​​​​​North Korea
The Chollima Report 29-Feb-2024
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK cancels all economic cooperation with SK (Reuters 08-Feb)
NK spy satellite is active (Reuters 28-Feb)
European countries rumoured to consider reopening embassies (Reuters 28-Feb)
The Chollima's View
Cancellation of all economic cooperation is more proof that NK’s attitudinal shift toward SK is real. It’s also a useful way for NK to keep their citizens separated from SK. It’s also consistent with the analysis that NK is preparing to attack, but the Chollima is still very unsure about that.
The rumoured reopening of European embassies is one of the reasons the Chollima is still very unsure. Usually foreigners are told by their countries to leave or stay away from anywhere too dangerous. Still, it’s just rumours, and perhaps all these countries’ analyses are wrong.
Fun Fact: Vladimir Putin gave Kim Jong Un a luxury Russian Aurus limousine as a gift because the North Korean leader liked the car when the Russian president showed it to him last year (Reuters 19-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2024
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim calls SK “main enemy” (Korea JoongAng Daily 10-Jan)
NK says it tested its first solid fuel hypersonic missile (AP 15-Jan)
Push for regional development (Hankyoreh 26-Jan)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima isn’t as worried as some about NK starting an all-out war. The Chollima sympathises with the geopolitical analysis around a weak, clueless, unfocussed, overstretched, and misdirected US, and that NK is militarily stronger than ever. At worst the Chollima might expect relatively low level skirmishes or trouble, and probably somewhere out of the way, or at sea. That could still be quite bad, of course.
Fun Fact: NK apparently has a higher rate of obesity than SK (CIA World Factbook 31-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK won’t seek reunification anymore (Barron’s 30-Dec)
Resumed visa issuance for Chinese business (Daily NK 14-Dec)
Kim calls for action on falling birth rates (Reuters 04-Dec)
The Chollima's View
Abandoning the idea of unification is not a good sign. It’s a shift from NK viewing SK as compatriots who should be brought under their authority to enemies who must be defeated. It is still just a sign, though, and reflects reality. NK and SK are almost totally alien countries to one another. The two diverge more as time goes on.
Fun Fact: Residents of Pyongyang will get to enjoy a new temporary ice rink this winter (NK News 29-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK claims launch of 1st spy satellite (FT 22-Nov)
1st choice in elections since 1948 (RFA 08-Nov)
Chinese law firm Jingsh opens 1st office in NK (PR 10-Nov)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is very sceptical of the satellite claim. Taking pictures of the White House and UK aircraft carriers? To get that kind of geographical variety the orbit could not be geostationary. This limits how useful the satellite could be for spying on anything. It’s more likely NK would want to monitor its own borders or SK. There’s misinformation in the story about this satellite somewhere.
The choice in the election is very limited. It was to choose which candidate in an obscure local election would go on to be the party’s single candidate in a single choice election. Perhaps it is still an interesting experiment, results to be determined.
Fun Fact: Kim Ju Ae, the daughter of Kim Jong Un, has a new title “Morning Star of Korea” – that title may have different connotations in the West (RFA 29-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK says spy satellite is 'indispensable strategic option' (Korea Times 10-Oct)
NK hackers target SK shipbuilding tech (Nikkei Asia 06-Oct)
Farmers pressured to repay debts early (RFA 23-Oct)
The Chollima's View
NK is always in financial difficulty. News about embassy closures and attempts to link it to money shortages is premature. It’s also likely that NK believes some of its embassies are security risks or fruitless. Similarly, stories about NK weapons in Gaza is overblown. There are weapons from First World War European battlefields all around the East. The Chollima doesn’t doubt it’s possible that some NK weapons have, intentionally or unintentionally, made their way to Gaza.
Fun Fact: The NK govt is praising a brewery it bought for £1.5m from Wiltshire, UK, and shipped piece by piece to NK for contributing to its economic national development (Daily Mail 05-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim in Russia promises full support (AP 13-Sep)
NK launches new nuclear attack submarine (NK News 11-Sep)
1st foreigner admitted since 2020 (Bloomberg 25-Sep
The Chollima's View
The US is threatening that NK will pay a price for any weapons deal they’ve done with Russia (Reuters 05-Sep). It is an empty threat. US efforts are better spent trying to confirm whether NK’s new submarine is truly capable or not. NK has amended its constitution (France24 28-Sep) to confirm its status as a nuclear power but shows, threats, and deception are all legitimate war tactics. The Chollima doesn’t expect China is happy with the idea of a nuclear NK. The Chollima is more interested in China’s reaction than the US.
Fun Fact: NK is deporting Travis King, the US soldier who defected earlier this year (BBC 27-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK eases Covid-related border curbs (Bloomberg 28-Aug)
Kim pledges to up war readiness & dismisses top general (AP 07-Aug)
NK turning to solar power (FT 27-Aug)
The Chollima's View
The pledge to increase war readiness is serious – it looks like it’s paired with an economic plan and some support from Russia. Telling the factories to increase production (Sky News 06-Aug) is useful for selling to Russia and producing for themselves. Kim also hopes to build up NK’s navy (France 24 29-Aug), build more missiles (Reuters 14-Aug), keep trying satellite launches (AP News 24-Aug), and running mock nuclear strike drills against SK (Reuters 31-Aug).
How much is cooperation with Russia? Is it more plausible that NK hacked (Reuters 07-Aug) Russian missile design bureau NPO Mashinostroyeniya or that there was some level of cooperation (NHK 19-Aug)? The Chollima is concerned that either is plausible.
Fun Fact: Nicaragua and North Korea are opening embassies in each other’s countries (NK News 10-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK threatens to shoot down US recon aircraft (Daily Telegraph 10-Jul)
US soldier crosses into NK (Reuters 18-Jul)
SK says NK satellite had no military utility (Reuters 05-Jul)
The Chollima's View
Russia and NK agreed to strengthen military ties on this year’s 70th Armistice anniversary (FT 27-Jul). It’s not a surprise. NK rockets are showing up in Ukraine.
We will have to wait for more news on the defecting US soldier. The Chollima won’t be surprised if he was facing serious disciplinary issues or mentally ill.
The Chollima is interested in escalating NK threats. On the one hand it’s normal, on the other it could be a legitimate warning ahead of serious action. There is decades-old precedent for this.
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un has approved the first portraits of himself (NK News 26-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK wins seat on WHO executive board (WSJ 06-Jun)
NK&SK in drone arms race (Bloomberg 22-Jun)
Plan for Russia/China/NK industrial park (NK News 21-Jun)
The Chollima's View
Drones could be great for NK – small, cheap, numerous, easy to use, and they do not have a big physical burden on soldiers. It’s harder to track where they are being moved around the country before deployment, unlike jets or larger hardware. They are also potentially multi-use for civilian applications like agriculture (38 North 13-Jun).
Russia’s problems are good for NK. Any deal for an industrial park would be a step up from the more usual secretive use of NK labour in Siberia for logging, for example. Russia’s men are busy right now, but NK has plenty. It’s a convenient arrangement.
Fun Fact: YouTube found and removed 3 channels, vlogging about water parks and Harry Potter, linked to the DPRK govt (Reuters 27-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Spy satellite launch fails (AP 31-May)
Another NK/China border crossing opens (North Korean Economy Watch 11-May)
NK punishes unwed cohabitating couples (RFA 02-May)
The Chollima's View
The satellite launch may not have been a total failure. Getting telemetry and other data is also very important. If anyone thinks that this is a setback or that NK will stop trying to launch satellites, that would be a mistake.
Fun Fact: NK exported a record amount of fake hair to China in April, data shows (NK News 22-May)
The Chollima Report: A free monthly selection of macro and risk news about North Korea.


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK missile launch causes panic and evacuation in Japan (Sky News 13-Apr)
NK ready to launch 1st spy satellite (CNN 18-Apr)
Declining birth rates are a concern in NK too (Korea Herald 30-Apr)
The Chollima's View
Russia’s war with Ukraine is clearly good for NK. The governor of the Russian territory bordering NK asked Putin for more infrastructure investment and identified NK as an economic opportunity (PR 10-Apr). If greater resources are helping NK militarily develop, China may have little choice in how it reacts. The Chollima wonders if Russian/NK relations are the cause of better China/NK relations. The early/special entry of the new Chinese ambassador to NK suggests a special treatment for China (Nikkei Asia 04-Apr).
Fun Fact: British American Tobacco has been fined $635m for sanctions violations, selling cigarettes half off the books through a dishonest Singaporean subsidiary (Bloomberg 25-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
US says Russia trading food for NK weapons (BBC 30-Mar)
NK tests 'radioactive tsunami' underwater drone (Sky News 24-Mar)
NK restarting diplomacy after 3 years of Covid isolation (FT 28-Mar)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima expects NK to suffer with food shortages for some time, even with likely assistance from Russia. Parents are reportedly increasingly leaving their children at state orphanages (RFA 02-Mar), Kim is demanding increased farmland food production (Reuters 02-Mar), and NK claims that 800,000 people have signed up to the military (Reuters 17-Mar). In a “military first” country, this is a good way to secure more regular supplies of food.
Food shortages are also apparently having an advantageous (for Kim) result of putting more children and enlisters under the state’s care. Simultaneous boosts of control, military power, and a little reopening of external attention? The coincidence is interesting.
Fun Fact: NK’s Kanghung Technology Trading Co is advertising in the Foreign Trade magazine that it has created an anti-epidemic “autonomous mobile intelligent robot” which can take temperatures and disinfect floors and walls (38 North 01-Mar)


