North Korea’s Elites Import Luxury Goods as Sanctions Bite

In a blind response to the effect of international sanctions, the North Korean regime elites continue to channel funds towards luxury goods as its people suffer

PyongyangPapers learned this week that North Korea continues to import huge amounts of luxury goods for its leaders and elites, including expensive watches and branded spirits, while its people struggle with the malnourishment due to heavy rationing of food.

In the first quarter of 2018, North Korean brokers overseas sourced cars, champagne, brandy, and Mont Blanc wristwatches to import into the isolated nation. Favorites for the wealthy elite include brandy,  scotch whiskies and the Western cigarette brands. These actions cheat tough UN sanctions on the import of luxury goods.

At the same time, inside North Korea, citizens are facing what is being spoken of as the next “arduous march” – the terrible famines of the mid-1990s when over three million North Koreans died of hunger.

Fuel shortages have had a strong impact on North Korea. The authorities demanded last year that ordinary citizens abandon their motorized vehicles in favor of the ox carts, even while shipping in luxury goods for the elites. In February, in a demonstration of how serious the shortages have become, the captain of the North Korean ManGyongBong ferry put out a mayday call (see article) after his boat ran out of fuel and low on food supplies!

Fuel shortages are also limiting the coal mines from operating at their highest capacity, causing regular power cuts and a lack of heating for many houses. PP hears that the price of electricity increased by 11% in the last two weeks of November 2017 – a devastating increase in price as winter temperatures began to move into the minus numbers.

The lack of fuel is also hurting the availability of food. PP hears that rations are now cut by half, with the white rice almost impossible to get hold of in places and cooking oil short as well. Even the army, the regime’s most important source of support, has not been spared rationing, and soldiers have complained of malnourishment. This supports recent studies on the health of North Korean military military defectors, with many found to be suffering from chronic hunger, diseases and very serious infections of the parasites and worms.

See article on defectors and parasites

The outlook for the rest of 2018 does not show much improvement. PP has learned that the North Korean Ministry of Agriculture was told by senior leadership that no fuel would be available to plough rice paddies for the rest of the year. This means fields will have to be turned by hands or by hands or by simple ox plows – greatly reducing the amount of food each farmer can produce.

With the possibility of famine approaching, the decision of North Korea’s elites to continue shipping in expensive whisky, cars and watches shows just how out of touch the regime has become, and how little they care for the ordinary people in rural areas outside of Pyongyang.

    Tags: elites, famine, fuel, sanctions