North Korean business deals with countries on the African continent is well documented and extensive. Pyongyang Papers has conducted several investigations looking at sanctions breaking in the region and this time we aim to shine a light on one country in particular – Nigeria

Nigeria relations

“Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress” – Nigeria’s national motto. Unfortunately, North Korea does not share any aspects of this motto and would rather disorder, betrayal, conflict and decline. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and formally established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1976. In 2014, the two countries signed an economic cooperation agreement in the areas of knowledge exchange, information technology and public sector exchanges of modern technology. Both Nigeria and the DPRK maintain embassies in each other’s countries and as recently as 2022, the UN panel of experts were investigating information that suggested Nigeria were planning on purchasing $3.5 million worth of military equipment with the deal being brokered by the Haegumgang Trading Corporation. A weapons-trading entity belonging to the DPRK Ministry of People’s Armed Forces.

Current activity

Given Nigeria’s warm relationship with North Korea, it should come as no surprise that the DPRK regime continue to use the country as a means to generate revenue for their nuclear and ballistic weapons program.

One company that seems to feature quite heavily in Nigeria is Korea Chinson General Cooperation, who have been investigated in Nigeria previously. Pyongyang Papers have been made aware that UN sanctioned DPRK workers are working within blanket factories, tire factories, plastic bag factories and also a security company.

To add to this, our sources have also passed us a copy of a contract regarding a three year deal with a Lagos based company called Skynext Service Ltd to aid the construction and running of the Lagos rubber factory. The deal involves Chinson providing Skynext with a range of North Korean laborers including:

• Two structural design engineers
• Two interpreters
• Thirteen skills constructors
• Two heavy vehicle mechanics
• Twenty one rubber factory machinists

The contract is valid for three years and states it will be automatically renewed at the end of each three year period. We are still working to confirm the presence of the DPRK workers for Skynext as the contract also states “The parties further agreed to implement the contract … at a time when the global pandemic of COVID-19 has been resolved and the dispatch of experts from Chinson is possible. But will be valid until July 2023 at latest.” The contract was signed and dated by Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Musaddiq (representing Skynext) and Mr KO Yong Myong (representing Chinson) on 18th August 2022.

The contract lists the address for Skynext as 3 Avenue, Festac but our investigation suggests they may now be located at Commercial Road, Apapa in Lagos. Information regarding the company’s type of activity is limited but the contract and import information available online suggest they are in the manufacturing business. Pyongyang Papers reached out to Skynext directly for comment about their sanctioned activity but received no reply.

The future

With the North Korean borders beginning to open up it is highly likely that North Korean workers will begin moving around the globe again as DPRK companies look to fulfill contracts drafted during the pandemic, evade sanctions and raise funds to enable the regime to continue developing nuclear weapons. The contract between Skynext and Chinson proves that even when the North Korean border is sealed shut and ordinary citizens are believed to be starving, Kim Jong Un and the regime are still content to exploit ordinary DPRK citizens for their own despicable gains.

Pyongyang Papers aims to expose any sanctioned North Korean activity and relies on its sources. If you have any information in relation to this article or any other DPRK activity please get in touch through the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Pyongyang Papers has continued its recent investigations into the illicit money-making schemes of North Korean individual Nam Un Gyong and her daughter, Ri Son Chong. As previously reported, Nam owned and ran a restaurant called the Blue Flower in Cambodia, this is a blatant violation of UN sanctions which prohibits DPRK individuals working abroad. The money earned from DPRK nationals abroad such as Nam and her daughter, is sent back to the DPRK regime and continues to fund its nuclear weapons program.

The Cambodian government ordered the Blue Flower to close and so we have been keen to see what Nam and Ri have been doing since the closure of the restaurant.

Ri Son Chong was studied business administration at a University in Cambodia, but we know she is also involved in the illicit endeavors of her mother and some of her own. Ri Son Chong helped both in the kitchen and on the cashier desk at the Blue Flower until its closure, whilst also facilitating the production and sale of kimchi to restaurants in the local area of Phnom Penh. We contacted the Blue Flower Facebook page after releasing the last article for comment and the page name and display photo was swiftly changed…

Nam & Ri movements

Pyongyang Papers believes that Nam, and her daughter Ri Son Chong traveled from Phnom Penh to Beijing in the middle of January and Nam’s plan is to head to Shenyang, then Dandong and then back to Beijing before finally traveling back to the DPRK! In our last investigation we noted how Nam had parted ways with her former business partner and was looking for a new partner to open a joint venture restaurant in China. With Nam planning to head back to the DPRK we are unsure where this leaves the plan for the joint venture restaurant in China. Maybe Nam has passed the plan onto another DPRK national in China. If you have any information on the status on the joint venture please get in touch via the ‘Contact Us’ page.

