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North Korea

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL2177, tabled on 20 October 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the level of imports to North Korea of luxury goods in 2013; what assessment they have made of the impact of such imports on the availability of food in that country, in the light of the World Food Programmes's analysis of the situation; and what assessment they have made about the number of goods which were imported from European states which are prohibited from selling luxury goods to North Korea under existing United Nations sanctions.

Answered on

3 November 2014

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) does not produce economic statistics, meaning the UK cannot make an accurate assessment on the level of imports of luxury goods. A recent report produced by the UN Panel of Experts, established under UN Security Council Resolutions imposing sanctions on the DPRK, notes ongoing investigations regarding potential violations of sanctions through the import of luxury goods, including some items originating from European states.

We are also aware of recent South Korean media reports which suggest that the DPRK imported luxury goods worth (US) $644m during 2013. However, given the lack of reliable data, it is difficult to assess the impact of the import of luxury goods on the provision of food for the general population. Should it be proven that the DPRK authorities chose to spend resources on luxury goods rather than feeding the population, this would not only be a deliberate breach of sanctions but would seriously call into question the regime’s economic prioritisation.

Despite generally good aggregate cereal harvests for the fourth consecutive year in 2014/15, 16 million people remain chronically food insecure and highly vulnerable to production shocks. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation/World Food Programme Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to the DPRK 2013, reported an estimated uncovered food deficit of 40,000 tonnes for that marketing year. The report stated that the food security situation remained similar to previous years with most households having borderline and poor food consumption.