European insurers and LinkedIn nervous about the Swiss

Over the last few years, the European Union has pursued an engagement policy with North Korea.   MEP Glyn Ford makes regular trips to Pyongyang to facilitate diplomatic progress; the German Freidrich Naumann Foundation runs economic education courses; European donors founded the Pyongyang Business School; and a small group of European ex-pat businessmen formed a de facto chamber of commerce, the European Business Association in Pyongyang.  Although European companies have experienced mixed success in the DPRK they continue to look for new opportunities

This morning, however, Felix Abt, a Swiss director of the PyongSu Pharmaceutical Joint Venture Co. in Pyongyang informs me that his life insurance policy (purchased from a European company) has been cancelled. 

“A European life insurance company cancelled my life insurance because I am a dangerous person living in a dangerous country. Credit card organisations cancel credit cards for such persons in such countries, health insurance companies come up with other reservations and limitations and the latest organisation that has just expelled me is LinkedIn with a very curious explanation.”

I am unsure how the cancellation of life insurance policies could impact other Europen investments in the DPRK, but the marginal effect cannot be positive.  Mr. Abt has been a resident of Pyongyang for years where he manufactures Western-quality pharmaceuticals.  Needless to say, the DPRK is very much in need of his services, so it is a shame that after all this time he is now considered a liability by his insurer.

Mr. Abt also forwarded his rejection from the business networking site LinkedIn, which is posted below:
 

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Apparently LinkedIn‘s legal department considers logging into the server as “receiving goods of US origin” (the software I presume), and so it prohibits account holders, or even logging in, from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria—even if they are Swiss.

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  • NKObserver

    I’m curious what precipitated the rejection from LinkedIn. Was Felix actually logged in using a North Korean IP address? I would think his Internet access would have been via China.

  • Cordelia

    Agree with NKObserver: Almost all DPRK internet traffic goes via China.
    Sattellite access is used by some embassies and the like. I don’t see how either could be tracked back to the DPRK. His IP address would not be readily traceable back to North Korea.

    -It’s inconceivable that LinkedIn would have that sophisticated degree of automatic technical surveillance of their accounts.
    -Even manually it would be very difficult to track exactly where somebody is accessing from. It would require significant time (man hours) and would not be a justifiable expenditure.

    There are only two feasible explanations:
    1) They automatically search all accounts for certain keywords and then do a manual check on those that are picked up.
    2) More likely explanation: Somebody tipped off Linked in that this guy was in North Korea, that this was possibly illegal and that they might get in trouble with US authorities unless they banned him. Linked in then opted to be on the safe side and followed up.

    If LinkedIn based themselves somewhere (anywhere) else other than the US this would not be a problem. Perhaps Felix Abt can use Xing or some other alternative instead, if Linked In is going to take this ridiculous view. Shame for him to lose all his existing contacts though.

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