US Korea Institute

Saturday February 13th 2016
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From politics to economics, from leadership succession to the introduction of fast food restaurants, there is a lot going on inside North Korea.

North Korea’s Ponghwa Chemical Factory

North Korea’s Ponghwa Chemical Factory

By Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Sun Young Ahn Summary Nearly every modern nation must obtain and refine oil to ensure its economic viability, and North Korea is no exception. However, the country’s lack of significant proven oil reserves has forced it to import all of its crude oil and many of its finished petroleum products, while relying [...]

Worst Drought Ever – A Cautionary Note

Worst Drought Ever – A Cautionary Note

On June 16, KCNA announced that North Korea was experiencing the “worst drought in 100 years,” and the story was quickly picked up by the international news. Abnormal weather in the DPRK is always of concern, given the very fragile nature of the agricultural recovery that has been progressing for the last several years. Farm production in the [...]

Why North Korea’s Supposed Agricultural Reforms May Not Actually Be Working After All

Why North Korea’s Supposed Agricultural Reforms May Not Actually Be Working After All

Outsiders are still struggling to decode what is really happening with the economic reforms that have supposedly been underway in North Korea since 2012. As is often the case with the country, no one knows exactly what is happening. Certain experts, for instance, claim that economic reforms have drastically changed conditions for agriculture in [...]

The Third Session of 13th SPA: Business as Usual

The Third Session of 13th SPA: Business as Usual

The third session of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), held in Pyongyang on April 9, 2015, was a routine development that followed the customary procedures and produced the expected legislative outcomes. The parliamentary theater was a political non-event underscoring the fact that North Korea’s political system is stable, Kim Jong Un [...]

DPRK Agricultural Policy: Chinese-Style Reform or Muddling Towards Autonomy?

DPRK Agricultural Policy: Chinese-Style Reform or Muddling Towards Autonomy?

For DPRK economy watchers, the last year has been relatively quiet regarding the agricultural sector. Aside from a landmark conference for sub work team leaders in February, and the annual weather crisis (low rainfall in April and midsummer), there was little news. Yet it appears that policy modifications announced in previous years, and received [...]

North Korea’s Expansion of Molybdenum Production

North Korea’s Expansion of Molybdenum Production

Summary North Korea’s expansion of the March 5 Youth Mine—a showcase facility intended to produce non-ferrous metals encompassing almost 2,500 acres near the Chinese border—began in 2008 and culminated in summer 2014 with the completion of a molybdenum production facility. The factory represents a notable expansion in Pyongyang’s [...]

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Credit for photo of young North Korean girl: T.M. All rights reserved, used with permission.