Chris Hill on North Korea’s Creative Financing

“They might have thought they were a small country that could get away with it “¦ but when you get involved with nuclear weapons, you get looked at,” said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who was on his way home from an academic conference in Tokyo, where he briefly saw his North Korean counterpart. “They should not be surprised”¦. This is life in the fast lane.”

Link here. While I don’t actually agree that Amb. Hill is the good cop here — I think that ship actually sailed with Amb. Joe DiTrani on board — Hill worked for State, which was the only part of the U.S. government that was determined in its belief that diplomacy with the North might actually go somewhere.

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Links of Interest

* The United States wants South Korea to join it in imposing sanctions against North Korean shipping. South Korea will not agree, though the move would be almost exclusively symbolic.

* LiNK will hold a fund-raising happy hour at the K Street Lounge, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, DC, on April 20th at 6 p.m.

Join us as LiNK DC hosts the K Street Lounge Happy Hour! With free first drinks, we promise a great time networking with like professionals and getting together for a good cause. $20 donation with proceeds towards Project Safe Haven, a LiNK initiative supporting over 30 Chinese safehouses that house NK refugees. LiNK is a non-proft, non-partisan, non-ethnic, and non-religious group passionate about educating the world about North Korea.

* For all its faults, I count myself a fan of the jury system, though more a fan of the military system, where the panel members are selected based on such relevant factors as age, experience, education, training, and “judicial temperament.” I often get the impression that civilian jurors fall short of the very high standards I came to expect of military panel members, who often asked better questions than the lawyers. That’s still better than the Korean system, where according to several reliable reports, the septuagenarian judges actually doze off during testimony. I like hearing that Korea plans to adopt a jury system. This little experiment, however, looked like a silly P.R. stunt to me. I also worry that a jury system will make things worse for Americans who go on trial there.

* The Chosun Ilbo is making the point I made earlier (fourth item) about Japanese pressure being needed to get the remains of a Korean returned home. You had to know someone would pick up on that.

* Who snubbed who here? Pleasanties are fine, if they’re willing to knock off the counterfeiting . . . which they still aren’t.

* He should try Netflix.

“Send me video tapes of the annual award shows for TV drama, pop songs, and comedy programs from Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC),” “A South Korean magazine ran an article about me. I’ll have to be careful,” wrote Kim Jong Nam (photo), the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, in an e-mail that he sent to his close aide in China in late 2002.

And another thing — if you forgot the Jenna Jameson DVD this time, I will freaking kill you!

* Columnist (not ex-president) Kim Dae Joong tries to come to terms with South Korea’s dependency on America, and irrational feelings that often go along with it.

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More Bad News for Kim Jong Il

From UPI:

The United States plans to enact tougher restrictions on North Korean ships to counter suspected smuggling of drugs and weapons, diplomatic sources said.

The new measures include limiting port calls by North Korean-registered vessels in the United States and strictly screening their insurance, Japan’s Kyodo News reported Friday.

Japan did the same thing last year.

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Is Kim Jong Il Bankrupt?

There is more evidence to suggest that North Korea really is in dire financial straits after all. Some would not call this a novel conclusion to make about a country in which 2.5 million people have starved to death, but a careful reading of what NGO workers and refugees tell us of how the food was passed out suggests that the North Korean regime was not unduly upset about that, as long as its elite ate well and never lacked for brandy, luxury cars, or nice places to go bowling. Or MiGs.

Preserving that status quo meant maintaining sources of foreign exchange, most of them illegal. Operation Smoking Dragon was the first sign those sources were imperiled; the U.S. Treasury Department’s action against Banco Delta appears to have administered a powerful shock to the North Korean system of privileges on which the regime’s power structure rests. Like-minded (to me) individuals in the Bush Administration are encouraged by the results, reports Yonhap:

Newspapers here have said the U.S. policy on the North is showing signs of changing in the direction of lumping the protracted nuclear crisis with other problems, such as counterfeiting, human rights abuse, and illicit weapons trade, for a package solution.

Which would be fine with me. . . .

Hard-line officials in Washington have been encouraged by the bigger-than-expected success of their latest financial sanctions on North Korea to put pressure on the already isolated regime, they added.

