Story of North Korea’s Shadow Organization: Office 39


In nineteen hundred and forty-five the atom bomb became alive, In nineteen hundred and forty-nine, The USA got very wise, they found that a country from across the line had an atom bomb of the very same kind. - Atom Bomb- The Blind Boys of Alabama

How does a dictator afford to fund his own nuclear program and run one of the largest militaries in the world?


Kim Jon Un Digital Illustration by Imperium Publication. Kim Jong un black and white picture without background.

Context:


Remco Breuker is a Professor at The University of Leiden. The North Korean regime sent an indictment letter to the Dutch government charging Remco with three capital crimes.

One of the charges against Breuker was that he had harmed the 'Supreme Dignity of the Supreme Leader.'


'It sounds like it's a funny crime, but in North Korea, it carries a death penalty.' -Remco Breuker to Al-Jazeera

  • The end of the Korean war in 1953 led to the creation of two Koreas.

  • South Korea was supported by the capitalist USA, while North Korea was supported by the communist USSR.

  • On the 12th of December, 1985 North Korea signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but failed to meet the necessary safeguards.

  • North Korea announced its decision to withdraw from the NPT in 1994 as a result of the failure of the 'Agreed Framework' between the US and North Korea, which prevented the latter from manufacturing all illicit nuclear weapons in exchange for American aid.

  • Fast-forward to 2006 and North Korea under Kim Jong- Un conducted its first nuclear test. North Korea has carried out more than six nuclear tests since 2006.

The Kim family lives a very extravagant lifestyle. North Korea is said to have one of the world's largest militaries, and Kim is the only dictator with nuclear weapons.


Sean King, an Asia specialist at Park Strategies in New York, said that Kim Jong Un's family worked like a "crime family masquerading as the leaders of a country”.

North Korea is governed by an autocratic regime that is subject to a slew of international trade sanctions, yet the question remains:


"Where does Kim get his cognacs, Mercedes, and Rolex watches from?"



BUREAU 39- The Shadow Organization that funds the North Korean dictator.


What is the role of Bureau 39? How does the organization raise funds?


Office 39 is North Korea's illicit, secretive location that funds Kim Jong-Un's luxurious life. It is housed in an unspecified government building and manages and sponsors activities such as drug manufacturing, trafficking, counterfeiting, gold smuggling, arms dealing, and slave labor.

Fund-raising around the world:


1. Syria: North Korea has been sending equipment to Syria that could be used to make chemical weapons, a UN report says. The relationship between North Korea and Syria dates back to the 1990s. Kim Jong-Un earns billions of dollars just from this operation. One UN report discovered that Acid-resistant tiles, valves, and pipes used to manufacture Chemical Weapons were shipped 40 times between 2012 - 2017 as per the report.


Experts suggest North Korea has long offered military supplies and weaponry know-how to countries in exchange for cash.


There exists evidence to link North Korea's illicit trade efforts with dozens of countries and groups in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America.

In 2004, Pakistan's celebrated national hero, Abdul Qader Khan (the man responsible for the country becoming a nuclear power), admitted to leaking nuclear technology to North Korea, amongst other countries.


2. Cambodia: Tourism contributes significantly to the Cambodian economy, generating millions of dollars each year but how does North Korea benefit from this tourism? The Pyongan yan Restaurant in Cambodia is staffed by Art students from North Korea who aren't allowed to step out of the premises and are denied wages. Approximately 130 similar North Korean restaurants exist worldwide. All the cash from these enterprises goes straight to Office 39 in North Korea.


North Korea constructed the Angkor Panorama Museum for Cambodia in 2015. In return, North Korea was allowed to collect all the revenue from the museum for the first ten years.


As per Al-Jazeera, the museum made about 7 million dollars in entrance fees alone. Japan's Kyodo News which cited Cambodian government officials, reported that the Angkor Panorama Museum halted operations on the 5th January 2020, along with six other North Korean restaurants.


3. Europe, Middle East, South Africa, Russia: North Korean workers are sent across the globe to work as manual labourers. Though they are promised decent working conditions in these countries, they are made to work as slaves with 90 euros a month as salary. They lack human rights and are considered to be dispensable. These men are also monitored round the clock by state security. According to the US State Department, approximately 100,000 North Koreans are working overseas, primarily in China and Russia, earning $200-500 million for their cash-strapped home country each year.


4. North Korean embassies around the world: North Korean diplomats all over the world serve as money carriers for the dictator. Their diplomatic immunity protects these officials from persecution and travel from one part of the world to the other with foreign currency for the regime.


'These officials may be drug lords, entrepreneurs, or smugglers but you cannot touch them because of their diplomatic immunity.’

Conclusion:


Kim-Jong-Un has been the subject of numerous memes and jokes, while the entire world stays in the dark about the criminal activities this one man is carrying out across the world.


Why haven't sanctions been imposed on Bureau 39?


International organizations lack evidence. Office 39 is a code name used by defectors to identify officers involved in money laundering, no person can be directly tied to the organization.


Despite all human rights violations, Russia and China, Pyongyang’s main economic and political backers, have proposed lifting some United Nations sanctions against North Korea.