U.N. Reports North Korea Evading Sanctions on a Massive Scale

Students march past a balcony from where North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un was watching, during a mass rally on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. - North Korea held a military parade to mark its 70th birthday, but refrained from showing off the intercontinental ballistic …
ED JONES/AFP/Getty

The U.N. Security Council will receive a report this week outlining North Korea’s remarkable success at evading sanctions against its nuclear missile program. According to the report, Pyongyang has been able to import petroleum, export coal, and sell weapons in spite of the toughest sanctions ever imposed against it.

The Wall Street Journal previewed the report as painting an “especially damning picture of North Korea’s ability to evade international sanctions.”

Not only has North Korea been able to do business despite sanctions, but it has done business with such customers as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen and the warring factions of Libya. Sales to the Houthis were allegedly routed through a Syrian arms tracker, looping in yet another country that keeps U.N. bureaucrats awake at night.

The U.N. report found North Korea advertising military equipment on social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. China’s WeChat messaging app was employed to coordinate hundreds of transfers of contraband at sea.

The U.N. also found North Korea raking in a huge amount of much-needed foreign currency through cybercrime. A North Korean military hacker unit was able to steal about $670 million over the past three years by raiding financial institutions and e-commerce sites.

The loot included both foreign currencies and cryptocurrency. One of North Korea’s exploits was the 2018 raid on Coincheck of Japan, the largest cryptocurrency hack on record. Another raid stole the personal information of 10 million users from South Korean e-commerce site Interpark, for which the North Korean hackers demanded $2.7 million in ransom.

The U.N. panel said North Korea favors cryptocurrencies because they are “harder to trace, can be laundered many times, and are independent from government regulation.”

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