North Korean cigarettes-big news day

Well the notion that the DPRK has been counterfitting cigarettes to raise hard currency has had a big day in the press.  I saw stories alone.

From Yonahp:

Fake cigarettes are major source of income for N. Korea: report

North Korea is believed to earn between US$500 million and $700 million a year by making and selling fake U.S. and Japanese cigarettes, a U.S. radio station reported Wednesday, quoting a former U.S. official.

“Counterfeit tobaccos are one of the largest, probably the largest single source of income for the North Korean regime,” David Asher said in an interview with the Washington-based Radio Free Asia.

Asher, who until July 2005 had served under former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly, said the North’s communist regime operates as many as 10 plants to make fake U.S. and Japanese cigarettes.

Those plants are scattered throughout North Korea, including its capital, Pyongyang, and its eastern industrial zone, Rajin, he said.

The counterfeit cigarettes, Asher said, are usually packed and sent in containers to China and then to other Asian countries for sale.

“They need to start inspecting containers more aggressively,” he told the radio station, referring to a recent decision by Japan to block the North’s massive scheme to make counterfeit cigarettes.

Tokyo has recently ordered investigation into North Korean-made fake Japanese cigarettes reportedly circulated in China, according to Japanese media reports.

The amount of North Korean-made fake U.S. and Japanese cigarettes is estimated at about 2 billion packs a year, they said.

Asher claimed in an earlier report that as much as 40 percent of North Korea’s total earnings is believed to come from illegal activities such as counterfeiting, drug trafficking and weapons smuggling.

From the Daily NK (for the Japanese perspective):

‘Fake Cigarettes’ Japan Investigation on North Korean Authorities
North Korea reels in an annual income of $80mn~$160mn through counterfeit cigarettes 
By Yang Jung A, Reporter

At the Prime Minister’s residence last August 14th, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Suzuki Seiji who heads the ‘Special Investigation Team on Japanese abductees to North Korea’ initiated an official investigation on North Korean Authorities to combat the issue of counterfeit cigarettes.

A Japanese Newspaper ‘Mainichi’ (Daily News) reported that North Korea had been shipping large scale counterfeits of Japan’s leading cigarette brand ‘Mild Seven’ throughout China and South-East Asia in order to produce greater foreign currency.

The investigation by the ‘Special Investigation Team’ will focus on cracking whether or not North Korean authorities partook in the trafficking. On release of results, explicit countermeasures will be taken by the police, financial affairs, agriculture and fisheries and other ministries.

Last July 31st, Vice Minister Suzuki said at a ‘Special Investigation Team’ meeting that “There is a high possibility that North Korea is distributing ‘counterfeit cigarettes’ to foreign countries” and that severe measures will be taken.

The Japanese government argues that the flow of illegal foreign currency made through sales from fake cigarettes needs to be stopped if not at least for the persecution occurring in North Korea, and for the past few months has been pressurizing governments to take action.

A Japanese tobacco industry announced that masses of fake Mild Seven cigarettes were known to be circulating throughout China, North Korea and districts around the boarder. However, there is not yet confirmation that fake cigarettes are circulating in Japan.

Last May, the Japanese Maritime Bureau confirmed that a foreign vessel was found to be transporting fake Japanese cigarettes made in North Korea to South Korea and Taiwan. According to an U.S. press report the amount of fake cigarettes manufactured in North Korea and smuggled out of the country reaches $80-160 mn every year.



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