The DPRK are well known for their dishonest, provocative and non-conforming nature. So its comes as no surprise that when Russia invaded Ukraine, a decision condemned by the world, Kim Jong Un publicly declared his support for Moscow.

Pyongyang Papers have been made aware of another sanctioned DPRK labor deal involving construction workers in Russia. This is not the first time we have investigated a deal of this nature – you can read our previous article here.

Perhaps surprisingly, Russia and North Korea have never had significant relationship. The DPRK is economically dependent on China, which currently accounts for over 90 percent of its total trade volume as well as most food and energy imports. Despite this economic dependence there is reportedly deep distrust between the two nations. China’s attempts to assert dominance over North Korea along with the North Korean regimes efforts to guard against Chinese influence have long generated tension between the two countries. Russia’s stance has always been to follow China’s lead, supporting the DPRK when they do, not supporting them when they don’t.

Pyongyang & Moscow

However, Russia needs help in the form of weapons. The EU have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia in response to the war of aggression against Ukraine. These sanctions include visa measures, individual sanctions and economic sanctions including huge restrictions on the imports and exports between the EU and Russia. Which is why Russia is seeking an allegiance with the DPRK. The DPRK welcome this allegiance with open arms as it provides many benefits. Not only will a weapons deal with Russia help boost the ever flailing economy … it will also further antagonize the fraught tensions with the western world. A great result for Kim Jong Un!

In August 2023, Kim made the promise in a letter to Vladimir Putin that relations will be ‘further developed into a long standing strategic relationship’. He also went on to state the two countries are ‘fully demonstrating their invincibility and might in their struggle against imperialists’. This letter was followed by the recent summit held in Russia and was attended by Kim. Washington have warned Pyongyang against sending weapons to Russia, as this would violate UN sanctions that prevent arms shipments to and from North Korea – but breaking sanctions comes naturally to North Korea as we have seen on countless previous occasions.

Construction workers to Russia?

Our current investigation involves the DPRK Korea Sungri Chonji Trading Corporation and the Russia based KSK-Stroy Limited Liability Company (ООО КСК СТРОЙ) for the supply of 200 North Korean construction workers to Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, Russia.

KSK-Stroy is a construction company that appears to have addresses all over Russia, with each location specializing in different construction types. The Khabarovsk KSK-Stroy’s activity appears to be mainly based on the construction of roads and highways and the Vladivostok company’s activity is engineering communications for water, sanitation and gas supply.

North Korean construction workers

Our sources have also found that the Russia firm ANO Digital Platform solicited a substantial number of North Korean laborers for construction projects in Moscow. Arseniy Shcheltsin is the CEO of ANO Digital Platform and this is not the first time he has been involved in something suspicious having previously been at the center of a scandal involving internet campaigning for the party in power. Pyongyang Papers wonders what use Shcheltsin could have for construction workers with his digital background?

Pyongyang Papers knows that nothing good can come from an alliance between two power hungry dictators such as Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin who prioritize their own political desires over the needs of their imprisoned citizens. We must unite to rid the world of their intolerable reign. Please contact Pyongyang Papers if you have any additional information on the companies listed in this article.

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.

Kim Restaurant

As reported many times previously, current UN sanctions imposed upon the DPRK limits the import of crude oil and refined petroleum, bans all imports of luxury goods, and prevents North Korean citizens from working overseas. North Koreans are often employed in the restaurants, construction and agricultural industries abroad.

The thousands of North Korean citizens working overseas, mostly in China and Russia, have provided a vital source of cash for Kim Jong Un’s regime over the years. According to US government estimates, Pyongyang has netted $500m annually from its overseas workforce. The UN clampdown seeks to block a steady flow of revenue back to Kim Jong Un’s regime, in the hope the sanctions force the regime to cease its nuclear weapon program. However, the DPRK have employed illicit tactics to continue it’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapon program, often with the help of foreign enablers. These enablers often hide in disguise as member of the United Nations…

Two allies, one border

China is key ally to the DPRK and their most important trading partner. China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War and since the war, China has lent political and and economic support to North Korea’s leaders. Yet, the DPRK put a strain on the relationship when Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006, forcing Beijing to back the UN Security Council Resolution 1718 which imposed sanctions on Pyongyang.

Despite being an active member of the Security council, China has been accused by other member states of stalling and persistently trying to discredit or argue the accusations of the DPRK’s continued efforts to violate Security council resolutions. In some cases, China has been accused of helping facilitate the illicit import of refined petroleum products through ship to ship transfers and direct deliveries.

As published in the 2020 midterm Panel of expert’s report, communications from the delegation of the United States of America were fairly damning of China’s involvement:

China and Russia’s annual obstructionist response to these reports is intended to prevent the UN from accounting for the large-scale, illicit refined petroleum product imports that the DPRK maintains while offering no alternative for how to reflect these volumes, which are being documented with irrefutable evidence. The United Sates, other Committee members and the Panel have made extensive efforts to resolve the ton to barrel conversion issue. China and Russia’s refusal to enter those discussions in good faith to reach a resolution and its comments in response to this report only reinforce that their intentions are to obstruct the committee’s responsibility to maintain and accurate accounting of the DPRK’s actual refined product imports.”.

