Numerous recent stories highlight North Korea's continued entanglement with various sanctions regimes around the world.
First, Korean-American businessman Park Woo-il, aka Steve Park, above left, best known for importing North Korean soju and copping a plea after being arrested for lying to the FBI, announced that he had signed an MOU with the North Korean government to re-open Mt Kumgang to tourism. Only problem is that under Executive Order 13570 he has to get a waiver from the Treasury, and he has about as much chance of getting that waiver as I have of getting drafted by the NBA. Assuming that the story is true and not just delusional self-aggrandizement on Park’s part, one really has to wonder what the North Koreans think that they are doing.
Next, the Treasury stepped up and slapped sanctions on a Syrian state-owned bank for its involvement in North Korean proliferation activities, and then whacked the country’s largest cell phone operator for good measure. Bashar Assad, above right, just can’t catch a break. Maybe he can get together with Park and drown his sorrows in some of that Pyongyang soju…
Earlier this summer, Japanese authorities arrested a man, believed to be a North Korean spy, for violating Japanese sanctions by illegally shipping three Mercedes Benz automobiles from Japan to North Korea.
So much for illegal exports. How about illegal imports? The South Koreans arrested a Korean-Chinese woman for allegedly importing more than 1,300 pieces of North Korean art, including paintings from the country's famous Mansudae art "factory." The woman's accomplice in the scheme was her North Korean husband, working out of China, who was apparently part of an authorized "funding squad." Well, it beats crystal meth, I suppose.
Lastly, Canada, which, as my colleague Professor Haggard observes, has been on a roll, in response to North Korean provocations over the past year tightened its sanctions regime banning exports, imports, and new investment, as well as proscribing financial services and the provision of technical data, with an exception for humanitarian aid. The impact on North Korean behavior is doubtful: trade between the two countries was a paltry $13 million last year, and North Korean trade with its largest partners, China and South Korea, continues to grow.