North Korea's Business Dealings
The young women sitting in the Olympic ice hockey stadium of Kwandong, South Korea, were dressed like a group of gorgeous stewardesses on an outing after graduating from flight school, or as if they were celebrating the survival of an emergency landing. They applauded in a very methodical fashion, a well-studied rhythm that their eternal Supreme leader Kim Jong-Un certainly did not learn at his Swiss boarding school “Liebefeld Steinhoelzi” near Bern, Switzerland. Who dares to confirm, nor deny, in his fortress of repression, that it was possibly the divine Marshal himself, who authorized this staged passion? Every movement was orchestrated, every wave of flag or clap of hand was performed in unison. Mind you, these arranged applauses are not strange to citizens of the North, since marching in step is one of the trademarks of dictator Kim’s personal choreography, a kind of Gymnastic-Ersatz. The 180 women were more than just a group of those ordinary fans, known worldwide in sport arenas, apparently ready to strangle themselves with their scarfs (in the right colors of their club), suffering depressions after a defeat. These ladies, seated in four groups, were an unusual happening of glamour, one of the few articles cash-deprived North Korea can export without being hindered by UN or US imposed sanctions.
The cheerleaders were to symbolize the sunny side of the dark state, the elegance, the light spirit of being. The cheerleaders, with their look slightly démodé, smiled and laughed, possibly because they were told that upon returning home they could keep their well-cut red coats. In the hockey center, seated for the preliminary match between Korea’s unified team and Sweden, the selected fans reached, like on command, into their plastic shopping bags, pulled out identical red and white knit caps and, several minutes later, they removed the red jackets, revealing tracksuit tops, emblazoned with a North Korean flag. For a few minutes, Pyongyang publicly tried to copy Paris, embracing luxury, which certainly does exist in the North of Korea, if you belong to the 1000 closest friends of the ruler. Or of his sister Kim Yo-jong, who also demonstrated at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Pyeongchang and in her following political meetings that ballet teachers in Bern taught their students like Ms. Kim not only the pas de deux, but also how to manage an elegant walk. She is just 30 and she has attended (except ballet lessons) the same Swiss school as her brother, hidden under her alias “Pak Mi Hyang”. She rides horses and manages the “Propaganda and Agitation Department” of the “Workers Party”. These elites are not deprived, and the private plane of Kim Jong-Un will only run out of fuel after all his nation’s peasants have died of starvation. Let’s not forget that the north is, since a cease fire in 1953, still at war. An isolated nation, charmed and shameless, embraced by repression and survival. Since sanctions, with an arms embargo and export restrictions, have been imposed by the international community on North Korea in 2006 ( to force the regime to abandon its nuclear weapon program), the outlaws have been forced to manipulate, swindle, mislead, deceive, and camouflage their international activities.
Just these days the UN published a report, proving that the Democratic people’s Republic of Korea feels the pressure of hardened sanctions, but is still, as the UN Security Council report confirms, “well connected on international financial markets through some of their banks, which maintain a network of overseas representatives”, moving “freely across borders to undertake transactions in multiple countries”. Few weeks ago, the BBC world service reported from Singapore that two local banks were accused of illegal financial transactions with North Korea. The accused (surprise, surprise) denied “all wrongdoing”. According to experts investigating for the UN Security Council, North Korea generated (between January and September 2017) almost 200 million dollars by exporting “almost all the commodities prohibited in the (UN sanctions) solutions”, mainly ore, steel and coal, which was exported to China, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia and even South Korea. The UN report leaves no doubt: “ a network of foreign traders responsible for violations of the coal ban operate through numerous front companies registered in Australia, British Virgin Islands, China, Hongkong, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles and the United Kingdom”.
For decades, Moscow has given Pyongyang an economic hand, and still does, accepting and aiding, deceptive methods for coal deliveries to Russia. China wants no united Korea neither, meaning the threat of US troops on its borders. As a result, since the Kim Dynasty took power, the heirs of Mao were lenient with Mr. Kim - until the nuclear menace turned into a reality, and Pyongyang not only provoked the world with nuclear tests, but had a long range missile launched towards the United States. Certainly not gestures to be nominated for the Nobel peace prize. Mr. Kim had outfoxed his enemies, his BOMB not proven as a figment of his imagination, a scam, but a deathly truth, a menace to the survival of our world. The development of a nuclear bomb, and adequate missiles, its complex components like micro-circuits, protection of its launchers, establishment of its secret, protected computer networks, and defenses against cyber war attacks, must have cost, and still swallows, billions.
Such sums can’t be earned with tailoring cloth for Moscow and Beijing alone, exporting coal and sending aging trawlers to fish. Yes, North Korea is scrambling and investing secretly into banks under assumed names, and industrial firms shared with complaisant partners in Malaysia, or Laos, Panama and Ethiopia. Some intelligence service accuse North Korea of drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting global currencies. The UN report detailed deliveries of ballistic missiles systems, as well as rocket launchers and surface to air missiles launchers to Myanmar, and documented how North Koreans operated for example in Namibia. Once the African nation was pressured by the UN and the US to cut ties with the communist’s construction company “Mansuade Overseas”, the Koreans transferred their contracts and workers discreetly to a Chinese group, “Quingdoo Constructions”, and continued with new projects, now under the name “Tritonia Holding”.
You do not need to be the grandson of Albert Einstein or the twin brother of Stephen Hawkins to understand how devious the regime has to operate, how cunning it has to act to procure money and needed technology to build intercontinental missiles and nuclear bombs. In Africa especially, the “New York Times” reported days ago that “North Korean diplomats have engaged in a wide variety of ruses and schemes to earn hard currency”. In Namibia the Kim-agents built a munition factory, in Angola they trained presidential guards in martial arts. In the 1970s, Pyongyang initiated its collaboration with Cairo, extending the range and accuracy of Soviet Scud missiles. This relationship apparently dates until today, despite 1.3 billion dollars in annual aid from Washington, and warnings not to deal with North Korea anymore. No luck, the embassy, located on an island in the Nile, has become “a bustling arms bazaar” (New York Times), for covert sales of North Korean missiles and a cut price of Soviet-era military hardware “across a band of North Africa and the Middle East”. Before his ouster in 2011, Hosni Mubarak was often welcomed in the North Korean capital. An Egyptian tycoon, Naguib Sawiris, built North Korea’s main cell phone network and invested in a local bank, which certainly could give a hand to the ruler as well. When the ambassador of Pyongyang in Cairo, Pak Chun-Il was sanctioned in November 2016 by the UN and the US who described him as an agent of North Korea’s largest arms company, named the “Korean Mining Development Trading Corporation, the US ambassador Samantha Power stated to the UN Security Council that “an arms dealer with a diplomatic passport is still an arms dealer”.
In 2013, one of the embassy diplomats, Kim Song –chol, travelled to Khartoum to negotiate a 6.8 million dollars deal for the sale of 180 satellite-guided missiles and missile parts to Sudan, although the country was then subject to an international trade embargo. American diplomats confirmed that other embassy members travelled to Syria to supply items which could be used in the production of chemical weapons. During the same year, a shipment of spare parts for “Scud B” missiles was intercepted as it was shipped by air from the North Korean embassy in Beijing to a military controlled company in Cairo. The missile components have been labelled as “parts for fishing processing machinery”. On August 2016, a freighter named “Jie Shun” was approaching the Suez Canal with suspicious cargo on board. The US, which was following the ship by satellite, informed the Egyptians, but local authorities hesitated to search the boat. At the end, after weeks of diplomatic negotiations, the crew returned home, and the hidden cargo, covered by mounds of iron ore, was discovered- 30 000 “PG7” rocket propelled grenades were found. The boxes were stenciled with the address of a known firm, the “Al Sakr Factory for Developed Industries,” Egypt’s principal missile research and development group. An established smuggling route and an entrenched military-to-military trading relationship between North Korea and Cairo still exists today, “a conduit used for the transfer of ballistic missile technology”, global intelligence agencies confirm. They are preoccupied by illegal shady business dealings, a dramatically growing activity of smugglers and spies, who are trying to supply China, Russia and North Korea with sophisticated high tech components. The President of the internal German intelligence agency, “Bunsamt fuer Verfassungsschutz”, recently confirmed that it is likely that agents operating from the North Korean embassy in Berlin obtained technology through German companies, which could be used in civilian projects, but for North Korean missile and nuclear activities as well. The UN confirmed in its report: “North Korean diplomats continue to play a key role in the country’s prohibited programs”.
In the last few years, thousands of US citizens have been arrested for illegal dealings with the enemy, as they were trying to sell micro chips, jet engine parts, radiation-resistant circuits for space programs, M60 carbon fiber (which is used in military drones) and/or advanced microelectronics needed for military systems in radar surveillance and missile guidance. US high-tech and defense industries are trying more than ever to protect against hackers, activated by nations in need of blueprints for weapons and sensitive technology. Experts believe that Moscow and Beijing, despite billion dollar investments, are years behind in their high tech development, unable to engineer advanced circuitry for example, needed to match US satellites and weapon systems. In other words, China and Russia, in their attempt at challenging the US for global superpower status (in addition to their own research and development) need illegal methods of procurement. In developing its own bomb, North Korea had a valuable, secret, help through a Pakistani scientist - one of the major architects of his country’s nuclear arsenal and a national hero- Abdul Qadeer Khan, a nuclear scientist, educated in Germany and Belgium. In 1998, Mr. Khan delivered his nation its bomb. The successful first nuclear test moved Pakistan into the ranks of the few chosen nuclear armed nations, if needed ready to confront their neighbor India, also a nuclear power. The scientists apparently had no scruple when it came to proliferating the world with nuclear bombs, preferably designed by him and sold for cash. Among his confirmed clients are Iran, Libya, North Korea and China. The scientist delivered, for example, information on uranium enrichment to North Korea, in exchange for information on developing ballistic missiles. When Khan confessed on state-owned television in 2004 that he had sold his know-how and blueprints for about 15 years, the national hero was not accused of treason, but put under house arrest, which extended to five years. His help in the development of almost identical nuclear centrifuge programs of Iran, North Korea and Libya was never judged in court. Later the President of Pakistan pardoned Khan, and an Air Force transport plane shipped furniture for the national hero to his privately owned hotel, which he, supposedly, did purchase in Timbuktu, Mali. Thanks to this unconcerned, irresponsible scientist, and an equally negligent government in Pakistan, the dictator of North Korea now can boast to be the Supreme leader of a nuclear power, ready to negotiate with Donald Trump, who insulted him referring to him as “Little rocket man”.
The just published UN document also reveals that the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has shipped supplies to Syria that could be used in the production of chemical weapons. Not all secret activities of the outcasts led to death and destruction- the dictator had sparkling wines and spirits smuggled in from Germany, luxury goods from Singapore. Between January and June of last year, diamonds worth 514 823 dollars were brought from India despite all sanctions imposed on them. Compared to Saudi or Chinese diamond and gold purchases, the total value of these stones are peanuts, but for a nation supposedly cordoned off from the world, this represents an indication that the wealthy do not suffer in North Korean neither. Bulgarian companies delivered exclusive perfumes and cosmetics. Possibly they were needed for the female claqueuses from North Korea celebrating the Olympics with rhythmic applause. The charming girls of Kim Jong-Un are now facing Trump in person. No golden medals expected, but just an iron fist.