The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK party meeting set to discuss 'urgent' food issue (Independent 06-Feb)
NK hackers suspected of attacking US hospitals (Wired 11-Feb)
KJU’s daughter front and centre of military banquet picture (Al Jazeera 08-Feb)
The Chollima's View
SK estimates that NK food production is down 4% from 2022. This doesn’t sound like much but NK isn’t starting from a position of plenty. It’s also not a surprise. NK started telling its citizens to eat less in 2021 and to be prepared for the situation to last until at least 2025. Sanctions, fuel prices, and terrible weather are also a factor. The Chollima is surprised food production isn’t down more. Perhaps this is an opportunity for state consolidation. Various industrial manufacturers have taken to competing with local food outlets (RFA 27-Feb) to raise money so that they can meet their own production targets. This squashes the little guy and puts food distribution back in the hands of more centralised outlets.
Fun Fact: An 11-year-old NK girl has built a YouTube following by talking about 'Harry Potter' and water parks, but it’s probably some kind of propaganda effort (Insider 06-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2023
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Food insecurity at worst since 90s (38 North 19-Jan)
SK spy agency raids unions over suspected NK link (Al Jazeera 18-Jan)
SK signs UAV MOU (PR 18-Jan)
The Chollima's View
SK is responding quickly to various incursion threats from NK. NK does seem to have some pep in its step despite Covid concerns (Reuters 25-Jan) and food shortages. Is this because of Russian money and arms dealing? The Chollima is watching out.
Fun Fact: NK constructed 12 horse riding paths at military bases (Daily Telegraph 19-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Railyard near Russian border reactivated (38 North 12-Dec)
NK spies trick foreign experts into writing reports (Reuters 12-Dec)
Party membership abused to get out of bar bills (RFA 23-Dec)
The Chollima's View
NK’s very active. Lots of missile launches. The SK military is apologising for not being able to catch NK drones (BBC 27-Dec). NK says it’s testing its first spy satellite too (AP 19-Dec). The US is launching a new space unit in SK in response (Reuters 14-Dec). Never mind nuclear escalation. It looks like there’s a tech escalation.
Fun Fact: British TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh is a hit on NK TV (Daily Mail 23-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK missile had range to reach US mainland (Reuters 18-Nov)
First traffic observed on NK-Russia rail link in years (38 North 04-Nov)
Egypt’s Orascom to $80m loan from NK cell network (NK News 02-Nov)
The Chollima's View
Russia is believed to be sending NK food and petroleum products (DailyNK 24-Nov) amid speculation it is taking NK weapons. So far nothing has gone back to Russia by the same rail. Russia’s customs agency says it sent 30 horses (PR 02-Nov). OK.
The Orascom transfer can’t even leave NK. The Chollima doesn’t understand what the point is in moving this money around internally. Mobile phone usage is up, so perhaps it’s legitimate (38 North 15-Nov). The UN did send $1m to a bank account in NK for humanitarian assistance (NK News 04-Nov). Perhaps there’s a way out by the same connection.
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un brought his daughter, Ju Ae, very conspicuously to two missile launches this month, prompting all sorts of theories about succession planning…she is believed to be 12-13 years old (Sky News 27-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK & SK exchange warning shots (Bloomberg 24-Oct)
Pope ready to visit if invited (Reuters 07-Oct)
Lawyers told Trump/Kim correspondence missing (Bloomberg 03-Oct)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima isn’t very interested in lots of NK missile tests. The speculation about whether NK is a nuclear state is also dull. It has had some level of nuclear capability for quite some time. Nothing is really changing regarding North Korea.
Fun Fact: North Korea is famously very secretive and difficult to access, but some places are visible via Google Maps streetview now (Daily Star 29-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK denies supplying weapons or ammo to Russia (Guardian 22-Sep)
China freight train services resume (Al Jazeera 26-Sep)
Voice phishing campaign nets over $600m (NK News 29-Sep)
The Chollima's View
Any efforts to squeeze NK aren’t working or are just being forgotten. The UN thinks that Taiwan is too permissive toward NK (NK News 20-Sep), freight with China is back, NK is probably supplying Russia with weapons, and NK itself is about to launch a new nuclear submarine from the Sinpho South Shipyard (38 North 21-Sep). NK also seems to have enough money to keep launching missiles ahead of the US VP visit to SK (BBC 29-Sep).
Fun Fact: North Korea was invited to send an envoy to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral (Reuters 14-Sep)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Freight ship visits NK port after picking up cargo in Busan (NK News 17-Jun)
NK faces infectious disease outbreak amid Covid battle (Reuters 16-Jun)
Won weakens more than 10% vs USD in 2 weeks (DailyNK 03-Jun)
The Chollima's View
NK has been firing a lot of missiles and it probably cost (for them) quite a lot of money. Some estimates put it at $650m (Bloomberg 09-Jun) which could be anywhere between 3-6% of GDP, by the Chollima’s rough estimate. The Chollima isn’t sure what this bought them. Still, NK are suspected in a $100m hacking attack (Bloomberg 29-Jun). A few more of those and it’ll have covered its costs. At least there’s a funny side. NK recently took on the rotating presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (Guardian 03-Jun).
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un congratulated the Queen of England on her Platinum Jubilee (Daily Mail 02-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
New SK President Yoon says appeasing NK is over (CNN 23-May)
Orascom writes off $400m NK telecom infrastructure investment (PR 06-May)
Covid outbreak confirmed, lockdowns ordered (AP 12-May)
The Chollima's View
It took a while but apparently Covid-19 made it into NK. Lockdowns were then apparently quickly lifted (NK News 29-May) but it’s going to be very hard to know how things are going in NK. The Chollima isn’t very worried. Covid didn’t turn out to be anywhere near as dangerous as was first expected in early 2020 and NK is capable of much strong measures to stamp it out.
Yoon’s warning comes amid a spate of NK missile firings. The Chollima doesn’t see what, if anything, extra can be done to NK.
Fun Fact: So many North Koreans are seeking jobs in IT that the US Government has decided to issue a warning to watch out for them concealing their nationality in the hiring process (PR 16-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Trade sector restructured for more cabinet import/export control (DailyNK 04-Apr)
Crackdown on private fuel sales during shortage (RFA 05-Apr)
N.Koreans jailbreaking phones to access forbidden media (Wired 27-Apr)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima isn’t concerned by any of the various threats or missile tests. It’s all normal for NK. It’s just that NK has slipped down the priority list because of Russia and Ukraine and escapes international attention.
A few international citizens are being prosecuted and imprisoned for telling NK that it can evade international sanctions with cryptocurrencies. None of these people said anything that wasn’t already easily accessible public knowledge. The Chollima knows that at least a few of them just don’t have any expertise and therefore capability to tell NK anything it couldn’t already read in the Bitcoin whitepaper. What it does show is how seriously sanctions are being enforced.
Fun Fact: A new portrait of Kim Jong Un was revealed to celebrate 10 years of his rule (NK News 11-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Fuel prices up (North Korean Economy Watch 23-Mar)
NK did not launch "monster" missile (ABC News 29-Mar)
US bans Li-Ning Sporting Goods for using NK labour (PR 15-Mar)
The Chollima's View
Certain footage looks like it was recycled from previous rocket launches. It’s also possible to tell what kind of rocket is being launched based on speed, trajectory, etc. NK is almost certainly taking the opportunity to push forward with its nuclear weapons development while the war in Ukraine continues. Watch out for possible submarine activity (Korea JoongAng Daily 31-Mar). In this war it also has strong evidence that nuclear weapons help to protect smaller countries against larger ones. The Chollima wonders how well it’s proceeding. It looks like one of the rocket launches failed and pieces of it rained down on Pyongyang (NK News 16-Mar). How can the govt explain that?
Fun Fact: In the face of crackdowns, North Korean remittance brokers are increasingly seeking out shamans for advice about when it’s safe to do business (DailyNK 03-Mar)


