South Korea’s Unification Ministry monitors the importation of luxury goods into North Korea and notes a notable increase in wealth among the country’s elite.
The ruling Kim dynasty and other high-ranking figures in North Korea have increased their consumption of designer imports and luxury items.
“North Korea appears to be introducing luxury goods worth hundreds of millions of Korean won, or even billions, every year for the Kim Jong Un family,” an unnamed ministry official told reporters, according to the news agency Yonhap.
He told media that “the volume of imported goods declined during the COVID-19 pandemic due to border controls, but has recovered since the second half of last year.”
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Supreme leader Kim Jong Un and his family – sometimes called the Mount Paektu lineage – have been documented in the past wearing expensive items such as Swiss watches.
North Korea began as a communist country under the protection and mentorship of the Soviet Union after the end of World War II.
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Since its inception, North Korea’s communist ideology has evolved into a philosophy known as “Juche.” which places all functional power in the hands of the “supreme leader”.
The Mount Paektu lineage and its satellite families amassed immense wealth through this system, maintaining a luxurious lifestyle even amid periods of nationwide destitution and famine.
“Kim gives luxury cars as gifts to officials he particularly favors or those who have made special achievements in the military field,” the official said, according to Yonhap news agency.
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They added: “It also distributes Swiss watches like Omega or the latest electronic devices at events commemorating the Kim family’s birthdays or the party congress.”
North Korea has been accused by international authorities of selling weapons to Russian invasion forces in Ukraine and Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
This black market represents a major revenue opportunity for North Korea, which suffers from restrictions on foreign trade due to its long history of human rights abuses.