During our investigations, we have also uncovered that Nam Un Gyong also has another daughter – Ri Son Hwa. Ri Son Hwa attended a foreign university and currently works as a trading employee at the Rakwon Guidance Bureau. The Rakwon Guidance Bureau is believed to sit under ‘Room 39’, a secretive party organization which seeks to maintain foreign currency for the North Korean leaders.

It is well documented that ‘Room/Bureau 39’ is a secretive North Korean party organization that seeks ways to maintain the foreign currency slush fund for the country’s leaders

Luxury Goods

Investigations by Pyongyang Papers have also uncovered additional details about Nam Un Gyong and Ri Son Chong activities. It appears the duo were also involved in the luxury goods trade. We are aware of a deal involving both Ri Son Chong and Nam with a Thailand-based DPRK Korea Chilsongmun Trading Corporation (CTC) employee. Ri Son Chong and Nam have spent hundreds of thousands of $’s on alcohol, buying and exporting it from Cambodia to DPRK. Importing and exporting luxury goods to and from North Korea also contravenes UN sanctions, however it is widely known that Kim Jong Un is partial to unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking. We wonder whether Ri Son Chong and Nam’s shipment is headed straight for their leader? Nam and Ri Son Chong also worked with individuals Heng Sovannary and Srey Pov, based in Cambodia, to export more alcohol to DPRK.

The purchasing of luxury goods isn’t limited to just alcohol as we believe that Ri Son Chong has been buying Tommy Hilfiger purses as gifts for friends on her return to the DPRK. We also know Ri Son Chong was looking into other high-end brands such as Bottega Veneta.

Moving Money

It is clear that both Nam and her daughters have the connections and know how to set up these trade deals but we have been questioning how Nam has managed to earn currency overseas as a North Korean citizen without raising suspicion from the banking authorities. Our investigations have uncovered that a Cambodian individual that worked for Nam at her restaurant allowed her to use their bank account to receive large amounts of money. This is a tried and tested method for North Koreans who are earning illicitly abroad.

We are glad to hear that the Cambodian authorities are enforcing sanctions, we hope that China will follow suit and end Nam and her daughters sanction evasion activity. However, based on some of our previous investigations- we aren’t that confident!

Pyongyang Papers will continue to investigate Nam’s sanction breaking activity- if you are aware of any information then please contact us.

Pyongyang Papers has been investigating more North Korean sanctions breaking activity aimed at making money in Africa. According to the UN security Council, North Korea is estimated to run annual deficit of between $500million and $1billion. This is the amount of hard currency that North Korea needs to earn abroad each year to fund the regime and its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Each year North Korea generates an estimated $100 million of this in Africa.

You can read our previous investigations revealing the Republic of Congo, Ghana and Nigeria’s involvement in UN sanction breaking. Our current investigation focuses on another African country – Zambia. As of March 2023, Multiple North Korean workers are continuing to work in a number of companies and disciplines within Zambia.

This contravenes UN Security Council Resolution 2270 which requires direct member states to expel all foreign nationals (including DPRK citizens) who are determined to be working on behalf of a designated entity or otherwise assisting in sanctions evasion, and also resolutions 2375 & 2397 which prohibits member states from providing work authorizations for DPRK nationals in their jurisdiction in connection with admission to their territories and included repatriation of DPRK nationals by December 2019.

Korea General Corporation for External Construction (KOGEN)

One of the companies using North Korean laborers in Zambia is the Korea General Corporation for External Construction (KOGEN) or (GENCO). KOGEN is advertised on Naenara, the official DPRK web portal, as a professional overseas construction company, sending skilled workers and highlighting completed projects in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Russia, Libya and Mongolia. It has also created local branches, such as Zambia. They also known to use the names Chammae Construction Ltd and Gold Pick Construction Ltd. The business listing for Gold Pick Construction Ltd even states that the “main engineering team is from Korea”.

