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South Korea Interested in Opportunities with North Korean Ports

Nampo, North Korea
Nampo, North Korea

By The Maritime Executive 2019-01-17 18:13:54

South Korea's Ocean Minister has announced his intention to seek out business opportunities at North Korean ports in preparation for when sanctions against Pyongyang are lifted.

News Agency Yonhap reports the Minister, Kim Young-choon, saying that it is economical to build joint industrial complexes near North Korean port cities such as Nampo, Haeju and Wonsan. He is optimistic about planned talks between North Korea and the U.S. planned for March or April this year.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on August 5, 2017, banning North Korea from exporting coal, iron, lead and other materials. Last year, the Korea Customs Service found that three South Korean companies had illegally imported North Korean coal that was transshipped at Russian ports, in violation of the United Nations resolutions. The coal was shipped from the ports of Songlim, Wonsan, Chongjin and Daean, transshipped via the Russian ports of Kholmsk, Vladivostock and Nakhodka and imported via the South Korean ports of Dangjin, Pohang, Masan, Incheon and Donghae.

South Korea is almost entirely reliant on imports to meet its fossil fuel demand, and coal is a key drivers of North Korea’s economy. The country had proved coal reserves estimated at 661 million tons in 2015. North Korea has historically been the global leader in anthracite coal exports, most of which were sent to China. North Korea has received most of its mining machinery, infrastructure, and training from China, and many of the ports and rail facilities involved in this trade are jointly owned and operated by Chinese-Korean ventures.

Reconnecting Rail Links

Last year, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in outlined plans for reconnecting the two Koreas by rail, with the vision of connecting South Korea with the Trans-China and Trans-Siberian railways. The idea is part of Moon's "New Economic Map" for the Peninsula.

Moon hopes the Trans-Siberian railway will reach Busan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly made the development of the Russian Far East a priority. Currently the rail link runs to Rajin, a North Korean port near the Russia border.