North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is urging workers to produce more bicycles to cope with the lack of transport, improve people's health and prevent pollution just days after the country's first bike factory opened.
SEOUL North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is urging workers to produce more bicycles to cope with the lack of transport, improve people's health and prevent pollution just days after the country's first bike factory opened.
Visitors to North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, say traffic pollution is not a major environmental concern simply because there is hardly any traffic. Fuel is short and so are vehicles -- whether with four or two wheels.
North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported on Monday that Kim visited the Pyongyang Joint Venture Bicycle Factory -- the country's first.
It did not say when he visited the plant, which followed a trip to an electric wire factory and one that makes cranes.
But China's Xinhua news agency reported on Oct. 7 the North had started producing bicycles at the factory and could produce 300,000 "Peony Peak" bikes a year.
"He was satisfied to see various types of bicycles successfully manufactured for different purposes including those for urban, rural and mountainous uses and for children and the carriage of goods," KCNA said of Kim's visit.
"He underscored the need to significantly increase the production of bicycles, noting that the use of bicycles is very good for satisfactorily solving the problem of transport, promoting the convenience of people in their living and their health and preventing the pollution in cities," it said.
KCNA said the factory was a joint venture with China, whose president, Hu Jintao, visited Pyongyang last week. Xinhua said Chinese investors owned a 51 percent stake in the $650,000 Pyongyang factory. The North holds the rest.
Hitherto, most bikes have been second-hand cast-offs from China and Japan.
Military officials say South Korea provided a batch of new bicycles for North Korean workers to use to get to the Kaesong industrial park it is building just north of the North-South border, the Demilitarised Zone.
KCNA also said Kim had praised workers at the wire factory, saying they had worked "without the slightest vacillation or hesitation under the difficult conditions where they were hard pressed for everything".
Experts on the North Korean economy say industry there is largely moribund despite -- or because of -- nascent market reforms that are based in part on China's economic opening.
(Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison in Beijing)