Soju in America update…

This site has covered the strange saga of Park il Woo (Steve Park), Korean entrepreneur and spy, who has been spearheading efforts to bring DPRK soju into the United States (History: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

This week, Joseph Goldstein, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun, picks up the story and fills us in on Mr. Park’s prosecution, conviction, and future plans. 

Here are the story’s bullet points:

1. Park was being paid by South Korean officials and providing them with updates about his business trips to North Korea.  He pleaded guilty to lying to lying to FBI agents about his relationship with these South Korean officials. (NKeconWatch: I am not sure if the charge was lying to the FBI or of being an unregistered foreign agent–or both).

2. William Pauley III, U.S. District Court in Manhattan, sentenced him 18 months’ probation, though the crime carries a maximum penalty of five years.  Shortly after pleading guilty, prosecutors for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office agreed to lift a prohibition that barred him from contacting the South Korean officials for whom he was accused of spying.

3. Jennifer Rodgers (prosecutor’s office) gave her permission to allow Park to travel to North Korea “on business” for two weeks beginning May 30, according to court papers filed by Park’s attorney.  Court documents don’t mention the nature of the business that Park intends to conduct while in North Korea. But it is likely connected to Park’s long-standing efforts to import North Korean soju, a liquor made from corn and rice, into America.

And what lies ahead for Mr. Park…

Park’s import company, Korea PyongYang Trading U.S.A., is partnering with a New Jersey company, Tang’s Liquor Wholesale, to distribute the drink across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland, according to Korean press reports.

Bottles of Pyongyang Soju are expected to retail for just more than $10. The drink is made in a factory North Korea’s capital and uses water pumped up from more than 500 feet underground, Yonhap reported.

Park told Yonhap that it was the first product North Korea actively sought to export to America. He said he would soon try to import North Korean beer as well, according to Yonhap.

So it looks like the DPRK is admitting a known South Korean spy into the country for the purposes of boosting exports… 

The whole story is worth reading here:
Bizarre Turn Seen in Case of Korea Spy
The New York Sun
Joseph Goldstein
5/27/2008

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