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North Korean Crime-for-Profit Activities
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
Strong indications exist that the North Korean Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, or DPRK regime is involved in illicit drug production and trafficking, as well as production and trafficking in counterfeit currency, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals, with drug trafficking likely decreasing and counterfeiting of cigarettes expanding. Overall, the reported scale of this activity is significant and arguably provides important foreign currency resources to the military-oriented North Korean state. Media reports also indicate that North Korea may engage in insurance fraud as a matter of state policy. The DPRKs crime-for-profit activities are reportedly orchestrated by a special office charged with bringing in foreign currency under the direction of the ruling Korean Workers Party. With the caveat that dollar value estimates of clandestine activities are highly speculative, conservativemainstream estimates suggest North Korean criminal activity generates as much as 500 million in profit per year, with some estimates reaching the 1 billion level. A core issue is whether the income from the DPRKs reportedly widespread criminal activity is used to finance the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, thereby strengthening the DPRKs ability to maintain what many view as its truculent, no-compromise position on curbing its aggregate level of criminal activity. Moreover, the DPRK has on numerous occasions linked its ongoing participation in the Six-Party Talks to the lifting of U.S. restrictive measures against Banco Delta Asia, which are designed to sanction the Macau-based bank for its reported longstanding role in facilitating the money laundering of proceeds linked to DPRK criminal activity. The challenge facing policymakers is how to balance pursuing anti-drug, counterfeiting, and crime policies vis-a-vis North Korea against effectively pursuing other high-priority U.S. foreign policy objectives.
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