One of the stories that we have been following is the development of the mining sector in North Korea. Yonhap is now reporting that according to the Seoul-based North Korea Resource Institute (NKRI), North Korea has nearly $10 trillion in underground minerals. As Scott Bruce points out in a recent piece, there are both financial and institutional issues that have to be surmounted before these bounties can be realized, and in the meantime, China may be exploiting North Korea's self-imposed isolation to extract these riches on the cheap.
Last week I updated the tempest in a teacup regarding WIPO. To be clear, the stonewalling by the UN is infuriating, but it really does not sound like this was a major security breach. More interesting are reports from the UK that a notorious arms merchant, Michael Ranger (what a name: "Mike Ranger, comic book superhero!") has been jailed for three and a half years for a plot to sell American guns and North Korean missiles to Azerbaijan.
Just Got Paid: Yonhap reports that the minimum wage in the Kaesong Industrial Complex rose by its maximum allowable rate--5%--last year, the same rate at which it has risen since 2007. The monthly minimum wage payment to the state now stands at $67.05. No word on how much of this actually filters down to the workers. Yet unpublished survey work that I have done with Steph Haggard depicts a “see no evil” attitude among South Korean employers in the zone. More than 50,000 North Koreans are employed there. No word on the Choco Pie allotment.
Fly Me to the Moon: KCNA announced that you can now fly direct from Yanji to Mt. Kumgang for a four or five day tour! Well, not exactly direct. You fly to Pyongyang, then connect in Wonsan, then take the bus. (Wake me up when there are direct flights from Seoul.)