Our man in Pyongyang: British lawyer blazes trail
LONDON — ; A British investment consultant has become the first lawyer to open an office in North Korea offering legal and accounting services, he told foreign journalists in a recent interview.
Michael Hay, who runs a consultancy called Koreastrategic, said his jointly-owned company had teamed up with a spinoff from an official North Korean legal agency to form the firm, which had its office on Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, the capital of the isolated Stalinist state.
His company describes itself in promotional literature as including the North's "first and only law firm and foreign-invested accounting practices".
South Korea does not allow foreign law firms to operate independently in its country yet. North Korean lawyers are closely connected with the government.
The key areas to help foreign investors were legal advice, accounting transparency, book-keeping, foreign exchange and repatriating funds. The firm will not represent the North.
Hay described the joint venture — ; which is called Hay, Kalb and Associates — ; as a multi-disciplinary business practice with an exclusive licence to provide legal and accounting services to foreign investors.
Kalb is an acronym standing for Korean Advisers on Law and Business, Hay was quoted by Reuters as saying.
North Korea has begun taking its first tentative steps along a path which could result in wide-ranging economic reforms, according to Korean economists.
Pyongyang was forced into making the changes by the total breakdown of its state-planned food rationing system. Observers say they are likely to have the effect of pushing the country into still further reforms, possibly including monetary reforms.
Currently, North Korea's central bank issues bank notes, formulates and implement monetary policies and handles accepting and receiving credits. Other specialized banks handle matters only related to accepting and lending state funds to the Party and the government, or foreign currency exchange. But it is expected that the Central Bank will hand over matters related to accepting deposits and lending money to specialized banks in future.
On the Web:
Setting up the British Embassy in Pyongyang — ; a diplomat's story
North Korea blog, by former CNN correspondent Rebecca Mackinnon
Guide for foreign businesses in Pyonyang by Michael Hay, with photos