How North Korea has evaded sanctions in the past
The man who spent most of his career serving a clandestine division of the North Korean government tasked with managing the country’s legal and illegal economic activities overseas revealed in a recent interview why sanctions have failed to stop Pyongyang from developing deadly weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them to distant targets.Is anyone surprised that a rogue regime acts like a rogue when it is sanctioned? Probably the most effective way to hurt them is to stop any financial institution that does business with them from using international funds transfers.
Ri Jong Ho is a defector who previously spent more than thirty years funneling millions of dollars into North Korea despite international sanctions. He served as an official in the secretive Office 39, which was created to manage the finances of the ruling Workers’ Party, generate foreign currency, and oversee the country’s production and trade. He stressed that sanctions have failed because there have always been ways to get around them.
“We were never in pain or hurting in our trade business because of the sanctions,” Ri explained to The Washington Post. “I used to be sanctioned, as a North Korean who led trade at the front line, but I never felt any pain from the sanctions. The sanctions were perfunctory.”
He explained that his counterparts in China never faced any serious challenges either. Looking for profit, they were largely unfazed by sanctions. “When the Chinese government orders them to stop,” Ri said, “they stop for a few days and then start up again.”
Furthermore, when specific companies are targeted, firms change their names and continue their operations.
“North Korea is a 100 percent state enterprise, so these companies just change their names the day after they’re sanctioned,” Ri explained, “That way the company continues, but with a different name than the one on the sanctions list.” But, of course, there are other ways around sanctions.