You Should Consider North Korea as an Investment
By Tom Dyson
August 25, 2008
Last week, I met Jim Rogers for a drink at the apartment complex where he lives in Singapore...
Jim Rogers is a famous American speculator. He's written four bestsellers on investing. He's been to hundreds of countries. And he's made hundreds of millions of dollars from his investments.
Jim asked me what I'm doing in Singapore. I told him I'm traveling around Asia for 10 weeks and visiting China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and Singapore.
"Well, you're visiting all the wrong countries," he said. He told me I should be going to Myanmar, North Korea, Cambodia, and Taiwan.
Myanmar – also known as Burma – was the richest country in Southeast Asia in the
1960s. Now it's the poorest. A military junta runs the country. It's the most corrupt country in the world, with high inflation, no infrastructure, and no education...
But it does have 2,000 kilometers of white sandy beaches, and huge reserves of natural resources. Jim says Burma could be the next Thailand.
Jim thinks North Korea and South Korea will unify. North Korea has all the minerals, the cheap labor, and shares a border with China. South Korea has all the intellectual capital, the technology, and the expertise. Jim says it's the perfect match.
I asked him if we could get money into North Korea. "You can always get money in," he said. "That's never a problem. It's getting money out you need to worry about."
I suggested buying a retail mall or a shopping plaza just across the border in South Korea. South Korean retail space could appreciate when the North Koreans come flooding across to buy their first iPods and laptops.
Jim said he hasn't figured out how he'll play it yet. "But real estate is very cheap up there [in northern South Korea]. Everyone's worried there's going to be a war. That's probably a good place to start."
We also talked about Cambodia, which is opening its first stock market next year. The South Koreans are providing the technology, he says, "so they'll do it right." There must be value in a country that's never had a stock market before.
Jim is very bullish on Taiwan. Taiwan has the world's third-largest stash of foreign exchange reserves... and holds some of the world's most competitive technology companies. Not to mention a 25% household savings rate. Taiwan is also perfectly placed to profit from China's rise to world superpower status.
The Taiwan stock market is the worst performing stock market in Asia over the last 20 years. It's down 40% from 1990 levels. But I'm bullish on Taiwan, too. In my newsletter, The 12% Letter, I just recommended a Taiwanese company that's
returned an average 18.7% per year since 1993. And it pays a huge dividend.
Finally, Jim likes Johor, Malaysia's most southern state. Johor is on the other side of the river from Singapore. The Malaysians have made Johor their own special economic zone. They're hoping it'll be more like China's Shenzhen – China's largest
manufacturing city. Shenzhen is located right across the water from Hong Kong, has its own stock market, and is China's second largest port.
Jim thinks the region will flourish like Shenzhen did. "Anyone looking to build a new Asian manufacturing plant will look at Johor," he said. "I hear they've got beautiful beaches, too."
My wife and I crossed the border between Johor and Singapore three days ago. It was a nightmare. First we had to get off the bus to have our passport stamped to exit Malaysia. Then we had to get off the bus again to enter Singapore. The Malaysian stop took five minutes. Singapore's customs took an hour and a half to clear.
So it looks like the bureaucrats still have some knots to untangle. That means we still have plenty of time to find a cheap investment in Johor...
In the meantime, we need to change our travel plans...