A promotional poster from a Gold Pick Construction Ltd business listing

KOGEN is a well-known entity to the United Nations Panel of Experts. Whilst investigating banks created to support investment or trade with North Korea, the UN uncovered a Malaysian company – Malaysia Korea Partners (MKP). KOGEN is only one of 13 MKP linked companies in Zambia. Using North Korean laborers who were paid pittance, MKP earned hard currency through construction projects, mining, trade in contraband coal and provision of security services. KOGEN, the North Korean entity for which MKP was acting as a front company, offered its services in Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire- and Nigeria as well.

Further investigation by the UN revealed that KOGEN’s activities were not limited to Africa. Evidence emerged of a joint venture in the UAE and of significant activity in Russia. From information provided by Zambia and further investigations by the Panel it has been concluded that KOGEN, like MKP, has links to Mansudae Overseas Project Group. Pyongyang Papers have previously investigated Mansudae Overseas Project Group for their involvement in construction projects across Africa.

Moksong Construction Company

Another company we have been informed is operating with North Korean workers in Zambia is Moksong Construction Company, which we believe to be the same entity as the company operating under the name Moksong Overseas Construction & Economic Technology Cooperation Company. In May, NK News released an article detailing Moksong Overseas Construction involvement in construction of a library in Lusaka, Zambia. According to the North Korean commerce website Manmulsang, Moksong has “agencies in several European and African countries to ensure prompt, satisfactory and comprehensive cooperation in the architectural technology on order.”

A copy of the Moksong listing from the Manmulsang website

Pyongyang papers are also aware of another three DPRK entities working in Zambia. These are: Medical Cooperation Delegation, Ecological Environment Technology Cooperation Delegation and DPRK Economic & Commercial Representative Office in Zambia. Our investigation into these companies is still ongoing- please contact us if you have any additional information of the companies listed.

Zambia has been a member of the United Nations since 1964 and have evidently assisted the UN Panel of Experts previously in their investigations into North Korean sanction breaking activity taking place within its borders. Unfortunately it clearly isn’t doing enough to uncover and disrupt the North Korean laborers that still reside and earn money for the DPRK regime. Zambia and other African countries need to seriously address sanctions evasion and attempt to stop the flow of funds back to North Korea. Funds that are being used by Kim Jong Un to develop, test and build weapons that can only ensure more instability in the region.

Pyongyang Papers recently reported on a restaurant called the Blue Flower located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and is run by two North Koreans: Nam Un Gyong and her daughter Ri Son Chong. By running the restaurant Nam and Ri are violating UN Security Council resolution 2397, which prohibits North Korean citizens from working abroad. It is also widely known that the money made by North Korean’s abroad makes its way back to the Kim Jong Un regime and funds North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, one of many sources of contention between the rest of the world and North Korea.

Blue Flower restaurant employees escape police

In our last article we reported how Cambodian authorities had given orders for The Blue Flower restaurant to be closed down. It appears Nam did not listen to the warning, as in a dramatic turn of events, we have been informed that she had to secretly escape from the Blue Flower and that the DPRK staff narrowly avoided capture by the Cambodian authorities due to the constant police presence at the restaurant. Our sources tell us these North Korean employees have now left Cambodia.

Investigations have confirmed that the Blue Flower restaurant is now officially closed and the premises where the restaurant was located apparently trashed. As mentioned previously, the restaurant employed Cambodian nationals due to DPRK border closure. We understand that the Cambodian nationals have all been fired and reportedly left the area. The restaurant may have closed but this does not mean the money-making activities by Nam & Ri have stopped!

North Korean Restaurants in China

With the closure of the Blue Flower. Nam has parted ways with her former business partner, an individual named Pan Yong and is already looking for a new business partner to help her open a joint venture restaurant in China! Since the beginning of this year, despite sanctions being in place, it is reported that at least 10 restaurants and hotels staffed by Koreans have popped up in three Chinese cities. Now that the DPRK borders are slowly re-opening, we believe that many thousands of North Korean workers are returning home from China under a week-long quarantine after arriving in a number of locations, including Rason, Sinuiju and Sunan. The re-opening of the border has also included freight trains making the journey between the two countries again, with one specifically arriving in Sinuiju and returning back to Dandong 45 minutes later.

