​​​​​North Korea
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)
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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