North Korea imported $666 million worth of luxury items last year, which takes up 17.9 percent of the year’s total imports, a lawmaker here said Thursday.
According to data from the Chinese Customs revealed by Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the Liberty Korea Party, the communist state’s imports of luxury goods increased by $59 million, or 9.8 percent, from 2015.
The luxury goods included upmarket electronics, cars, leather products and watches.
Kim Jong-un (center) (Yonhap)
Electronics made up the biggest import value at $330 million, followed by high-end cars with $260 million. The reclusive state also imported some $16 million worth of liquor and drinks.
Since the young dictator Kim Jong-un took over the regime in 2012, luxury item imports have continued to rise. During his five years of rule, the North has imported $3.36 billion worth of luxury goods, according to the data.
Watches saw the biggest increase in imported amount compared to the year before, up by 47.8 percentage points, followed by cars, which rose by 31.7 percentage points, and carpets by 26.6 percentage points. Imports of jewelry and instruments dropped by 91.8 percentage points and 46.3 percentage points, respectively.
“It looks like Kim Jong-un tried to ease discontent and encourage a celebratory atmosphere among the privileged by giving out presents,” Rep. Yoon said in a press release.
Pointing to China as the main source of the trade, the lawmaker criticized the government’s passivity in preventing transactions between the two countries.
In 2006, the UN Security Council passed Sanction 1718, which includes banning all member states, including China, from engaging in the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to North Korea of luxury goods, but China has been ignoring the mandate.
Rep. Yoon stressed that actual imports would be much more than recorded by official statistics due to illegal trade and smuggling, urging the Chinese government to follow international sanctions.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)