The LA Times’s Barbara Demick, almost certainly the best reporter covering North Korea today, explains that the growing lure of American capital helped the Macanese authorities put Banco Delta and the North Korea trade into perspective (big ht to Plunge here):

Businesspeople here say the North Korean presence became a liability at a sensitive time. The North Korean government in Pyongyang is more unpopular than ever internationally because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the same time, China is trying to develop Macao into a gambling destination to rival Las Vegas.

After Macao reverted to Chinese control in 1999, the Chinese government busted the casino monopoly of billionaire Stanley Ho, a long-standing friend of the North Korean government and the owner of a casino in Pyongyang.

The first U.S.-owned casino in Macao, the Sands Macao, opened in 2004, and a $1.2-billion casino operated by Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn is scheduled for a September opening. Even Ho’s family — he has passed many of his casino interests to his daughter, Pansy — has struck a deal with MGM Mirage for another new casino.

“Today people here want to do business with the Americans, not the North Koreans,” said Jose Rocha Dinis, director of the Jornal Tribunal de Macau, a Portuguese-language newspaper, as he drove along a waterfront cluttered with construction cranes. “When they are seeking investment from the outside, they can’t let the North Koreans get in the way.”

For the sheer quality of the reporting, look at how Demick finds knowledgeable sources everywhere, beginning with financial crimes guru David Asher:

“Macao had to clean up its act,” said David L. Asher, a former State Department official who specialized in North Korea and was one of the architects of the action against the Macao bank. “There are $5 billion in annual gaming revenues at stake. They have to work with the United States.”

Demick assesses the impact with the help of a British banker who actually works inside Pyongyang:

The freezing of the $25 million in the Banco Delta Asia has been a particularly big blow for a government scraping by for lack of hard currency. North Korean banks kept large sums of money in the Macao bank. Now, with those accounts suspended and other banks frightened off by the Treasury Department action, North Korea has been largely cut off from international trade.

“The impact is severe,” said Nigel Cowie, a British banker based in Pyongyang who is general manager of the Daedong Credit Bank, serving mostly the tiny foreign community in the North Korean capital.

In a telephone interview from Pyongyang, Cowie said that North Korea, because it had no credit and a weak banking system, dealt almost exclusively in cash, which might have created the appearance that it was laundering money when it was not.

“I can’t speak for what everybody was doing, but I can say that in our case, a lot of legitimate business has been hurt,” Cowie said.

Legitimacy being a matter of subjective definition, one supposes. But after reading Demick’s article, you may well come away with the impression that Bush has Kim Jong Il by the balls after all. Left unresolved is whether he’ll be swayed by falsetto appeals for mercy.

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Who Is Ma Young-Ae, and What Does She Know?

[Updated 6 Apr 06; scroll down]

Via The Flying Yangban, it looks like the U.S. may be on the verge of accepting its first North Korean refugee. Like the Yangban, I’m happy about it. Unlike the Yangban, I don’t see this as necessarily precedent-setting for the broader issue of accepting refugees fleeing persecution in North Korea.

Reason: this refugee is also fleeing persecution in South Korea. No, that wasn’t a typo:

Ma came to South Korea in 2000. In April 2004, she went to the U.S. for the events of a North Korea Freedom Day organized there, but the South Korean government revoked her passport because of her anti-North Korean activities abroad. In response, Ma applied for asylum in the U.S.

What that means is that I’ve actually met Ms. Ma, although I can’t match her name with a face. Otherwise, I have no other knowledge of the matter than the reports I’ve linked here.

Why would the South Koreans do something this dumb, assuming the accuracy of the report? One excellent reason might be Ma’s background as a former North Korean counterintel agent, via this NY Times piece archived by our colleague Richardson. Having worked for the Dear Leader in China, Ma no doubt knows where some bodies are buried, and that might even know a few things about one case that’s of the utmost interest (among many others) to Rep. Henry Hyde and other powerful members of Congress — the disappearance of the Rev. Kim Dong Shik, a U.S. permanent resident who was living in Hyde’s home state of Illinois. Rev. Kim, who was sick and wheelchair-bound, was abducted from China in 2000 while trying to help North Korean refugees escape. In 2004, the South Koreans actually caught Yoo Young-hwa, one of the North Korean spies implicated in his abduction. Yoo even admitted his role, possibly hoping to get the same treatment afforded to the spy who abducted Megumi Yokota.

