North Korea Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Market entry: distribution and sales channels, use of local representatives, other factors affecting sales

You can only do business in the country as a joint venture with Korean entities. While the foreign shareholder is mainly responsible for the supply of capital and technology, the Korean partner is responsible for, among other things, employees, distribution and sales. The foreign partner does not have the opportunity to enter into this issue or significantly influence it. Salaries, working hours, etc. are determined by the Korean side. The direct use of local representatives (natural persons) without the supervision of the local administration is out of the question in the given political and economic arrangement. Obstruction to work performance is also the mandatory participation of employees in celebrations and trainings, which follows from the essence of the DPRK system, and employers have no choice but to respect this restriction.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation North Korea, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Since 2017, however, the establishment of joint-ventures with DPRK entities is subject to the sanctions regime.

Import conditions and documents, customs system, export control, domestic market protection

The rules regarding import and export are currently unclear. Individual imports are mostly dealt with ad hoc. Export conditions are also resolved ad hoc with customers. Direct imports from EU countries practically do not exist.

Conditions for setting up an office, representative office, joint venture

It is practically impossible for Czech entities to establish an office, representative office or joint venture under the current conditions of the sanctions regime.

Requirements for promotion, marketing, advertising (use of HSP), important fairs and exhibitions in the territory

These concepts are still far from the reality of life in the DPRK. In 2009, a TV advertisement appeared for the first time, but it was immediately banned. An attempt by foreign investors to place a TV advertisement met with decisive resistance from the local authorities. In the vicinity of the capital of the DPRK, there are very sporadic advertising billboards around the highways, but so far it has always been advertising of state-owned enterprises of the DPRK, mainly for the domestic production of cars.

Twice a year, international trade fairs, mainly for consumer goods, are held in the capital. Specialized fairs are also held in other cities. in the current situation of the sanctions regime, there is practically no possibility or sense for Czech companies to participate in these events.

Contact the organizers of the fair in Pyongyang:

Korea International Exhibition Corp.
Sungri-street Central District
DPR of Korea
Fax: +850-2-381-5827
Tel: +850-2-381-5926

Issues of intellectual property protection

The DPRK is a member of WIPO, a signatory to several international treaties, and the protection of intellectual property is incorporated into domestic legislation in the following laws from 1998:

  • Law on Inventions and Innovations of the DPRK
  • Law on Trademarks of the DPRK
  • Law on Industrial Designs of the DPRK

Interested parties can apply for the registration of intellectual property rights either to the Patent Office of the DPRK (inventions) or to the Office for Trademarks and Design of the DPRK. Assistance can be sought from several state notary societies (see below for examples). On a practical level, however, this issue is on the fringes of interest, the concept itself is unknown in the DPRK.

Ryongsyong Patent Office
Ms. CHOI Un-Ae
European Representative
Ryongsong Patent Office (Branch), Schwegler strasse 21/3
A-1150, Vienna, AUSTRIA
Tel.: +43-1-982-2082
Fax: +43-1-982-2084

Koryo PAT – Rainbow
Koryo PAT- Rainbow Patent & Trademark Agency PO Box 19, Ryonhwa
-Dong 1, Central District
Pyongyang, DPRK

Public procurement market

The supplier is approached directly, tenders do not exist in the DPRK. The foreign supplier must connect with the Korean partner.

Ways of resolving commercial disputes, risks of the local market and investing in the territory, usual payment terms, payment ethics

Although the DPRK has adopted the Law on Arbitration, this does not change the fact that in case of business disputes, the businessman will be powerless against his Korean partners. Investing in the DPRK in the current situation of sanctions is not possible.

Local customs important for business contacts, official and spoken language(s), public holidays, working and sales hours

Important for obtaining any order is the support of the political (party) and state authorities of the DPRK, which govern the entire country.

The official language is Korean, it is possible to act almost exclusively through a local English-Korean interpreter. Visit Animalerts for more information about North Korea culture and traditions.

Normal working hours in the DPRK are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm and Saturday morning, with Saturday afternoon being reserved for “study”. North Koreans only have a one-day weekend – Sunday. Among other things and for that reason, there are relatively many holidays (non-working days) associated with various celebrations in the DPRK.

Public holidays fall on the following days:

  • 1.-3. January – Solar New Year
  • 8-10 February – Lunar New Year (moving date)
  • 16.-17. February – celebration of Kim Jong-il’s birthday
  • February 22 – National People’s Day
  • March 8 – International Women’s Day
  • April 4 – All Souls’ Day (falls on April 5 in a non-leap year)
  • 15-16 April – Kim Il-sung’s birthday celebration
  • April 25 – celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army
  • May 1 – May Day
  • June 6 – Foundation of the Korean Children’s Association
  • July 27 – Victory Day in the Patriotic War of Liberation (Korean War)
  • August 25 – Songun Politics Day
  • September 9 – The Day of the Establishment of the DPRK
  • September 15 – National People’s Day (moving date)
  • October 10 – Party Foundation Day (KSP)
  • November 16 – Mother’s Day
  • December 27 – Constitution Day

Visas, fees, specific conditions for traveling to the territory (areas with increased risk for foreigners)

When entering/exiting the territory of the DPRK, a foreigner is required to present a valid travel document and fill out an entry/exit form, a customs declaration and a health form. There is a visa requirement for all types of passports. The visa application is submitted at the embassy of the DPRK (address in Prague: Na Větru 395/18, Prague 6, 162 00, phone: 235 362 210, email: ). The DPRK distinguishes between 3 types of visas: diplomatic visas, ordinary/normal visas (business and visit) and tourist visas.

Before entering the territory of the DPRK, a foreigner must fill out a customs declaration (when entering the country, the contents of the luggage are thoroughly checked for everyone except diplomats). It is necessary to declare cash, video cameras and cameras, weapons, video cassettes, CDs, DVDs. It is forbidden to import drugs, weapons, dangerous chemical substances, printed materials and carriers with scandalous (anti-regime) or sexual content into the DPRK.

Mobile phones are no longer confiscated at the border, but their registration is required. After that, it is possible to purchase a local SIM card for a month or longer (there is no roaming in the DPRK, mobile and landline telephone networks for foreigners and the local population are strictly and consistently separated and it is not possible to call from one to the other, from the telephone mobile network for foreigners you can call abroad and receive calls, but cannot send/receive SMS).

During their stay, all foreigners who are not members of a diplomatic mission or international organizations operating in the DPRK are constantly accompanied by local guards/guides. The entire stay is carefully planned in advance, including staying at the hotel and visiting ideological monuments and memorials in the city. It is therefore necessary to take into account the absence of any privacy, this also applies to hotel rooms, in which the use of eavesdropping equipment cannot be ruled out.

International air connections are provided by the local airline Air Koryo and Air China. There are currently flights to Pyongyang in 2020 from Beijing, Shanghai and Vladivostok. The airport handles an average of only one flight per day. There is also the possibility of a train connection between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Conditions for employment of citizens from the Czech Republic

Employment of citizens of the Czech Republic in the DPRK by Korean entities is currently impossible.

 Conditions for the use of local health care by Czech and EU citizens

Health care in the DPRK is at a very low level. Medicines, medical supplies, laboratories and their equipment are missing. Foreigners who are recommended by local authorities for treatment at the “international” Friendship Hospital within the diplomatic district (charged in convertible currency, fees are very high, but the quality of service does not meet international standards) prefer treatment in the PRC.

North Korea Culture of Business