Luxury goods imports from China to N. Korea increased over past 3 yrs: data

North Korea's imports of luxury goods from China reached US$28.5 million last year, despite pandemic border control and international sanctions, data from China's customs office showed Friday.

Except for a temporary dip during the pandemic in 2021, the aggregate value of luxury goods imported from China to North Korea showed an upward trend, having risen from $22.8 million in 2020 to $40.6 million as of July 2023, according to the data from the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China analyzed by Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling People Power Party.

In the case of this year, North Korea increased imports of items traditionally classified as "luxury goods," such as watches, fur, leather goods and liquor, compared with other items, such as electronics, cars and cosmetics, the data also showed.

Among them, imports of watches markedly increased, having swollen by 21 times from $170,000 in 2022 to $3.6 million as of the first half of this year, according to the data. The regime's leader Kim Jong-un is said to frequently offer watches as presents to high-ranking officials in return for their loyalty.

Exports of luxury goods to North Korea are banned under a 2006 U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution. But China has often been criticized for its passive enforcement of the sanctions, compared with South Korea, Japan, the United States and the European Union, which strictly regulate the influx of such items to the North.

Recently, senior North Korean officials were seen possessing luxury goods from western brands.

In September, Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jung, was seen holding a black leather bag, presumably from the French luxury brand Christian Dior and priced around $7,000, in a photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, during the leader's visit to Russia.

Kim's daughter, Kim Ju-ae, was also seen wearing a black coat in March, likely from the same French brand, priced at around 2.4 million won ($1,778).

"Despite sanctions and COVID-19 lockdowns, the reason why North Korea is able to continue its rein of using presents for the regime's high-ranking officials is because of China's passive imposition of sanctions," Yoon said.

"China should thoroughly regulate items subject to the sanctions and impose sanctions (on the North) in the event of a violation, in accordance with the spirit of the U.N. Security Council," he added.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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