A joint project between North Korea and China to develop the North's Hwanggumpyong Island looks dead in the water. Japanese media already reported last month that the project has been stalled due to differences over details since a groundbreaking ceremony in June last year, and on Sunday the Asahi Shimbun said it was suspended last month.
"Plans for the project have been announced since 2010, but nothing has come of them because China doesn't think it's economically viable," according to a diplomatic source here.
The plan to develop the island was a pipe dream from the start. The biggest problem is that the area is inappropriate for an industrial complex.
"The island was created from deposits by rivers, so the foundations are weak and susceptible to floods," Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. "You'd first have to build flood walls and raise the ground by 3-5 m. North Korea wants China to do that, but Chinese companies just aren't interested."
Beijing reportedly asked Chinese businessmen several times to travel to the North and attend Pyongyang's investment presentations, but they said that unless the North takes care of the foundation work, the project has no business value, a government official here said.
The island's proximity to Dandong is another reason for Beijing's lack of interest. China is already developing a new city and an industrial zone there and would rather focus investment on its own projects rather than across the border.