N. Korean thieves targeting car parts sentenced to 14 years

One driver targeted by the robbers died after being drugged, sources said

Cars in North Pyongan Province man
Vehicles parked in an area of North Pyongan Province near the Sino-North Korean border. / Image: Daily NK

Four thieves who allegedly stole and sold car parts were recently sentenced to 14 years hard labor, highlighting North Korea’s efforts to combat a wave of car parts-related thefts in the country, Daily NK sources recently reported. 

The sources told Daily NK that the thieves were caught after someone reported their sale of goods stolen from a vehicle they had stolen both parts and other items from this past summer. 

During their trial, it emerged they had committed a total of seven thefts, including one where the driver of the vehicle died, the sources added. 

“The trial was held in front of the Pyongsong city market, and all four accused thieves were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor,” one of the sources explained. “Their sentence was harsh because the authorities wanted to make an example out of them.”


North Korea has seen growth in vehicles over the years, including those used for personal use and for business. Daily NK reported recently that there has been a major rise in vehicle-based delivery services, for example. 

Fueled by this increase in vehicles on the road, there has been a corresponding increase in thefts of car parts at night in Pyongsong, Sinuiju and Hamhung – all major trade centers with a large population of wealthy residents and donju, the country’s entrepreneurial class.  

According to Daily NK sources, thieves typically steal car engines, gearshifts and other key vehicular components.

The thieves reportedly use techniques familiar to car burglars the world over when casing vehicles and stealing car parts. 

After driving around roads on the outskirts of the cities to identify cars ripe for stealing, the robbers stake out the vehicles once they are parked.

Then, after drivers leave their vehicles, thieves force open the car doors and drive them to other locations where they remove parts they can sell. 


Some car thieves use even more shocking methods to steal car parts, Daily NK sources said.  

“There are some thieves who drug car drivers,” one of the sources explained. “They then remove what they want from the vehicles while the drivers are unconscious and make a break for it.” 

He added that the drivers have no way of finding out who stole from them when they come to.  

In the case of the four Pyongsong thieves, one of the drivers they drugged into unconsciousness died, Daily NK sources confirmed. 

Due to a rise in similar kinds of thefts, the sources said that North Korean officials recently issued a decree warning against the theft of car parts. Authorities even published photographs of commonly stolen parts. 

One of the sources added that following recent incidents in Pyongsong, Sinuiju and Hamhung, North Korean authorities have intensified their efforts to arrest car parts-hungry thieves in those cities.

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@gmail.com.

Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.