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.