Weaknesses in sanctions regime seen in flow of luxury items into North Korea

One of the secrets that North Korea could not keep was the insatiable appetite of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il for high-priced luxury items. It appears his taste for luxury is shared by some of his countrymen.

For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that since 2007, North Korea’s imports of cars, laptops and air conditioners quadrupled and imports of cellphones have risen by more than 4,200%.

Some analysts believe the increases in luxury purchasing represents a growing entrepreneurial class which now has the capacity to buy these goods. Other analysts see the trend as evidence that sanctions are ineffective because of China’s refusal to abide by them.

“The sanctions don’t work because as long as China allows the export of luxury goods, the North Korea elite will be paid with them to support the regime,” said Jiyoung Song, an associate fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House.”



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