Information given to Pyongyang Papers indicates that in excess of 350 sanctioned DPRK workers and their families are still residing in Republic of Congo (ROC), despite UN sanctions.

Since 2006, the UN Security Council has passed a number of sanctions to try and deter North Korea from continually developing and testing their nuclear & ballistic weapons, money laundering, cyber attacks and human rights violations. These sanctions have had a heavy toll on North Korea’s economy but have been undermined by failure of some countries to enforce them, and in some cases break them.

Africa relationship

Historically, North Korea helped Africa in condemning the European colonialism in Africa by providing military and civil support in revolutionary movements across the continent and in return were successful in making sure South Korea couldn’t join the Non-aligned Movement, the largest grouping of states outside of the UN. Since then, North Korea and Africa have maintained a close relationship to achieve political goals, even if it means Africa is undermining UN sanctions!

The presidential palace in Windhoek is one of many monuments in Africa designed and constructed by North Korea.

Republic of Congo

Pyongyang Papers has been informed of trouble for two North Korean doctors contracted to a local government hospital in the Republic of Congo by the DPRK Ministry of Public Health. This is not the first time that Pyongyang Papers has reported on North Korean doctors illegally working in the ROC, and it seems clear they show no signs of stopping.

The doctors were severely reprimanded by the manager from the DPRK Ministry of Public Health representative office located in the Republic of Congo. The reprimand was due to misconduct involving illegally selling traditional oriental medicine, known as Koryo medicine, at local governmental hospitals as well as openly fighting each other over who would treat patients!

Korea Moranbong Medical Cooperation Center

An organization who consistently appear to be involved in sanction evasion activity is the Korea Moranbong Medical Cooperation Center. Pyongyang Papers have already shed light on their previous involvement in brokering deals to facilitate North Korean doctors working in Africa. You can read more about Moranbong activities in our articles ‘DPRK doctors operate around sanctions‘ and ‘North Korean doctors remain in Africa

A representative of the Korea Moranbong Medical Cooperation Center in the Republic of Congo has made a request to the authorities of Congo for a visa extension for two doctors located in a joint DPRK-Congo medical clinic located in the market area of Pointe-Noire. We are still currently looking into the visa extension request to see if there are anything else we can uncover!

Pyongyang Papers have also been made aware that officials from DPRK and Republic of Congo have been in discussions and have agreed to issue residency visas to 38 DPRK laborers.

Some progress?

In better news, Pyongyang Papers have found out that not all African countries are so relaxed about breaking UN sanctions placed on North Korea. Chad is a landlocked country at the center of Africa that has a strong relationship with the US who established diplomatic relations with in 1960 after Chad’s independence from France.

Pyongyang Papers has recently been informed that the Government of Chad have postponed a contract with a Chad based company called Groupe Awlad Abdelmouti due to concerns over the current sanction’s situation. Awlad Abdelmouti is a deign and engineering company based in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena. The company is involved in architecture and building projects. They also operate in the trade industry and appear to sell hardware and building materials and order some of their products from Turkey.

Groupe Awlad Abdelmouti had been contracted by Presidential Department of Chad to construct the Martyr’s Museum, which in itself isn’t the problem, the problem is that the company is using sanctioned DPRK laborers.

This is good news and shows that there are serious attempts to stamp out sanctions evasion involving the DPRK. If Africa were to stand united and follow in Chads footsteps then maybe some real progress would be made in bringing much need stability to the region and help end Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. If you have any information relating to sanctions evasion by the DPRK please contact Pyongyang Papers!

As seen many times recently, North Korea is continuing to develop and test missiles at an alarming rate. If the money that funds DPRK’s nuclear weapons program is not arriving through legitimate means, it will be no surprise to anyone interested in North Korea that King Jong Un will look at other options to generate revenue. Even if this means breaking sanctions! Pyongyang Papers would also argue that there are no legitimate means to fund a nuclear weapons program. In October 2020 a teary Kim Jong Un conceded that the country’s economy was struggling by admitting that previous five year economic plan had failed. If only Kim Jong Un cared as much about North Korean citizens at home and abroad as he does his economic plans.

Kim Jong Un at the parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Workers' Part of Korea in October 2020
Kim Jong Un at the parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Part of Korea in October 2020

North Korean Economy & Africa

What does this mean for North Korea? It has been reported that the DPRK would require practical means of innovation that would bring about realistic change and substantial progress to improve the North Korean economy. For the regime, it seems that innovation is the term for finding new ways to break international sanctions. Pyongyang Papers has continued to investigate methods used by North Korea to raise funds for the DPRK regime in Africa.