The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Govt orders expansion of trade with China (DailyNK 14-Feb)
One amateur hacker took down NK’s internet (Wired 02-Feb)
Solar panels to bolster underpowered cell phone network (RFA 09-Feb)
The Chollima's View
It’s not totally implausible that one amateur hacker called P4x interrupted NK’s internet connectivity. He didn’t do a lot. There’s not a lot to disrupt. Only a few outward facing websites. NK’s adversaries probably don’t like that he did this. Cyber warfare relies on finding security weaknesses. These can only typically be used once because when they’re discovered they can be fixed. P4x may have helped NK fix some of their weak spots.
It looks like trade with China is already increasing. A lecture was held for NK officials in China to prepare them (DailyNK 21-Feb). Freight is piling up at Uiju airport (38 North 22-Feb). This could also be because of NK’s cautious anti-covid decontamination policies.
NK is certainly watching the situation in Ukraine. Can the US concentrate properly on more than one area at once?
Fun Fact: A new book is claiming that Trump and Kim stayed in touch after Trump left office (Axios 10-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2022
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
China confirms land border reopen (CGTN 17-Jan)
Latest missile flew ×10 speed of sound (Bloomberg 10-Jan)
NK disappears from the internet again (26-Jan Business Insider)
The Chollima's View
NK made announcements before about hypersonic missiles. Now it looks like it’s for real. It launched its biggest missile since 2017 and a total of seven tests this month (Sky News 30-Jan). It hasn’t provoked much of a US response at all. It’s also very odd timing this close to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Perhaps neither the US nor China see this as a provocation. If China did, they could easily have kept the borders closed or shut them again.
The Chollima is interested in the cyber attacks on NK. This might be an effective way to retaliate against them. NK was taken offline by a DDOS attack (NK News 14-Jan) and then again on 26-Jan. It will be impossible for NK to identify who attacked them and hinders their own cyberattacks. It hinders their limited contact with the rest of the world and disrupts some of their ability to run some of their other fundraising activities.
Fun Fact: Graffiti in Pyongyang calling Kim Jong Un a “son of a bitch” prompted a mass search for the culprit by eliciting handwriting samples – the Chollima is just amused that the original prankster ended up getting thousands of people sanctioned by the state to write “Kim Jong Un, you son of a bitch” (Daily Mail 04-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Private sector overtakes state as largest economic actor (Reuters 16-Dec)
NK ready to start military satellite launches (DailyNK 03-Dec)
Oil terminals resume activity (RUSI 10-Dec)
The Chollima's View
NK, SK, the US, and China agreed in principle to end the Korean War (BBC 13-Dec). Peace could be good for publicity and morale in NK but it also deescalates the external threat. It undermines a lot of the NK govt’s structure and reasons for control. Is this why there’s a call for greater loyalty from the military to Kim Jong Un (AP 30-Dec)?
The flow of oil is a sign that NK is hanging on. It may also signal resumption of the nuclear programme, or the energy will go toward satellite launches.
The private sector may be bigger but it is disunited and doesn’t have nuclear weapons. The govt still regards streetside commerce as a “crime against the people” (DailyNK 06-Dec), so the Chollima doesn’t expect a mercantile revolution any time soon.
Fun Fact: Maya Stiller, an art historian at the University of Kansas, has been documenting ancient graffiti in North Korea, such as the names of elites carved into rocks on the sacred mountains of Kŭmgangsan (Phys.org 02-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kimjongunism & removal of Kim Il Sung & Kim Jong Il portraits (Daily Mail 02-Nov)
Dandong announce winning bids for upgrades to China-NK border station (PR 15-Nov)
Govt trying to increase public trust in money vouchers (DailyNK 25-Nov)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima can’t quite believe it. Replacing Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il is very serious. A huge amount of NK’s self-image and its future are based on a totally pervasive founding mythology tied to Kim Il Sung and the continuance of his legacy. Kim Jong Il secured his place as successor during Kim Il Sung’s lifetime by really taking this mythology to the next level. Is “Kimjongunism” a sign that this is fading, incorrect, or a trick?
The Dandong announcement is a strong sign that NK is going to ease some of its own, strict Covid restrictions. NK may not have much choice. The Chollima will wait and see how the spring harvest goes.
Fun Fact: NK is making robots to help children learn basic mathematics, music, and English (Reuters 03-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK tells citizens to eat less until 2025 (RFA 26-Oct)
NK won strengthening vs dollar (Bloomberg 14-Oct)
Chinese demand for NK coal growing (DailyNK 07-Oct)
The Chollima's View
The strengthening of the NK won is counter-intuitive. The Chollima thinks it’s a sign of increased govt control. The economy is even more cut off than it usually is because of anti-pandemic restrictions. The Chollima thinks that the govt is creating bigger problems for itself in the future. When life gets more back to normal, supply and demand will change.
Chinese coal prices are at an all-time high going into winter. It’s an opportunity for NK to make some money. They clearly need it. Market traders are being accused of hoarding (RFA 05-Oct). In more peculiar news, NKs are being told to farm and eat black swans (FT 29-Oct).
Fun Fact: A North Korean soldier in a skin-tight blue costume went viral on the internet as a superhero, “Captain DPRK”, or “Rocketman” – he may be a parachutist (AP 13-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK says it tested a hypersonic missile (KCNA 29-Sep)
Kim Yo Jong promoted to ruling body (CNN 30-Sep)
Kim Jong Un orders tougher anti-virus steps after rejecting vaccines (AP 03-Sep)
The Chollima's View
If NK has working hypersonic missiles this is almost as significant as it having working and deliverable nuclear weapons. Hypersonic missiles potentially render aircraft carriers redundant. NK also said it tested long-range cruise missiles (AP 13-Sep). This could all be in response to SK’s successful testing of submarine-launched missiles (Yonhap News 07-Sep) but the Chollima wouldn’t be surprised. Diesel and petrol prices have rocketed (DailyNK 06-Sep) because of shortages. Perhaps it’s getting redirected for energy for the nuclear programme?
Perhaps this is all the reasoning behind NK’s proposal to reopen the phonelines with SK (AP 30-Sep). It might feel like it’s in a position of relative/renewed strength. It could also be an attempt to split the US and SK from each other, though the Chollima isn’t convinced the Biden administration has or is interested in an NK strategy. You can’t have a strategic disagreement if you don’t have a strategy.​
Fun Fact: Queen Elizabeth sent a congratulatory message to Kim Jong Un to mark NK’s national day (Daily Mail 14-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK appears to have restarted Yongbyon nuclear reactor (IAEA 27-Aug)
Wartime rice reserves released (AP 03-Aug)
Sino-NK oil pipeline construction begins (DailyNK 17-Aug)
The Chollima's View
The reactor may have been active since mid-February. Plans for this must have been laid in advance but the Chollima isn’t convinced this is (entirely) due to a change in US president. NK is low on food because of sanctions and alternating floods and droughts. Increased fruit and veg prices (DailyNK 26-Aug) is just the latest. Nuclear weapons have always been seen as a great hope and protection. The nuclear project is very resource intensive. The Chollima wonders how much it is really squeezing out to make it work, or just how low on resources it really is.
Fun Fact: NK media says augmented reality (indeed) is used in classrooms (UPI 17-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK economy shrinks the most in 23 years (Reuters 30-Jul)
NK won appreciating vs USD (Korea Times 26-Jul)
2 new Korean-language broadcasters on China/NK border (38 North 22-Jul)
The Chollima's View
NK’s troubles are confirmed. NK made a very rare admission to the UN that it has a shortage of medicine and doctors (Newsweek 15-Jul). It also says is facing its worst food shortage for a decade (Bloomberg 14-Jul) and Kim says this is a threat to state security (Nikkei Asia 06-Jul).
There are crackdowns on food hoarding, price gouging (DailyNK 07-Jul), and illegal trade (DailyNK 16-Jul). Economic hardship is a very good opportunity to increase govt control. In the circumstances it’s probably vital for the NK govt. The disappearance of foreign currency is good for increasing control by forcing people to use the govt’s currency.
Fun Fact: Park Jie-won, head of SK's intelligence services, says he started planning for a visit by Pope Francis to NK (Fides 06-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim warns of ‘tense’ food situation (AP 16-Jun)
Covid-19 “grave incident” prompts politburo meeting (NK News 29-Jun
USD & CNY plummet against the NK won (DailyNK 09-Jun)
The Chollima's View
It’s actually quite normal for Kim to say he wants to fix food issues but this time NK is set for a difficult 2021. The UNFAO thinks there may be a shortage approximate to 2-3 months of supplies which could persist to Oct-2021. Ordinary Pyongyang residents haven’t received govt rations since April (DailyNK 14-Jun) and there’s trouble with the corn harvests (DailyNK 15-Jun). The Chollima thinks there must have been signs at least as far back as Nov-2020 when China sent and SK started planning massive food and fertiliser aid (see The Chollima Report Nov-2020).
This “grave incident” is vague – has Covid-19 finally got into and spread around NK? Not sure yet – but it looks like heads may roll.
All the above might explain a change in the leadership structure. There’s a new “first secretary” position under Kim (Yonhap News 01-Jun) and new politburo members (Reuters 19-Jun).
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un called K-pop a “vicious cancer” as part of his new cultural crackdowns (NYT 11-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK slams end to US guidelines limiting SK missile range (Korea Times 31-May)
NK using orphans for mining and farming (BBC 29-May)
NK to do more to keep out foreign culture (Metro 15-May)
The Chollima's View
The risk is low right now but the Chollima is wary of escalation.
Biden has finally made some small but interesting moves regarding NK. Removing SK missile restrictions is provoking an NK response. The Chollima isn’t sure what resources NK has to make a response. As much as possible is going into the nuclear programme already.
NK may be easing up at the border (NK News 18-May) but the economy is still terrible. No freight trains have come from China at all this year (DailyNK 25-May) but it is extending a small lifeline with oil transfers at sea (FT 26-May).
Things are really bad. There’s a new facility to deal with malnutrition among soldiers (DailyNK 19-May). The “military first” policy was supposed to excuse shortages in the civilian population. Now the military isn’t even properly fed. NK is using orphans “volunteers” (slaves) for manual labour (BBC 29-May). The govt is calling for more to be done to keep out the corrupting influence of western culture e.g. mullets and skinny jeans. It’s not saying much but, relatively speaking, dodgy haircuts and silly trousers probably look more appealing than starvation and child slavery. Kim Jong Un’s answer is riverfront property in Pyongyang for the elites (WSJ 25-May)? The new information ministry will have a difficult job (UPI 18-May).
Fun Fact: South Koreans aren’t allowed to buy Kim Il Sung’s memoir (WSJ 03-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Russian diplomats face food shortage in NK (Moscow Times 01-Apr)
China-NK trade up after pandemic (SCMP 19-Apr)
Govt wants all foreign currency deposited in banks (Daily NK 27-Apr)
The Chollima's View
Kim Jong Un said that NK is facing its “worst-ever situation” (AP 07-Apr). He called for another “arduous march” which refers to the famine in the 90s when an estimated 2 million people died. NK will not attend the Olympics (Reuters 06-Apr) and China has been secretly sending food aid (RFA 20-Apr).
This is not exactly the return to “business as usual” that the Chollima thought last month. If trading and smuggling is resuming it is probably because NK is desperate. China-NK trade is still tiny. Exports from China to NK were $12.98m in March according to Chinese customs data.
There are rumours that the NK govt fears party loyalty is falling because of the pandemic (Nikkei Asia 12-Apr). Desertion rates are reportedly increasing because of changes to the way party membership is earned (DailyNK 29-Apr).
The Chollima is still very sceptical about how quickly this may amount to anything substantial.
Fun Fact: The Pope said he would consider Kim Jong Un’s invitation to NK (see The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2018), and now he has said yes, he is willing to visit NK (Yonhap News 26-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK and China to resume trade (Nikkei Asia 30-Mar)
Corn prices stabilising (Daily NK 10-Mar)
Coal smuggling resumes (NK News 09-Mar)
The Chollima's View
It looks like the gradual return to business as usual. The Chollima isn’t sure if this is a sign that covid is over or if NK (or China?) no longer fears the US. NK fired 2 missile into the sea (BBC 25-Mar) and isn’t responding to US outreach (Reuters 13-Mar). Biden’s response hasn’t been notable. Perhaps Biden looks muted by comparison to his unusually colourful predecessor. The Chollima stands by his opinion that Biden isn’t interested in NK (see January’s report). The Chollima expects NK to keep testing the boundaries.
Fun Fact: Over 300 oil paintings by DPRK artists from 3 generations were put on display in Taiyuan, in China’s Shanxi Province (China.org.cn 24-Mar)


