Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

North Koreans arrested for trade in rhino horn

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

According to the Daily NK:

One of the two North Koreans arrested on site for engaging in illegal trade of rhinoceros horns in Mozambique has been confirmed a Pyongyang diplomat, according to the Voice of America.

“Of the two arrested North Koreans, one was confirmed to be Park Chol Jun, a diplomat working at Pyongyang’s embassy in South Africa,” VOA reported, citing an official working at Seoul’s mission in the same country.

The two perpetrators, arrested on the 3rd this month, posted bail the following day and left the country for South Africa, the official said.

The North Korean mission there paid roughly 30,000 USD for their bail, the South Korean official said.

North Korean diplomats are said to often engage in illegal activities in other countries.

In March, a Pyongyang diplomat was deported from Bangladesh after attempting to smuggle in 27kg of gold, while in April, a couple from the North’s mission in Pakistan was caught selling alcohol on the streets of Karachi without a license.

“These kind of illegal activities have been around for a long time, because they stem from structural problems in operation,” Hong Sun Kyeong from the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, who was also a former Pyongyang diplomat in Thailand, said. “Since the late 1970s, the North has not been giving its overseas missions money to operate. So not only do they have to make their own money, the state also makes it a rule that they have to wire back ‘loyalty foreign currency.’”

He added, “Back in the North, they do not recognize such illicit activities as being illegal, so even if officials are deported, they can just as easily be sent to missions in other countries.”

Here is coverage in the Joong Ang Ilbo.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang diplomat caught in illegal trading of rhino horns
Daily NK
Kim Seong Hwan


DPRK in default on ROK food loans

Friday, May 24th, 2013

UPDATE 2 (2013-5-24): South Korea has again requested that the DPRK repay past food loans. According to Yonhap:

South Korea again called on North Korea Friday to repay millions of dollars in loans provided in the form of food since 2000, the Unification Ministry said.

The impoverished North missed the June 7, 2012 deadline to repay South Korea US$5.83 million in the first installment of the $724 million food loan extended to the North in rice and corn. The latest call is the South’s fifth demand made on the North to repay its debt.

Seoul’s state-run Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) sent a message on Thursday to Pyongyang’s Foreign Trade Bank, calling for the repayment, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said in a briefing.

The South Korean bank also sent another message the same day, notifying the North of its forthcoming June 7th deadline to repay the second installment of $5.78 million, the spokesman said.

“North Korea should faithfully abide by what they previously agreed to with the South,” Kim said, calling for the repayment of food loans.

Amid a conciliatory mode under the liberal-minded late President Kim Dae-jung, Seoul started to provide food loans to the famine-ridden country, providing a total of 2.4 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corn from 2000-2007.

Under the deal, the North is required to pay back a total of $875.32 million by 2037.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea again asks North to repay food loans

UPDATE 1 (2012-7-15):  South Korea claims the DPRK missed a deadline for explaining how it intended to repay South Korean “loans”. According to Yonhap:

North Korea missed the deadline Sunday for notifying South Korea of how it will repay millions of dollars in loans provided in the form of food in 2000, resulting in Seoul having the right to declare Pyongyang has defaulted on its debt, an official said.

South Korea sent the North a message on June 15 that the communist nation was supposed to have paid back US$5.83 million in the first installment of a 2000 food loan worth $88.36 million by June 7. The North was required to respond to the message in 30 days.

That deadline passed on Sunday with the North remaining silent, giving South Korea the right to declare the North has defaulted on the debt, according to a government official in Seoul.

But South Korea is unlikely to go ahead with the declaration any time soon as it would have little effect on the North. The communist nation remains largely outside of the international financial system and the prospect of national default is unlikely to force it to repay its debt.

Officials said they are considering sending Pyongyang a message again calling for debt repayment.