A view of the sino-Korean friendship bridge

Could this mean more DPRK workers are preparing to move to China to replace the returning workers? or is China finally observing UN Sanctions? Only time will tell but Pyongyang Papers has suspicion it won’t be China observing UN sanctions! Historically, the two sides of the border have agreed to work together to prevent illegal crossings between the Yalu River and Tumen River, with both countries providing their own guards and agreements around times people were able to make the crossing. China also forcibly returned over 500 North Koreans who had escaped to China back over the border.

Illegal workers bringing home souvenirs

It is also likely that the returning DPRK workers, who were sent abroad to work and earn for the regime, will bring a number of sanctioned items home with them, such as money and luxury goods. It appears the Blue Flower had a number of elaborate, expensive looking paintings throughout the restaurant and stocked a large amount of high-end alcohol. Pyongyang Papers wonders if the returning workers and return of freight movement will see an influx of other sanctioned items into North Korea.

One of the paintings from the Blue Flower restaurant

Pyongyang Papers will continue to investigate Nam & Ri as they look to continue their efforts in China to earn sanctioned revenue for the North Korean regime but it is clear that China has a major role to play in enforcing UN sanctions aimed at stopping funds reaching the DPRK and being used to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile program. This is especially relevant given the recent launch of North Korea’s first ‘spy’ satellite using ballistic missile technology.

If you have any further information on Nam Un Gyong, her daughter Ri Son Chong or any other North Korean sanctions evasion, please get in touch through the ‘Contact us’ page.

As Pyongyang Papers have previously reported, North Korea exporting coal new. As UN Security Council Resolution 2371 states: “The DPRK is prohibited from supplying, selling, transferring .. coal” and “All Member States are prohibited from procuring such material from the DPRK. by their nationals, or by using their flag vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK.” Of course, this hasn’t stopped China!

Is coal the ultimate export for North Korea

Our sources have told us that Chinese company called Smart Legend Management Limited (駿成管理有限公司), which may also be known as General Success management Limted has agreed nearly $7 Million to buy 100,000 tons of anthracite coal from Korea O-IL Trading Corporation, formally known as Korea 51 Trading Corporation. This isn’t the first time the company has been involved in sanction breaking activity as Korea 51 Trading Corporation was also mentioned in the August 2020 UN Panel of Experts report as they were involved in employment of 292 DPRK workers abroad.

In 2022, the DPRK smuggled in excess of 525,000 tons of coal to China confirming China’s disregard for the UN by repeatedly purchasing sanctioned goods and services from North Korea. China’s willingness to deal with the North Korean regime has not gone unoticed. Recently, the G7 countries plus three other countries collectively asked China to stop allowing North Korean sanctions evasion in its waters!

North Korea continue to export coal to their allies despite shortages of coal at home, causing hardship for their own population. Kim Jong Un even instructed in his 2019 New Year’s address that coal exports would be redirected for domestic use for North Korea to become self-sufficient. The income from their 5 billion tons of anthracite reserves must be worth much more to the regime via sanctioned exports than their own citizens energy supply. Pyongyang Papers believes the regime would rather earn money for its nuclear and ballistic missle program than help its own citizens!

So how do you deliver 100,000 tons of anthracite coal?

North Korea use multiple ship-to-ship transfers via the yellow sea from Nampo Port. The ship-to-ship transfers are an effort to avoid detection although it has been widely that sales have continued since the sanctions were imposed. It is also believed that they are getting braver with their exports and avoiding ship-to-ship transfers, with Chinese ships collecting the coal from Nampo port direct!

In 2021 Coal exports from North Korea to China rose due to severe shortages causing rolling blackouts in many parts of China. Sadly, for the two countries the 2022 total is down mainly due to the COVID pandemic positive cases within China throughout the year.

Going back even further, 38 North conducted analysis looking at satellite imagery of the coal mines in North Korea between 2015-2019. They found a considerable increase in activity with noticeable growth of spoil piles around the mines and improvements to transport system to get coal to ports like Nampo. These images show that the sanctions have not affected North Korea’s coal export industry and none of its infrastructure has collapsed. In January 2023 Korean Central News Agency announced that DPRK coal production had increased “by intensifying the ideological work to arouse the masses”!

Nampo-Tae-Phyong-2
Tae Phyong 2 docks at the North Korean port of Nampo – August 2021

Why China?

