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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The North Korea-based joint venture PyongSu Pharmaceutical will seek an exemption to current UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions preventing the entity’s operation, Managing Director Remy Lardinois told NK News on Thursday.
UNSC Resolution 2375, adopted unanimously in September, prohibits the opening, maintenance, and operation of joint ventures or cooperative entities with North Korean entities or individuals. Member states have 120 days – until January 9 – to comply.
PyongSu is seeking permission from the UN’s 1718 committee to continue operations of the company in line with two provisions in Resolution 2375.
“Using the exemption option mentioned in Paragraph 18, and humanitarian contributions mentioned in Paragraph 26, I built a file which I already submitted to a number of individuals within the SC and 1718 Committee,” Lardinois told NK News.
Paragraph 18 – the section banning joint ventures – provides a possible exemption for certain entities.
Joint ventures are banned “unless such joint ventures or cooperative entities, in particular those that are non-commercial, public utility infrastructure projects not generating profit have been approved by the Committee in advance on a case-by-case basis,” paragraph 18 states.
Paragraph 26 reaffirms that the sanctions are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for North Korean civilians.
It also states that the measures are not meant to inhibit “the work of international and non-governmental organizations carrying out assistance and relief activities in the DPRK for the benefit of the civilian population of the DPRK”.
The committee can – on a case-by-case basis – “exempt any activity from the measures imposed” if it decides that doing so is necessary to facilitate the work of organizations “consistent with the objectives of these resolutions,” it adds.
PyongSu – formed in 2002 – may have grounds for such an exemption, given its work supplying drugs to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in North Korea.
In a 2010 program update, the IFRC noted positive medical aid developments in North Korea linked to the company.
“The quality of the boxes for the locally procured small medicine kits notably improved as a result of constructive feedback provided to the Pyongyang-based pharmaceutical factory PyongSu Pharma,” the IFRC update reads.
A product page on its website – not updated since 2014 – lists 51 medicines produced by PyongSu, which include antibiotics and analgesics.
The company also says it runs ten pharmacies in Pyongyang and Pyongsong that provide “over 400 types of medicines, covering 85% of common diseases” and distributes products from 13 different countries while possessing exclusive agreements with three multinationals – two of which were signed in 2014.
While its product list has not been updated since 2014, the website was altered on Wednesday.
“Pyongsu is a partnership between Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Company under the Ministry of Public Health of the DPRK and Northern Development Pharmaceutical Consortium Ltd (NDCP), a company of the Parazelsus Group,” the website read until yesterday, when the reference to the Parazelsus Group was removed.
Representatives from Parazelsus told NK News that it had severed its connection with PyongSu as of mid-2016, a development Lardinois confirmed.
“Parazelsus is no longer involved,” he said. “It is my understanding they sold their shares into a trust structure that is now managed by a law firm.”
“NDCP, the majority shareholder of PyongSu Pharma, remains the same,” he added. “As far as I (and the Koreans) are concerned, there was no change.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham