North Korea’s Drug Dealing Diplomats

Editor’s note: Contributing editor Saeyoung Park files this post from on the road, following her attendance at the Association for Asian Studies annual conference in San Diego.

Earlier this month, a Washington Post blog post referred to a Chosun Ilbo article ( Kr.) which stated that North Korean diplomats stationed at an unnamed Eastern European country had each been given 20 kg of drugs to sell. Supposedly, the diplomats were ordered to remit the value of their drugs, about 300,000 USD, by early April or before the “Day of the Sun” (the April 15 DPRK holiday celebrating Kim Il Sung’s birthday). The Chosun Ilbo

A chain of signifiers.

A chain of signifiers.

one of the major right-leaning newspapers in South Korea contextualized the diplomatic drug dealing within a broader history of DPRK state-sponsored trafficking, referring to the existence of a Work Unit 39 that has purportedly been responsible for the export of “some of the best quality meth worldwide” to Chinese markets. The Washington Post blog post has drawn enough attention in the current tense phase of peninsula relations, that the official DPRK news agency, the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), has directly attacked the Washington Post and the blog post’s author, Max Fisher (see Fisher’s response).

At this point, little in the news would probably surprise readers about North Korea. And that, actually, is a problem. Continue reading →

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