Two armoured cars for Chairman Kim . . .
A report released earlier this week by the Centre for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) alleges that North Korea has been illicitly importing luxury goods despite international sanctions in response to the North’s nuclear weapons program. C4ADS tracked the flow of a number of goods, including a six-month journey of two heavily armoured Mercedes limousines worth around C$650,000 each that originated in Germany, Rotterdam and Thailand and were shipped through several ports before arriving in Pyongyang.
Luxury buying loyalty . . .
While the automakers in question don’t have any business in North Korea, C4ADS alleges that Pyongyang is able to acquire high-end vehicles and other luxury items through a variety of front companies and secret high-seas shipping. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has used gifting of luxury goods to officials to maintain their loyalty. Other consumer goods such as iPhones, designer clothes and cosmetics and watches have been spotted throughout Pyongyang in defiance of the sanctions.
North Korea issues extend beyond nuclear weapons . . .
Looking at how luxury goods get into North Korea serves as reminder that there are other important issues to consider beyond the country’s nuclear weapons program. Such issues include the complicated illicit international networks that are required to smuggle luxury goods, the gaping socio-economic divide between rich and poor in the Hermit Kingdom, and a weakening agriculture sector that must contend with sanctions that bar the import of farming supplies such as fertilizer.
- Centre for Advanced Defense Studies: Lux and loaded: Exposing North Korea’s strategic procurement networks
- Reuters: Malnutrition, disease rising in North Korea: aid organization
- Time: Here's how North Korea gets luxury goods despite sanctions