North Korea solar panels
Solar panels on North Korean houses (KCNA)

North Korea’s trade ministry recently approved plans by a North Korean-Chinese joint venture to build tile factories in Pyongyang and in a region near the China-North Korean border. 

With North Korea pushing the construction of modern housing throughout the country, including in Pyongyang, the move suggests the country intends to meet increasing demand for high-quality tiles by establishing local production bases.

A Daily NK source in Yanggang Province said Tuesday that the Ministry of External Economic Relations recently approved the joint venture’s plans, which had been in the works since February of last year. Accordingly, construction of the factories in Pyongyang and in the China-North Korea border regions of Yanggang Province should begin from May.

According to the source, North Korea had previously selected Rangrang and Pyongchon districts in Pyongyang as sites for factories, while Kimjongsuk and Kimhyongjik counties in Yanggang Province were chosen as candidate sites for the plants.  

In Yanggang Province, the provincial trade bureau surveyed regions with plenty of clay needed to make high-quality tiles. Ultimately, it chose Kimhyongjik County as the best spot for a factory.

In fact, the source said provincial trade officials and working-level officials tasked with construction of the factory visited Kimhyongjik County on Apr. 18. The trip resulted in an agreement to begin construction of a factory from early May in the village of Woltan-ri.

Accordingly, North Korea will produce tiles and traditional Korean-style (kiwa) roof tiles needed for house construction at the new factories. 

The source said the government has recently been carrying out construction projects nationwide, including the building of 10,000 homes in Pyongyang. But with construction delayed due to shortages of tiles and roof tiles, the authorities are establishing the jointly-run factories to domestically produce and distribute the needed supplies.

The source said that while the North Korean side has been moving quickly to approve the trade certificate, or waku, for the joint venture and select building sites, the Chinese investors must carry out site visits and working-level administrative matters, too. 

“We must wait and see when those visits and investment discussions will take place given the COVID-19 situation,” he added. 

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at