Sanctions may hurt Kim’s “gift politics”

World Peace Herald
Lee Jong-Heon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has recently recognized the academic works of dozens of local scholars by presenting them with wrist watches as part of his “gift politics.” But this policy may not last much longer when the international community implements the U.N. sanctions resolution slapped on North Korea following its nuclear test last month.

According to the (North) Korean Central News Agency, a total of 26 professors and officials at the country’s prestigious Kim Il Sung University were awarded the watches inscribed with the captions, “Gift of Great Leader Kim Il Sung,” in reference to the country’s founding leader and father of the current leader Kim Jong Il.

The award was part of Kim’s unique ruling technique of using gifts to keep a key group of supporters in his hands.

Under the “gift politics,” Kim has provided wrist watches and other luxury goods to his aides and ruling elite members to reward their unconditional loyalty toward him. Most of the luxury items were made outside of North Korea, in places such as Japan or Switzerland, according to North Korean defectors and intelligence sources.

Gifts for loyalists also include cars, pianos, camcorders and leather love seats, among others.

But the North Korean leader may no longer use the “gift politics” because U.N. members have moved to impose bans on shipments of luxury goods — including cars and wrist watches — in a bid to obstruct the personal consumptions of Kim Jong Il and his ruling elite.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1718 after the North’s nuclear test last month, calling for all U.N. members to impose wide-ranging sanctions on the communist country, including a ban on exports of luxury goods as well as large conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

In line with the U.N. resolution, Japan’s Cabinet this week approved bans on exports of 24 kinds of luxury goods to North Korea, including cars, wrist watches, alcohol, cigarettes, jewelry, perfume and caviar.

The list also includes beef, tuna fillet, cosmetics, leather bags, fur products, crystal glass, motorcycles, yachts, cameras, musical instruments, fountain pens and works of art antiquities. The total export value of the 24 items was about $9.2 million in 2005.


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