Despite the lack of indication that Yoo has revealed anything of interest on Rev. Kim’s whereabouts, Rep. Hyde’s letter made it quite clear that North Korea isn’t coming of the U.S. terrorism list until North Korea explains exactly what happened to Rev. Kim, except perhaps over the dead bodies of those in the Illinois delegation.

I’m speculating, of course, that Ma knows about Rev. Kim, but if she does, and tells it to the Americans, it could prove extremely embarrassing to South Korea, which consistently seeks to cover for North Korea with the United States. If Ms. Ma is willing to testify about the activities of a terrorist or criminal organization, it could be another avenue for a possible criminal indictment of Kim Jong Il, something that’s already reported to be under consideration over his counterfeiting activities.


This puts Ms. Ma in a much better legal position than the unfortunates who’ve heard that South Korea is but a stepping stone to the USA. But of course, asylum isn’t about letting people pick their favorite country; it’s about saving lives and giving refuge from persecution. That much is specifically required by this federal statute, which I’ve long considered the State Department to be willfully flouting.

That being said, if the U.S. has only so much room, better to set it aside for those in greater peril in China, Vietnam, or Thailand. For those not among the nearly 20% of refugees who report being subjected to censorship by South Korea, the ROK is a place where they can speak, live, and eat relatively freely. It’s a long-standing principle of international law that a refugee doesn’t get to hop from refuge to refuge.

Update: UniFiction Minister Lee Jong Seok is denying it:

The unification minister said the government does not and cannot suppress North Korean defectors, let alone anyone else, in the country.

“South Korea is a democratic society. How would that even be possible? I don’t know whether he is doing this to win refugee status in the United States, but it is disrespectful to the (South Korean) government and the people,” Lee told a press briefing.

Lee’s version contains some fundamental factual errors, starting with Ma’s gender, and ending with the preposterous claim that South Korea doesn’t suppress defectors’ speech. Lee ought to ask South Korea’s own National Human Rights Commission about that one.

I have no idea whether Ma is telling the truth. I just know that Lee isn’t.

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The Other Nuclear Option

Much info on the economic front of late, including some initial, sketchy evidence to back U.S. claims that the sanctions are biting.

The Chosun Ilbo continues to tremble over what the U.S. Treasury Department’s next move could be. Have a look at Section 311 (115 Stat. 298) of the USA PATRIOT Act, and if you can bear it, keep reading. It empowers Treasury to declare all of North Korea a jurisdiction of special money laundering concern — as we’ve apparently done to the Ukraine for a brief period — and thereby force the entire world economy to choose between the United States and North Korea:

[T]he designation of North Korea as a whole would likely paralyze its transactions with any international financial institutions, which must maintain a place of business in the U.S. if they are to conduct dollar transactions. “It would mean North Korea is in effect kicked out of the international financial world, where the U.S. exercises the greatest influence,” a government official said.

It’s curious to watch how North Korea’s neighbors have only just “discovered” supernotes within their own borders. Partly as a result of a single massive seizure last year, Seoul is reporting a dramatic rise in the amount of counterfeit currency detected in South Korea last year (Discrepancy alert! Was it $40,000 or $140,000? If last year’s total was in fact $121,760, I presume that it’s the lower figure.). The DailyNK reports that China is cracking down on North Korean counterfeiting, to which I’d add that the threat of sanctions against Chinese banks may have been an incentive.

Next, I pick up where James left off with this Washington Post piece, which notes that there’s some debate about how this will affect diplomacy with the North. Some believe North Korea will keep stalling; others believe North Korea’s Tokyo meeting with representatives of the other five nations means that the North is newly incentivized. The pressure isn’t relaxing yet:

Japanese politicians have made progress on both a bill threatening sanctions if it does not negotiate in good faith on the nuclear issue and a dispute over Japanese citizens abducted by the North Koreans during the 1970s and ’80s to help train potential spies. On Tuesday, Japan added 20 North Korean firms and institutions to an export restriction list aimed at keeping them from obtaining materials and technology that could have military use.

How is this affecting North Korea? It’s obviously hard to say with certainty, but the Dong-A Ilbo makes an admirable effort to pierce the opacity:

North Korean authorities no longer have access to outside financing after fiscal restrictions imposed by the U.S. blocked North Korean access to illegal funds, estimated to be worth 500 million dollars annually. These funds were largely generated from the trading of counterfeit dollars, drugs, and missiles.

