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2008/05/22 11:00 KST


UNFPA Starts to Prepare for North Korean Census

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Preparations continue to progress smoothly as North Korea gets ready to conduct its first census in 14 years this fall.

   Dr. Bernard Coquelin, a representative for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in China, stated that the surveys for the census have been finalized, and that both sides are ready to move forward, the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on May 13.

   North Korea and the UNFPA are working together to conduct the census during the first two weeks of October this year.

   "North Korea is faithfully carrying out the agreements in the memorandum of understanding between the UNFPA and North Korea, and although this is a project that will take a great deal of time, fortunately North Korea's authorities have shown a strong will to do a good job. So I expect that the quality of the census will be very good," said Coquelin to the RFA.

   The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported in March that the North is making preparations to conduct the census, and that a pilot census had been instituted.

   According to a statement by the Unification Ministry in Seoul released in January 2008, the pilot census had already begun last year.

   The project's estimated cost will be approximately US$5.6 million, most of which will be covered by the $4 million that South Korea will provide. The remaining funds will come from the UNFPA and donations from other countries.

   Aside from funds, the UNFPA has also dedicated a technical advisor, who is already stationed in Pyongyang, to train the North Korean staff. When the census is formally carried out, 10 representatives from various international organizations are expected to arrive to assist with the project.
"Right now we are continuing our final work to provide extra technology training and assistance for the census in October," said Coquelin.

   In addition to receiving training from the UNFPA, North Korean personnel have visited the Philippines, where a census was conducted in August 2007, to learn about information management and input. Further training is also expected to be conducted in countries like China and Cambodia before October.

   The census will collect data on the population according to factors such as age, sex, area distribution, education levels, and birth and death rates.

   In the face of the upcoming survey, the North's Population Research Center is actively conducting research of its own on "the state of the population," with a special emphasis on the reproductive health of women, according to the KCNA.

   The World Factbook, released by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, reports that North Korea's population as of July 2008 is estimated to be 23.5 million people. Pyongyang had announced in 1993, after its last survey, that its population was 21.2 million.

   In an interview with the RFA, UNFPA spokesperson Abubakar Dungus said, "The North Korean census that will be conducted 15 years after 1994 has important meaning because it will serve as a basis for future plans the North Korean government establishes to develop the economy and society."


North Korea Resumes Construction of Luxury Hotel

SHENYANG, China, (Yonhap) -- North Korea resumed the construction of a high-rise hotel in Pyongyang last month, which was suspended for nearly 20 years due to funding problems, informed sources in Shenyang said on May 19.

   The construction of the luxury Ryugyong Hotel began in 1987 with French capital and technology. However, the construction of the 105-story building, which was slated for completion in 1992, was halted in the early 1990s amid North Korea's chronic economic problems. The 330-meter hotel is expected to be the world's tallest when completed.

   "North Korean authorities restarted the construction of the Ryugyong Hotel in April," the sources said, quoting those who recently returned from trips to Pyongyang.

   Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt is North Korea's partner for the construction, the sources said. "If completed, the hotel will be used as accommodation for foreign investors and visitors, a business center and an international convention center, among other things," a source said.

   Meanwhile, Orascom Telecom Holding, a Cairo-based phone operator, said on May 19 in Washington that it succeeded in making its first mobile call in North Korea in preparation for the full launch of its commercial service later this year.

   In January of this year, Orascom won the first commercial license to provide mobile telephone services in North Korea. The license was given to a company subsidiary, CHEO Technology, of which North Korea's state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation owns 25 percent.

   The duration of the license is 25 years, with an exclusivity period of four years.

   "The success of this trial network using WCDMA (3G) mobile technology represents the first step in providing coverage throughout the DPRK (North Korea)," the company said in its e-mailed press release.

   "CHEO is looking to launch its full commercial mobile services within the second half of 2008."