North Korean authorities have reportedly hired a Chinese estate agent to seek investors for land in the border town of Sinuiju. This is the first time the North has tried to sell land outside the special economic zones of Rajin-Sonbong or Hwanggumpyong Island to Chinese investors.
The development shows how dependent on China the North is becoming amid international isolation and global sanctions.
Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute quoted sources as saying the North is trying to sell real estate in downtown Sinuiju to Chinese developers or other businesses. The properties are offered at 180,000 yuan per 660 sq.m for a 50-year lease and can be freely let, sold or used as collateral for loans.
Cho said, "North Korea desperately needs foreign currency and has been flogging natural resources and marine products, but even this is getting difficult amid strained relations with Beijing since the execution of [former eminence grise] Jang Song-taek."
North Korea's trade dependency on China has risen from 88.3 percent in 2012 to almost 90 percent. The North sells anthracite, iron ore and other minerals to China at bargain basement prices while spending heavily to import oil, grain and daily necessities, resulting in a chronic trade deficit. In 2012, the deficit with China stood at US$1.04 billion.
North Korea's connection with the outside world also stands and falls with Beijing. At the end of 2012, China completed a high-speed rail connecting Harbin and Shenyang that is now being extended to Dandong, Jilin and Hunchun on the North Korean border and puts China in pole position to handle any rail and road projects in North Korea itself.