The making and selling of weapons of mass destruction has become an impossible task for North Korea now because it lacks sufficient funds to buy the necessary high-tech components. Recent visitors to the North tell stories of how North Korean authorities often express their agonies over the financial crackdown.

Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il met Chinese President Hu Jintao January this year and said, “U.S. fiscal restrictions might disintegrate the North Korean system,” reported an article from the latest edition of Newsweek.

Finally, what may be the most curious story of all: why are members of the North Korean elite reportedly buying up large amounts of dollars (presumably a mixture of real and fake) on the black market?

The official exchange rate in the North is W150 per dollar. But in the black market, the greenback had soared from around W2,000 to W2,600 by late last year. “It varies from region to region, but the dollar now seems to have risen to W3,000 because of the financial sanctions,” a South Korean official said.

A North Korean defector says in some black markets in Pyongyang and Shinuiju $1 will fetch W3,800-4,000 and rising. An expert on North Korea said rumor has it that some people are hoarding dollars in the expectation that their value will keep going up.

Given that the average monthly income of North Korean workers is around W3,000, the surge has effectively reduced their wage to less than $1 a month.

Obviously, one wishes that the hardship imposed by these actions could be focused tightly on the elite, rather than ordinary workers. Barring that, it should cause us to redouble our efforts and public pressure to get a strictly monitored feeding program in place.

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Treasury Official: NK Sanctions Are Leaving a Mark

Last week, we heard that Kim Jong Il was trying to wait out President Bush. This week, a new report suggests that the converse may also be true:

The U.S. Treasury Department says its ongoing financial sanctions against North Korea put “huge pressure” on the regime that could have a “snowballing … avalanche effect.” Under Secretary Stuart Levy was quoted in the latest edition of Newsweek, which analyzed the possible effect on the regime from Washington’s identification of the Banco Delta Asia in Macau as Pyongyang’s “primary money-laundering concern” and other financial sanctions last September.

“In today’s interconnected financial world, an official U.S. move to blacklist a foreign bank would be the kiss of death, since any financial institution doing business in dollars needs to hold accounts in correspondent U.S. banks in order to complete transactions,” the weekly said. “Washington has finally found a strategy that is putting real pressure on the regime — going after its sources of cash, all across the world.”

Better yet, Treasury thinks the sanctions are hurting those whose pain ought to please us:

“From what we’ve seen, this has been affecting the North Korean elite in particular,” it quoted an expert as saying. According to a U.S. government document Newsweek says it obtained, Kim is reported to have told Chinese President Hu Jintao during a visit to China in January that his regime might collapse due to the U.S. crackdown on its financial transactions.

Later, the report says that the Bush Administration began its program of economic pressure shortly after President Bush took office. I declare myself completely unconvinced about that. It sounds like the self-serving statement of an administration that’s been gridlocked for six years and couldn’t decide on a consistent policy. Now that North Korea’s complete lack of seriousness about diplomacy is beyond question, we’ve decided to cut Roh, Chung & Co. adrift, and to cut Kim Jong Il off. Better late than never, I suppose, but is it too late?

Says Levy: “We’re just starting.”

Things have indeed been accelerating, but I’m somewhat skeptical that this has already had that significant an impact, given the North Korean regime’s opacity and surprising resiliency. Signs I will look for include significant slowing in North Korea’s surviving industries, a rise in defections by members of the elite, and the adoption by North Korea of a dramatically more flexible diplomatic position (which won’t last long). Otherwise, it’s entirely possible that the statement is designed to make this administration sound tougher than it has been.

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Two U.S. senior congressional researchers say Washington could bring criminal charges against North Korean leader Kim Jong-il over his country’s alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars. The two authors of a Congressional Research Service report say the U.S.’s increasing keenness to back up its allegations with legal evidence is fueling speculation that it is considering going after Kim.

Well, that would certainly mark a decisive policy shift — one that it would extraordinarily difficult for future presidents to reverse.  “Earthquake” might be more like it.  The effect on the U.S. relationship with both Koreas could be dramatic.  South Korea would be forced to choose.  North Korea would come under very stong pressure.  It would likely mean an abandonment of our fruitless efforts to talk Kim out of his bomb, shifting toward treating Kim himself as the problem.

Image from here.