As mentioned previously, North Korea has a long history with many African countries. one of these countries in Guinea, who have had an established relationship with North Korea since 1958. It seems that relationship is still very productive. A source recently informed us that the Guinean minister of Security and Civil Protection and the Central Director of the Border Police issued visas to 14 workers from a DPRK construction company called South South Technology Cooperation Company, also known as Nam Nam. All 14 workers flew into Conakry, Guinea from another African country Niger.

It appears that key Guinean officials are working with the DPRK to avoid sanctions. yet while North Korea supplies construction workers to other countries, it neglects its own essential needs. For example, the original deadline for the construction and opening of the new healthcare facility Pyongyang General Hospital has passed by more than a year! North Korea closed its borders completely with the threat of COVID-19 looming in February 2020. Reports suggest this is having a major effect on medical supplies and the ability for the countries stretched healthcare system to cope with any medical outbreak. There may be some potential hope for ordinary North Korean citizen with the recent sanctions exemptions granted on medical grounds. With the hospital and other major construction projects unfinished or unopened and Kim Jong Un openly declaring economic struggles, an even harder future for North Korean citizens looks likely. Its own people are being sacrificed in what appears to be a deal to allow the regime to fund its weapons programs.

Kim Jong Un visiting the site for the new Pyongyang General Hospital
Kim Jong Un visiting the site for the new Pyongyang General Hospital

Military and the Population

Given that the DPRK is reported to spend up to 24% of its GDP on military advancement, it would suggest that the regimes priorities are very wrong. Especially when the population only get to see these funds through elaborate weapons displays. What use is a military if the economy is so decimated that there is nothing worth protecting? With a failing internal economy and the world watching how it adheres to international sanctions, it no surprise that North Korea seeks more discrete avenues to build its bank accounts. Perhaps Niger & Guinea, both members of the UN, provide a safe place for the illicit revenue generation.

Guinea and Niger

It seems that nothing has changed since our previous article about North Korean construction activity in Africa. Pyongyang papers has also discovered that a DPRK construction company Korea Chinson Cooperation Corporation are unlikely to honor a road building contract with the Niger Wazir Company to their embarrassment. Pyongyang Papers did some additional digging to find out why and it appears that the postponed arrival of North Korean workers to Niger due to COVID-19 and Kim Jung Un closing the borders may be the reason. However, there may be a way that Chinson can rescue the deal. Pyongyang papers believes that Chinson have requested that the workers recently sent to Guinea, mentioned above, be sent back to Niger so Chinson can save their reputation and future contracts. As always we will continue to investigate and see if the construction workers are sent back to Niger.

Niger and Guinea are working with the DPRK in yet another breach of international sanctions. Pyongyang may be without a working hospital facility but workers can be sent around the world to generate revenue, even during a global pandemic. The DPRK regime clearly have very different priorities to what their citizens need. As we have seen before, if North Korea continues to put weapons development above a functional medical system then Pyongyang Papers fears the ordinary citizens will never get the future they deserve.

If you have any information about DPRK sanctions evasion and illicit activity, please get in touch with Pyongyang Papers.

It seems that DPRK medical staff are still trading in Africa, this time in Ghana! Partnerships have been formed between Ghanaian & DPRK countries with the knowledge of the Ghanaian Government. Specifically, the Ghanaian Ministry of Health, who are aware of the illicit dealings.

The long-standing relationships between North Korea and many African countries is well known. From the Zimbabwean leader Mugabe sending gifts of live rhinos to Pyongyang, to Uganda’s Museveni learning Korean from Kim Jong Un’s grandfather. Over time, these relationships seem to have grown with North Korea providing weapons, soldiers, labor and completing ambitious construction projects for many African countries.

The recent United Nations Panel of Experts report notes that there is a significant and ongoing financial activity related to the illicit labor networks in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s clear the DPRK haven’t learnt a lesson from the imposed sanctions! There has been an extremely high number of African countries reporting late to the UN or not at all. This is despite sanctions and an obligation to report effects to enforce them. The reasons behind this may be innocent but it seems likely that it is down to the difficulty in hiding these exchanges that continue to exist between Africa and the DPRK. As of 2016, only 15 percent of African UN members were complying with reporting requirements so the UN investigated the possible sanctions violations by 7 African countries.