Restaurants in China contravening UN sanctions

When responding to the UN Panel of Experts investigation in 2020 China stated that it “…has faithfully implemented the provision of Security Council’s resolution on repatriating all DPRK nationals earning income abroad”. However, it is no great surprise that China’s commitment to ensuring DPRK citizens have been repatriated may not be as genuine as they like to portray. This is particularly evident when it comes to the food trade and particularly overseas workers in restaurants. Pyongyang Papers has been investigating claims that restaurants in the Yanji and Jian areas specifically are actively employing DPRK workers despite sanctions.

There are believed to be over a hundred North Korean restaurants in China, with many located within the provinces along the North Korean border. Some of these restaurants are run as joint ventures between North Korea and China. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic many restaurants were forced to close their doors and there were reports of workers, who were already being exploited by their own government during a global pandemic, being forced to take night shifts or moved to alternative employment in order to meet the financial demands of the regime.

North Korean restaurant in Dandong
North Korean run restaurant in Dandong, China

Yanji and Ji’an

Recent reports suggest the situation has changed and many North Korean restaurants on the border have began operating again. Pyongyang Papers has received information that the Helong representative of Korea Chonryong Trading General Corporation, So Yung Guk, set up DPRK workers for the Yanggak Restaurant located in the city of Yanji, Yanbian province.

Whilst in the Myohyangsan Restaurant located in Ji’an, the region of Changchun, China, the restaurant’s manager removed any reference to DPRK within the restaurant. A Pyongyang Papers source has indicated that this was on the orders of Chinese officials, presumably to help ‘hide’ any overt North Korean involvement in the restaurant and shield and illegal sanctioned workers.

What’s in it for China?

So why does China continue to support their difficult neighbor? China’s strategy boils down to the following- “no war, no instability, no nukes”.

Written in order of priority, China’s main focus is to avoid another Korean war which could ultimately end in a unified, pro-American Korea right on its border. Keeping close ties with the DPRK also benefits China in managing its rocky relationship with the US, it provides China with leverage to be involved and broker a deal between the two nations to denuclearize– further reinforcing China’s powerhouse status in the world of global politics.

As always, if you have any further information on North Korean sanction evasions please get in touch with Pyongyang Papers.

A relationship between North Korea and Cambodia has been in place since 1965 when Cambodia’s Norodom Sihanouk met Kim-Il Sung. Even after Sihanouk lost his power in government the DPRK was still supportive. They built a palace for him and even provided bodyguards when he became king and returned to Cambodia. In more recent years the DPRK has invested in Cambodia’s Angkor Panorama Museum. The museum’s director Yit Chardaroat stated to Aljazeera “63 artists toiled for more than a year to complete the panorama”. The artists came from North Korea which designed, built and bankrolled the $24m project through the Mansudae Art Studio. According to the article, the first 10 years of profits are going straight to North Korea.

However the first sign of cracks in the country’s relationship started to appear a few years ago. Forbes reported that Cambodia rejected an official visit from North Korea’s Foreign Minister back in 2016. This was followed by reports of Pyongyang sending North Korean assassins to Cambodia to conduct terror attacks against South Koreans as well as the emergence that the Kim Jong Nam murder suspects used Cambodia for 3 practice runs of the attack. The relationship was certainly failing when other DPRK officials were also denied access. Perhaps all this was a result of North Koreas reckless approach to weapons, or it constant attempts to avoid sanctions and deny human rights abuses. Cambodia were certainly not only country to be severing ties.

A Change in Relationship

It appears the relationship between the two countries is now falling apart. The Korean Herald reported in January 2020 that Cambodia had shut down 7 North Korean businesses in the country, including the Angkor Panorama Museum which was staffed by North Koreans. This is all result of UN sanctions. Pyongyang Papers has also learned that as part of this crackdown North Korean IT workers are relocating to China from Cambodia. This just adds to the volume that are present in China. It is estimated that around 50,000 North Korean laborers are still in China which has been citing COVID-19 as the excuse for not repatriating these illegal workers.

The Angkor Panorama Museum

Our sources have revealed a group of IT developers led by an individual called Hwang Ju Yong have been forced to leave the country by the Cambodian government, along with other North Korean workers in Cambodia. They were working for the Chongsin Information Technology Company, based in Pyongyang. The majority of North Koreans in Cambodia have relocated to Yanji in North Eastern China. According to the UN Panel of Experts midterm report, hundreds of workers access to China was sponsored by the sanctioned entity Yanji Silver Star Network Technology Company LTD.

China Still Aiding Sanctions Evasion

Clearly, the DPRK and China still have no intention of abiding by the current sanctions. With North Korea benefiting from its workers abroad it looks like they will use whatever means necessary to generate revenue and China are happy to support this relationship. It has recently been reported that a 10 day quarantine process in designated accommodation has been set up in the Jilin Province facing the North Korean border. This is specifically for North Korean workers and proves that even with huge potential risks posed to its citizens the DPRK is happy to ignore sanctions in the pursuit of money for the regime.

Do you have information about Cambodia’s involvement with the DPRK? If you have any information about this or North Korean sanctions evasion please get in touch with Pyongyang Papers.