The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK/China trade fell over 80% in 2020 (UPI 22-Feb)
NK hires out cyber mercenaries (Bloomberg 23-Feb)
New biotech centre (Daily NK 03-Feb)
The Chollima's View
How NK handles Covid-19 vaccination could be a big problem for China.
NK at first voluntarily tightened border controls and trade restrictions to prevent Covid-19 spreading into NK. Officially it still maintains it has no cases but the Chollima doubts this. NK will receive approx. 2m doses of the AZ vaccine though the WHO-led COVAX plan (Yonhap News 04-Feb) but that would only cover approx 10% of the population. NK is accused of trying to hack Pfizer to get information about how to make their vaccine (BBC 16-Feb). The Chollima doubts whether NK can replicate the vaccine itself, how much it can make, and how quickly it can distribute it.
The Chollima expects China to help or risk creating a vicious circle. If NK stays a Covid-19 hotspot, trade can’t resume. If trade can’t resume it pushes North Koreans into greater desperation. This makes it more likely the govt collapses and/or people leave NK for China. China won’t want 20m refugees at the best of times, let alone if they’re carrying Covid-19.
Fun Fact: Trump offered Kim a ride home from the Hanoi summit in Air Force One but he declined (BBC 20-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2021
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un urges “Great Leap Forward” at party congress (Bloomberg 05-Jan)
Fines & prison for using SK slang (Reuters 20-Jan)
Illegal fishing in Russian waters down 95% in 2020 (Global Fishing Watch 20-Jan)
The Chollima's View
Kim Jong Un made some New Year resolutions. The economy failed “tremendously” (Reuters 06-Jan), so now’s time to turn it around with a “Great Leap Forward”. He also wants to boost military capacity (Channel News Asia 07-Jan) and improve diplomacy with other countries (Reuters 07-Jan). He means China, Russia, and the kinds of countries Frontier Mogul is interested in. The US is still NK’s “biggest enemy” (Reuters 08-Jan).
NK’s best hope is a change in US policy. Biden doesn’t seem interested in NK. The Chollima doesn’t expect any change.
Fun Fact: YouTube is deleting Un A/Echo of Truth/coldnoodlefan’s channel (which is likely a state project) about life in Pyongyang. Hey! The Chollima was watching that! (UPI 08-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK buys Russian Covid-19 vaccine, starts public vaccination (Tass 15-Dec)
SK criminalises sending leaflets to NK (Reuters 14-Dec)
China trade hits record low for 2nd month (Japan Times 18-Dec)
The Chollima's View
Kim Jong Un is expected to make some big economic announcements in his New Year speech. The economy is still in serious trouble. The Chollima doesn’t think there’s anything more Kim can do to squeeze labour or patience out of people. The Chollima doesn’t expect Kim to re-open borders or small marketplace liberalisation.
Never mind Covid-19, the Chollima is concerned about other public health crises. The last remaining International Red Cross staff left Pyongyang (Yonhap News Agency 03-Dec) and NK is about to run out of its tuberculosis drugs supply (Science 14-Dec).
Fun Fact: North Korea has banned smoking in public places such as restaurants, bus stops, and public squares (Yonhap News Agency 11-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
China massive food & fertiliser aid (Asahi Shimbun 03-Nov)
New market regulations ( Daily NK 06-Nov)
Kim Han Sol, Kim Jong Un’s nephew, in CIA custody (New Yorker 16-Nov)
The Chollima's View
The economy is in trouble. Kim heavily criticised economic agencies at the most recent politburo meeting (Reuters 29-Nov). New market controls are the latest in the govt’s efforts to direct growth. It’s estimated the NK won appreciated 20% against the USD in the last few months (FT 27-Nov). The govt also released approx. 5% of its prison population and told the general population to take care of them (Radio Free Asia 20-Nov). That’s extraordinary. SK’s unification minister is calling for aid (Yonhap News Agency 26-Nov).
Some blind eyes turned to a few fuel sanctions violations (Reuters 17-Nov) and food aid is wise. If NK felt completely hopeless it might lose all restraint.
Fun Fact: A NK gymnast defected to SK by vaulting over a 3m/10ft fence in the DMZ (Daily Express 25-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK refined fuel imports plummet (UPI 01-Oct)
Kim cries while apologising for economic failings (Guardian 12-Oct)
Sale of mobile phone minutes banned (Daily NK 28-Oct)
The Chollima's View
Workers are unpaid (UPI 28-Oct). Many are returning to China (UPI 15-Oct). The public bonds issued in May are void (Daily NK 23-Oct). The ban on mobile phone minutes, used as mobile currency, is an effort to put people onto a new govt system and channel their cash through govt-controlled banks. The Chollima thinks people will be very distrusting of making deposits.
End of oil supply is one of the Chollima’s two warning signs for major conflict involving NK. The UN reports that supplies decreased YOY from China by 93.6% and 98.8% from Russia. This is probably about ability to pay rather than willingness to supply. NK might have a year’s reserves (see last month’s report). Is that accurate? How much has been used already? Is there enough time to raise enough cash? The Chollima suspects NK receives more oil than the UN knows and China and Russia won’t let it run out.
Fun Fact: NK domestic media showed off the new Naenara 101 smart tablet, boasting two SIM card slots and WiFi connectivity (NK News 26-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK says now it has a deterrent it will focus on the economy (Reuters 29-Sep)
Yongbyon Nuclear Center minimal damage but concern over safety (38 North 25-Sep)
SK Pres Moon asks for Korean War official end & UN help (Yonhap News Agency 23-Sep)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima believes NK when it says it can defend itself. It seems NK is preparing for a submarine missile launch (Reuters 05-Sep) and is preparing for a space program with satellite launches (NK News 07-Sep).
As for the economy, despite heavy sanctions, NK has managed to successfully funnel a lot of money through US banks (CNBC 20-Sep) and is probably still receiving oil from Russia (Korea Times 04-Sep). It can also probably store a year’s oil reserves (Yonhap News Agency 01-Sep) and its known cryptocurrency activity is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

Fun Fact: Seoul is pitching for a joint hosting of the Summer Olympics in 2032 with Pyongyang (UPI 29-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un admits economic plans failed (NYT 19-Aug)
US govt warns NK increasing bank hacking heists (Reuters 26-Aug)
Kim says typhoon caused little damage (Reuters 27-Aug)
The Chollima's View
Here we go again. Lots of chatter about Kim Jong Un’s supposed demise. The SK govt says Kim is still in charge (UPI 25-Aug) and the Chollima says so too. Kim appears very active in NK media e.g. visiting flood zones (AP 07-Aug) and holding emergency politburo meetings (AP 18-Aug).
The Chollima is interested that Kim admits his economic plans failed. Kim does blame external factors e.g. sanctions, Covid-19, and natural disasters. In the past the govt would’ve declared success anyway and mocked these obstacles. Perhaps this doesn’t work anymore. People can communicate. Approx. 6 million mobile phones are in use in NK (UPI 11-Aug).
The Chollima predicts more cyber attacks. It’s a cost-effective way to raise revenue and learn secret information without the risks (e.g. spreading Covid-19 or getting caught) of sending people or goods anywhere. NK is increasing its efforts to reach out to foreign audiences online (NPR 11-Aug). The Chollima thinks this is for both propaganda and cyber attacks e.g. the LinkedIn hacking scam which compromised Israeli defence networks (PR 13-Aug). The Chollima also predicts the US will commit more resources to tackling NK online (WSJ 27-Aug).
Fun Fact: North Korea’s Information Technology Institute is producing new video games to improve the leisure time of the people, building on previous successes such as “3D Squirrel and Hedgehog” (UPI 03-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Economy grows for first time in 3 years (Reuters 31-Jul)
Kim Yo Jong becomes full member of the politburo (Daily NK 13-Jul)
NK developing missiles to evade air defence systems (PR 14-Jul)
The Chollima's View
The reasons behind NK’s growing confidence (see last month’s report) are becoming clearer. Its economy and weapons development are growing. NK seems to have adjusted and found a reliable base – 60 countries may have violated sanctions to do business with NK last year (UPI 02-Jul). The Chollima questions how effective the sanctions really are. The UAE arm of UK company, and LSE listed Essentra (ESNT:LSE), settled a fine above £500m for facilitating the sale of cigarette filters to NK. If even Western companies are having a go, those in non-US aligned countries probably are too. The US needs China to help enforce sanctions. NK stands to benefit if US-China relations get worse.
Fun Fact: NK is airing Premier League football matches – Manchester United and Liverpool seem to be the favourite teams (Sun 14-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un suspends military action against SK (BBC 24-Jun)
Japan considers capability for pre-emptive strike against NK (Times 19-Jun)
Russia resumes rail service to NK (UPI 02-Jun)
The Chollima's View
North Korea made a lot of threats and made some showy moves.
NK didn’t answer a regular call from SK for the first time ever (BBC 08-Jun), told the USA to shut up (Al Jazeera 11-Jun), questioned the need to bother with talks with the US at all (BBC 12-Jun), Kim Yo Jong threatened military action (Bloomberg 13-Jun), exploded an SK jointly held office building (Japan Times 16-Jun), sent troops into the DMZ and disputed maritime territory (UPI 18-Jun), and reinstalled propaganda loudspeakers on the SK border (Xinhua 22-Jun).
And then North Korea walked it all back. It removed the loudspeakers (Xinhua 24-Jun), deleted anti-SK propaganda articles (UPI 24-Jun), and Kim Jong Un called off military action against SK.
The Chollima thinks that North Korea wanted something...but isn’t sure yet if it got it.
Fun Fact: The NK’s Literature Newspaper endorsed the Harry Potter series, saying it shows kids how to “develop their future by revealing their personal strengths and skills”, and (23 years after the first book came out) that it “pioneered a new ground” (Yonhap News 24-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
US DOJ accuse 28 NKs & 5 Chinese of $2.5bn nuclear program laundering (NYT 28-May)
NK resuming mineral exports to China (Daily NK 14-May)
State media admits Kim Il Sung could not bend time and space (Yonhap News 21-May)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima thinks North Korea is facing a tough foreign currency and govt balance sheet pinch. The govt banned foreign currency in local transactions (RFA 11-May), is taking further steps to sell public bonds (the first in 17 years) with Kim Yo Jong’s oversight (Daily NK 28-May), is permitting foreigners to shop in local stores (UPI 19-May), and resuming mineral exports.
Financial pressure is an opportunity and risk. Restriction on local foreign currency use and sale of bonds to the donju (business/financial people in NK) help reassert govt control over the economy and citizens. The US crackdown on revenue schemes could push NK to more extreme measures.
The nuclear missile program is itself a reaction and risk. The materials it needs are the biggest consumer of NK’s foreign currency. It looks like the economy and quality of life are getting squeezed for the nuclear program.
The Chollima wonders if this is also why state media took a first little step toward undoing the myths around Kim Il Sung. Patriotism and filial loyalty are perhaps more inspiring and realistic motivations for self-sacrifice than a founding father with comic book super powers.
Fun Fact: North Korea is applying to get Mount Paektu, said to be the birth place of Kim Jong Il, listed as a UNESCO global geopark (Korea Herald 31-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un absent for Kim Il Sung birthday celebrations (CNN 17-Apr)
High-ranking NK defector Thae Yong-ho won SK assembly seat (NYT 15-Apr)
Trade with China collapses (PR 23-Apr)
The Chollima's View
Kim’s prolonged absence started a lot of rumours outside of NK. Various officials from SK, China, Russia, Taiwan, and the US say that they believe Kim is alive and still in power. The Chollima thinks it is most likely that Kim has been unwell and/or is isolating to prevent catching Covid-19. Only people inside NK will know certainly. The rest of us will only know when NK media makes an announcement or Kim makes a public appearance.
The Chollima is very interested in Thae’s victory in the Gangnam district for the National Assembly. Thae advocates the use of soft power (culture and information) on the NK people. His election is potentially very symbolically powerful.
Fun Fact: The world-famous British magician Dynamo wants to launch a global tour after recovering from Covid-19, performing in every country, particularly naming North Korea (Sun 10-Apr)

