As forecast in a recent feature published on just-auto (No queues to buy the Pyonghwa Whistle in North Korea), the joint venture between the North Korean government, Fiat and the state-owned Ryonbong Corporation appears to be falling apart, writes Paul French.

Pyonghwa, which means ‘peace’, has decided to end the technical partnership with Fiat and rely on its own R&D. This may not be such a wise move as, so far, the company’s two models are based on Fiat designs, though the move is not unexpected as the reclusive North Korean government has a disastrous track record of working with foreign companies.

Pyonghwa’s Hwiparam (Whistle) model is based on the Fiat Siena and its Ppeokkugi (Cuckoo) model on the Fiat Doblo. Fiat remains silent on the issue.

Pyonghwa still maintains officially that it has big expansion plans though an artist’s rendition of the company’s planned expanded production facility in the port city of Nampo may remain just that given the lack of available capital in the country.

Now Pyonghwa is aiming to buy in new production lines from China. More advertisements for the company have appeared around the usually ad-free country though sales appear not have progressed very much from the official 341 last year.

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Paul French is the publishing director of Access Asia and based in Shanghai. He is also the author of the forthcoming book North Korea – Paranoid Peninsula (Zed Books, 2004, London) and regularly writes about developments in the DPRK for the international media.