Jul. 16 – The latest issue of DPRK Business Monthly is now available as a complimentary PDF download on the Asia Briefing Bookstore. The regular magazine looks at current international, domestic, and peninsular affairs concerning North Korea while also offering commentary and tourism information on the country.
In recent international news, the Russian Ministry of Finance in June announced that the Russian-North Korean negotiations for the repayment of North Korean debts had resulted in the signing of a joint protocol in Pyongyang (to be approved by the government), which will finalize negotiations that have continued for many years. This is a major milestone for bilateral relations, but not for any possible breakthrough in economic reforms or political settlement.
The North Korean debt now totals (with accrued interest) about US$11 billion. This debt was accumulated as a result of loans the Soviet Union granted the DPRK for industrial projects and military supplies, as well as to finance the trade imbalance. The negotiations were given a new boost after Kim Jong Il and President Medvedev met in August 2011. It was a painfully slow process, but finally a solution was found. It is likely that it has something to do with North Korea’s desire to establish an alternative to their increasing economic and political dependence on China, by making a welcome gesture to Russia.
In other international culture-related news, Luke Elie took a group of 14 players and coaches to hold a week of training camps for North Korean students in the capital, Pyongyang.
“We really wanted to promote basketball, diplomacy, friendship, break those barriers,” Elie, who founded the club ‘Coaches Team’ while living in South Korea, told CNN in an interview.
The club’s stated mission is to “use basketball to break down political and social boundaries that exist all around the globe.” Growing up with his missionary parents in South Korea close to the DMZ – or Demilitarized Zone, separating north and south — Elie always wanted to see what was happening in Pyongyang. His intention was to foster friendships, and “North Korea was a place that was so close, yet so far away.”
In regional news, China is building a massive highway and rail network in Liaoning and Jilin provinces near the border with North Korea, the Chosun Ilbo reported. Beijing is expected to have spent more than US$10 billion on the project by 2015.
According to Jilin Province officials, a 41.68 km railway is to link the city of Helong with the border town of Nanping, which is just a stone’s throw from North Korea’s Musan, where the North’s largest iron ore deposits are. The railway will apparently be used to carry iron ore from Musan to the steel town of Anshan in Liaoning Province.
In inter-Korean news, the United Nations agreed July 10 to mediate between South and North Korea with the aim of forming unified teams for some events at the 2015 World University Games, according to the organizers.
Wilfried Lemke, the special UN adviser on sports for development and peace, has signed a cooperation agreement with the Universiade organizing committee in the southwestern ROK city of Kwangju. It calls for efforts to create joint Korean teams for some events and to increase sporting exchanges by inviting North Koreans to the UN’s Youth Leadership Camp in the host city.
“This agreement is very meaningful since the UN promised to directly mediate and support peace on the Korean peninsula, and promote inter-Korean relations,” the organizing committee said in a statement. “We plan to form more than two joint teams at the Kwangju Universiade.”
On the domestic front, The DPRK is putting special emphasis on clean sources of energy to offset the problems it has importing oil and other fuels, as well as foreign opposition to its building nuclear power plants.
As part of this strategy, the DPRK started to hold an annual Pyongyang International Wind Energy Technology Seminar last year. This year’s seminar took place May 7 and 8, in the People’s Palace of Culture. This year the host was the Pyongyang International New Technology Center, and the attendees included the Church Development Service of Germany, World Wind Energy Association and China Association of Wind Energy Equipment.
To read further about these topics, and much more, please download the complimentary DPRK Business Monthly PDF from the Asia Briefing Bookstore.
DPRK Business Monthly is produced by North Korea expert Paul White.