The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Yo Jong in charge of major affairs (Chosun Ilbo 25-Mar)
China trade deficit highest since 1998 (UPI 11-Mar)
More missile tests (Reuters 28-Mar)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima doubts the NK govt when it says it has no Covid-19 cases. Russia already delivered testing kits (Moscow Times 12-Mar). The Chollima expects the virus is in Pyongyang.  A new hospital started construction there (38 North 26-Mar). Kim Jong Un is conveniently supervising artillery drills elsewhere (AP 10-Mar).
The Chollima is very interested in Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister. She may be taking a larger role. She made her first ever public statement this month (NYT 03-Mar). If Kim Jong Un has left Pyongyang for Wonsan (Chosun Ilbo 11-Mar), or for artillery drills, the Chollima expects he could trust his sister.
Fun Fact: North Korean children get 30 mins dedicated TV programming every day (BBC 20-Mar)


The Chollima Report 29-Feb-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
300% increase in NK internet use (NYT 09-Feb)
NK defector running for SK parliament says Trump policies a failure (UPI 19-Feb)
UN sanctions exemptions for humanitarian reasons (Straits Times 28-Feb)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima wonders if the US will use Coronavirus to press an advantage. NK maybe have the discipline but does not have the resources to properly manage outbreaks. All the best routes around sanctions are shut (Bloomberg 11-Feb). NK could be in much more serious trouble. The US already offered its help (ABC News 14-Feb) and the UN allowed sanctions exemptions.
Sanctions have been so generally effective that it is forcing NK to more inventive, but imperfect, solutions on the internet. For example, it reuses publicly available or old viruses and malware to make the origins of new attacks more ambiguous (Wired 25-Feb). Internet usage may be up but it’s still so small that it actually makes it easier to see what NK is doing (Recorded Future 11-Feb).
Fun Fact: According to Russian customs data, North Korea imported at least 138 horses between 2010-19 at a cost of $584,302 (Reuters 17-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2020
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK abandons nuclear freeze pledge (Reuters 21-Jan)
Trade with China cut off in fear of Coronavirus (Radio Free Asia 29-Jan)
Moon proposes inter-Korean projects as route to lifting sanctions (Reuters 14-Jan)
The Chollima's View
NK is ramping up its rhetoric again on state television, encouraging citizens to “break through barriers” (Reuters 27-Jan). After the incident with Iran and Qassem Soleimani, the Chollima doesn’t expect anything dramatic. Instead it seems NK is preparing for a much longer and drawn out standoff.
This also may be in part a response to the Coronavirus. NK is restricting tourism and introducing 1 month quarantines (UPI 28-Jan). The Chollima imagines NK can handle the hit to trade better than a contagious disease outbreak.
Fun Fact: North Korea is publicising its new Masikryong ski resort, hoping to attract tourists (UPI 10-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un calls for “offensive measures” (CBS News 30-Dec)
Air China refuelling in NK raises sanctions suspicions (FT 16-Dec)
Kim Jong Un opens new “modern mountainous city” Samjiyon (Reuters 03-Dec)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima still doesn’t expect a US/NK breakthrough. It may seem like things are escalating but nothing new is really happening. NK is insulting Trump as “old and erratic” again (Bloomberg 09-Dec), doing more missile testing (Sky News 14-Dec), and promised the US a “Christmas gift” (CNN 04-Dec) but it never came.
The Chollima is on the lookout for NK satellite launches in 2020. The ability to put objects into orbit is also important for delivering practically unstoppable nuclear warheads. This is exactly the kind of thing Trump’s new US Space Force (BBC 20-Dec) will have to deal with.
Fun Fact: Camp Casey, a US military base in South Korea, accidentally played an emergency siren instead of the music used to signify the end of the day (VICE News 27-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK says Sweden no longer needed for mediation (Xinhua 19-Nov)
NK faces poor harvest & food shortages (BBC 09-Nov)
New US base in SK still in range of NK (Military Times 01-Nov)
The Chollima's View
NK fired missiles on Thanksgiving (CNN 29-Nov) and says the US isn’t credible any more (Reuters 18-Nov). The US apparently still wants talks but NK think it’s a trick (New York Times 14-Nov). NK is probably right.
There’s no real movement. The Chollima still doesn’t expect a summit any time soon.
Fun Fact: Smiling Grape Adventure Tours are now open for bookings for their St Patrick’s Day pub crawl around Pyongyang (Daily Mail 06-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK breaks off nuclear talks in Sweden (Reuters 05-Oct)
Kim Jong Un criticises father & grandfather (Radio Free Asia 28-Oct)
NK may sell China rare earth metal rights for solar plant (UPI 24-Oct)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima doesn’t expect another US/NK summit this year. China says it wants progress (Japan Times 29-Oct) and NK says it wants new solutions from the US and SK (Reuters 21-Oct). The Chollima thinks Trump will stand firm.
NK’s position is interesting. It keeps firing missiles (Reuters 31-Oct), possibly from submarines (Reuters 01-Oct), which means it may have a much wider reach. On the other hand, the UN estimates 11 million people are starving (AP 23-Oct). Perhaps more importantly, Kim Jong Un may have made a political blunder. He criticised his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung in state media. Apparently many North Koreans noticed and are either offended or beginning to have doubts.
Cultural/political/quasi-spiritual instability might be North Korea’s biggest challenge.
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un may be hiding a hog apocalypse from the world (Bloomberg 12-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK offers talks with US then fires 2 missiles (AP 10-Sep)
Russia seizes 3 ships & 262 crew in poaching crackdown (Reuters 27-Sep)
India’s ATM malware issues traced to NK (Gulf News 23-Sep)
The Chollima's View
There is a lot of gossip about the prospect of another NK/US summit, this time perhaps in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. The Chollima doesn’t see what either side has to gain. In any case, NK still great conventional military, biological, chemical, and cyber capabilities.
The Chollima is more interested in technological and cultural change in North Korea. Approx. 6 million North Koreans, 25% of the population, are estimated to have cell phones (Reuters 26-Sep). Cell phone use is active and increasing despite sanctions. Communication and access to information is improving. NK faces the lowest crop harvest and food shortages in 5 years (Reuters 20-Sep). At what point do North Koreans decide they want better material lives?
Fun Fact: North Korea is in the early stages of building its own cryptocurrency (Cointelegraph 18-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Japan detects NK missile launch (Reuters 24-Aug)
UN: NK raised $2bn in cyber attacks (AP 05-Aug)
NK mother & son defectors possibly starved to death in SK (Yonhap News Agency 13-Aug)
The Chollima's View
NK conducted 7 missile launch tests this month. The Chollima believes this is the most active it has been ever. NK says it’s unhappy with US-SK war drills (BBC 16-Aug) but the Chollima doesn’t buy it. It looks like NK wants to that Trump’s denuclearisation strategy isn’t working.
Russia is officially strengthening its relationship with NK (Xinhua 16-Aug) and China will increase its food aid (UPI 20-Aug). Coal smugglers stopped in Japan 8 times in the last year (Nikkei Asian Review 21-Aug). How much is NK actually being squeezed, which is key to Trump’s plans?
The Chollima expects Trump will persist rather than escalate or give up.
Fun Fact: North Korea started making stamps featuring Donald Trump commemorating the summit in Singapore last year (Quartz 03-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim inspects new ballstic missile submarine (ABC News 23-Jul)
Coal smugglers given suspended sentence in South Korea (UPI 14-Jul)
Warmbier parents file claims against seized NK ship (CNN 06-Jul)
The Chollima's View
The missile launches received much more press coverage this month but the submarine is the real interesting news. If it really can launch ballistic missiles then North Korea is extending the range and evasiveness of its nuclear capacity. It’s a great bargaining chip. It’s also a major show of success and strength internally after Kim became sort of officially head of state (Reuters 12-Jul) and sister Kim Yo Jong was promoted (UPI 08-Jul).
Will all this be enough to justify any internal hardship? Malnutrition and disease are reportedly on the rise (Reuters 18-Jul), soldiers are allegedly stealing food from China (Fox News 23-Jul), and authorities are squeezing people for “loyalty donations” to help keep preserved the bodies of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung lying in state (Radio Free Asia 09-Jul).
Fun Fact: A teenager in Japan was charged for violating an export ban on N.Korean goods after he tried to sell a single souvenir $3 bottle of beer in an online auction for approx. $150 (Newsweek 12-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Trump steps into NK and invites Kim to US (NY Times 30-Jun)
NK media accuses US of hanging on to sanctions (UPI 13-Jun)
HIV infections surging in NK (Science 24-Jun)
The Chollima's View
The allegedly missing state official (see Last Month’s Report below) reappeared (Financial Times 03-Jun). Kim is still reportedly unhappy with efforts by his officials at the Vietnam summit with Trump (Newsweek 04-Jun) but it looks like he will get another chance. Organisation of a third summit has begun (USA Today 26-Jun) and perhaps it will be in the US. Trump stepping into NK through Panmunjom is an extraordinary gesture.
NK is still struggling with the sanctions. Food shortages are said to have ended many leisure activities such as the mass games (Korea JoongAng Daily 08-Jun). State media tacitly acknowledges economic and military pressure by chastising the US for it. The Chollima expects that Kim was unhappy at the inability to strike a deal with Trump and remove the sanctions. As a result, NK nuclear activity seems to continue (38 North 05-Jun). Clearly NK can continue to take the pressure. The Chollima expects NK will continue to take the pressure as long as Russia (Yonhap News Agency 07-Jun) and China (Newsweek 18-Jun) continue to support it. This includes oil supply, as China and Russia are moving to block more US-moved UN sanctions (Reuters 18-Jun). One of the Chollima’s two major war red alerts is the end of oil supply to NK. The Chollima expects the US will continue to maintain the pressure as long as NK is bearing it. It doesn’t look like anyone is going to blink soon.
It is risky for both sides, and difficult to get right, but Putin agrees with the Chollima that the way forward could be some kind of regime security guarantee (KBS World Radio 08-Jun).
Completely unrelated, Kim Jong Un’s brother, Kim Jong Nam, murdered by nerve gas in Malaysia, appears to have been an CIA informant (Wall Street Journal 10-Jun) but we all probably already suspected that.
Fun Fact: NK’s Pomology Research Institute claims to have bred “superior peaches” called “Sukchon Peach No. 3” which can grow anywhere and grow up to 1.5lbs in weight (UPI 02-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Trump undisturbed by NK missile tests (Financial Times 26-May)
UN says NK needs aid after worst harvest in a decade (NY Times 03-May)
NK allegedly purged officials after failed Hanoi summit (Chosun Ilbo 31-May)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is withholding judgement on whether NK has executed or imprisoned officials after the failed Hanoi summit. If true, it would be a sign that Kim did not achieve what he wanted. That would be very interesting. Many assume that summits themselves are enough of a win. The Chollima thinks this is wrong, that NK is under genuine pressure, and that it needs a way forward. It didn’t get that at Hanoi.
Now NK is reverting to desperate missile nonsense. Nobody else seems particularly bothered by the recent NK missile tests. It’s not just Trump. Apparently the projectiles were weenie, militarily insubstantial pieces of hardware. NK is also making a big deal about a ship which the US impounded (Reuters 22-May), saying it’s the biggest issue in NK/US relations right now. The Chollima thinks NK is playing tough to hide its pain.
NK has much bigger problems than some ship. It is starving, doing very meagre trade, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it is losing control over information.
NK is cutting food rations (Independent 04-May), never mind the drought. The African swine fever epidemic won’t be helpful (Bloomberg 30-May), and UNICEF are winning sanctions exemption to help (NK News 13-May). NK is resorting to fringe (forgive the pun) products like artificial wigs to bring in any cash at all (Asahi Shimbun 06-May). China is set to expand 5G telecoms on the border (Daily NK 13-May). NK says it will digitize all media (UPI 15-May). Is this just a way to get ahead of the inevitable and save face by permitting what everyone already does?
The Chollima thinks the conditions are getting better and better for change in NK.
Fun Fact: Next year, you will be able to travel by train from the city of Wigan (UK) to North Korea for £3,195 (Wigan Today 23-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Putin says Kim needs international security guarantees for denuclearisation (BBC 25-Apr)
Kim tightens leadership in govt reshuffle (NPR 12-Apr)
NK tech & infrastructure budget increases, holds military level (WSJ 12-Apr)
The Chollima's View
If true, Putin’s revelation means there’s a route forward on nuclear disarmament. Scrap the nukes in return for keeping Kim in power. NK military activity is reported as resuming/increasing, but really it’s in a holding pattern. No decrease, but no meaningful increase while negotiations are ongoing. It keeps Kim’s options open to escalate or de-escalate. Disarmament for regime stability could be a very tempting deal for the US. It’s a compromise that can be played as a win on both sides. It could be hard, but not impossible, for Trump to politically sell the idea of tolerating the continued Kim regime to the public.
This may not be so hard if there is genuine political and economic reform in NK, to make NK a better place to live. Kim’s “on the spot guidance” visits focus more on the economy and industry recently (Japan Times 08-Apr). Tightening his grip on power makes sense if he expects turmoil, even from positive economic reform.
Fun Fact: The Pyongyang Marathon attracted a record number of competitors this year, over 1,600 (ABC News 06-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
CIA linked to Madrid NK embassy raid (El País 13-Mar)
Russia refuses to recognise NK as a nuclear power (Sputnik 05-Mar)
NK rebuilding Sohae missile site (BBC 06-Mar)
The Chollima's View
Trouble is brewing again.
It seems NK is restarting its missile sites and an artificial tremor was detected in a NK mining town (Korea Times 09-Mar). It also looks like the US is linked to the attack on the NK embassy in Madrid on 22-Feb, before the summit. The situation is still unclear but it seems like the Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD) may be behind it. The CCD is a self-declared shadow govt which is protecting Kim Jong Un’s nephew, Kim Han Sol. Kim Han Sol is the son of Kim Jong Un’s brother, Kim Jong Nam, who was murdered with nerve gas in Malaysia.
Is the US signalling the threat of regime change? In the past Russia has been relatively quiet and borderline supportive of the DPRK. If it now openly refuses to let the DPRK have nuclear weapons, perhaps the US is in a stronger position.
Fun Fact: Sunderland AFC supporter Tom Rowdy wants to build a North Korea fan club for the football team (BBC 04-Mar)