Widespread views are that it won’t be easy for the North, which is still struggling with food shortages, to pay back its debt, but officials said the country could repay the debt in kind as it did before. In 2007 and 2008, the North repaid some debt with $2.4 million worth of zinc ores.

After the two Koreas held their first-ever summit in 2000, South Korea provided the North with a total of US$720 million in loans of rice and corn until 2007. Including interest accrued on the loans, the North is required to repay some US$875 million by 2037.

Such aid has been cut off after the South’s President Lee Myung-bak took office with a pledge to link any assistance to the North to progress in international efforts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programs.

The Daily NK also covered the story.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-6-8): According to Yonhap:

North Korea has not shown any signs of repaying the loans South Korea extended in food grains since 2000 although the initial day of the scheduled repayment passed as of Thursday. The South Korean government provided North Korea grain loans worth US$725 million for seven years until 2007, including 2.4 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corn. The total principal and interest North Korea should repay for the next 20 years is estimated at $875.32 million.

North Korea was scheduled to pay South Korea $5.83 million by Thursday for the loans extended to it in 2000. Korea Eximbank, which is in charge of trade finance with the North, notified its counterpart the Chosun Trade Bank of North Korea of the repayment obligation Monday but North Korea had not responded of Friday.

The former South Korean governments led by President Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun provided an estimated 1 trillion won (US$850 million) to North Korea from 2000 to 2007 under the sunshine policy. South Korea provided an additional 1.37 trillion won to North Korea to finance the construction of a light water reactor in order to suspend North Korea’s nuclear development. All the loans to the North were taxpayer’s money.

North Korea should show sincerity in the repayment of these loans for the sake of its future. If it fails to do so, the North will encounter substantial difficulties in accessing further loans from the international community. North Korea also has failed to repay loans it borrowed from the old Soviet Union. Russia reportedly had to reduce 90 percent of the Norths loans, worth $11 billion.

If North Korea has difficulties repaying its debts to South Korea in cash, it should sincerely discuss alternative measures to repay the loans with the South Korean government.

The South Korean government should positively consider measures to get the money back in kind, such as in mineral resources. North Korea should understand that if it fails to show the minimum sincerity on the repayment of its debts, it will experience much more difficulty in attracting economic assistance from the outside world.

The Choson Ilbo reports this additional information:

In 2007 and 2008, South Korea also gave the North $80 million worth of raw materials to produce textiles, shoes and soap. At the time, North Korea repaid 3 percent of the loan with $2.4 million worth of zinc ingots. Repayments of the remaining $77.6 million become due after a five-year grace period, so North Korea must start repaying $8.6 million a year every year for 10 years starting in 2014.

Seoul also loaned Pyongyang W585.2 billion (US$1=W1,172) from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund so it could re-connect railways and roads with the South that were severed in the 1950-53 Korean War. And it provided W149.4 billion worth of equipment to the North. The North must repay that loan in 20 years with a 10-year grace period at an annual interest of 1 percent.

It also seems unlikely that South Korea will be able to recoup W1.37 trillion plus around W900 billion in interest it provided North Korea through an abortive project by the Korean Energy Development Organization to build a light-water reactor.

The loans amount to a total of around W3.5 trillion, which the South will probably have to write off.

The Daily NK also reported on this story.

Read the full story here:
North Korea should show sincerity in repaying South Korea loans

N.Korea Misses 1st Loan Repayment Deadline
Choson Ilbo


DPRK and the ivory trade

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

As is well known, North Korean embassies self-finance their operational revenue and salaries.  They also remit funds back to Pyongyang.  As far as I am aware, the DPRK may have the only foreign service that is not a drain on the treasury.

Many times, however, the operations in which DPRK officials get involved take palce in the gray and black markets.  I have previously posted about this here, here, here, here, here, here.

This weekend, news surfaced that a North Korean was involved in trading elephant ivory in Africa. According to

The Mozambican customs service on Thursday seized 130 items of carved ivory, valued at about 36,000 US dollars, that a North Korean citizen named Jong Guk Kim was attempting to smuggle out of the country.

