N. Korea's Luxury Imports Surge Under Kim Jong-Un

The young North Korean leader who has pledged to improve the standard of living for his people appears to have meant that in the narrowest possible sense, according to a recent S. Korean analysis of that nation’s luxury imports.

Luxury imports, which are banned from N. Korea under UN Security Resolution 1718, surged from $446 million in 2010 — before Kim succeeded his father — to $584 mil. in 2011 and $645 mil. in 2012, according to the report released by Yoon Sang-hyun, a lawmaker with the ruling Saenuri Party. N. Korea’s luxury imports had averaged just $300 million a year under Kim’s late father Kim Jong-il, a leader frequently pilloried by foreign media for spending lavishly on luxury goods while a quarter of his nation’s people suffered severe chronic food shortages.

“A relevant organization in the country analyzed the circumstance of North Korea’s import of luxury items,” said Yoon, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. “The analysis says even under the rule of Kim Jong-un, the import of North Korea’s luxury items is surging every year, reaching record-breaking figures.”

It should be noted in fairness that Kim Jong-un didn’t assume power until the end of 2011. The percentage of increase in luxury imports between 2011 and 2012 is 11%, significantly less than the 30% jump between 2010 and 2011 when his father was ruling the country.

The biggest category of N. Korea’s luxury import in 2012 was electronic devices at $370 million, followed by liquor like scotch and wine at $31 million, and perfumes and cosmetics at $6.3 million. Other significant categories of luxury imports included fur coats, watches, supplies for pet dogs, including shampoo and toothpaste, infant products made in Europe and the US, and German sauna equipment.

Yoon’s report blasted the regime for spending foreign exchange on luxury goods for the Kim family and its cohorts instead of on improving the livelihoods of the people.