DPRK workers in Ghana

While investigating DPRK workers in Africa, Pyongyang Papers has found information surrounding a partnership between Ghana and the DPRK. While countries like Angola cooperated with the UN sanctions and repatriated 296 DPRK nationals, Ghana seem to be aware of and is encouraging sanctions breaking behavior. Given that Ghana and the DPRK have maintained diplomatic relations since 1964 it is hardly surprising that the countries are willing to work together to avoid sanctions!

Pyongyang Papers has discovered that a partnership has been agreed between Buhung Traditional Medical Centre, which lists Ri So’ng il as its director and the Prestige Herbal Clinic. The Prestige Herbal Clinic based in the Amasaman area of Accra, Ghana and offers alternative medicinal treatment for a range of ailments using herbal, massage and detoxification techniques. The CEO is listed as Mr Van Klu and Prestige Herbal Clinic claim to have access to specialist herbal practitioners with years of experience and in-house laboratory. Pyongyang Papers contacted Prestige Herbal Clinic for comment, at the time of publication we had not received a response.

The Prestige Herbal Clinic based in the Amasaman area of Accra, Ghana

Pyongyang Papers has also been informed that Pak Kwang-hyo’k, a representative of the DPRK Korea Moranbong Medical Cooperation Centre was involved in brokering the deal with the knowledge of the Ghanaian Ministry of Health. Pyongyang papers has come across the Moranbong Medical Cooperation Centre previously when investigating DPRK doctors in Africa.

As Pyongyang Papers has previously highlighted, there have been many issues with north Korean medical staff working in Africa. These low paid and sometimes poorly trained medical staff from the DPRK have been involved in incidents of malpractice and even subjecting patients to illegal procedures. The humanitarian situation in the DPRK is dire and does not seem to be getting better. The most recent Panel of Experts report claims that the DPRK prioritizes the regime over national priorities that include food security, health and medical services. Instead of addressing the problems in their own county the DPRK is sending its medical staff to other countries and aiding them. Ghana owns one of the most developed medical and healthcare systems in Africa… Pyongyang papers wants to know why is Ghana hiring DPRK medical staff if they are already capable?

The future of sanctions evasion

There would be implications on Ghana, and other African countries if they don’t comply with the sanctions imposed on North Korea. If other UN member states decide that African countries are not enforcing sanctions on DPRK, could their aid and other economic support be re-evaluated? The unilateral backing of the sanctions against DPRK is important to make sure they discourage the regime which is still engaging in human rights violations, ignoring their citizens in desperate need of basic provisions and actively pursuing nuclear programs with money earned abroad illicitly.

If you have any information relating to sanctions evasion by the DPRK then please contact Pyongyang Papers!

Radio Free Asia reported last year on the state of North Korean workers abroad and specifically Africa. Their appropriately titled piece says it all – “North Korean Workers Remain in Africa Months After Sanctions Deadline To Repatriate”. They referred to Tunisia’s repatriation report following sanctions on North Korea, where it was stated that most African countries were ignoring sanctions. The deadline for UN member states to repatriate North Korean workers passed over year ago on 22 December 2019.

It is well known that many African countries have maintained close ties with North Korea, with previous reports describing major construction projects in Africa including monuments, museums, government buildings and weapons factories, and even training for soldiers and police officers. The line between military and construction projects in such a bilateral relationship is often blurred and is well described in “People for Profit: North Korean forced labor on a global scale“. When both parties are engaged in acts that are mutually beneficial it is no surprise to hear of them ignoring UN sanctions. This certainly appears to be the case with a Togo based company – (Societe) Alzema SARL. According to business listings, Alzema SARL is registered in Lomé – Togo

Lom̩ РTogo

Alzema SARL

Pyongyang Papers has been informed that a number of DPRK medical staff are currently working in Togo for the organization Alzema SARL. Alzema SARL are headed by Alassane Yatabare, who is listed as the Company Director General. The company specializes in construction materials and also has links with the mining sector. Pyongyang Papers believes that the medical staff are supplied by the DPRK Moranbong Medical Cooperation Company as required.

Pyongyang Papers has reported previously about North Korean doctors in Africa. Is the provision of medical staff into construction companies with ties to mining a way to maintain links in this area, perhaps for future proliferation of staff? Or maybe Alzema SARL have branched into medical provisions. We know from previous UN Panel of Experts reports that North Korea has sent mining representatives abroad in the past.

With political, economic and military incentives for Africa and North Korea it is clear to see the reason companies and the regime are so keen break sanctions and exploit workers abroad. However, this is the first time Pyongyang Papers have heard about them doing this under the name of God.

