Three Stories of Smuggling



When in Hawaii I read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. My friends say it's hopelessly passé but I can pick it up in the morning on the way back from the gym or a run. (Yeah, I even read it on paper. Totally old school. Or just old.) So imagine my complete astonishment when I opened it up on Tuesday morning and encountered the headline: “North Korean man arrested in purchase of military optics” Holy Smokes! A North Korean crime wave right here in Waikiki!

The man, a North Korean using a Cambodian passport residing in China (got that?), allegedly came to Honolulu to purchase six pairs of military-grade night-vision goggles with the aim of exporting them to China. He got busted when he went to my neighborhood post office and tried to mail this gear back to China labeled "toys." But why? Were these for North Korean use? Chinese use? Was this a government operation or just some kind commercial deal? Song Il Kim has been extradited to Utah where the undercover sting originated, but we’ll try to keep an eye on this one.

Speaking of old school, back in May, VOA and DailyNK reported a diplomat-rhino-horn-smuggling arrest in Mozambique. The North Koreans have been at this for a while: back in the 1990s I know that they received a formal diplomatic démarche from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species for just this sort of activity. Sorry to hear it’s still going on.

I suppose I am less bothered by matsutake mushrooms, considered a delicacy in Japan. According to the Asahi Shimbun, “Kyoto prefectural police found a document stating that the reclusive state would continue exporting matsutake to Japan as a “national project.”” The story claims that the smuggling project was initiated in 2006 after Japan imposed economic sanctions damaging North Korea’s export revenues. The North Koreans would smuggle in the mushrooms selling them via the Chongryon. The document emerged in the course of an investigation of three men, one the son of the Chongryon head, who were arrested for smuggling in May. Two of the men were arrested.  One, Kim Yong Jok, pled guilty, but Ho Jong Do, a son of Ho Jong Man, leader of the Chongryon, asserted his innocence in his trial in the Kyoto District Court.

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