North Korean imports of Swiss watches rebounded to their highest levels in years in the first six months of 2015, according to official figures from the ITC Trade Map.
Swiss exports of the luxury items dropped to zero for the whole of 2014, however have since rebounded to nearly $80,000 since the start of the year.
The export coincides with the opening of Pyongyang’s new airport terminal, where watches from Switzerland appear to be on sale.
“Air Koryo watches (for man) – Swiss made – price: (US$220) – they said it is a joint venture product with Swiss company – Sells in new Terminal 2 Pyongyang international airport,” Flickr user Jaka Parker writes under a recently taken picture of one of the watches.
The DPRK have imported millions of dollars’ worth of watches from Switzerland over the years, according to a 2011 article in South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo.
“(The value of the watches) is not the most significant from what the government can purchase with its money , these watches can be used as the gift to Kim Jong Un’s subordinates … or be sold at duty free shop in Pyongyang’s airport,” a researcher at a South Korean national institute who wished to remain anonymous told NK News.
“It would be practically impossible to ban luxury items flowing into North Korea,” they said.
The UN and many countries forbid the transfer of luxury items to North Korea. Switzerland however is not in the EU and has not passed any autonomous sanctions on the DRPK.
The Swiss also exported more than $4 million of milk powder to North Korea since the start of 2015. Although this is part of an aid package the Swiss DPRK Cooperation Office runs in conjunction with the UN’s World Food Program.
In the past North Korea has also imported tobacco rolling machines and printing presses from Switzerland.
Additional reporting by JH Ahn
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Featured Image: Watch Collection Macro December 05, 2012 2 by stevendepolo on 2012-12-05 20:30:19