North Korean Diplomats Resort to Some Novel Ways of Earning Money

No one every claimed that being a diplomat was a path to retaining your dignity or self-respect. But there really should be limits.

Because North Korea has been hit by sanctions, there is precious little hard currency. Once Kim Jong Un’s inner circle gets their rake off and the weapons programs and the military are funded, there isn’t any to spare for diplomatic salaries. Not only are they shortchanged, they are under the gun to send hard currency back home. In fact, North Korea’s diplomatic corps operates much more like a RICO violation than a diplomatic service.



Each North Korean diplomatic mission overseas is required to send back around $100,000 to the North each year, the agent-turned-defector allegedly said. They used to complain that new leader Kim Jong-un is too demanding.

Each North Korean diplomat is estimated to have been given up to 20 kg of drugs, so the North Korean embassy in the East European country may seek to sell around 200 kg.

Under the guidance of Room 39, a secretive agency that managed the private coffers of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the North has been producing various types of illegal drugs and selling them abroad. South Korean authorities estimate North Korea’s annual output of illicit drugs amount to 3,000 kg that translate into revenues of between $100 million and $200 million.

But now the pressure is really on and these two stories from Pakistan give a flavor for the pressure that North Korea is under:

The North Korean ambassador to Pakistan and his wife have been allegedly physically tortured by excise officials at their residence in Karachi; it has been reported by local media sources.

The North Korean embassy in Islamabad addressed a letter to the government of and the Deputy General (DG) Excise department, requesting the authorities to take necessary action against the incident that reportedly took place on April 9.

As per the complaint, ‘10 or more armed and unarmed excise officers illegally entered into the embassy residence and brutally shackled the diplomat in [an] organised way.’ The diplomat received injuries on his elbows and legs and bruised on his wrists and ankles while his wife was injured on her face, head and wrists and much of her hair were pulled out by male and female excise officials, the letter stated further.

“The female official threatened the diplomat’s wife, aiming the gun at her face,” the letter added.


This has the air of the the crack dealer who makes a police complaint about being ripped off. Allegedly the whole thing is on CCTV but this certainly seems like the North Korean ambassador was “involved in activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.”

This is my favorite:

Neighbors say when three men kicked down the doors and burgled the home of a North Korean diplomat in Islamabad last month, it took them more than three hours to lug out their booty: thousands of bottles of Scotch whisky, beer and French wine.

The robbers came prepared. Police and witnesses said they brought three cars and a small truck to plunder Hyon Ki Yong’s trove of alcoholic drinks, which is worth more than $150,000 on the black market in a country where it is illegal for Muslims to consume alcohol.

The police, who recovered much of the stash soon after the Oct. 3 burglary, say that the three robbers were police officers and have issued arrest warrants for them and for a member of a well-known bootlegging family. They have also arrested Hyon’s housekeeper.

Senior police and customs officials say the discovery of such a large amount of liquor has led them to conclude that some North Korean diplomats are involved in selling alcohol either to make money for themselves or to provide funds for the cash-starved regime in Pyongyang.


This kind of stuff is going to become more and more frequent as the screws are tightened on North Korea.


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