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Supernotes Scandal to Hit Bank of China; NK Gov’t in Talks with U.S. on Counterfeiting

Via the Chosun Ilbo:

The U.S. is preparing to seize more than US$2.67 million from three frozen bank accounts with Chiyu Banking, a subsidiary of Bank of China Hong Kong. The South China Morning Post reported the funds are believed to be the first known link between a Hong Kong bank and North Korea’s underground trade in “supernotes,” or high-quality fake US$100 bills. The accounts belong to an unemployed mainland Chinese woman named Kwok Hiu Ha.

The Bank of China is a parastatal. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Beijing authorities know everything that BoC is up to, but it does mean that sanctions against China’s largest bank could hit China’s economy very, very hard. Speculation: China’s cooperative attitude may explain why Treasury is still only naming BoC subsidiaries.

North Korea is apparently feeling the pain, too. After some initial bluster and yet another declaration that it would walk out of the six-nation facade, the North Koreans are sending reps to hear a U.S. briefing on the latter’s anti-counterfeiting measures. Since appeasement has achieved nothing, we may soon see if a firmer policy will have more success. Declarations of success still seem premature, as U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow reminds us:

“There have been some signals in the last few weeks indirectly indicating that North Korea is beginning to acknowledge that there is a problem and they need to take steps to address the issues,” Mr. Vershbow told the JoongAng Ilbo and JoongAng Daily on Wednesday. The U.S. envoy to Seoul has been a strong critic of the North in his four months on the job here, and in turn has joined more senior U.S. officials in Pyongyang’s rogues’ gallery. Pyongyang media outlets took special exception to the label of “criminal regime” that the ambassador used recently in referring to the government there.

Mr. Vershbow declined to use the words again. “Looking back at that episode, my main concern is that it may have diverted attention from the real issue that I wanted to address “• illicit activities by the North Korean regime,” he said. Conceding that the substance of the issue may have been obscured by his rhetoric, he added, “Since that time, I have left it to academics and journalists to describe North Korea. I think that it is better understood by North Korea that the issues will not go away.”

That language represents a climbdown by Vershow in rhetoric, though not in substance. An emotional letdown perhaps, but the firmness of the policy position appears to be undiminished

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Caught in the Act!

I wonder what Roh Moo-Hyun will say this time. Rogue diplomats?

North Korean diplomats were caught attempting to smuggle US$1 million and 200 million yen into Mongolia on Tuesday, the Mongolian press reported. Reports said the North Koreans told Mongolian authorities they were planning to put the money in a Mongolian bank account, according to Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun.

The paper said that it was unclear whether the money was counterfeit or not, and what measures the Mongolian authorities will take. It said the incident revived concerns about North Korean involvement in money laundering.

North Korean diplomatic missions are widely believed to have been told to finance themselves by any means available.  That said, I’d be astonished if all of that cash turns out to be authentic.  The U.S. Embassy continues to assert that it showed the South Koreans fresh evidence of North Korea’s counterfeiting, despite South Korea’s claims that North Korea was not known to have engaged in counterfeiting since 2000:

It quoted an embassy spokesman as saying the U.S. government showed Korean officials “superior-quality counterfeit 2001 and 2003 series US$100 notes (supernotes) that our investigations have concluded were manufactured” in North Korea. The spokesman said U.S. investigators concluded that $140,000 uncovered by South Korean police last year were part of a batch made by Pyongyang in 2001.

The evidence was presented to South Korean officials by U.S. Treasury investigators who visited in January. An Embassy insider said there was nothing to add to the spokesman’s statement.

Opinions may vary, but facts are hard things to alter.

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Banco Delta Sanctions ‘Severe Blow’ to NK Economy

The Chosun Ilbo,  relaying an AWSJ story, reports that the Treasury Department’s action against the Macau-based bank “dealt a severe blow to the secretive country,” “dried up its financial system,” and “brought foreign trade virtually to an end.”

In December, I noted reports  that North Korean front companies and spies were fleeing Macau en masse. According to today’s story, Banco Delta has now announced that it’s ending its financial ties with North Korea in an effort to prevent a run on its assets and a devastating rash of actions by other banks to cut their ties with Delta.

Because of the high percentage of bad loans and undercapitalization in the Chinese banking system, Beijing is clearly concerned about controlling the damage to its financial system.

