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China Said to Export Large Amount of Luxury Goods to North Korea

The United Nations imposed sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and called on all member states to implement it strictly so as to exert “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang and push the economically distressed North Korea back to the negotiating table. However, there are signs that, since North Korea stopped missile and nuclear tests and Kim Jong-un promised to go nuclear-free at the US-DPRK summit in June this year, sanctions have begun to lose power. At the same time, Russia and China are also calling for relaxation of sanctions against North Korea.

Yoon Sang-hyun, a South Korean opposition party lawmaker, pointed out that “Kim Jong-un has been purchasing luxury goods from China and other places, including a seaplane, high-end musical instruments, high-end TVs, cars, brand name liquors, luxury watches and other gifts, not only for his own family, but also as gifts for the elite inside the government.”

Yoon added that with the expansion of the loopholes, Kim Jong-un will soon be able to achieve the purpose of weakening and offsetting sanctions gradually without giving up nuclear weapons. The opposition law maker said that last year, North Korea imported $640 million worth of luxury goods from China.

China does not publish detailed classified data on customs imports and exports. The number that Yoon quoted is based on a list of embargoed goods from the Korean government.

Yoon pointed out that, compared with the peak level of $800 million in imports in 2014, the scale of North Korean imports of luxury goods from China has shrunk, but compared with the $666 million from 2016, it was a decline of only 3.8 percent. In addition, luxury goods accounted for 17.8 percent of the total value of North Korea’s imports from China ($3.7 billion) last year. Among all imported luxury goods, high-end TVs and other electronic appliances accounted for more than half or about $340 million, followed by cars ($204 million) and liquor ($35 million).

According to figures that China’s General Administration of Customs released last month, China’s January through August trade with North Korea fell by 57.8 percent year-on-year to $1.51 billion.

The figures that Yoon quoted also show that, since Kim Jong-un came to power at the end of 2011, the amount of money that North Korea spent on imported luxury goods from China has increased to $4 billion.

Source: Deutsche Welle Chinese, October 23, 2018