North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Pregaming the 12th SPA’s 6th Session (revised)

Corrected to reflect the two inter-Korea special administrative regions in Kaeso’ng and Mt. Ku’mgang

The 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] will hold its sixth session on 25 September.  Ahead of the DPRK’s unicameral legislature convening an unusual second session during a given year, there are indications that the country will publicize modifications to current agricultural policies and expand special administrative zones.

There are rumors that the SPA session will ratify a new agricultural policy.  Citing reports from Reuters and the Associated Press, the BBC reports:

Reports of the possible changes came from both inside and outside North Korea.

Farmers in North Korea are currently required to hand over almost all of their production to the state, after keeping a portion for their families.

But two farm workers south of Pyongyang told the Associated Press (AP) news agency that new rules – allowing them to keep any surplus after a government quota had been met – would be implemented later this year.

“We expect a good harvest this year,” farmer O Yong Ae told AP. “I’m happy because we can keep the crops we worked so hard to grow.”

Reuters news agency also reported the plan, citing an unidentified source with ties to Beijing and Pyongyang.

“Peasants will have incentive to grow more food. They can keep and sell in the market about 30-50% of their harvest depending on the region,” the news agency quoted the source as saying.

No official announcement has been made but analysts see it as a sign of a potential change of direction under the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, who took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

On a personnel shift related to agricultural policy; prior to the 12th SPA’s 5th session in April 2012, DPRK Cabinet Vice Premier Kim Rak Hui (Kim Rak-hu’i; Kim Nak-hui) was quietly retired from her government position.  Kim spent most of her career as an agricultural official on local people’s committees and rural management committees; she was designated a national hero by Kim Il Sung for successfully administering food supplies during the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War).  If reports about Kim Jong Un privately announcing a new agricultural policy in late June have any degree of accuracy, they were formulated weeks, if not months, in advance.  Kim Rak Hui’s retirement would have been necessary to undercut senior, internal opposition and remove a public figure who might be associated with the old policy.

The opening ceremony of the 8th Autumn Pyongyang International Trade Fair at the Three Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang on 24 September 2012 (Photo: KCNA)

View of the 8th Autumn Pyongyang Trade Fair at the Three Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

Ahead of the 12th SPA’s 6th session on 24 September (Monday) DPRK state media featured several news items on agriculture and economic development.  The 8th Pyongyang Autumn Trade Fair opened at the Three Revolutions Exhibition in Pyongyang.  At the opening ceremony KCNA reported that “speakers said that the fair play a positively role in expanding the economic relations among the nations as well as in joint venture, investment induction and science and technology exchanges” and the country “will, in the future, too, continue to boost bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other countries and regions in economic trade on the principle of equality and mutual benefits.”

Bicycles produced by the Pyongyang Joint Venture Bicycle Factory on display at the Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Exhibition House in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

KCNA reported that the Ministry of Foodstuffs and Daily Necessities Industry opened an exhibition in Pyongyang’s Sosong District.  The two-story exhibition facility showcases food products, candy, bicycles and cosmetics.  The exhibition’s manager, Sonu Myong Hui told KCNA: “The exhibition house was built to help raise competitiveness among factories under the Ministry of Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Industry and timely make products suitable to the consumers’ demand, as intended by leader Kim Jong Il who cared so much for the people’s livelihood in his lifetime.It also carries on commercial activities.”

Sonu Myong Hui, manager of the Foodstuffs and Damily Necessities Exhibition House in Pyongyang (Photo: KCNA)

KCNA also reported that Kangwo’n Province the “policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea on stepping up the building of a thriving nation with locally available raw materials and technology and by indigenous efforts through scientific and technological development is yielding good fruits.”  KCNA reported a series of developments in the agricultural sector, the production of fertilizers and livestock fodder and cement production.  According to KCNA, “officials and scientists and technicians are intensifying the scientific researches into the projects for reenergizing economy and improving people’s living standard after setting higher goals, not remaining self-complacent with their successes.”

Views of Special Administrative Regions/Economic Zones in the DPRK.  The top image includes two inter-Korean regions, denoted in purple.  Blue denotes a designated SAR/EZ currently under development. Red denotes an area currently reported to be under consideration for SAR/EZ designation. Green denotes an area previously designated an SAR (Photo: Google image)

There are rumors that the SPA will announce an expansion of special economic zones.  Currently, there are two economic zones in the DPRK: Raso’n (Rajin-So’nbong) in the country’s northeast and Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng-Wihwa Islands in the country’s northwest, in addition to the inter-Korean zones at Kaeso’ng Industrial Complex and the Mt. Ku’mggang area.
Tokyo Shimbun reported on 23 September (Sunday) that the DPRK is considering opening up additional economic zones in Namp’o, South P’yo’ngan Province, Haeju in South Hwanghae Province and Sinu’iju in North P’yo’ngan Province.  Tokyo Shimbun reported that “Namp’o has facilities such as a trade port, a refining plant and a shipbuilding yard. If the joint development of the city with foreign countries progresses and foreign investment in the city, which is adjacent to Pyongyang, increases, it may lead to economic reform of the entire North Korea. The joint development of Haeju with South Korea was studied in 2007. Meanwhile, Shinu’iju was designated as special administrative zone in 2002. As such, the development of the three cities was studied at an early period.”

