North Korea announced plans for two existing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) near Nampho on the DPRK’s west coast, in the most recent issue of quarterly journal Foreign Trade.
The article outlines plans for the Jindo and Waudo Processing zones adjacent to the DPRK’s busiest port.
The article entitled “Booming Economic Development Park” seems to imply the Jindo zone is already up and running.
“By taking advantages of the Port of Nampho nearby and tens of years of development of the machine-building, electronical (sic) and light industries in Nampho, it processes various goods and exports them,” the article reads.
Earlier articles from North Korea media also said plans at the Jindo zone were moving “full steam ahead.” In 2014 a Chosun Sinbo article said numerous “countries have expressed great interest in the Jindo Export Processing Zone, and investment contracts have already been signed with a few targets such as Hong Kong.”
The plans for the nearby Waudo zone also include projected investments of $100 million, which will be used to develop an export-oriented processing industry.
The investment should cover the construction of nearby power plants for the area, which would include a 600,000 kilowatt power station and a 100,000 kilowatt tidal power plant in the near the West Sea Barrage.
Both zones would have a cooperation period of 50 years and the Waudo area would be populated by joint ventures or fully foreign-owned enterprises.
North Korea will likely face an uphill battle in securing large-scale foreign investment, however, with stricter UN and unilateral sanctions, plus a lack of clear legislation and trust in their ability to create a challenging business environment.
“All the SEZ plans had inflated targets for investment. ‘Aspirational’ would be the polite term to describe it,” Andray Abrahamian from Choson Exchange told NK News.
“The only investment of that size was by the Russians in Rason, and that’s taken a big hit due to the collapse of inter-Korean cooperation. Big foreign investments into infrastructure are difficult to foresee at this time.”
Despite the North Korean claims regarding the Jindo processing area, satellite imagery of the region in recent years shows minimal changes or infrastructure improvements.