I’ve been feeling even weaker.  In my office I sometimes feel dizzy and I get light-headed.  I can’t drink and I am on a diet.  What is even worse is that I can’t stay up late any more.  I am terribly bored every day.”  Between rumors about KJI’s problems in 2007-2008, and his own admissions to family members and foreign visitors, Chinese officials became somewhat concerned and began to compile observations and information about the late leader’s health.  The Chinese got a better view on KJI’s health on 18 June 2008 when Kim Jong Il met with Xi Jinping for over an hour.  Although Chinese observers said KJI kept his eyes closed and nodded as the Chinese spoke, he was “quick to respond” and “logical and coherent.”  While the KJI-Xi meeting provided the PRC a first-hand assessment of KJI’s physical and mental faculties, Xi’s visit to Pyongyang was the first stop on a five-nation tour of Chinese allies and Xi’s first foreign excursion after his appointment as China’s Vice President in March 2008.

View of KJI's main base of operations showing his headquarters (the KWP CC #1 Office), his personal clinic and two of the residences where he alternated staying when he was in the city centre of Pyongyang.  KJI's residential compounds in Ryongsong District and Kangdong County, and those lcoated in the provinces, also had clinic facilities and on-call medical personnel (Photo: Google image)

View of KJI’s main base of operations showing his headquarters (the KWP CC #1 Office), his personal clinic and two of the residences where he alternated staying when he was in the city centre of Pyongyang. KJI’s residential compounds in Ryongsong District and Kangdong County, and those lcoated in the provinces, also had clinic facilities and on-call medical personnel (Photo: Google image)

In any event, after 2007, Kim Jong Il ceased working in his office at night.  From 2008 to 2011, according to several sources and accounts, Kim Jong Il generally woke up early in the morning.  When not staying in his suite at Ponghwa Clinic, he received a daily medical check up either at his personal clinic in the central party complex or from medical personnel (working under the Guard Command and Personal Secretariat) at whatever residence at which he was staying.  When not conducting guidance tours of economic sites, public facilities or military field inspections, KJI was usually in his office by 9 AM.  In the last months of his life, Kim Jong Il kept a very busy public schedule.  Stewing over a misleading report about infrastructure work one frigid Saturday morning, it is entirely likely KJI decided to board his private train and see for himself what was happening at Hu’ich’o’n Power Station.

The Sojong VIP area in Pot'onggang District in central Pyongyang where KJI's official wife Kim Yong Suk and other DPRK elites (including Cabinet members reside).  His daughter, Kim So'l-song  has been said to have a home in this complex (Photo: Google image)

The Sojong VIP area in Pot’onggang District in central Pyongyang where KJI’s official wife Kim Yong Suk and other DPRK elites (including Cabinet members reside). His daughter, Kim So’l-song has been said to have a home in this complex (Photo: Google image)

View of the Sojong VIP neighborhood and its proximity to Ponghwa Clinic (hospital) where KJI stayed or received medical treatment during 2008-2011 (Photo: Google image)

View of the Sojong VIP neighborhood and its proximity to Ponghwa Clinic (hospital) where KJI stayed or received medical treatment during 2008-2011 (Photo: Google image)

And yet, perhaps Kim Jong Il did not expire on the mystery train.  On 27 December 2012,

Japan’s Shukan Bushun obtained documents from a country with close ties to the DPRK leadership which claimed that Kim Jong Il died on 16 December 2011 (Friday) after taking a nap in the home of his beloved daughter and close aide Kim So’l-song (Kim Sul-song).  Some details from Shukan‘s documents were churning through the Pyongyang rumor mill in December 2011 and January 2012, after KJI’s demise.  A person who had some knowledge about KJI’s activities and the Kim family’s interactions told me that prior to his death KJI had worked in his office on 16 December 2011, and at that time there was tension between himself and his hereditary successor Kim Jong Un.  A Korean Workers’ Party senior official who was a member of KJI’s entourage said that

Just after 7:00 a.m. on 15 December, Kim Jong Il secretly visited the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance and then the Hana Music Information Center. Around 9:00 a.m., he then went to give on-site guidance at a large department store (in the heart of the commercial area in the Kwangbok District) jointly financed by North Korea and China.  Kim Jong Il walked all around the three-story department store, inspecting it. However, during his inspection, he would walk a little ways, a pained expression would cross his face, and he would stop; then he would walk a bit more and stop again. He repeated that numerous times. Also during the inspection, he pointed out the false facts given in the reports by the senior officials in charge. At those times he got fairly worked up.

