Shining a Light on North Korea’s Illicit Shipping and Sanctions Evasion Practices (Part 2)
Lee Kok Leong, our special correspondent, interviews Mathew Ha, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on Pyongyang’s illegal maritime tactics to evade sanctions. The Foundation is a Washington DC-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Mathew’s research includes North Korea’s illicit financing, human rights, the U.S.-Korea alliance, and inter-Korean relations.
MFT: In your opinion, are these illicit tactics successful in evading sanctions? How important are these illicit tactics to Pyongyang?
FDD: Based on the evidence from the UN Panel, I would assess the North Korean government is successful in evading sanctions through these various tactics. This obviously is of crucial importance for Pyongyang as it seeks to generate revenue amid the major sanctions campaign against it for not just its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, but also the regime’s human rights violations and other issues.
However, these methods alone surrounding maritime sanctions evasion are not the only components of Pyongyang’s revenue generating schemes. The North Korean regime also explore sanctions busting schemes through several other sectors. For instance, Pyongyang still benefits from banks and financial institutions around the world allowing Pyongyang to access the international financial system to conduct illicit transactions that fuel this sanctioned maritime trade and other activities, such as arms trade and luxury goods sales.
Beyond this, the Kim regime is utilizing its state-backed hackers to conduct cybercrime against virtual currency exchanges and other traditional financial institutions to make money on behalf of the regime. Moreover, maritime sanctions tactics are only one of many tools that the Kim regime employs to undermine the UN sanctions aiming to change the Kim regime’s behavior.