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Seoul spent USD$8.6 million on inter-Korean liaison office renovation: MOU, By Dagyum Ji
Funds to come from Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, also cover accommodation and some utilities
South Korea spent close to KRW10 billion on renovation works during the establishment of an inter-Korean liaison office at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced on Wednesday.
A bill providing a total of KRW9.7 billion (USD$8.6 million) for the refurbishment was passed at the 298th session of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council on Wednesday. Funds will come from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.
The South Korean government renovated what is now the inter-Korean liaison office and accommodation for representative residents, along with, among other things, water purification plants and distribution stations.
Seoul and Pyongyang previously agreed to refurbish the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Discussion Office and staff accommodation within the KIC to facilitate the operation of the liaison office.
Since its opening last month, the South has also been providing water for the liaison office and North Koreans living in the Kaesong area. Seoul spent a total of KRW7.9 billion (USD$7 million) and KRW1.6 billion (USD$1.4 million), respectively, on the renovation of facilities and accommodation and the repair works for supporting facilities, lawmaker Cheong Yang-seog said in an additional disclosure to press.
The MOU said the renovation works began in mid-July and were almost complete by late September, with construction workers residing in the Kaesong city. Renovation and incidental expenses were calculated after the construction project was completed. Seoul passed a bill spending KRW86 million (USD$75,998) on the renovation of facilities at the 294th session of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council held in July.
The unification ministry also announced Seoul would finalize the expenses after the refurbishment works were finished.“As we meet conditions to operate the office and provide convenience for personnel residents with the completion of renovation works as a momentum, it is expected that the office will be able to faithfully commit to its original missions,” the ministry said in a written statement. “We will support the improvement of inter-Korean relations through the round-the-clock dialogue including inter-Korean talks and contribute to complete denuclearization and peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.”
The two Koreas have agreed to hold weekly meetings between the North and South Korean heads of the liaison office. ROK vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung and vice-chairman of the DPRK Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) Jon Jong Su have only met twice since its opening, however.
August saw the unification ministry announce the approval of a bill funding KRW3.47 billion (USD$3.06 million) for this year’s operating expenditures for the liaison office at the 295th Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council. The Moon administration also allocated a total of KRW 8.3 billion (USD$ 7.3 million) to the operation of the liaison office in next year’s budget proposal on the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration in September.
North Korea to renovate Pyongyang’s landmark May Day Stadium: state media, By Oliver Hotham
Facility, largest in the world, to be refurbished “in line with the demands of the new era”
- Reporting that Kim Jong Un had visited the 150,000-capacity facility late on September 24, state media said the country’s leadership had developed a “far-reaching plan to renovate the stadium in line with the demands of the new era.”
- The decision tied into the DPRK’s plans to become “a sports power,” the report continued, adding that the leadership hoped the newly-renovated facility would be “symbolic of the sports facilities in the country and be appropriate to the appearance of a civilized country.”
North Korea’s 2018 Foundation Day: the inside story, By Chad O’Carroll
The DPRK took major steps to sell itself to the world, though big questions remain about its long-term sincerity
North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of its founding on Sunday morning with a dramatic military parade watched by a sea of spectators.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un observed from a balcony, where he was joined by Chinese senior politburo member Li Zhanshu and “they locked hands and raised arms at the end”, CNN reported. The speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, Valentina Matvienko, also attended.
The celebrations were more subdued as usual, with no display of long-range missiles, as talks with the US continue. US president Donald Trump saluted Kim on Sunday for holding the parade “without the customary display of nuclear missiles”.
Trump tweeted: “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea. Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office.”
About 12,000 mostly goose-stepping soldiers took part in the display of martial might that did not include intercontinental ballistic or medium range missiles. North Korea has claimed its ICBMs are capable of striking the US mainland and their appearance at the parade would have been seen as a provocation.
North Korea regularly hold military parades, but this event was far more subdued compared with those in the past, likely to avoid angering the US as negotiations continue over the North’s nuclear weapons program. Talks have stalled since Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump met in June, with the US demanding unilateral denuclearisation before it makes any concessions and North Korea requiring security guarantees, including a formal peace treaty for the 1950-53 Korean war.
Between September 5-12, MHI-NK Pro joined 128 other foreign journalists to visit North Korea for events to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the country. As with many media trips to the DPRK, the visit comprised overwhelmingly of time spent in Pyongyang under the close supervision of minders and interpreters supplied by North Korea’s
In an obvious gesture of respect towards the ongoing efforts to mend relations and reopen meaningful dialogue between the DPRK and the international community, Sunday’s parade lacked the eye-catching ballistic missile systems that shocked observers in previous years. Nevertheless, anyone who claims the North Koreans have run out ways to surprise analysts is sorely mistaken.
Inter-Korean trade ticked upwards again this year, figures suggest, By Leo Byrne
Values still far lower than 2015 equivalents, however.
Inter-Korean trade began to tick upward again in 2018, numbers from Seoul’s customs agency website show, though the value of the trade is far below previous levels.
The yearly statistics show how trade between the two countries plummeted in 2016 and dropped to nearly zero the following year. The sharp downturn was due to The Korea Rail Network Authority, a government-owned enterprise, estimates the upgrade and repair of North Korea’s dilapidated roads and railways could cost around $38.2 billion, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Monday. That figure accounts for around 10 percent of Seoul’s total 2018 expenditure plan and is double what the government would be spending on its domestic job creation initiative, Basu warned.
Of particular concern in the government’s bill is the $262 million allotted for connecting and modernizing inter-Korean transport links next year. Some have suggested that figure will actually be much higher.
