Institute for Far Eastern Studies
NK Brief No. 07-9-28-1
Since early this year, North Korean authorities have been systematically implementing a double-entry accounting system to keep track of cross border trade with China, and as of late have been cracking down on private sales of goods imported under state requisitions.
It has become common practice for most traders to keep two sets of books, a private accounting record, and a set of records for government use. As these traders exported state goods to China, they would conspire with Chinese counterparts and make huge profits by recording lower prices than goods were actually being sold for. In many cases, bribes are taken to turn officially imported and exported goods (minerals, seafood, etc.) over to private sellers. These facts came to light through Chinese traders in business with North Korea.
Recently, however, investigations by the Kangsung Trade Company, operated under the supervision of the People’s Armed Forces Bureau, led to the conviction and execution of a foreign currency trader in Kangwon Province, Wonsan City and another from South Hamkyung Province, Hamheung City on charges of funneling company funds for private use. The crackdown appears to be because embezzlement and other forms of corruption are on the rise.
It was also disclosed that the foreign currency trader in Hamheung was accepting money from private business operators and using the company’s name to lend import and export quota chits. Inspectors raided the homes of the suspects and found large amounts of U.S. currency and gold, as well as no small amount of Japanese yen.
The human rights NGO ‘Good Friends’ reported in last month’s newsletter, “ After Oh Moon-hyuk, foreign currency director for the Chosun Fabric 88 Trade Company in Yunsa County, North Hamkyung Province, built a private villa on a plot with a good view, and purchased a Mercedes out of pocket, he drew the attention of General [Kim Jong Il] and was exposed. He was publicly executed in the middle of last July.” The NGO went on to report, “Every day young girls were called to the villa for his enjoyment, and security forces and police made it a point not to stop by the area near the villa often.”
Trade authorities in the area report that the crackdown on these violators has had no effect on DPRK-PRC trade. High ranking officials are aware of the abuse of authority to earn money, but had to some extent turned a blind eye to the issue. The crackdown is a result of the recent considerable growth in the problem.