Jang Song Taek speaks during a meeting of the DPRK-China Joint Guidance Commission (Photo: Xinhua)

Of these three options, the designation of Sinu’iju as a special administrative zone is a fait accompli.  The provincial capital of North P’yo’ngan received its designation in 2002 during the 10th Supreme People’s Assembly and appointed  a Chinese-Dutch businessman, Yang Bin, as chief executive.  However, to paraphrase Aidan Foster-Carter, those plans were not thought through and Yang Bin was subsequently arrested and incarcerated for tax evasion.  Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng is located southwest of Sinu’iju, and Wiwha located to the north with both islands situated in the Amnok (Yalu) River, geographically bookending the city.  If the development of the two islands attains any traction, DPRK policymakers must consider (and revise the requisite statutes) the re-establishment of Sinu’iju (well, at least those areas north and west of the mosquito net fence that bisects the city) as a special administrative zone.
The establishment of three additional zones was a topic of discussion when Jang Song Taek visited China in August.  Mr. Jang was directly involved in the policy process that granted special administrative status (in the form of a provincial-level city) to Namp’o in 2004, which it later lost.  Mr. Jang was similarly tied to discussions about developing Haeju in the early 2000s.  And yet, additional special administrative regions may be temporarily shelved until development proceeds sufficiently in Raso’n and Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng/Wihwa.  According to Tokyo Shimbun‘s report, Mr. Jang’s interlocutors in China “allegedly demanded that Pyongyang make legal preparations to create favorable conditions for corporate investment and introduce market mechanism. So, it is uncertain whether Chinese companies will make inroads and invest in the cities immediately after they are designated as special economic zones.”

Col. Gen. Pyon In Son (L) and VMar Hyon Yong Chol (R) (Photo: KCNA and KCNA-Yonhap)

The potential expansion of special administrative regions may have partially  contributed to two recent, senior appointments in the Korean People’s Army [KPA].  If the designation and development of Haeju is under serious consideration, it may have been part of the appointment of Col. Gen. Pyon In Son as commanding officer of IV Army Corps in August 2011.  Col. Gen. Pyon previously served as a Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and visited China in 2010.  It is a standard practice to rotate general-grade officers from the KPA’s high command in Pyongyang to the corps command.  However, the central leadership may have found Col. Gen. Pyon’s predecessor at IV Corps, Gen. Kim Kyok Sik, more useful in Pyongyang (especially if a KPA housecleaning was under way).  Col. Gen. Pyon, having some experience interacting with senior Chinese military and political officials, may have been placed at IV Army Corps with the expectation that if Haeju were developed (with Chinese or even Korean partners) it would reduce any frictional interactions with KPA personnel stationed in the area.  Development of Hwanggu’mp’yo’ng and Wihwa Islands (and Sinu’iju) was most likely one of the reasons Hyon Yong Chol was named chief of the KPA General Staff.  Prior to his formal appointment this past July, VMar Hyon was commanding officer of VIII Army Corps, which is headquartered approximately 72 km (45 miles) east of Sinu’iju, with assets close to the city.
Pyongyang policy deliberations on expanding the number of special administrative regions have not been restricted to areas in the country’s west.  Choi Song Min reported in Daily NK  on 14 September that Ch’o’ngjin, North Hamgyo’ng’s provincial capital, was also under consideration for special status after the DPRK sold docking rights to Chinese companies:
North Korea recently sold 30-year operating rights to docks 3 & 4 at the port in Chongjin to Chinese firms, making it probable that the city will become part of a special economic zone (SEZ) in due course. If so, the move would actually represent the culmination of a plan drawn up almost ten years ago, under which Chongjin was divided into two regions, Chongjin and South Chongjin, in preparation.At the time, the tentatively planned SEZ area would have encompassed Sunam in the center of the city plus Pohang, Chungam and Sinam to the north, while putting Ranam and Songpyong districts outside the SEZ in South Chongjin.Therefore, a source from the city recalled on the 13th, “With opening in mind, they put in place plans to move provincial administrative agencies to Ranam District. They chose sites and finished building blueprints under which the provincial Party, provincial People’s Safety Ministry and Kim Il Sung statue from Pohang District and the province’s people’s committee from Sinam District would all move.”The source went on, “The people of Chongjin were excited then because they knew how much Rasun developed after opening. Those people living in Songpyong and Ranam tried hard to get their jobs and residences moved to the SEZ area in advance, which naturally inspired a security backlash.”Although its opening has not been an unbridled success, outsiders forget that until the early 1990s Rajin had been a county town in which life was hard even by North Korean standards. However, after it was designated a special economic zone by Kim Il Sung, roads and houses changed beyond recognition. One defector remembered, “The changes took place so fast that it seemed like a foreign city.”Indeed, many residents of Rajin SEZ famously sent food and material support to relatives in less fortunate areas throughout the famine of 1995-1997.However, the Chongjin SEZ plan presents considerable hurdles. One problem is that from a security standpoint there is not only the danger posed by foreign products and information, but also that the areas inside and outside the SEZ need to be physically separated.In Rajin’s case, not only were undesirable elements including family members of political prisoners and people detained in re-education camps forced to move out, but even people without jobs in the SEZ were told to move on.As subsequently proven by satellite images, “Rajin is surrounded by barbed wire, like an island within the land,” the source said. “The residents are kept away from the foreign tourists, who have access to the luxury hotel and its casino.”