According to a press release from the Mozambican tax authority (AT), Jong was returning to Korea, via South Africa, and had already checked in for his flight, when customs officers intercepted him in the departure lounge of Maputo International Airport, and demanded that he open his hand baggage.

The ivory was hidden in several plastic bags. The 130 carved pieces weighed about three kilos.

Ivory can only be exported with the authorisation of the Ministry of Agriculture – if, as seems more than likely, Jong Kim has no such authorisation, the ivory will be confiscated and revert in favour of the state.

The Korean was also carrying 133,300 US dollars in banknotes in his hand baggage. Under current Mozambican exchange regulations, the maximum that anyone can take out of the country without declaring it is 10,000 dollars.

Anything above this sum must be authorised by the Bank of Mozambique.

Jong Guk Kim must now explain how he obtained this money. If he can prove that it came from a legitimate source, he will be allowed to export it – but only through normal banking channels.

The AT also revealed that it had recently seized in Maputo, seven rhinoceros horns, and about a tonne of abalone. Abalone is a genus of marine mollusks, threatened with extinction, due partly to overfishing, and partly to acidification of the oceans arising from climate change.

The abalones seized in Maputo probably came from South Africa. Abalones occur along much of the South African coast, and the South African authorities require permits for any export of this shellfish.

A tonne of abalone is valued at about five million dollars. It is believed that the ultimate destination of the Maputo abalone was Hong Kong.

I tried to locate the press release by the Mozambique Tax Authority but was unsuccessful.

Read the full story here:
Mozambique: North Korean Caught Smuggling Ivory


North Koreans working on South African football stadiums

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

UPDATE:  Football officials deny DPRK laborers working on stadiums. South Korea trying to confirm.

ORIGINAL POST: Over the last few years I have developed a growing catalogue of North Korean-made buildings and monuments in Africa (like this)–so I was very interested to read that North Korean laborers are working on South Africa’s World Cup football stadiums.

According to the Joong Ang Daily:

When North Korean national football players take the field against the Ivory Coast in their final Group G match in the 2010 International Football Association’s World Cup in South Africa, they will be playing at a stadium their compatriots helped build.

South Korean sources said yesterday North Korean laborers are helping to put the finishing touch on stadiums across South Africa ahead of the World Cup, which will kick off in June.

“North Koreans have been put to work on four to five stadiums that require renovation, including Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg [satellite image here], where the opening and closing ceremonies, plus the final will be staged,” a source said. “There are an estimated 1,000 North Koreans there.”

One such stadium is Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit (Location here but image takem before construction). The North will face the Ivory Coast on June 25 in this 43,500-seat stadium.The South African government has slated 12 billion rand, or $1.6 billion, for 10 stadiums in nine different cities, and North Korean laborers are expected to reap tens of thousands of dollars for their job.

“During the Kim Il Sung era, North Korea built football stadiums and even presidential halls in African nations,” recalled Lim Il, a North Korean defector who used to work for a construction company in the North. “Perhaps such experience helped secure the South African job.”

North Korea and South Africa established formal diplomatic ties in August 1998. This is their first major personnel exchange since then. It is not yet clear if the workers in South Africa will return home upon completing the World Cup work or will be dispatched to other construction projects.

Helping South Africa can be interpreted as an attempt to earn some much-needed foreign capital. North Korea has up to 30,000 laborers in China, Russia and some Middle Eastern countries. Last September, North Korea sent nearly 50 workers from the state-run Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang to construct the 160-foot, $27-million statue depicting a family rising from a volcano in Senegal.

One South Korean government official said, “The North government will likely demand loyalty from those workers and collect their wages to add to their foreign currency reserve.”

If anyone can help me identify the stadiums on which the North Koreans are working I would appreciate it.

Read the full story here:
North hard at work on Cup stadiums
Joong Ang Daily
Lee Young-jong