The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Trump/Kim summit collapses (NY Times 28-Feb)
Kim loosens restrictions on pop culture (SCMP 13-Feb)
Famous investor Jim Rogers to visit NK (Korea Herald 12-Feb)
The Chollima's View
Both sides blame each other for the collapse of talks in Hanoi. The commonality seems to be that Trump expects more on denuclearisation and Kim expects more on sanctions relief. The Chollima expects both sides to come back. There were a lot of positive moves this month.
The Chollima is curious about Kim softening on pop culture. This is often touted as a factor in major political change behind the Iron Curtain. Potential economic reform is also interesting. The Chollima does not expect Jim Rogers’ trip (if it’s still on) will be productive but one of Trump’s main carrots is the tremendous economic potential of NK (Channel News Asia 16-Feb).
Fun Fact: Japanese PM Abe nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize (apparently at Trump’s request)...after the failed Hanoi summit there is clearly more work to do (Asahi Shimbun 17-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2019
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim warns continued nuclear development if no sanctions relief (BBC 01-Jan)
NK looking to learn international law from Germany (Korea Times 12-Jan)
UN panel to censure SK for violating sanctions (Kyodo News 31-Jan)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima takes Kim’s warnings seriously. A large number of newly discovered, undisclosed missile sites are concerning (NBC 22-Jan). Serious sanctions relief does not seem likely. SK censure is symbolic for even a tiny amount of petroleum (300 tonnes). In any case, NK also has a dangerous conventional military, cyber capability, and probably biological weapons.
If North Korea is building international law expertise, this is a promising sign that it might be preparing to join the international community. It is also learning de-mining techniques from Cambodia (Khmer Times 04-Jan) which would be needed in the DMZ.
Kim has already seen Xi (Reuters 07-Jan) and The Chollima looks forward to a possible next Trump/Kim meeting in February...
Fun Fact: The S.Korean Hwacheon County ice fishing festival, near the NK border, attracted 2 million people this year, as many hope that one day N.Koreans may attend one day (Al Jazeera 27-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK says US must act first before denuclearising (AP 21-Dec)
US to review travel ban (CNN 19-Dec)
NK training troops in Uganda (WSJ 09-Dec)
The Chollima's View
SK seems very optimistic about its future relationship with NK. The Chollima is sceptical, as much is symbolic e.g. troops crossing the DMZ in peace for the first time since before the Korean War (BBC 13-Dec), or the groundbreaking ceremony for resumption of rail and road links (Guardian 26-Dec), or the increase in the budget of SK’s unification ministry (Korea Herald 10-Dec).
The Chollima is also sceptical about NK’s request for the US to step down first before NK moves to denuclearise. This cannot be serious. The Chollima wonders how long the US’s patience will last.
The Chollima awaits Kim Jong Un’s New Year speech with great interest...
Fun Fact: Visit North Korea, the tourism company, now sponsors the very minor, non-league English football club, Blyth Spartans (BBC 27-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
DPRK FM learning about economic reform in Vietnam (Việt Nam News 30-Nov)
UN sanctions exemption for SK/NK rail project (Channel News Asia 24-Nov)
Moon asks Assembly to prepare welcome for Kim (Korea JoongAng Daily 06-Nov)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima has long predicted that NK could use Vietnam as a model for economic reform (see June 2017’s report). The Chollima says watch closely. NK is said to be preparing a govt agency for opening up to the world (Yonhap News 07-Nov). There are an estimated 6 million cell phones in NK (Yonhap News 05-Nov). The accessibility and information brought by technology means opening up is inevitable. A train has passed from SK to NK for the first time in 10 years (BBC 30-Nov).
Fake Adidas and Hello Kitty products are popular in NK (Guardian 24-Nov). Imagine how much North Koreans may like the real deal!
Fun Fact: Kim Jong Un has received his first official state portrait (BBC 06-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
DPRK says tourists can cross border in JSA (NK News 29-Oct)
Pope considering Kim’s invitation to visit DPRK (Reuters 18-Oct)
Economy grows 3.7% in 2017 (Nikkei Asian Review 12-Oct)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is amazed at the pace of peace. It has long been possible to visit the DMZ from the DPRK but crossing the border at the Joint Security Area is monumental. DMZ landmines are being removed (Reuters 01-Oct), NK is closing its west coast artillery units (KBS World Radio 30-Oct), and NK and SK will close 22 DMZ guard posts (Korea Times 28-Oct). The Chollima expects the Pope will decide a visit is premature but the day may not be so far away.
The Chollima is very interested in potential economic cooperation. Sanctions remain but SK is considering lifting some (AP 11-Oct). A survey also indicates that 60% of SK SMEs would invest in NK (Korea Times 23-Oct). There are also interesting rumours that a proposed special economic zone may on the north-west border with China may be revived (Nikkei Asian Review 25-Oct).
Fun Fact: LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for the DPRK’s internet-connected (Daily Telegraph 26-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim & Moon stand on Mt Paektu (Korea Joong Ang Daily 20-Sep)
NK to open trade office in Russian Far East (NK News 13-Sep)
NK holds parade without ballistic missiles (BBC 09-Sep)
The Chollima's View
Relations have never been better between North and South. There are still significant questions about sanctions violations but, for now, the USA seems relaxed. The Chollima expects another Kim/Trump summit in the next few months. The Chollima understands the general mood is good in NK itself. Economic reform feels like it may already be underway.
Fun Fact: North and South Korea will make a joint bid for the 2032 Olympics (USA Today 18-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Trump cancels Pompeo trip (CNBC 24-Aug)
Tourist visas suspended until September (Channel News Asia 14-Aug)
IAEA: no indication DPRK nuclear activity stopped (Reuters 21-Aug)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima doesn’t see any material changes since the summit in Singapore. Japan’s PM Abe has reportedly lost trust in Trump. Trump still blames China.
It is rumoured that President Xi will visit Pyongyang this September. This may be why tourist visas are suspended until then.
Fun Fact: Shanghai firm, Iceason, has released an ice cream which resembles Kim Jong Un (Yonhap News 27-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK working on new missiles (Washington Post 30-Jul)
Trump blames China for negative pressure on NK (Twitter 09-Jul)
Tourism boom since April SK/NK summit (SCMP 29-Jul)
The Chollima's View
The news is mixed but the Chollima is optimistic that things are headed in the direction of peace.
It looks like NK is making new missiles but it may also be deconstructing its nuclear development sites (Guardian 24-Jul). For now the relationship between Trump and Kim seems cordial.
The Chollima is interested to see Trump blame China for hindrances. See last month’s report below.
Fun Fact: Dennis Rodman, the retired basketball star and friend of Kim Jong Un, says he wants to take Kanye West to North Korea (Evening Standard 18-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
US officials say NK still secretly enhancing uranium (Guardian 30-Jun)
Moon & Putin pledge NK economic links (FT 22-Jun)
Trump & Kim hold historic talks (BBC 12-Jun)
The Chollima's View
It looks like NK is testing the US. Readers may expect Trump to react strongly but the Chollima is interested in China-US relations. Chinese cooperation is key to any effective sanctions on NK. After meeting Trump, Kim visited Xi for a 3rd time (Guardian 19-Jun). China has experience in maintaining political stability while opening up the economy. It would also be the biggest beneficiary of economic reform in NK. The Chollima thinks that history may depend on whether Trump proceeds or not with his tariff trade war (BBC 19-Jun).
The Chollima is still cautiously optimistic. Russia’s Gazprom is considering a pipeline (UPI 15-Jun), Chinese border cities are booming (Asahi Shimbun 24-Jun), NK and SK are talking about linking railways (Xinhua 25-Jun) and roads (KBS World Radio 28-Jun), and famous investor Mark Mobius believe there is tremendous opportunity in NK (CNBC 12-Jun).
Fun Fact: Mass games will be hosted for the 1st time in 5 years this September (CNN 20-Jun)

