North Korea’s imports of luxury items continue to rise despite international sanctions, it has been reported.
A ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker with the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee, Yoon Sang Hyun released the news earlier today, asserting that the total value of the imports rose to $645.8 million in 2012, up from $446.1m in 2010 and $584.8m in 2011.
The import figure was around $300m in both 2008 and 2009, implying, if accurate, that luxury imports could have doubled in value since Kim Jong Eun began attempting to cement his power base.
Included in last year’s shipments included a number of dogs, as well as their food, nutritional supplements, antibiotics, shampoo and even toothpaste, all originating in Europe. European and American-made infant products like cradles and bathtubs also featured, along with high-grade personal sauna equipment manufactured in Germany.
Musical equipment was also imported, with subsequent TV and radio broadcasts suggesting it was for the use of the Moranbong Band and Unhasu Orchestra, while high-ranking cadres are known to have received medium-size Japanese and Chinese cars.
Last year also saw increasing imports of televisions, computers and other electronics ($371m), spirits and wine ($30.1m), perfume and makeup ($6.3m), leather goods including handbags ($6.75m), fur clothing ($7.8m) and luxury watches ($8.1m).
These luxury items are typically given as gifts to high-ranking party members and cadres, or are sold to the relatively affluent classes via Pyongyang department stores and foreign currency-only outlets.
“Each luxury import item is being spread throughout Pyongyang in order to induce loyalty from the core class that preserves the North Korean system,” Yoon pointed out. “The exorbitant amount of foreign currency that should be used for improving the lives of the people is instead being frittered away in maintaining the opulent lifestyle of the Kim family, and in maintaining their grip on power.”