After his three hour visit to the department store, KJI returned to his office in the central party complex where he attended to some office work.  According to a media report from December 2011, citing an unnamed source, KJI had been in his office reviewing and signing documents during 15 to 16 December 2011.  On 16 December, according Shukan‘s documents and the foreign officials it interviewed, KJI canceled a guidance tour and remained at one of the two residences in central Pyongyang which he was using at the time.  On the afternoon of 16 December KJI, accompanied by a retinue of bodyguards, a personal assistant and a physician, visited the residence of his daughter Kim So’l-song.  Kim So’l-song is the daughter of KJI’s official wife, Kim Yong Suk, and was a close aide to her father managing some of his itineraries and security arrangements.  So’l-song is a Lt. Colonel in the KPA and was tied directly to the Guard Command.

The last known places where Kim Jong Il was present during 15-16 December 2011 (Photo: Google image)

The last known places where Kim Jong Il was present during 15-16 December 2011 (Photo: Google image)

KJI’s visit to So’l-song’s house was not unusual.  According both to Shukan Bushun and other sources, when he did not have official dinner engagements, KJI was a regular visitor to his daughter’s house, spending time with his grandchildren, So’l-song’s husband, his sister Kim Kyong Hui and his fifth wife (or consort) Kim Ok.  On 16 December KJI had dinner with So’l-song, her husband and children.  During the meal KJI consumed an unusually large amount of alcohol and neglected to take the medication mitigating the liquor’s effects on his kidneys.  After dinner, Kim Jong Il said that he would return to his own residence, after taking an hour’s rest at So’l-so’ng’s house.  An hour after KJI retired to nap, his personal aide heard the chiming of a medical alert device which KJI wore on his wrist.  According to a DPRK official “When So’l-song and her son, who had been talking in the living room, and an aide to Kim Jong Il went to the bedroom, they found that Kim Jong Il had fainted, with foam around his mouth. Later, Kim Jong Il’s main physician confirmed his death.”  After KJI passed away the central party initiated an enquiry into the circumstances of KJI’s demise–the results of this enquiry may explain why some of KJI’s personal aides fell by the wayside during the funeral events in late December 2011 (one day they were attending to Kim Jong Un and other core elites, and the next day they were no where to be seen).

The intelligence report, the DPRK and foreign officials interviewed by Shukan Bushun claimed that during the last year and a half Kim Jong Il’s mental and physical health declined.  A In June 2011 in a conversation with someone who knows members of the family, my friend said that “the father was not doing well. . . mentally” and said that KJI had become depressed (which would explain why he spent a lot of his public schedule watching concerts and other performances).  This same source and friend also said that he did not expect KJI to live much longer.  Shukan Bushun reported that KJI spent his free time watching television and surfing the Internet.  According to Shukan “But he whiled away his free time with television or the Internet, he hardly did any exercise. He set aside 40 minutes for walking, but he would spend more time sitting on the benches along his walking course than actually walking.”

Shukan Bushun reports that the main source of KJI’s melancholy was feuding with his son and hereditary successor, Kim Jong Un, particularly over personnel appointments.  According to Shukan Kim Jong Un was eager for a “generational change” in the 1st and 2nd tier central leadership of the party, army and government to which Kim Jong Il angrily remonstrated, “Despite the fact that after I am gone, it will still not be too late to use your people, why are you in such a rush to try to handle things your way?”

Despite the circumstances around KJI’s death, Kim So’l-song has become a close aide to Jong Un.  She was promoted into the KWP Organization Guidance Department and her husband is believed to be a close advisor to KJU.

n.b. Materials in this positing derive from my short book The Last Days of the Ryo’ngdoja (currently undergoing its 2nd edit) and a feature in Japanese press from 2009

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