North Korea and China have a difficult relationship. Although they are allies their relationship has deteriorated with Kim Jung Un’s missile testing and deliberate timing close to big Chinese events. It is questionable why Kim Jong Un would decide to do this as China has a hand on North Korea’s economic power and stopping trade with them would be extremely disruptive. China could easily import their coal from other countries but due to political intentions and economic benefits for China, the risk of being caught sanction breaking is outweighed by the advantages. A North Korean defector told one news outlet that North Korea would only last a month without its trade deals with China! So, no wonder why the two countries are so keen to continue supporting each other.

If you know any more information about these coal deals and the companies involved in them, please get in contact with Pyongyang Papers through the ‘Contact Us’ page!

North Korea citizens working overseas is banned under UN sanction resolution 2397 and all workers should have been repatriated by December 2019. Pyongyang Papers has investigated breaches of the resolution for several years and will continue to do with help from our sources. Recent reports indicate that thousands of workers still reside in China & Russia unsurprisingly, with many more waiting to travel as soon as the North Korean border reopens. For our latest investigation we looked into a number of companies involved in the exportation of DPRK labor.

Korea Namgang Trading General Corporation (NTC)

The Korea Namgang Trading General Corporation (NTC) is a sanctioned North Korean company that also uses the alias Ryongrim General Construction Corporation. NTC was sanctioned by the US for engaging in and facilitating the exportation of North Korean workers to generate revenue for the regime. Namgang are known to send their workers globally to countries like Russia, Nigeria and multiple countries in the Middle East. The March 2022 UN panel of Experts report detailed an entity called Korean Namgang Construction General Corporation (aka DPRK Ryongrim Overseas Construction Company) working with Chinese companies to send DPRK construction workers abroad. Pyongyang Papers wonders if NTC & the Korean Namgang Construction General Corporation are actually the same entity?

Pyongyang Papers has been informed that NTC also has links to a company in Russia called Stroytransgaz-Vostok (Стройтрансгаз-Восток) and are looking at a multi-million $ construction project to build a museum and theater. Stroytransgaz-Vostok is a Russian engineering construction company. The company is a subsidiary of the Stroytransgaz Group controlled by Gennedy Timchenko (Геннадий Тимченко) through his Volga group. Timchenko is known to be close friends with Vladimir Putin and has faced multiple sanctions from the US due to being a member of the Russian leadership inner circle. He has also had assets frozen due to the war on Ukraine. The Stroytransgaz Group has had previous contracts to build museums and theaters and has also been included in the contract to build a cultural center to build ties with Korea, China, and Japan.

Current construction of the cultural center in Vladivostok – Stroytransgaz

Other Russian companies employing North Korean workers

Stroytransgaz-Vostok isn’t the only company in Russia that North Korean workers are sent to – Russian companies that have completed contracts and have employed hundreds of DPRK workers in Russian clothing factories include:

  • Hoebul Company
  • Arovana
  • Russi (Chinamo)
  • Ratulango Clothing Company
  • Unistore Company
  • Energokontakt Company

We are still investigating the companies listed above and would be interested in any additional information available surrounding involvement with DPRK sanction breaking. These companies are located in Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Vladivostok.

The North Korean company involved in some of these deals is Korea Unha General Trading Corporation (조선은하무역총회사). This trading corporation is described as being the largest clothing processing trading company in North Korea. It has 110 factories and even owns its own trading ships! They are known to export clothing, raw materials for the textile and shoe industry, grain, gasoline, diesel oil & North Korean labor!

Countries like Russia and China continue to disobey sanctions and provide the North Korean regime with a constant flow of revenue which is used to fund the nuclear and ballistic weapons program. North Korea continues to launch and test its missiles at an alarming rate. Countries helping fund the regime need to be held accountable to help stop the regime from exploiting its own citizens. If you have any information about North Korean workers in Russian factories, or any of the companies named in this article, please do get in touch through the contact us page.

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.

Photo
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.

Following on from our previous investigation into Ri Chol Nam, who is involved in DPRK sanction breaking activities, we at Pyongyang Papers hope this next article might help with our appeal for more information on another individual, his associates and illegal activities . . .