The Chollima Report 31-May-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
High ranking NK official Kim Yong Chul goes to USA (CBS 30-May)
UN gains unprecedented access (BBC 12-May)
India seeks to improve NK relations (CNBC 17-May)
The Chollima's View
After both the US and NK put planned talks into doubt it looks like they will proceed. Kim Yong Chul’s visit is the first of its kind for 18 years. US-NK talks are also underway at Panmunjom (Korea Herald 30-May).
The US and SK are promising NK economic improvement (Sky News 12-May) and railway connectivity (CityLab 04-May). SK is already investigating ways to do business with NK without violating sanctions (Washington Post 03-May) and SK companies are ready to enter if sanctions are lifted (Guardian 14-May). Chinese investors are very interested in real estate (Reuters 02-May) and NK is planning its 2nd ever international route, between Pyongyang and Chengdu (Caixin Global 10-May).
The Chollima is still cautiously optimistic.
Fun Fact: Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame, has been filming a travel documentary in North Korea (Hollywood Reporter 21-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Historic Korea Summit, Kim and Moon meet (Guardian 27-Apr)
Construction boom across NK (AP 13-Apr)
China halts multi-use tech exports to NK (Global Times 09-Apr)
The Chollima's View
The Korea Summit was extraordinarily positive. Kim and Moon pledged to finally formally end the Korea War and denuclearise the peninsula. SK is turning off its border speakers (BBC 23-Apr), the time zones will realign (Sky News 30-Apr), and Kim says he is happy to visit Seoul any time he is invited (Channel News Asia 27-Apr).
The Chollima is cautiously optimistic for the future Kim/Trump meeting. NK is no longer asking for US troops to withdraw from SK (NY Times 19-Apr) and Trump praises Kim as “very honourable” (AP 25-Apr). It seems that CIA Director (now Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo’s secret meetings in NK (BBC 18-Apr) went well. Moon (very modestly) is recommending Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize (CNN 30-Apr).
The Chollima is also very interested in reports of a construction boom across NK – apartments, hotels, roads, leisure facilities, and the Pyongyang metro system. The Chollima thinks this might be a small response to growing demand from an early stage middle class. In the context of peace talks, The Chollima is also optimistic that this is the beginning of a long term economic reform along Chinese or Vietnamese lines.
Fun Fact: Swiss rösti was on the menu at the Korea Summit – Kim Jong Un spent his childhood school days in Switzerland (Reuters 24-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK & SK to hold 1st summit in decade (Reuters 28-Mar)
Exports at standstill (Chosun Ilbo 06-Mar)
NK & Russia plan new Tumen River bridge (NK News 22-Mar)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is surprised about the prospect of talks with Trump (BBC 09-Mar). China appears to be helping by playing a diplomatic, intermediary role. Kim’s visit is the first time he has left NK since 2011 (Caixin Global 28-Mar) and China says he is committed to denuclearisation (Reuters 27-Mar). The Chollima is sceptical. Nuclear weapons have been a key goal of NK defence policy for decades.
Perhaps sanctions are working? Exports have slowed. NK ships trade coal at sea to avoid ports (Chicago Tribune 03-Mar). The UN is now targeting ships and shipping companies (BBC 30-Mar).
Fun Fact: A group of 120 K-pop stars have arrived in NK as part of a cultural exchange (Channel News Asia 31-Mar)


The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
US to back “largest ever” sanctions (BBC 23-Feb)
SK says NK willing to talk with US (NY Times 25-Feb)
Russia denies port entry to NK cargo ship (KBS World Radio 06-Feb)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima does not expect talks to begin any time soon. A meeting with the US Vice President at the Winter Olympics was reportedly cancelled by NK at the last minute (Guardian 21-Feb). NK is also, embarrassingly for Germany, managing to source missile parts through its German embassy (Deutsche Welle 05-Feb).
NK seems to be under pressure. New sanctions are pushing NK to extremes. NK allegedly made $200m selling weapons to Syria and Myanmar (Al Jazeera 03-Feb). Russia is also deporting NK workers (Moscow Times 07-Feb). NK is also selling its much needed electricity to China (Daily NK 26-Feb). NK blames sanctions for its inability to pay its UN dues (Reuters 10-Feb). The Chollima is not sure the US is interested in talks yet either.
Fun Fact: The Daedong River Beer Factory has developed a new wheat beer with a sweet, rich flavour (Rodong Newspaper 04-Feb)


The Chollima Report 31-Jan-2018
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Kim Jong Un is running out of money (RFA 25-Jan)
NK & SK to march under same flag at Olympics (BBC 17-Jan)
SK & Japan accepted NK coal via Russia (Reuters 25-Jan)
The Chollima's View
NK and SK relations are improving. This is part of a pattern. When SK is tough, NK turns to the US. When the US is tough it turns to SK. The Chollima wonders if this is a sign that NK takes US military threats seriously. The US military is training more for combat in tunnels (Quartz 09-Jan) which are a key part of NK tactics. US voters notoriously accepting of loss of life overseas (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam).
The US might think it is best to strike now while NK missiles cannot reach its mainland. The Chollima dreads to think of the consequences.
Fun Fact: Russia will set up a polling station for its one citizen living in NK (Xinhau 30-Jan)


