Why Kim Jong-il wished Egypt's Mubarak a Happy New Year
Egypt has counted on North Korea for military aid. The biggest mobile phone company in the Middle East is also one of North Korea's largest investors.
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In an unusually effusive report, KCNA said that Kim had “warmly welcomed” Samiris. The two “had a cordial talk,” KCNA reported, “at a time when Orascom's investment is making successful progress in different fields,” notably telecommunications.Skip to next paragraph
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Since returning to Cairo, Samiris has sought to get on the side of the democratic movement, calling for “a real intention to have real democracy established here” while restoring “stability.” But the Orascom group, including Orascom Construction and Orascom Development, controlled by his younger brothers, thrives on close ties to Mubarak. A sign of the relationship is that a nephew of the newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, is Orascom Telecom’s general counsel.
“Samiris is the biggest foreign investor in North Korea,” says Ha Tae-keung, president of Seoul-based NK Open Radio, which picks up news from North Korea by surreptitious cell phone contacts linked not to Koryolink but to Chinese networks. “He is very sensitive to politics."
Orascom Telecom has provided mobile phone service in troubled countries from Tunisia to Iraq to Pakistan, while Orascom Construction has had contracts for building US military facilities in Afghanistan.
Cairo as hub for North Korean weapons exports
At the same time, Egypt has counted on North Korea for military aid in the 1970s and began purchasing Scud missiles from North Korea around the time that Mubarak became president. North Korea also provided the technology for Egypt to manufacture missiles on it own.
“Cairo is the hub of North Korea’s missile export,” says Choi Jin-wook, who follows North Korean affairs as senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification. Mr. Choi says North Korea’s embassy in Cairo is headquarters for the North’s Middle East military sales network and ranks as the North’s “most important embassy” after its embassy in Beijing.
Choi believes the deal with Orascom calls for North Korea to pay for the telecom network in hard currency earned from the sale of missiles and technology to clients including Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.
Mubarak and Kim Jong-il have more in common than strictly business, say analysts here. They both are long-term dictators with visions of passing on power to their sons – Gamal Mubarak in Egypt and Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
Although the embattled Mubarak now says his son will not succeed him, says Ha Tae-kung, “The idea of succession came from Kim Jong-il.”