Kim Chol Sok

In the March 2022 UN Panel of Experts report, an individual referred to as a North Korean Intelligence Officer of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), who ran casinos, hotels, restaurants and bars in Cambodia. This individual was named Kim Chol Sok – who was reported to use several alias names including:

  • Sok Kha
  • Lee Un-Kang
  • Chang Sok-Kha
  • Kang Hyok
  • Li Yin-Chiang
  • Steven Lee

One of Kim’s businesses was a travel agency called C.H World Travel Co. Ltd. According to Cambodian authorities, this company was shut down along with its bank accounts. NK News found that in February 2022 this company was still legally registered and its social media was still posting content in September last year, although appearing to have changed its name to OD International Travel.

Cover photo from OD International Travel Facebook page

Money Laundering and Human Trafficking

Knowing that Kim is involved in the entertainment world, it wouldn’t be too far to say that Ri and Kim would have crossed paths, especially as Kim’s travel agency is also based out of Phnom Penh (the same place as Ri’s Unhasu Restaurant!) With both of these individuals having worked in the same city and both known for sanction breaking activity, we believe Kim Chol Sok and Ri Chol Nam worked together on several occasions. From our sources, Ri Chol Nam and Kim Chol Sok were also possibly involved in running money laundering schemes together and with reports of Casinos being used to launder money we wonder if this one way their relationship was mutually beneficial.

During 2014 to 2019 Casino licenses in Cambodia increased by 263% even though the country’s ban on online gambling curtailed the growth. Due to the huge increase in gambling establishments, Police began to struggle to monitor them and thy became attractive to organized crime and money laundering.

Both Ri Chol Nam and Kim Chol Sok are known for sanction breaking activities and Ri also has connections to individuals who operate within the Taiwanese criminal underworld. Kim was sanction by the Department of the treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2015 for connections to DPRK’s weapon proliferation efforts and led a criminal empire of business in Cambodia that trafficked illegal drugs, counterfeited currency and offered illegal gambling services.

An article by Agbrief about Kim Chol Sok, also mentioned forced labor in Casinos that goes as far as human trafficking! We at Pyongyang Papers wonder if Kim uses his travel company to bring in workers for his entertainment businessesif you have any information to back this theory up, please do get in contact. Lee Hong Mann is also included as a second director at CH World Travel, we wander if she is involved too? Lee’s surname may hint at an ethnicaly Korean background but does not appear in any of the UN reports. A scan of a passport appearing to belong to Lee suggests she has been granted access to Canada until at least 2025!

Cambodia and organized crime

Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world where North Korean can go to set up illegal business to interact with legitimate communities around the world – reports show that Pyongyang backed counterfeiters have been laundering fake $100 bills in Cambodia, noting these indivduals also had Cambodian identity cards and passports. Cambodia sells these passports to the highest bidders and the North Koreans pay – to add to this, the Cambodian authorities reported to the UN that Kim Chol Sok used fake diplomatic passports. No question to how he got hold of those!

As of October 2021, the Cambodia authorities were taking legal action to bring Kim Chol Sok to trial but he has not returned since leaving the country in November 2020 – if you have any information on Kim’s whereabouts please do get in touch through the ‘contact us’ page. Even though both Ri Chol Nam and Kim Chol Sok have left Cambodia, we believe they are still working together.

North Koreans brokering deals and earning commission seems to be a current trend that Pyongyang Papers is investigating on a regular basis. This option of earning currency to send back to the regime is attractive as it allows North Koreans to earn money without ultimately having to be directly involved in the movement of good and services which may come under scrutiny. Brokering deals is also very attractive as it allows the North Koreans to stay under the radar of law enforcement whilst ensuring the deals appear completely legitimate. In many cases the vendors involved in the deals may not be aware that North Koreans are facilitating the deal!

Chong Sang-Hun

As mentioned previously, Chong Sang-Hun is an official at the DPRK embassy in Thailand who often brokers deals to earn huge amounts of commission with minimal risks. His previous deals involve gold, coking coal and copper cathodes. Pyongyang Papers sources have informed us that Chong is currently working on a commission based deal worth millions of dollars on behalf of Taiwan based company Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing Inc. (欣憶電子股份有限公司) – SEM.