The Chollima Report 31-Dec-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Russia increasing oil exports to NK (Deutsche Welle 05-Dec)
China trade with NK up in Nov (Reuters 23-Dec)
Defecting NK soldier has anthrax antibodies (UPI 26-Dec)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima has two warning signs for war with NK. One is civilian evacuation from SK, the other is an end to oil supply to NK. Oil supply continues despite new UN sanctions (BBC 22-Dec). Russian tankers are fuelling NK at sea (Reuters 29-Dec). In the game of brinkmanship SK is seizing ships it suspects of supplying NK with oil (BBC 31-Dec).
The Chollima expects that nuclear tensions will be drawn out for a lot longer.
Fun Fact: A new documentary by the charity Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) shows how millenials in NK are leading economic change (Washington Post 15-Dec)


The Chollima Report 30-Nov-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Latest NK missile puts whole US in range (Wired 28-Nov)
Singapore suspends trade relations with NK (Reuters 16-Nov)
China bans tourism to NK (Newsweek 07-Nov)
The Chollima's View
Last month’s prediction of a big provocative move came true. The Chollima does not expect that Trump’s offer still stands to come to the table and make a deal (Financial Times 07-Nov). The Chollima also does not expect much from even more new sanctions from the US and China (Washington Post 29-Nov). SK and Japan think that listing NK as a terror state will help derail their nuclear program (Reuters 21-Nov). This is even more dubious.
The (credible) rumours are that Singapore is a big centre for NK money. The Chollima wonders how serious Singapore’s suspension of trade relations truly is. Difficulty for NK in Singapore might have an impact.
Fun Fact: Pyongyang University of Science and Technology now has a cryptocurrency course (Vice News 25-Nov)


The Chollima Report 31-Oct-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Russia TransTeleCom to lay fibre optic network (Frontera News 19-Oct)
Kim Jong Un’s sister promoted to Politburo (BBC 08-Oct)
Nuclear test site mountain likely to collapse (38 North)
The Chollima's View
The public should be more fearful of NK’s cyber abilities. Microsoft is certain that NK is responsible for the infamous WannaCry virus (Washington Examiner 14-Oct). NK capability will get stronger with Russian support.
The Chollima thinks there is a strong possibility that North Korea’s next nuclear tests will occur in the Pacific Ocean. A tunnel at the Mt Mantap test site collapsed (Yonhap News 31-Oct). NK need a new test site and a move to the Pacific would be a suitable next provocation/test of the USA.
Fun Fact: North Korea is experimenting with algae for home grown oil production to beat sanctions (38 North 20-Oct)


The Chollima Report 30-Sep-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
US sanctions resolution watered down (Guardian 11-Sep)
Russia, SK, NK to work on trilateral projects (RT 06-Sep)
SK President says dialogue impossible (Yonhap News 15-Sep)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima outlined two key warning signs in last months’ report. These have not been met but the situation is edging closer. Oil delivery to NK will be capped, not ended. Japan is only planning for, not calling for, evacuation of its citizens from SK (Nikkei Asian Review 06-Sep).
The Chollima believes this is still brinkmanship and expects to see more insults and contradictory actions.
Fun Fact: Basketball star Dennis Rodman offers to “straight things out” between the USA and North Korea (Syracuse.com 07-Sep)


The Chollima Report 31-Aug-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
North Korea fires missile over Japan (BBC 29-Aug)
China recommits to sanctions on NK (AP 29-Aug)
US & Japan agree NK talks not appropriate (Yonhap News 29-Aug)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is concerned by the UN report that 2 NK shipments to a Syrian chemical weapons factory were caught in the last 6 months (Reuters 21-Aug). The Chollima remembers WMDs and Iraq. The US said it is not seeking regime change (BBC 01-Aug) but Trump has also threatened “fire and fury” (BBC 08-Aug). In return NK threatened the US territory Guam (BBC 09-Aug). The Chollima will begin to worry if the US tells its citizens to leave the region.
China promises to stop importing coal, iron, lead, and seafood (Guardian 05-Aug), affecting $3bn of income for NK, approx 25% of its GDP. China will still supply NK with oil (ABC News 20-Aug). The Chollima will worry if they stop.
Fun Fact: The DPRK is welcoming tourists from Russia – its advertising says that Pyongyang is safer than London (Reuters 24-Aug)


The Chollima Report 31-Jul-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK economy is booming (Quartz 21-Jul)
NK on brink of famine (UN 20-Jul)
US “done talking” about NK (Reuters 30-Jul)
The Chollima's View
The prospect of US military action against NK is still unthinkable. State media said that if there was any attempt at regime change that NK would “preemptively annihilate” its enemies with nuclear attacks (KCNA 25-Jul). It’s an increasingly credible threat. Never mind “done talking” – the US seems “done” full stop.
The Chollima wonders if there’s a way forward for NK with Vietnam or China as a model. Consequently, The Chollima is very interested by the mixed reports about NK’s economy. On the one hand, NK faces famine. On the other, NK is in a building boom (NYT 05-Jul) and trade with China is up 10.5% (Reuters 13-Jul).
Fun Fact: Moldova will export wine to North Korea (NK News 03-Jul)


The Chollima Report 30-Jun-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
SK Pres; nuclear solution likelier than ever with Trump (Korea Herald 30-Jun)
Russia boosts trade with NK (USA Today 05-Jun)
NK officials tour Spain for Wonsan beach resort inspiration (Daily Telegraph 25-Jun)
The Chollima's View
China reports that its coal imports have been zero for three months. It seems the US is taking its own precautions. It imposed new sanctions on specific Chinese businesses which it believes launder money for North Korea e.g. Bank of Dandong (Reuters 30-Jun) and Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co (Reuters 29-Jun).
It seems the DPRK is following a model of opening up similar to China or Vietnam in the past (FT 21-Jun). Perhaps there is a way forward for the country if it can harness its great mineral wealth (Quartz 16-Jun). How will the US efforts to stop missile development affect prospects of economic development?
Fun Fact: US basketball star Dennis Rodman gave the DPRK sports minister a copy of Trump’s “Art of the Deal” (AP 15-Jun)


The Chollima Report 31-May-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
New SK President Moon willing to meet Kim Jong Un in NK (Guardian 10-May)
India halts trading with NK (CNN 01-May)
WannaCry ransomware virus possibly from NK (BBC 16-May)
The Chollima's View
Missile testing continues and in response the US is increasing its anti-missile measures. Is it adopting a Reagan-eque “Star Wars” strategy? The Chollima is curious about new S.Korean President Moon’s policy of engagement. Is he letting the US play the bad guy?
Meanwhile, China allowed North Korean delegates to attend its Silk Road summit (Reuters 12-May) and Putin says the world should stop threatening North Korea and talk (Reuters 15-May).
Fun Fact: The DPRK has developed a new tablet computer – it’s called the “iPad” (NK News 31-May)


The Chollima Report 30-Apr-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
Tokyo Metro halted after missile test (Bloomberg 29-Apr)
China readies army on NK border (UPI 12-Apr)
NK agrees to first ever UN rights expert visit (UPI 27-Apr)
The Chollima's View
The Chollima is reconsidering the likelihood of military action against North Korea.
After the US threat to proceed alone (FT 02-Apr), it seems China is cooperating (or at least aligning) with the US. The Chinese army is on the border and it has signalled it will not defend NK from attack (Straits Times 13-Apr).
The Japanese PM warns that a sarin gas attack is possible (Reuters 13-Apr). The halt of the Tokyo Metro is a new level of caution. The threat posed by North Korea is beginning to have an actual impact.
If he doesn’t like you, Trump takes swift, serious, unexpected action e.g. bombings in Syria, Afghanistan. Since the 90s the US has tried to prevent progress of weapons development, keeping NK where it is rather than taking action. Progress was slow but their weapons have improved. The policy clearly hasn’t worked.
Will Trump take a view that he can see where this is going and that it’s better to do something now?
Fun Fact: Han Kwang-Song became the first NK player to score a goal in Italy’s football league (CNN 10-Apr)


The Chollima Report 31-Mar-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
NK banks ejected from SWIFT (CNN 08-Mar)
Protocol for hosting NK workers signed with Russia (KCNP 17-Mar)
Census led by UN to be held (KCNP 24-Mar)
The Chollima's View
N.Korea faces every possible sanction and penalty without any effect. The UN thinks that Africa is a route for N.Korea to avoid weapons restrictions (AP 04-Mar). It seems that limited coal and iron ore trading continues with China (NK News 06-Mar). Workers still go to Russia. 
The US warns that all options are open for tackling N.Korea (Reuters 08-Mar). It is even said to be exploring military options (Fox News 01-Mar). This would be extremely risky and The Chollima does not expect the US to take any serious action.
Fun Fact: Kenji Fujimoto, ex-sushi chef to Kim Jong Il, opens restaurant in Pyongyang (AP 04-Mar)
​​

The Chollima Report 28-Feb-2017
Top 3 Macro and Risk Headlines
North Korea conducts ballistic missile test (BBC 12-Feb)
Kim Jong Nam killed at airport (BBC 14-Feb)
China bans North Korea coal imports (Reuters 19-Feb)
The Chollima's View
The coal import ban is very serious. North Korea exports an estimated 22m tons for $1.2bn per year to China. This is about a third of its exports. It is a major (and clean) source of foreign cash.
China actually said it would stop importing from N. Korea (its 4th largest supplier) in Apr-2016, in line with international sanctions. Its decision to act shows a changing relationship. Russia came before China in N. Korea’s New Year wishes (Washington Times 07-Feb). State media also made a release aimed at China titled “Neighbouring country’s mean behaviour” (KCNP 23-Feb).
The EU will increase sanctions (Washington Post 27-Feb). The leading S. Korean presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, promised to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (UPI 07-Feb) but this is now very unlikely.
The Chollima expects the situation to worsen. The USA cancelled back-channel talks (NYT 25-Feb) and may place N. Korea back on the list of terror states (Japan Times 28-Feb). If S. Korea installs the US THAAD missile defence system (Yonhap News 28-Feb) this will provoke a response.
Fun Fact: The Chollima (literally “1000 li horse”) is a mythical winged horse which could travel 1000 li (approx. 250 miles or 400km) in 1 day