The Special Economic Zone (EEZ) of Reason which was once an experiment in limited capitalism North Korea will show signs of reactivation after seeing the return of ships to the local port, which has not happened since 2018.
Also, satellite images suggest an increase in trade from the port and from the railway line to Russia, so experts point out that the EEZ has become the center of growing cooperation between Russia and North Korea, which will include possible shipment of weapons for war. in Ukraine.
The Rason EEZ, established in the 1990s on the border between China and Russia, is a “dream” destination for many North Koreans, according to two experts who have studied Rason.
Although China – with its much larger economy and deeper historical ties with North Korea – seems to be the clear driver of Rason’s recovery, experts argue that the country’s deepening cooperation with Russia may have more immediate effect.
“Now that North Korea and Russia are getting very close in the context of the war in Ukraine, Russia can send more tourists to North Korea, which will revive tourism (in Reason),” he said. Jeong Eunlee, an expert on the North Korean economy at the University of South Korea.
“Russia can also sell coal, oil and flour through Reason and if more North Korean workers are allowed to cross the border, they can send Russian medicines and other goods home to sell to their relatives,” added Jeong.
she Federal Customs Service of Russia reported that it had “temporarily suspended the publication of foreign trade statistics.”
China, on the other hand, represents 97% of North Korea’s total trade in 2022, according to South Korea Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) from South Korea.
In December 2022, Russia resumed oil exports to North Korea and, as of April, had transferred 67,300 barrels of refined oil to North Korea, data from United Nations. The first deliveries of this type began in 2020.
Lee Chan-woo, an expert on the North Korean economy at Tokyo Teikyo University commented that Russian wood cut by North Korean loggers could be resold to China through Rason, a city of about 200,000 people.
Cho Sung-chan of Hananuri a South Korean nonprofit that funded a food processing factory in Rason, predicts that Russian influence there will grow.
“Assuming that the honeymoon period between North Korea and Russia is long, North Korea will get Russia’s support in food, energy and infrastructure through Reason,” Cho said.
The two countries discussed expanding trade and trying to deliver meat products next year, according to Minister of natural resources of Russia Alexander Kozlov on his Telegram channel after meeting with North Korean officials in Pyongyang last November.
Since August, the Harbor of Reason It has received visits from Russian ships linked to the country’s military logistics system, according to US and South Korean officials and reports from Western researchers citing satellite images.
Those ships are suspected of carrying military supplies from North Korea to Russia, according to reports. The Kremlin has denied such shipments.
From the Rason port compound, North Korea sent Russia about 2,000 containers suspected of carrying artillery shells and possibly short-range missiles, South Korean military officials told reporters.
Since late 2022, activity has been detected around the Tumangang sa Rason station, which has a Russian railway connection, he said. Chung Songhak, senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Security Strategy which analyzes satellite images of the Rason environment.
“Many wagons were seen after the Minister of Defence “The Russians visited Pyongyang in July,” Chung said, referring to satellite images, adding that it is possible that new cargo depots appeared in May.
When Kim Jong Un visited Russia in September, discussed the continuation of a stopped joint logistics project in Rason, the construction of a new road bridge connecting it to Russia and additional supplies of grain, Kozlov said.