In search of foreign capital, North opens up Rajin port

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In search of foreign capital, North opens up Rajin port

North Korea has opened its northern port of Rajin to China, and will allow its major ally to use one of five docks for the next 10 years. Russia will be permitted to control another dock for the next five decades.

According to Chinese media yesterday, the Jilin Province government announced Sunday that it has acquired the rights to Rajin port and that the move will help the province develop into a logistical center in the Pacific.

North Korea is also expecting economic benefits from the deal. The North has been keen on developing the Rajin area into a major economic zone, especially as it suffers fallout from the botched currency reform last fall and the international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang following its nuclear test last May.

A senior Jilin official told Yonhap yesterday that China was working to customize its dock at Rajin and is investing tens of thousands of yuan into the project. The official explained that Jilin would then be able to ship coal and other materials to Shanghai and other parts of China, as well as to Japan and the Pacific region.

The Chinese media reported that other Jilin provincial officials have high expectations for access to the port, hoping that China’s three underdeveloped northeast provinces - Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning - will grow into strategic economic locations.

Sun Zhengcai, the secretary of the provincial Communist Party committee, said the deal opens a new area of cooperation on infrastructure construction between Jilin and North Korea.

Russia will also benefit from its access to Rajin. The Sakhalin and Siberia regions will deliver crude oil and natural gas to the port and export them to neighboring countries from there.

North Korea began to develop the Rajin area in 1991, when Rajin and its bordering town, Sonbong, were merged to become Rason, the first free trade zone in the North. In January, the North designated Rason its first “special city,” where the country imposes fewer business restrictions as it tries to increase the inflow of foreign capital and trade.

Senior officials from Korea and China have recently traded visits. Most recently, in late February, Kim Yong-il, director of the international department at the ruling Workers’ Party, spent more than a week in China.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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