Impoverished North Korea splurged $4b on luxury goods, says lawmaker
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Impoverished North Korea splurged $4b on luxury goods, says lawmaker

SINCE taking power in 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has spent a whopping US$4 billion on luxury imports from China, a South Korean parliamentarian said.

Opposition MP Yoon Sang-hyun said the North defied UN sanctions, imposed over its nuclear arsenal and weapons testing programme, by importing at least US$640 million worth of the goods last year alone.

“Kim has bought lavish items from China and other places like a seaplane for not only his own family, and also expensive musical instruments, high-quality TVs, sedans, liquor, watches and fur as gifts for the elites who prop up his regime,” Sang-hyun said, as quoted in The Independent.

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Pointing out an analysis of Chinese customs data, the lawmaker said between 2012 until 2017, North Korea blew US$2 billion on electronics, US$1.4 billion on luxury cars, and US$165 million worth of liquor.

Other items included US$147 million in optical equipment, US$52.5 million in cosmetics and perfume and US$49 million on watches, and US$48 million worth of leather goods.

The North also reportedly spent US$47 million on fur coats, US$37.6 million worth of fine carpets, US$36 million on luxury boats, US$12 million on musical instruments and US$7.11 million on jewellery.

According to the Chinsunilbo, the official vehicles which included a bulletproof Mercedes-Benz and a Rolls Royce used by Kim were among the items imported.


North Korean soldiers plow the land with an ox from the North Korean side of the Yalu River, as a Chinese boat sails by with tourists, near Sinuiju in North Korea and Dandong in China’s Liaoning Province, April 13, 2017. To Source: Reuters/Aly Song

In North Korea, Kim’s loyalists are often rewarded with luxury cars and luxury watches, while the musical equipment was likely given to the country’s official orchestras which entertain national leaders.

“If North Korea had used the money it spent on luxury products last year to buy rice on the international market, it could have bought around 1.65 million tons of rice, which is twice the amount of its shortfall of 802,000 tons,” Yoon said.

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“North Korea’s food shortage does not stem from a lack of support from the international community but from Kim Jong Un’s lack of will to feed his own people.”

The lawmaker said North Korea was reportedly able to buy the contraband items listed in the sanctions as China has turned a blind eye on the matter.

China makes up for some 90 percent of the overall trade with the reclusive state.

“Our government should be calling on China to enforce sanctions, but instead it’s rolled up its sleeves to ease those sanctions,” Yoon said.