Over the weekend, Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on a ceremony commemorating the start of construction on Hwanggeumpyong Special Economic Zone Management Committee HQ. The ceremony was reportedly attended by Hong Kil Nam, the vice-chair of the North Pyongan Province People’s Committee, a delegation from the Liaoning Province administration including Vice-governor Bing Zhigang, and Shinuiju municipal officials.
According to KCNA, speeches at the event emphasized that the joint development and management of Hwanggeumpyong is set to raise bilateral relations to a new level and create prosperity on both sides of the Yalu River.
North Korea hopes that the groundbreaking ceremony will mark the beginning of serious SEZ development at Hwanggeumpyong, which remained a sleepy agricultural backwater even after last June’s launching ceremony, a fact that led to rampant speculation about problems related to the legal framework for the development of the area.
However, development began to accelerate once again after Jang Sung Taek, the director of the Chosun Workers’ Party Department of Administration, concluded the establishment of the management committee during his visit to China last month.
Rhetoric emerging from the Chinese side is also more positive than it has been for some time. In a recent media interview, the deputy mayor of Dandong, which borders Shinuiju, commented, “Now that the Hwanggeumpyong Management Committee has been established, construction has begun on basic infrastructure including roads. From the 15th, the business of developing Hwanggeumpyong will formally begin.”
“Both governments have decided to develop Hwanggeumpyong first then go on to discuss the development of Wihwa Island,” he added. “When the construction of the New Yalu River Bridge and bridges to Hwanggeumpyong and Wihwado are complete, China-North Korea trade, culture, travel and other exchanges will become more active and the two countries will grow closer.”