Bureau 39 update

Vanity Fair has published a lengthy article about the DPRK’s mysterious Bureau 39 which is allegedly behind a number of illicit activities such as counterfeiting US currency and cigarettes, smuggling drugs and bilking western insurance companies with fraudulent claims. The full article is worth reading here.  (h/t DPRK Studies)

Of immediate interest, here is the supposed location of Bureau 39 just south of the Grand People’s Study House:


Click image to enlarge

Here is a short excerpt:

Hamer’s three-year investigation—code-named Operation Smoking Dragon—began not with supernotes but with counterfeit cigarettes, which were being shipped by freight container from China into California ports by the millions. These, too, says Asher, originated in North Korea, and were the subject of a report by the Coalition of Tobacco Companies, one of whose investigators made an undercover visit, posing as a buyer, to North Korean factories in Pyongyang and the northeastern city of Rajin. These turn out fake Western brands, such as Marlboros, in such quantities that they generate as much as $720 million in gross revenue each year. Hamer set up a number of front operations to get inside the cigarette-smuggling business, and soon had many contacts who dealt with him as if he were a smuggler, too. In the spring of 2004, Hamer and his colleagues were asked by F.B.I. headquarters to see if they could acquire North Korean supernotes. One of Hamer’s best customers, Chao Tung “John” Wu, who eventually pleaded guilty to smuggling counterfeit currency, cigarettes, and narcotics, as well as conspiring to broker a deal for Chinese-made, shoulder-fired missiles, but died before he was sentenced, promised he could supply them with the help of a man who was a frequent visitor to North Korea—Wilson Liu. The notes were so good, Wu said at a secretly recorded meeting, “you can even go to Las Vegas and slide them into the machines—they take them right away.”


One Response to “Bureau 39 update”

  1. Benjamin says:

    Is Bureau 39 actually located in the central committée’s office, as claimed in the article (if I’m recalling it correctly)? I thought the central committée building was located in the “red” zone, that can be spotted from the Koryo Hotel towers.