September 24, 2023

How Sanctions Stop Legitimate North Korean Trade

Will the third nuclear test lead to new sanctions that make legitimate business even trickier?

With North Korea's third nuclear test likely paving the way for another round of sanctions at the United Nations in the coming weeks, it looks like business and enterprise in the DPRK is about to get even more difficult. Having endured tightening UN sanctions for years, it's not clear yet what sanctions architects have in mind to punish Pyongyang for the latest test. But while it is often claimed that sanctions are only designed to interfere with the activities of the leadership and military, their often blunt characteristics mean there is always a risk that normal trade will be put at risk. With this in mind, what must it actually be like for North Koreans and foreigners trying to conduct legitimate business on the ground in North Korea?

Having lived and worked in North Korea for seven years as a foreign businessman, Felix Abt’s experiences showed him first hand how sanctions make it difficult, if impossible, to conduct legitimate business in areas that would otherwise be regarded as sacrosanct in other countries.  In the third of several excerpts to be published from his new book, NK NEWS brings you Abt’s account of how sanctions affect ordinary North Koreans.