He said the North Korean regime may try to circumvent sanctions, but no large financial institution wants to deal with North Korea. “Singapore, Vietnam … they have shunned their North Korean partners and that side effect has been fatal for North Korea. It will become harder and harder for North Koreans to find channels for international financial operations,” Mr. Kim said.
After U.N. sanctions were imposed, the shipment of North Korean weapons to other countries has been disrupted on more than one occasion. In December, authorities in Thailand intercepted a cargo of arms bound for the Middle East.
“North Korea will sell to anyone who pays cash. … In the Middle East, Iran, Syria and Iraq were the best clients,” Mr. Kim said.
Larry Niksch, a former specialist in Asian affairs at the Congressional Research Service, described North Korea’s relationship with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as troubling. He said North Korean weapons often end up in the hands of militant organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
The reinsurance scam was another big source of cash for Kim Jong-il’s regime. The government in Pyongyang collected hundreds of millions of dollars from global insurance firms after filing suspicious disaster claims. The regime also generates cash from the sale of counterfeit cigarettes, drugs and U.S. currency.
Another source is China, which is buying up North Korea’s natural resources — coal and iron ore — to fuel its rapid growth.
Mr. Kim said the money is delivered to “Bureau 39” of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee. Kim Jong-il created the bureau in the 1970s specifically to collect hard currency, analysts and defectors said. The money is used to purchase luxury goods, including food and alcohol, for Kim Jong-il and other members of the North Korean elite.
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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