The Korean newspaper The Dong-A Ilbo, quoting a Chinese businessman active in North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone, reports that North Korea demanded in October that Chinese leave the zone by the end of November. The 746 km². Rajin-Sonbong economic special zone is situated on the western side of the Tumen River in North Korea. It is physically located between 42 08′-42 38’N. And 130 07′-130 42’E. This location is in the east-most end of the country, close to both Russia and China.
It is unconfirmed whether the order was for all Chinese based in Rajin-Sonbong. Some are claiming that the North demanded 90% of the resident Chinese businessmen to leave the area.
Someone familiar with news from the North told the Dong-A, however, that the Chinese have yet to begin leaving, and instead are putting out feelers as to why the North made the request. The North, for its part, has not deported any of the businessmen. Some 250 Chinese companies are active in the zone.
About the move, experts are divided.
Some think the North is closing down its open economic zones in order to preserve the regime, while others think they are simply stopping work in Rajin-Sonbong in order to redevelop it as an industrial zone.
A Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone official in China denied knowledge of the departure order, while the South Korean embassy had never heard of it.
On the one hand, it would contradict reports that the NK regime is trying to refocus on drawing in Chinese investment, albeit at Sinuiju instead of Rajin.
In 2005, the Chinese bought an exclusive 50-year lease on the Rajin port and some nearby land.
As part of the deal, China agreed to build and refurbish the port, This would mean China’s northeastern rust belt would no longer be landlocked. This was to have been a project of great economic significance for both China and North Korea. Now its future is uncertain.
Source: Korea Blog