Two railway projects in North Korea, Kaesong-Sinuiju and Kosong-Tumen River, are approximately 1,190 kilometers long in total, so the price tag is likely to be much higher, according to Anwita Basu, Asia country risk service manager at The Economist Intelligence Unit.
A June report from Citi assessed a cost of $63.1 billion for rebuilding North Korea’s transportation and infrastructure, including railroads, roads, airports, sea ports, power plants, mines and energy refineries.
Following Chosun Ilbo’s article, a government spokesman said detailed cost estimates would be released once field surveys are completed. Any resulting jumps in the cost of projects could be embarrassing for Moon.
“If he failed to accurately account for how much of a financial burden it would be for the ROK to invest in physical infrastructure, then it raises the question of what other areas Moon may have lacked proper vision,” said Anthony Rinna, a Korea specialist at Sino-NK, an analysis website that covers the region.
“He runs the risk of appearing to have overplayed his hand in terms of what’s possible in reaching out to Pyongyang,” Rinna continued.
Two Koreas discussing visit by South Korean businesspeople to Kaesong: MOU, By Dagyum Ji
Visit would be first by former KIC CEOs since plant’s closure in February 2016
Seoul and Pyongyang are discussing the possibility of a visit to North Korea by former owners of businesses at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced on Wednesday.
The businesspeople have not been allowed to visit their factories since the suspension of operations at the inter-Korean industrial park in February 2016 in the wake of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite.
“The government has been in consultation with North Korea over the visit by business people who invested in the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun told a regular briefing on Wednesday, saying the group would visit the facility with the goal of “inspecting their assets.”
Baik said the unification ministry will share further details when the two Koreas complete the discussion, while dismissing concerns that the trip would be linked to a plan to reopen the site.
“The plan to push ahead with the visit to North Korea is not related to the resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Baik said. “We take repeated requests from South Korean companies into consideration, and the visit aims to inspect their assets from the perspective of protecting their property rights.”
South Korean presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-keum on Wednesday also ruled out the possibility of a resumption of work at the complex. “The re-operation will hardly be possible unless the issue of easing sanctions on North Korea is resolved,” he said.
Since the closure of the industrial park, former owners of businesses at the KIC have frequently askedthe ROK government to give them permission to visit the area.
The Moon administration has declined their requests and deferred its decision three times since May last year, including in response to the latest request in July.
The association of companies that had facilities in Kaesong told NK News that the group of 153 business people had in July asked the MOU to grant permission for their trip to the DPRK, while saying that the number of visitors may vary depending on the result of the ongoing inter-Korean consultation. Seoul appears to have begun talks with Pyongyang over the potential visit without an additional formal request from the business owners.
When asked why the government has changed its position on the need for an inspection, Baik cited September’s fifth inter-Korean summit and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration. That agreement saw the two sides agree to normalize operations at the KIC and restart inter-Korean Mount Kumgang tourism “as soon as the conditions are established.”
As daylight grows, South Korea must choose between sovereignty or the alliance, By Robert E. McCoy
Seoul may soon be faced with a stark decision to make
All is not well between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and American President Donald Trump. A basic difference in how each views the world in general and sees North Korea in particular has resulted in a rather public clash over both values and intentions on dealing with Pyongyang.
In short, North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un has won. He has succeeded in driving a wedge between South Korea and nearly all of its supporters including major security partner America. Kim has also effectively sidelined Japan, potentially a South Korean ally should additional forces and moral support against North Korea be needed.
Kim has succeeded, too, in gaining the backing of China and Russia against the United States as it seeks relief from harsh sanctions in return for mostly symbolic but highly photogenic concessions. Moreover, he has earned the promise of economic and political cooperation from Seoul in the form of South Korean companies salivating at the chance to engage in major projects with the North.
STEPS NOT TAKEN
Kim, for his part, has done nothing more than destroy a nuclear test site that many experts see as not being useful any longer due to “tired mountain syndrome” – over use from having endured six nuclear detonations.
His feeble promises to dismantle a missile launch site is noteworthy for what it does not do: the North’s road-mobile missiles, which do not need a fixed launch site, are not at all affected by it.
There is solid evidence that, while the gullible left and other Kim sympathizers are in awe of his rapid transformation into Mr. Nice Guy from the ogre who murdered his own uncle and half-brother, Kim has continued to process spent fuel rods for fissile material and has ordered his minions to redouble their efforts to manufacture more missiles.
With his nascent nuclear arsenal, of course he can now focus a bit more on the economy – and he will indeed make political hay out of that – as some in the West and in South Korea marvel at how things have changed. Even Moon Chung-in, the South Korean President’s unrelated advisor, acknowledges that.
GO YOUR OWN WAY
If Moon wants to act independently of Washington’s influence, that is certainly his sovereign right to do so. However, there is the matter of a military alliance between the United States and South Korea. That alliance is based upon mutual interests and the consequent intent to act in unison toward common goals.
However, Moon has actively encouraged the major South Korean conglomerates – chaebol as they are called – to prepare to engage with Pyongyang on several projects. Moon seems to be unaware of – or at least unconcerned about – being sanctioned by the United States for dealings with the North.
Worse, Moon is now openly advocating the loosening of sanctions against North Korea as he travels in Europe to foster the acceptance necessary for South Korea to economically and politically engage with Pyongyang. Moon has directly petitioned Great Britain and France, though so far both countries have declined to accommodate his request.
The most damning action, however, is Seoul’s agreement last month with Pyongyang to create a no-fly zone near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea. Washington was not consulted on this, yet the restriction has severe consequences regarding Seoul’s own security.
It is now clear that Moon’s objectives are radically different from those of the United States, which desires to keep sanctions as part of the “maximum pressure” on the North.