Links to the Church?

Our sources indicate that North Korean doctors Han Yong Il and Hwang Yun Bin met with the Togolese Ministry of the Interior thanks to Churches of the Evangelical Ministry of the Works of God of Togo who set up the meeting.

The irony of the DPRK links to churches does not escape Pyongyang Papers. Christianity is not something that openly ventures into North Korea, not publicly anyway without harsh consequences. The DPRK is described as being an atheist state, with no real freedom of religion. According to the 2021 World Watch list, North Korea is the worst offender for persecution against Christians. A position it has held for 20 years in a row! So, using churches to facilitate meetings proves the lengths the regime will go to avoid sanctions and achieve its ambitions.

Are you aware of any other church involvement helping evade sanctions against North Korea? Or if you have information on any other North Korean sanctions evasion please get in touch with Pyongyang Papers.

North Korean doctors

We already know that DPRK uses workers abroad to spread influence and generate funds for the regime. The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) estimates that North Korea has between 70,000 to 100,000 laborers earning foreign currency in over thirty countries around the world, and that the number is growing. According to one diplomat, the DPRK government keeps nearly 80% of its overseas workers’ salaries. DPRK workers abroad have been known to corrupt local officials, create disturbances and to take money and jobs away from the local population.

As well as IT workers, construction laborers, engineers, hackers and restaurant workers, DPRK also sends healthworkers overseas. There are DPRK doctors known to be present in many countries in Africa, including Tanzania, Angola, Libya, and Uganda. Whilst the offer of cheap doctors may appeal to many nations, it’s becoming clear that some of them are undertrained and dangerous for patients.

Pyongyang Papers has uncovered multiple examples of malpractice or accidents by DPRK doctors based in Africa. One such doctor in Angola performed illegal treatments to an Angolan woman.

DPRK – Zimbabwe partnership

The friendship between DPRK and Zimbabwe is not new and has been covered in our previous articles. Some doctors were expelled from Zimbabwe earlier this year under UN pressure, even though Zimbabwe has a memorandum of understanding with the DPRK regarding the supply of medical personnel and technological support. This comes after the UN Security Council in December 2017 adopted a resolution (UNSCR 2397) calling for the repatriation of all DPRK nationals earning income abroad within 24 months, with some humanitarian exceptions.

DPRK forced labor

There are risks to the DPRK workers as well in these scenarios. According to the UN, as many as 50,000 North Koreans have been sent abroad to work in conditions that amount to ‘forced labor’, where they earn very little, are underfed, and are sometimes forced to work up to 20-hour days. No one should have to work in these conditions. And that is enough to cause exhaustion and carelessness among even the most qualified of doctors and healthworkers.

North Korea is also ‘exhaustively monitoring’ its workers abroad through its officials posted to those countries. A human rights report obtained by Yonhap News Agency showed that there was a high death toll among DPRK overseas workers due to work-related accidents and suicides following greater pressure by Pyongyang on its people to send back more money.

The workers also face prejudice and violence from the local population. In Nigeria, for example, there have been reports of foreign doctors including DPRK nationals kidnapped at gunpoint or even murdered.

The following article gives an insight into North Korean medical clinics in Tanzania.

It seems the only winner in all of this is the DPRK regime, who is using these doctors as a means of generating funds in foreign currency. This is neglecting their human rights as well as the rights of medical patients to decent treatment. We contacted the Ministries of Health for Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Libya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda about our findings but received no response.

Independence Memorial Museum

North Korean construction companies view Africa as a ripe target for generating wealth. The problems that this new colonialism causes, undercutting local building firms and damaging the international reputation of countries like Namibia, has not been widely reported.

Construction and labor teams in Africa have become increasingly important for the DPRK as a way of generating revenue for the regime. North Korean companies undercut local firms with cheap labor and poor quality building materials, and they are able to make large profits in this way, exploiting some of the poorest countries in the region and taking advantage of lax regulations in many African jurisdictions.

Pyongyang Papers interest in this little known area of North Korean activity primarily involves a construction company called GENCO (Korea General Corporation for External Construction). GENCO is more than just a simple building firm. According to the UN Panel of Experts Report, released March 2019, GENCO (also known as KOGEN) has close links to the Mansudae Overseas Project Group (MOP). Mansudae are a sanctioned entity and has links to the RGB and the the UN designated entity KOMID – the DPRK’s main overseas arms trader and a key funding source for the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

So what have Mansudae and GENCO been up to in Africa? Pyongyang Papers decided to take a look.

