Good reporting from the NYT: how North Korea smuggles goods in defiance of UN sanctions

March 18, 2020 • 1:15 pm

They’re trying to decide now whether to completely shut the University of Chicago campus, which of course worries me as I may lose access to my ducks—a complete disaster for both me and my mallards. So forgive me if posting is light and relatively brainless until this is resolved.

I meant to post this the other day, but it slipped between the cracks. It’s the kind of article that the New Woke Times should be publishing: solid investigative journalism, not woke puffpieces that have “Here’s what you need to know” as the subheader.

This piece (click on screenshots below), is a really engrossing investigation, combined with a video, about the circuitous ways North Korea evades UN sanctions using cryptocurrency, fake documents, circuitous routes of ships, shell companies, and the cooperation of China, Russia, and even South Korea (which probably had no idea what was going on). The object: to get luxury armored cars, worth half a million dollars apiece, into the DPRK. Those cars are used to ferry about the overfed leaders of the country, including Kim Jong-un. Be sure to watch the 5-minute video, which shows the shipping methods in detail; it’s mesmerizing.  And the same procedures are undoubtedly used to get other prohibited goods into North Korea, including material to help them make nukes.

A few words from the article:

The upcoming annual report from the United Nations Panel of Experts gives more detail on the smuggling of two armored Mercedes sedans that were shipped from the Netherlands to East Asia in 2018 and that were the subject of an investigation by The New York Times and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in July.

The U.N. panel did its own investigation after the article and video appeared, and concluded that the cars were shipped from Europe after they were in the possession of two Italian companies — apparently the start of the supply chain, according to a draft of the report seen by The Times. The United Nations is expected to release the report this month.

. . . Over all, China and Russia have weakened the sanctions and are aiding the illegal smuggling, say American officials, analysts and the reports. In December, the two nations proposed to the United Nations an easing of sanctions.

American officials and analysts cite satellite images that show transfers involving North Korean ships in Chinese territorial waters as evidence of efforts to evade the sanctions.

. . .The holes in sanctions go well beyond the importing of luxury goods. North Korea is raising millions of dollars through the smuggling of commodities, the U.N. report says.

Last October, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts from 2014 to 2019, wrote on the 38 North website that the “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea was “on its last legs.”


Be sure to watch this video (link here as well).

35 thoughts on “Good reporting from the NYT: how North Korea smuggles goods in defiance of UN sanctions

  1. I’ve been wondering how NK has been doing during this pandemic. No news is probably not good news, for them.

    1. I’ve been wondering what’s happening there too. If it spreads there despite them being shut off, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t get there eventually, there’s no way they’d be capable of coping. Further, the population is already weakened by lack of food and generally poor healthcare. I’d expect a higher than average death rate there.

  2. They’re trying to decide now whether to completely shut the University of Chicago campus, which of course worries me as I may lose access to my ducks—a complete disaster for both me and my mallards.

    Count me in if you want to crowdfund a Berlin-Airlift-style solution.

    I’ve been feelin’ a real civil-disobedience state of mind coming on anyway.


      Aren’t drones the easy, cheap solution? Expertise in which UofC must have. In buckets. Pick up duck lunch in bucket, fly to Botany Pond, dump, video who gets what.

      Maybe develop a bit of duck-beak ID technology along the way.

      And that’s not even thinking outside the bucket, or box.

      1. No, for many reasons. A drone would scare the hell out of the ducks, and if I did it more than once they’d leave for good. Also, I have to make sure the food gets to the hens preferentially.

        Others have suggested this, but putting a noisy object over a bunch of very skittish and wary ducks is just not on.

        1. Fair enough.

          Meanwhile a putative early ancestor of the duck (or chicken, or both) has been identified:

          “As best as we can tell, this fossil sits very close to the common ancestor of two major groups of living birds – the group that eventually gave rise to chickens and their relatives, and the group that eventually gave rise to ducks and their relatives,”

          Doubtless we will hear more of this.

    2. Good luck, I’m not quite sure how they close down the campus, closing or restricting access to buildings is easier but there are some things that are essentially impossible to stop – ongoing in vivo studies for example, mouse colonies won’t take care of themselves.

