Chinese-North Korean joint ventures in constru…

With the recent restoration of DPRK-China relations, North Korea’s Rason special economic zone (SEZ) is being transformed into a city of modern skyscrapers, according to an April 13 report by Radio Free Asia.

China-North Korea bilateral joint ventures had been stalled for a while due to the sanctions being imposed by China and the international community. Slowly, however, there are signs that these joint ventures are being revitalized, at least in the Rason Economic and Trade Zone.

In Rason, there is a high demand for apartment buildings. North Korean trading companies are providing the sites, with the Chinese investors supplying the funds for such construction.

“The latest models of high-rise apartment have recently started to change the skyline in Rason. The joint ventures had slowed down last year as the China-North Korean relations became strained. However, the joint venture constructions were resumed recently and many buildings are now about to be completed,” an informed source from North Hamkyong province told Radio Free Asia.

High-rise apartments started to appear in Rason last year, but their construction slowed down when the Chinese government stepped up its enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. Consequently, most ongoing constructions had come to a halt, and the industry had paused to catch its breath.

At present, most of those apartments in the Rason special economic zone that are already completed or about to be completed are over twenty-stories high. North Korean trading companies often provide the construction sites and workers, while their Chinese partners are responsible for supplying construction materials and design of the buildings. The profits raised from the sales are shared between the two.

Because many high-ranking government and party officials and the new rich North Koreans known as “donju” are buying up these expensive apartments in Rason, the supply can hardly catch up with the demand. Depending on its location, direction, and the floor it is on, an apartment unit is sold at a price ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. Nevertheless, they are in short supply.

Although for the average North Koreans, these buildings are so expensive that they can hardly dream of owning one, they are often sold out even before their completion. Consequently, the trading companies are allegedly pocketing huge sums of foreign currency.

– The Institute for Far Eastern Studies