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N. Korea imports US$644 mln worth of luxury goods in 2013: lawmaker

All Headlines 10:53 October 07, 2014

SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea imported US$644 million worth of luxury goods last year despite U.N. sanctions banning the transfer of such goods to the country, a South Korean lawmaker claimed Tuesday, citing Chinese customs data.

Luxury goods, including certain kinds of jewelry, precious stones, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars, have been banned from transfer to North Korea under a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in response to the North's nuclear test in February 2013.

Still, North Korea continues to buy luxury items from China, Europe and Southeast Asia, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing Chinese customs data on two-way trade with North Korea and studies on North Korean trade patterns.

"(North Korea) is increasing the supply of goods at department stores for Pyongyang's elite, while also increasing the import of goods to be used as gifts for senior party and military officials who form the core class that preserves the regime," Yoon said.

In recent years, the communist country has especially bought more liquor, watches, handbags, cosmetics, jewelry and carpets, leading to a doubling of imports of luxury goods under the current leader, Kim Jong-un, from an average of $300 million under his father and former leader Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.

North Korea also spends about $200,000 annually on imports of purebred pet dogs, such as shih tzus and German shepherds -- which are not classified as luxury goods -- and related care products from Europe, Yoon said.

With the money spent on importing luxury goods last year, North Korea could buy more than 3.66 million tons of corn or 1.52 million tons of rice, far more than the country's food shortage of 340,000 tons estimated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program for the year 2013-2014, he added.

hague@yna.co.kr
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