SEM street view
Street view of the Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing office in Taoyuan, Taiwan

SEM, also known as Xinyi Electronic Co., Ltd. at times are “One of the renowned suppliers and exporters of semiconductor machinery in Taiwan” according to their website and are based in Zhongli District in Taoyuan City. Their primary business is buying, selling, leasing and refurbishing semiconductor related equipment. Pyongyang Papers wonders how much the chairman Chu Smith knows about North Korean involvement in brokering business deals for his company? We are continuing to investigate Chong and SEM but if you have any information regarding the deal, please get in touch through the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Brokering deals – A worrying trend

North Koreans and their friends brokering deals, either for the regime or to help the regime, is not new but does appear to increasing in regularity. Back in 2012, a notorious British international arms dealer named Michael Ranger was prosecuted and jailed for brokering an arms deal between North Korea and Azerbaijan. The latest UN Panel of Experts midterm report also note that Haegumgang Trading Corporation, a DPRK weapons trading entity, was planning on brokering $3.5 million worth of military equipment to Nigeria in June 2021, And in July 2021 a South Korean-born Australian named Chan Han Choi was sentenced to over 3 years in prison for breaking UN sanctions by trying to broker deals for missile components and coal to raise funds for the regime, Chan Han Choi had a history on involvement with North Korea and had previously tried to involve North Korean athletes in the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Allowing the DPRK to broker deals, and their allies to broker deals on behalf of North Korea unchallenged ensures that the regime has a steady flow of cash to continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions and maintains instability in Asia. Recently the DPRK regime has increased their missile tests to unprecedented levels with Kim Jong Un recently stating the DPRK’s need to secure “overwhelming military power”. This has North Korea watchers around the world wondering if a nuclear test may be imminent. Pyongyang Papers calls on the UN and other investigative bodies to look into the use of brokers and the role they play in avoiding sanctions.

As always, if you have any information regarding the topics in any of our articles, please get in touch through the ‘Contact Us’ page

North Korea is one of the only few countries worldwide that is still not a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), choosing instead to continue exploiting its citizens and using forced unpaid labor to fuel its economy.

High number of DPRK laborers in China are only increasing

Since Kim Jong Un became leader of the DPRK in 2011, the number of workers sent abroad has increased to earn foreign currency for the regime. DPRK contracts with foreign governments including: Russia; parts of Africa; East and South East Asia; Middle East and Eastern Europe are all receiving forced labor with their movements and communications under constant scrutiny by DPRK government ‘minders’. Any complaints by the workers, or those who flee, will have consequences and will result in action being taken against their relatives back in the homeland.

We all know the Human Rights are an issue when related to the DPRK, well, Pyongyang Papers have been tipped off about incidents of assault amongst North Korean Laborers by their unit managers within their neighbors and close ally, China. Is China also turning a blind eye to this behavior? The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a long record of circumventing sanctions in order to trade with the DPRK. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Person’s report, there are between 20,000 to 80,000 DPRK workers in China. With reports suggesting that the Chinese Labor market is worsening (worse than the official monthly figures) with less jobs available nationwide and Chinese youth jobless rates hitting record high of 20% in July, we are not sure how much work there actually is for these thousands of North Korean workers when they get to China. With money still being sent home to the Regime, China is paying the price for this partnership.

Forced to work in poor conditions

Those that do have work are subject to back-breaking labor for 12 hours a day and are even banned from leaving their accommodation or work places since the Covid pandemic – even before that, they were only allowed to leave for their local markets in small groups. Add these poor conditions to the reports of assaults, the DPRK workers are more like slaves! North Korean authorities have also sent orders to the North Korean consulate, underscoring that officials should keep a closer eye on the workers to prevent them form fleeing and to work harder. These orders have obviously trickled down to the managers and put pressure on them to deliver! Pyongyang Papers would like to think this is isolated, but fears the worst, as we understand several China-based DPRK labor cooperation managers had verbally abused, along with physically attacking their fellow countrymen.

North Korean workers and imports continue to cross border into China  despite UN sanctions | South China Morning Post
DPRK laborers allowed to leave their dorms

As well as failing to send the DPRK workers home before December 2019 deadline (as ordered by UN sanctions), it looks like the Chinese companies that employ these illegal workers also have no regard for their safety and well being. There is no excuse for this behavior and in a civilized society this conduct would not be tolerated. Perhaps the managers are more concrrned by meeting targets than the welfare of their underlings.

There are so many wrong doings on DPRK workers in China but as usual, money comes before basic human rights. Will the international community stand by the people of North Korea by putting further pressure on Pyongyang? If you have any information about DPRK workers in China, please reach out to us.