Last month I introduced to you Luke Elie. You might have seen him in the news recently because he’s been quite a sensation since his trip to North Korea. He’s been extremely busy with all of the interview requests from big name news outlets like CNN, but I managed to bribe him into meeting me for brunch. Coming from experience, connections and food will go a long way.
When he asked me what I’d like to ask him in regards to his trip to North Korea, I told him that I had no interest in the politics of it. There is plenty of information out there on the politics of North Korea and its current state and I didn’t think that it would be necessary to add another redundant article to that list. What I was curious to hear about was his personal experience and interactions with the North Koreans he met while there.
I also didn’t want our meeting to be a stiff interview but instead wanted it to be just friends getting together to catch up… which will then result in an article. But let’s not linger on that. We met at Itaewon in Seoul, or the foreigners’ district, on a rainy morning and ate at a restaurant that specializes in brunch foods. We sat down and just started to talk. I told Luke what I had been up to since high school, which is when I last saw him, and he told me his story about how he ended up going to North Korea. I felt like it was a fair deal. Continue reading →
In the News – N.Korea’s Island Dream Dead in the Water
A joint project between North Korea and China to develop the North’s Hwanggumpyong Island looks dead in the water. Japanese media already reported last month that the project has been stalled due to differences over details since a groundbreaking ceremony in June last year, and on Sunday the Asahi Shimbun said it was suspended last month.
“Plans for the project have been announced since 2010, but nothing has come of them because China doesn’t think it’s economically viable,” according to a diplomatic source here.
The plan to develop the island was a pipe dream from the start. The biggest problem is that the area is inappropriate for an industrial complex.
A child carries lumber along a farm road on Hwanggumpyong Island in North Korea on June 11.
“The island was created from deposits by rivers, so the foundations are weak and susceptible to floods,” Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. “You’d first have to build flood walls and raise the ground by 3-5 m. North Korea wants China to do that, but Chinese companies just aren’t interested.”
Beijing reportedly asked Chinese businessmen several times to travel to the North and attend Pyongyang’s investment presentations, but they said that unless the North takes care of the foundation work, the project has no business value, a government official here said.
The island’s proximity to Dandong is another reason for Beijing’s lack of interest. China is already developing a new city and an industrial zone there and would rather focus investment on its own projects rather than across the border.