Traders send piles of cash by train to evade remittance block

Seol Song Ah  |  2016-03-31 17:52
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In response to the harsh international sanctions imposed by the UN, which seek to curtail overseas remittances to the North Korean government through financial institutions, North Korean traders are reportedly relying on passenger trains from Beijing to Pyongyang to transport cash across the border. 

On the 29, Daily NK spoke with a Chinese source with ties to North Korea, who said that because remittance of dollars and other global currencies through financial institutions to North Korea has been suspended, trading representatives have been covertly sending their cash by train. As Chinese customs officials tend to implement a lower level of scrutiny toward cargo coming in on passenger trains than they do for cargo that is shipped, North Korean traders have realized that this course of action carries the least risk. 

In order to circumvent customs inspections, traders are stuffing suitcases and other luggage full of cash and transporting it by passenger train. These traders are covering the cash with aluminum foil, which apparently shields it from being detected by the security wands used by officials when inspecting baggage. This has so far proven to be a highly effective strategy, the source explained.

Bulk cash transfers and large cash transactions between Chinese and North Korean banks have been suspended as a part of the recent round of sanctions imposed by the UN, and our source confirmed this to be the case on the ground. In addition, the brakes have been put on the transfer of cash through customs offices between Dandong and Sinuiju. 

As a result, this behavior is most likely in response to the authorities detection efforts, as a secret way to get around the restrictions. 

The authorities are taking advantage of the fact that luggage on individual passenger trains is not subject to the same rigorous inspections as trading transactions are. They are continuing to use this method with confidence. 

North Korean government officials and diplomats have been known to occasionally mail cash or carry it themselves as another way to bypass sanctions, as exemplified by the recent detainment of two North Koreans who were caught in possession of large dollar amounts in cash while transferring planes in Sri Lanka.

On March 2, the UN announced its intention to strictly enforce a specific article of the North Korea sanctions that work to prevent North Korean diplomats and sojourning employees from carrying large sums of cash across the border. This includes mandating the deportation/exile of third party nationals who assist in these acts. 

However, whether these renewed efforts will significantly affect the cash streams propping up the North Korean regime remains to be seen. Even with Chinese customs officials intensifying inspections working hard to crack down on and inspect cargo closely, North Korean traders are working just as hard to devise new ways to smuggle the cash back into their home country, said another North Korean source currently in China. 

They are coming up with new methods and tricks and secrets that we cant even imagine. 

*Translated by Natalie Grant
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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