The evidence of North Korean counterfeiting now appears to be beyond serious dispute.  The supernote issue emerged with an undercover bust and seizure in the U.S.  Shortly thereafter, the  Justice Department indicted an ex-IRA terrorist for circulating North Korean supernotes.  In January, this article (ht Richardson; pic, too!) reported that North Korean supernotes were found at Las Vegas casinos.  Last month, a Chinese government investigation confirmed North Korea’s counterfeiting and money-laundering activities.

Recently, a Korean newspaper reported a huge seizure of North Korean supernotes in Seoul’s famous Namdaemun market, and that South Korean police even sought U.S. assistance in confirming the notes’ North Korean origin.  The disclosure was an embarassment to South Korea and its president, which had expressed  doubts about the existence of evidence of recent North Korean counterfeiting, despite presumably knowing otherwise.

Although North Korea may be  hinting that it’s willing to discuss the counterfeiting issue, the U.S. Ambassador says his government will not be satisfied until the North Koreans hand over the plates and ink.

Update:   The BBC also covers the story, with this dramatic fact (as dramatic as banking gets, anyway):

The scandal weakened Banco Delta’s financial position, with customers withdrawing 10% of its total deposits after the allegations surfaced.

Wow.  No wonder Macanese authorities had to step in to save the bank from insolvency.

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Vershbow: I’ll Believe It When I See the Plates

The U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Alexander Vershbow, is taking the fight back to “enemy” territory, as predicted.  In an interview with OhMyNews, Vershow responded to North Korean comments that some have interpreted as North Korean flexibility on counterfeiting.  Vershbow is obviously familiar with North Korea’s track record, because he wants more tangible proof that North Korea is capable of sincerity and good faith:

The U.S. ambassador to Korea, Alexander Vershbow, said yesterday that Pyongyang must show some “convincing evidence” that it had stopped counterfeiting U.S. currency notes to satisfy U.S. concerns.

Specifically, he said, the North must “provide evidence that the equipment and plates for the so-called supernotes had been destroyed so that concerns about further ability [to print more notes] will be reduced.” Mr. Vershbow was speaking to OhmyNews, an Internet news site, on Tuesday; the interview was published yesterday.

As for the South Korean position, that “rogue” North Korean businessmen may be behind the counterfeiting, Vershbow treats it with all the seriousness it merits:

He also repeated Washington’s contention that the counterfeiting program is state-sponsored, a contention that suggested a U.S. disinclination to give Pyongyang a face-saving way of stopping the printing presses and settling the issue by claiming that individuals or rogue elements of the government were responsible.

Having spent the last decade-plus pretending that North Korea was just as capable of ordinary diplomacy as the Netherlands, our government finally has an ambassador with an unencumbered grasp of reality. 

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NK ‘Spokesman’: We Have ICBMs!

Today’s WTF headline is this piece of work by Kim Myong Chol, North Korea’s unofficial and unmedicated spokesman in Japan.  The real torment of this piece is the difficulty of deciding which of the choicest cuts to serve you:

Three factors make North Korea unique. The first is possession of a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of unleashing retaliatory nuclear strikes on the US mainland. Second, the North Koreans still torment the Americans as a result of their victory over them in the Korean War. . . .

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$140,000 in N. Korean ‘Supernotes’ Found in Namdaemun

So South Korea really isn’t sure North Korea is counterfeiting our currency? Have a look at this:

The South Korean government concealed the fact that U.S. investigators told it US$140,000 in counterfeit dollars found in Seoul’s Namdaemun market last April was made in North Korea, it emerged Sunday. Police at the time arrested three people who tried to exchange 1,400 so-called supernotes at a local money changer. They allegedly bought the supernotes from a broker in Shenyang, China.

How do we know the notes were made in the North? The South Koreans asked the Secret Service who made them, and the Americans then did a forensic comparison between them and known North Korean exemplars. As to the charge of concealing, however, I’m missing something. They presumably weren’t hiding much if the South Korean police made inquiries with U.S. law enforcement authorities.

U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow recently alluded to an incident “where a large amount of counterfeit dollars was confiscated in Korea,” and police here commented they asked for investigative cooperation from Chinese authorities to discover the source of the fakes but had yet to receive an answer.

Of course, one presumes that at some point, the South Korean government knew about the find and chose to ignore the evidence anyway. It’s no cause for encouragement about South Korea’s reliability as a participant in diplomacy with the North.

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