DPRK and African Flags

As we have written about previously, it is well known that North Korea send workers abroad to bring money home for the Regime. Pyongyang Papers have previously talked about Doctors relocating to Africa but for this investigation we are zoning in on Niger and Nigeria. It is known that these workers should have returned home by December 2019 due to sanctions, but one healthcare professional told NKNews that North Koreans are still working in Nigeria despite the ban on overseas DPRK labor. In Novemebr 2020, Nigeria told told the UN Panel of Experts that a group of 37 North Korean healthcare professionals were awaiting deportation but due to lockdowns their cases were stalled. Here at Pyongyang Papers, we wonder if these 37 individuals were ever sent back to their homelands.

What else are they up to?

It has been reported that a range of North Korean-style hospitals have been set up in different African countries and some of them even sell prescriptions for herbal medicines that were later found to contain dangerous amounts of poisonous heavy metals! Information has been passed to us that indicate that complints against the DPRK are on the increase.

An advert for Faris Hospital Ltd.

One DPRK physician at Faris Hospital Ltd., had his contract terminated due to serious malpractice. Pyongyang Papers are led to believe that this physician is actively looking for a new contract with a number of Nigerian hospitals.

Overseas postings are highly sought after and usually reserved for the upper classes – Doctors in foreign postings can earn $1000 per month with $800 of that going back to North Korea. In contrast, those in the restaurant industry only tend to earn a few hundred dollars with similar proportions being deducted. DPRK doctors also tend to b able to move around more freely and are not restricted to strict rules like those working in restaurants. So no wonder this physician is keen to remain in work abroad!

North Korea’s own healthcare system is in a poor state due to lack of food and drugs – people are self-medicating and are being forced to have amputations when the drugs needed to cure infections are not readily available.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits hospitalized survivors of horror bus  crash | CNN
Kim Jong Un visiting patients in hospital

Where is the money?

Lack of funds also appears to be an issue overseas after a prominent member of staff at the Niger Optical Services Co. LTD., hospital located in Igbo-Ukwu Ekwulobia, Nigeria, recorded a complaint to the Chief Representative of the DPRK Chinson General Corporation Representative Office in Nigeria. This was about the medical staff, who joined the srvice in 2019, not generating enough income for the optical service. Pyongyang Papers wonders how much these medical staff are making for the Regime! And if they are not generating money for the service, how long can they remain employed?

Due to a long-standing relationship between Africa and North Korea since the Cold War, and the fact the labor is highly skilled yet cheap, the country and companies within it seems to be ignoring the UN sanctions for their own gain. These health workers in Nigeria and the rest of Africa are in violation of UN security council resolution 2397, even in 2020 (after the workers should have been sent home) North Korea and Nigeria signed a public health cooperation agreement and the Nigerian Health Minister claimed that Nigeria had a desire to learn from North Korea in the sphere of public health – this is concerning to hear with links to malpractice!

If you have any more information about DPRK physicians and health workers in Nigeria, here at Pyongyang Papers, we appreciate anything you can provide us. Please get in contact.

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.