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Title NK Brief, January 4, 2018 Date 2018.01.08
Attach 180104_NK Brief No 1-1_(2018)_(Economic strategy, call taxis, weather app).pdf
□ North Korea reviews the five-year strategy for economic development
In an effort to assess the implementation of the five-year strategy for the national economic development in 2017, North Korea had a meeting of the party, state, economic and military executives on December 28, Rodong Sinmun reported on the next day.

At the meeting, Cabinet Premier Pak Pong-ju said, “In his [2017] New Year’s address this year, Kim Jong-un introduced a combative task to give an impetus to the victorious progress of socialism with the great power of self-reliance, and brought about a series of national occasions to celebrate or extra-magnificent events that will remain immortal in the country’s history.” Pak then added that Kim has “passionately led the projects in the economic sector that carried a key importance in the implementation of the five-year strategy for national economic development this year, even when he was so busy personally spearheading the all-out war to complete the development of the country’s nuclear forces.”

At the second plenary session of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea held earlier this year, Pak said, the North Korean leader “presented a revolutionary countermeasure strategy to crumble the enemy’s despicable sanction plots into dust, and provided instrumental guidelines that have enabled us to make victorious progress in building a great socialist power.” He then listed Kim’s achievements in various areas, including the completion of the new residential complex on Ryomyong Street, progress in the development of Samjiyon County, the accomplishments in the machine industry such as the expanded production of cars and tractors, the construction of a livestock farming base in the Sepo area in Kangwon Province, and the increased production in the light industry, textile industry and fruit sector.

In addition, he said, thanks to Kim’s guidance, the North Korean Ministry of Chemical Industry and Ministry of Construction and Building-Materials Industries were able to “develop a firm prospect of the establishment of the C1 chemical industry in the science and technology sector, the Ministry of Land and Marine Transportation was able to develop a pilot system that enabled the comprehensive management and operation of ships, and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications was able to actively modernize the country’s postal system using its own technology.”

In particular, the premier asserted, the overall material and technical basis of the economic sectors, including the power, metal and chemical industries, has been strengthened this year.

“We should continue to place our top priority in putting our resources into the country’s defense industry and strengthening our self-defense capability,” he added.

Furthermore, “with the great power of our own strenuous efforts and the mighty power of science and technology,” he urged, North Koreans should “boldly make a struggle for increased production, creative struggle and charge for production in all fronts of the people’s economy, to meet the goal in every battle without question and build the material and technological foundations for the implementation of the five-year strategy.”

In fact, due to the intensified sanctions, North Korea has not been able to produce economic results as it had planned in the recent years. Neither was it able to hold the Mallima pioneers conference it had announced early last year.

As international sanctions continue, in 2018 Pyongyang is expected to focus on economic development more than anything else.

□ Major local cities introduce call taxis, on the heels of Pyongyang
As they were in Pyongyang, call taxis are now popular in other major North Korean cities.
According to a source from North Pyongan Province, “Nowadays there are new taxis in Sinuiju that rush to you on one phone call,” the Seoul-Pyongyang News reported on January 3.

“They are known to arrive at the point of departure within ten minutes of call, day or night,” the same source told the South Korea-based online newspaper Daily NK. “The call taxi charges one US dollar for the basic fare, while the ordinary taxi specialized in short-distance service within the city of Sinuiju charges a basic fare of 3,000 North Korean won,” it added.

At the present exchange rate in North Korea, one US dollar is equivalent to 8,000 North Korean won, making the call taxis about three times more expensive than the ordinary taxis. Nevertheless, demand for call taxi is constantly on the increase.

In the meantime, an inside source from South Pyongan Province said that call taxis were first introduced in Pyongsong as early as a few years ago, and became widespread now. According to the source, on a national holiday or family’s birthday, well-to-do North Korean families use a call-taxi service even to family restaurants. The competition between taxi companies is so fierce that individual taxi drivers are trying to attract the customers by handing out a slip of paper with their phone number.

In addition, the call taxi service first appeared in Pyongyang in 2014. In an article introducing the Taedonggang Passenger Transportation Company in Pyongyang at the time, The Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported that the company was equipped with a “prompt dispatch system” that receives customers’ calls and sends the taxi to the require location.

The taxi cabs in Pyongyang are formally known as “Taedonggang,” but often called by their nickname “Alagi” because their body is splashed with patches of light green and yellow. Passengers may dial 186 on their cellular or landline phone to call a Taedonggang taxi. The dispatcher then contacts the taxi nearest the location and sends it to the customer.

In fact, the introduction and expansion of the call taxi service may reflect a rise in the level of consumption in the North Korean society. It may also suggest that competition among taxi companies is growing fiercer.

□ Hydro-meteorological Service develops and distributes agricultural weather program for mobile phones
The North Korean Hydro-Meteorological Service has developed and distributed an agricultural service program for mobile phones called the Agricultural Weather, Rodong Sinmun reported on January 3, 2018.

According to the report, with the new program, mobile phone users can have access to agricultural data and agricultural technology needed in coping with seasonal weather conditions.

In particular, the program provides such information as daily weather forecast, temperature, precipitation, cumulative temperature and soil temperature as well as the depth of frozen soil and the day of the first frost. The cumulative temperature is the indicator of the amount of heat required for crop growth.

With the help of the program, the users are also able to download to their phones the files of forecasts for crop growth. The program provides such service as short-term and medium-term, monthly and seasonal weather forecasts for each local region as well as meteorological disaster alerts. The set of information is provided on the level of the smallest administrative unit (i.e., ri) in comparison with last year’s data as well as the annual averages. Currently, more than 15% of North Korea’s population is using mobile phones, while North Korea continues to launch its own smartphone brands such as Arirang, Pyongyang, and Jindalrae (Azalea) 3.

North Korea has also continued developing and distributing various applications for mobile phones, allowing its residents to make voice and video calls and send text messages as well as enjoy road guides and read Rodong Sinmun on the phone. Nonetheless, it is difficult to confirm whether the agricultural weather program is designed for use on smartphones or on general mobile phones.

In fact, the North Koreans are allowed to have access only to the government-built intranet, which is not connected to the global Internet, while the access to the Internet is limited to foreign visitors and a special class of privileged North Koreans only.

Meanwhile, commenting on the report by some media agencies that it has withdrawn from North Korea’s mobile communication business, the Egyptian telecommunication company Orascom said that it has not suspended its business in North Korea, but is still providing essential services to the North Koreans. Yet, “We are not making any new investment in North Korea,” the company added.

In fact, in September 2015 Orascom converted its subsidiary Koryo Link into a joint venture. (Koryo Link is the company’s subsidiary established jointly with the North Korean Ministry of Post and Telecommunication for the purpose of doing mobile telecommunication business in North Korea.)