North Korea buys luxury goods from China to the tune of $640m in 2017

2 Nov 2018 , 12:55pm

North Korea imported at least $640m worth of luxury goods from China in defiance of UN sanctions, a South Korean opposition lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun has claimed.

Softening of sanctions

The sanctions, a response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, were put in place as part of a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign in order to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. But since North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests and leader Kim Jong Un made moves towards denuclearisation at a US/North Korean summit in June earlier this year, the campaign has softened.

Luxury gifts

It was alleged that Kim Jong Un brought items in from China via seaplane, including expensive musical instruments, high-quality TVs, sedans, liquor, watches and fur reportedly as gifts for supporters. Yoon compiled data on the import of the luxury goods based on banned items crafted by Seoul in line with a 2009 UN resolution. Whilst Beijing said it strictly abides by international sanctions against North Korea, Yoon’s analysis claims North Korea put more than $4bn into luxury shopping in China since 2011.


In mid-October, Singapore charged a citizen, a North Korean and three companies with supplying prohibited luxury items to North Korea, which included perfumes, wines and watches.