Sunch'ŏn Vinalon Complex

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Last Updated: March 1, 2003
Other Name: 순천비날론연합기업소; Sunch'ŏn Vinalon Factory (순천비날론공장); Sunchon Vinalon Factory
Location: Sunch'ŏn (순천시), South P'yŏng'an Province (평안남도), North Korea
Subordinate To: 5th Machine Industry Bureau (제5기계산업총국), Second Economic Committee (제2경제위원회) for chemical weapons production; probably the Ministry of Chemical Industry (화학공업성) and the Ministry of Light Industry (경공업성) for civilian production
Size: Total lot area of 14 million square meters, total factory floor space of 1.13 million square meters, about 50 affiliated factories, an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons of vinalon (in the early 1990s)
Facility Status: Unknown

The Sunch'ŏn Vinalon Complex is North Korea's largest chemical production facility. The Korean Workers Party decided to establish the complex in June 1983, and construction began three months later. However, capital and material shortages resulted in construction delays before construction resumed in 1986. The first stage of construction was completed in October 1989, giving the complex an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons of vinalon. North Korea then planned to complete its full-scale expansion of the complex in time for Kim Il Sung's 80th birthday on 15 April 1992, but construction reportedly was still not finished as of 2000. If the complex is ever completed, its estimated annual capacity will be 100,000 tons of vinalon, one million tons of carbide, 750,000 tons of methanol, and 900,000 tons of vinyl chloride.

Jiang Zemin, then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, visited the Complex in 1989, and that same year, Chŏng Chu Yŏng, honorary chairman of South Korea's Hyundai Group, also visited the site. Because of limited capital investment, one of the major defects has reportedly been the use of poor-quality steel instead of stainless steel. Anecdotal information speaks to the production difficulties faced by workers at the complex. Before Jiang Zemin's 1989 visit, a batch of vinalon turned out to be red instead of the desired white. Therefore, officials quickly brought in a substitute product from the February 8th Vinalon Complex. In the late 1980s, China provided assistance to construct a 20,000kw thermal power plant at the site. At the same time, a road and a 40km railroad were extended to the complex for the delivery of fuel and materials.

Despite the modern-looking equipment, including a relatively sophisticated array of process control suites, South Korean sources report that there is no computerization, with only manual switch telephones available. Workers have no real remote-control access to the site and are forced to respond in person to report problems. Defector Lee Chung Kuk has linked the Sunch'ŏn Vinalon Complex with North Korea's CW program and infrastructure; however, given information in the open source literature, it is difficult to confirm allegations of CW-related activities at this facility.

Note: The 14th Battalion of the Nuclear and Chemical Defense Bureau is billeted at this facility.

The facility includes "vinalon factories, a sodium carbonate factory and a vinyl chloride factory, as well as other factories which either have been completed or are under construction."

Sunch'ŏn Vinalon Complex

 


Vinyl acetate rectifiers (distillation columns)
Source: Korea Today, August 1998

 


Control room
Source: Korea Today, August 1998


Vinalon production system
Source: Women of Korea, January 1990


Spinning shop
Source: Korea Today, August 1998

Sources:
[1] "Photographs of DPRK's Sunch'on Vinalon Complex, Alleged CW Site," FBIS Document ID: KPP20001220000103;
[2] Lee Chae Sŭng, "Pukhan Kwahag'ŭi Isanggwa Hyŏnshil," Chapter Three in Pukhan'ŭl Umjiginŭn Technocrat (Seoul: Ilbit, August 1998), pp. 123-174, in "Chemical Engineering, Experts Described," FBIS Document ID: FTS19991223001168;
[3] ROK Ministry of Unification, Pukhan Kaeyo 2000 (Seoul: Ministry of Unification, 1999), p. 363;
[4]"Sŏm'yu Mit Ŭiryu'saengsan," Joongang Ilbo Pukhanbaekkwa, 27 December 2000, http://nk.joins.com;
[5] Kang T'ae Ho, "Yŏnhapkiopso/Wŏllyosaengsan Yŏn'gye Trust (Pukhan'gyŏngje)," Hankyoreh Shinmun, 22 March 1994, p. 8, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr;
[6] "Sunch'ŏn (Tallajin Pungnyŏk'kojang)," Chosun Ilbo, 25 September 1995, p. 27, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr;
[7] Sŏn Chong Ku, "Puk Haekhwahakpang'wiguk: Haeksaenghwahangmugi Ch'ongjihwi," Segye Ilbo, 21 May 1997, p. 17, in KINDS, www.kinds.or.kr.

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