| North Korea has significantly raised its imports of luxury products since Kim Jong Un was named leader, raising speculation that he is employing "gift politics" with top aides to stabilize his rule.
Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun, a member of the National Assembly`s foreign affairs, trade and unification committee, released Wednesday an analysis of closed trade data between North Korea and China, saying the North`s imports of luxury goods via Chinese customs reached 446.17 million U.S. dollars in 2010 and 584.82 million dollars last year. The figure was 272.14 million dollars in 2008 and 322.53 million dollars in 2009.
Kim Jong Un debuted in the Stalinist country`s political scene in September 2010, when he was appointed general of the North Korean People`s Army.
Imports were especially pronounced for high-end cars, TVs, computers, liquor and watches. Inbound shipments of luxury cars and associated components almost doubled to 231.93 million dollars last year from 115.05 million dollars in 2009. Ship exports increased more than 20 times from 17.48 million dollars from 840,000 dollars over the same period.
Artworks and antique imports reached 580,000 dollars last year, more than 10 times the figure of 50,000 dollars in 2009. Perfume, cosmetics and fur saw their inbound shipments double. Among items that saw sharp drops in imports were leather products and musical instruments.
In 2006, the United Nations banned member countries from exporting luxury goods to North Korea under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, entrusting them to decide on the items. South Korea also designated 13 luxury goods for the export ban in 2009. China has yet to designate its items, and North Korea is growing more dependent on imports from China.
Rep. Yoon said, "The value of North Korea`s luxury goods imports last year was enough to buy 1.96 million tons of wheat. Kim Jong Un is neglecting his starving people, importing far more luxury goods than his father did to give as gifts to top aides and the elite to boost his weak power base."