DPRK Ambassador to Nigeria Jong Hak Se (Photo: Office of the President of Ghana)

 The 12th SPA’s 6th session might also find that the DPRK is not merely reconfiguring its economic relationship with China, but continues to branch out to other countries.  Ruth Tene of Leadership Online reports that nonresident DPRK Ambassador to Nigeria, Jong Hak Se, discussed his country providing technical assistance (most likely tunnel construction and personnel) with Nigeria’s Minister of Mines and Steel Development:

Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Korea are set to partner on the development of solid minerals in the country.

To this effect, the Ambassador of the Asian country, Ambassador Jong Hak Se, has offered technical assistance for the development of the Solid minerals and Agricultural sectors in Nigeria

The ambassador said this when he paid a working visit to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Musa Mohammed Sada, in Abuja, yesterday.

He said that the offer was for both the Federal and State governments as part of effort to enhance the development of the Steel sector.

Jong Hak Se maintained, “that Korea like Nigeria  was enriched  with lots of mineral resources and shared a vibrant solid minerals sector but differed in that while Nigeria sought to be one of the 20 most developed countries of the World by the year 2020, Korea  wants to be the most developed Country by 2020”.

The Minister, in his response, assured that the federal government has mapped out an agenda for economic development, job creation and economic empowerment for the only sector which had the greatest job generation potential

One comment on “Pregaming the 12th SPA’s 6th Session (revised)

  1. Roger

    Pictures 1,8,9 Ko Young-hee closer to #DPRK canonization

    KJU likes to visit homes around 6 pm. in pic 3 & 12.

    small observations compared to the wonderful work and analysis you all have laid out.

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This entry was posted on 09/24/2012 by in Administration Department, Central Committee, Central Military Committee, China-DPRK Yalu River Patrol Missions, Choe Yong Rim, colonel general, corps command, cpc-kwp rels, critical infrastructure, DPRK Cabinet, DPRK Central Bank, DPRK External Relations, DPRK Premier, DPRK-Africa Relations, DPRK-China Joint Guidance Committee, DPRK-China Relations, DPRK-Japan Relations, DPRK-Japan rels, DPRK-Nigreria Relations, DPRK-PRC Border, DPRK-South Central Asia, DPRK-Southeast Asia Relations, Finance and Accounting, Financial Planning Department, food production, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol, Hwanggumphyong (Hwanggu'mp'yo'ng) Economic Zone, Inter-Korean Relations, International Department, Jang Song-thaek, JVIC, Kang Sok Ju, Kim Family, Kim Jong-un, Kim Yang Gon, Korean People's Army (KPA), Korean Workers' Party (KWP), KPA construction battalions, KPA construction brigades, KPA External Relations, KPA General Staff, KPA supernumerary organizations, Light Industry Department, local people's committees, Machine Building Industry Department, mines, Ministry of Capital Construction, Ministry of Electronic Industry, Ministry of Extractive Industries, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Food and Procurement, Ministry of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection, Ministry of Light Industry, Ministry of Metal Industry, nason, National Defense Commission (NDC), NDC Administration Department, North Pyongan Provincial People's Committee, Organization and Guidance Department, Political Bureau, Provincial Party Committees, Provinicial People's Committee, Rajin-So'nbong People's Committee, Raso'n Economic Zone, Ro Tu Chol, rural management committees, Secretariat, Sinuiju City People's Committee, State Planning Commission (SPC), Supreme People's Assembly, transportation, transportation--railways, tunnel construction, United Front Department, VIII Army Corps, water facilities.

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