Guinea and Sierra Leone

The UN Panel of Experts report 2019 annex makes interesting reading when it come to DPRK construction activity in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Letters sent by the UN to a Guinean firm called GUICOPRES accuse the company of using DPRK labor to construct a military base in Sierra Leone. GUICOPRES, which denies contracting North Koreans with the exception of initial survey work, has also used DPRK teams to build the new Ministry of Justice building in Conakry – Guinea (not sure that bodes well for the future of Guinean justice). According to the UN POE report, GUICOPRES sources its DPRK laborers from a company called Korea South-South (also known as Nam Nam).

The Ministry of Justice building in Conakry – Guinea


In September 2017 local newspaper The Namibian reported that Mansudae had built the country’s State House and Independence Memorial Museum in Windhoek, and had secured another contract to build a defense headquarters and a munitions factory.

The State House in Windhoek – Namibia

While commitments were made by Namibia to sever ties with Mansudae following the UN POE investigation in 2017, this commitment appears to have wavered. The Namibian quoted Foreign Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah, who visited DPRK shortly after the UN announcement in 2017, as syaing that ‘while Namibia remains committed to the implementation of all UN sanctions the warm diplomatic relations with the DPRK will be maintained’.

Namibian Minister of presidential affairs, Frans Kapofi, was also quoted in the same story as saying ‘North Korea is a long time ally, a partner in development, and an affordable contractor’. By ‘affordable’, Kapofi is acknowledging the fact that DPRK contractors are able to undercut local construction firms by underpaying their staff. Its likely that homegrown Namibian construction companies lost out on major contracts because of Mansudaes ability to use such cheap labor that effectively amounts to slavery.

Namibia spent at least $91.5 million on North Korean construction work between 2002 and 2017, according to the investigation by the Namibian. Its a huge sum of money that could have gone to building up and empowering local businesses. Instead it went to funding the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development program.


In Zimbabwe, Mansudae was awarded contracts to build the country’s National Heroes Acre and Statue of the Unknown Soldier. A more recent contract to build a statue of former vice president Joshua Nkomo caused outrage as the DPRK is infamous in Zimbabwe for training the notorious Fifth Brigade, a unit responsible for massacring up to 20,000 people in Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi period.

The National Heroes Acre and Statue of the Unknown Soldier

Mansudae (MOP) is still very active in Zimbabwe but is clearly looking at ways to get around the challenge of sanctions. Clever solutions have involved such radical steps as changing their name very slightly. For example, there has been wide coverage of a registered Zimbabwean entity called the Mansudae Boka Design Company (MBDC) which has been linked to MOP and which has caused quite a headache for the Zimbabwean government. MBDC, which now looks to have changed name once again, had a Zimbabwean director but the two majority shareholders were North Koreans called Hyo Song Pak and Kyong Chol Yun. The Zimbabwean director claimed that the name similarity and the two North Korean directors were both ‘coincidences’. Was it also a coincidence that Kyong Chol Yun is the head representative of MOP in Zimbabwe? Seems unlikely to Pyongyang Papers!

MBDC has taken payments from a Zimbabwean government department called the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, to provide statues and other artwork. MBDC has also taken payments from the Zimbabwean army and the police.

The Boka family in Zimbabwe seem to have developed very close working relationships with DPRK. In addition to fronting up the MBDC , Boka is also suspected of supplying Zimbabwean rag tobacco to DPRK, in violation of sanction prohibiting the export of luxury goods to North Korea. This trade is likely to have been facilitated by the Boka Tobacco Floors, a 50,000 square meter tobacco exchange in Harare owned by the Boka family.

The Boka Tobacco Floors

Zimbabwes involvement with Mansudae and the DPRK doesn’t stop with Boka. Given the DPRK’s historical involvement in mass killings in Zimbabwe, the ongoing government links are very worrying, as DPRK entities could be providing assistance to Zimbabwe to deal with civilian protests and unrest. It is one thing allowing DPRK to build your statues but its another to follow their lead on policing and human rights issues.

UN Reporting Deadline

The end of March 2019 marked the reporting deadline for all countries to account to the UN for the number of North Koreans working in their jurisdictions. This precedes the upcoming December 2019 deadline to expel all North Korean workers, as set out in the UN Security Council Resolution 2397.

With such a large number of DPRK construction workers slaving away in Africa (and elsewhere) for entities like Mansudae and GENCO, it will be interesting to see how many have been declared and how many have been expelled by the time December arrives. As always – get in touch with any more stories of illicit North Korean activity.