      I saw an email re the first case in a UofC student this morning. Which I’m sure is of concern. Talked to friends in the Bay Area yesterday where UCSF research is apparently pretty much shut down (you can still feed your mice, I’m told) but apparently walking on the beach is fine as long as you keep away from everyone else.

      Stay well

      1. … there are some things that are essentially impossible to stop – ongoing in vivo studies for example, mouse colonies won’t take care of themselves.

        Made me think of a comparative psychology class I took as a college sophomore or junior. We studied animal behavior. It was a pretty cool class in which we went out and studied some animals in their natural habitat — beavers building dams, for example. One of our assignments was to each train a white rat in a Skinner box. It was early Spring quarter and some dingbat left the lab windows open one night. It got below freezing, and everyone’s white rat died.

        Shame of it was, I was getting attached to my little fella — more attached than I was to the professor, anyway (or than I was rapidly unbecoming with my girlfriend at the time, now that I think of it). 🙂

  3. Never mind the pandemic, I’ve been wondering just how much of a threat NK’s nuclear ambitions actually are.

    Not much, I conclude. I mean, you really think Russia, and China in particular, aren’t all over, in every sense, this tiny tinpot nation on their doorstep? (NK has boarders with both.)

    I say this from general principles (‘We are way bigger than you’), than any empirical evidence, so am happy to be rebutted!

  4. Seems the Donald has lost interest in enforcing the “maximum pressure” campaign — and is willing to look the other way while Kim Jong-un stockpiles fissile material, nuclear bombs, and mid-range missiles — so long as one Dear Leader occasionally writes grandiloquent love letters to the other.

  5. And today the stock market has dropped below its level on Inauguration Day….. I’m sure Trump will tout this as some sort of record – “greatest drop ever, stunning…”

  6. Both Russia and China have been playing Trump like a cheap violin from the beginning. It has been China’s policy to continue the survival of N. Korea since the Korean War. It is their border separation from S. Korea and the rest of Asia.

    1. Would you say that China has been playing Amuricun bizness to the extent that the latter all too easily off-shores its manufacturing to the former?

  7. Interesting dear leader needs these vehicles, who in that wretched country wants him dead 🙄 Certainly not the Russians or Chinese as dear leader is a snub to the west, as in a cold war hangover to the former and a distractor challenge for power (directed at the US) to the latter. A dangerous game. But I guess he gets to ponse about and show off his dear-ness to his people. What a charmer.

  8. If they close the campus, they may be willing to give you a key to the gate so you can periodically attend to “essential” department business.

    1. Yes, getting exercise and taking care of the eiderly (!) are valid excuses for going outside. (Making a terrible “eider” pun about mallards is somewhat less excusable – apologies in advance.)

  9. “lose access to my ducks”? Can’t believe the University would want to deny you access; my guess is they haven’t even thought about it.

    Start with campus security and see what they might need to know to make this happen. (Good publicity for them at minimal cost.)

    One or two persons that they know, on a humanitarian mission, is no disruption to a big University who will still have to have security people on premises, no matter what.

  10. Regarding access to the campus: they’ll have to make exceptions for a couple of janitors – sorry, “facility managers” – to make sure the whole thing still stands when they want to reopen it. Maybe you can get an exception as well (urgent business! No contact to other people!), or at the very least find a janitor who feeds the ducks for a generous tip?

    1. “at the very least…a generous tip”…and so begins the gradual break down of law and order. Civilization begins to crumble. Bribery, and fraud become the order of the day. But, at least the ducks get fed. 😎

  11. Why Mercedes? If I were Kim Yung Un, I’d go for Rolls Royces. But maybe he’s thinking he should not spend too much on luxury cars, Thinking of his people and all that 🙂
    The DPRK will not stop their nuclear arms program, it is their only insurance. Folding to US demands has often resulted in disaster for those kind of dictatorial regimes (Iraq, Lybia….). The rulers of the DPRK maybe despicable, but idiots they are not.

  12. Please alter my receipt of your newsletters to  I barely open this address any longer 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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