May 19, 2024

North Korea’s 42 ton black-market alcohol imports in Pakistan

Ben Young looks at the DPRK’s involvement in the black-market alcohol trade

Due largely to inadequate government funding, North Korean diplomats posted abroad have long resorted to “creative” solutions to generate their operating budgets. The North Korean government set up the majority of its embassies, especially those in the developing world, during the height of the competition with South Korea for votes in the United Nations. Pyongyang could not properly fund its embassies and therefore established this self-reliant policy for its diplomats. North Korean diplomats truly embodied the Juche spirit, the North Korean ideology which is often translated as “self-reliance” in Western publications, but it was out of necessity, rather than devotion, to the Kim Family regime.

In Pakistan, DPRK embassy staff did this by exploiting local religious laws and customs. The Muslim majority in Pakistan is restricted from drinking alcohol. However, a thriving black market for liquor exists and North Korean diplomats in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, and Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, have been eager purveyors of the stuff since the 1970s.

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