NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] NK made $200m by breaching sanctions: UN report

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Feb 4, 2018 - 16:42
  • Updated : Feb 4, 2018 - 18:35
North Korea raked in nearly $200 million last year by exporting items banned by United Nations sanctions, media reports said, citing a UN panel of experts.

A new report, authored by a panel of experts, has been delivered to a UN committee on North Korea as the US-led pressure campaign against the rogue nation has been ramping up. 

A coal truck crosses the North Korea-China border. (Yonhap)

North Korea “continued to export almost all the commodities prohibited in the resolutions, generating nearly $200 million in revenue between January and September 2017,” said the report.

Countries including South Korea, China, Malaysia, Russia and Vietnam continued to import coal from North Korea, albeit Pyongyang’s use of “a combination of multiple evasion techniques, routes and deceptive tactics,” according to the report, seen by the Associated Press. Coal is viewed as North Korea’s single biggest export item and a key commodity that is subjected to the sanctions.

China, which accounted for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade in 2016, has been denying allegations of continuing business with its communist neighbor.

The report also mentioned illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil “comprising a multimillion-dollar business that is driving an international network of brokers and ship charterers as well as unwitting global commodity trading companies and oil suppliers.”

The panel also found clues pointing to North Korea’s military cooperation with Syria and Myanmar.

In 2016, there were at least three rounds of visits by North Korean technicians to Syria, to contribute to what is believed to be a part of its notorious chemical weapons program. Myanmar was also found to have received help from the North with its own ballistic missile technology.

Signs of North Korea’s defiance against multilateral and bilateral sanctions were also spotted in its luxury ski resort by South Korean press corps during a cross-border trip to cover the joint ski training last week. The two Koreas agreed to hold a joint ski training ahead of the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Masikryong Ski Resort in North Korea’s eastern region.

Despite UN sanctions blocking inflow of luxury goods to North Korea, an array of foreign-manufactured items were on display for sale within the resort, according to the press pool.

Perfumes manufactured by well-known European luxury brands such as Burberry, Lancome, and Kenzo were sighted while cosmetic products included facial creams by Japan’s Shiseido.

A bag designed by Bally, a Swiss brand, was on a shelf with a price tag of $400. Sportswear and other accessories by US brands Nike and The North Face and Germany’s Adidas were also on display.

Packs of Britain-made Dunhill cigarettes and bottles of Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s whiskeys were available for purchase.

But whether such products, scattered across several shops in the resort, were genuine or counterfeit remains largely unidentified. The timeframe of the trade conducted for the items are unknown as well.

The press pool was warned beforehand by a Seoul official, who requested anonymity, to take the current sanctions imposed on the North into account, when considering to purchase the high-end products in the resort.

Masikryong Resort itself was previously criticized by the media for using loopholes in the sanctions to bring in European-made snowmobiles and equipment.

The South cannot directly offer money to the North under UN sanctions, which ban the supply of bulk cash to the North.

The UN Security Council imposed layers of sanctions against North Korea throughout last year as an effort to cut off the flow of foreign currency into Pyongyang’s fast-growing nuclear weapons program. North Korea conducted its largest and most powerful nuclear test along with a series of ballistic missile launches in 2017.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)