This is a response to Anthony V. Rinna’s August 7th piece “Why Russia continues to skirt North Korea sanctions.”
In recent days, we have seen a lot of accusations that Russia has been breaching sanctions, especially by exporting oil products and giving visas to new workers from North Korea, which is prohibited by the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Several reports were published, among them by the Asan Institute, about oil deliveries, as well as a Wall Street Journal article. However, upon examination, many of these accusations appear to be false.
First, on the workers. In accordance with UNSC Resolution 2375, North Korean workers who concluded their contracts before September 11, 2017 are permitted to stay in Russia for two more years and to work in accordance with these contracts until 2019.
This is where misunderstanding starts. A contract (and there are many types of them) is not enough to let a foreign employee work in Russia.
The system in Russia presumes that to hire a foreign worker, or continue their employment, the employer – either a state company or an individual private company or the regional authorities – must apply beforehand to the Immigration Service and Ministry of Labor and Social Security to get yearly work permits.
These work permits are issued in the form of quotas for each enterprise to get foreign workers in accordance with their country of origin. After the Ministry of Labor and Social Security received the news about the UN sanctions resolutions in 2017, it didn’t issue any more quotas for North Korean workers. And although they had contracts and were legally present in Russia, they couldn’t work because their employers had not received the quotas for their employment.
It took almost half a year to sort that out, and in early June, permits for 3500 North Korean workers who were already in Russia, were issued. There were no new visas issued, although, theoretically speaking, if one of these workers had already left and wanted to return, he must be issued a visa because he has a legal contract and he has permission to work, issued before September 11, 2017.
In fact, many of these workers had left, not waiting for the issuance of the quotas. There was some anecdotal evidence – for example, when a high ranking and respected medical doctor specializing in oriental medicine waited for a whole month to get permission, and finally left.
He was already illegally in Russian territory, so he had to buy his way out. In fact, the number of Korean workers has decreased in Russia by almost two times during the first several months of this year.
As for the joint venture companies, Zenco, rumored to have created a joint venture enterprise in violation of sanctions, appears to have done nothing wrong. Zenco, to start with, is not stipulated in the sanctions list of the United Nations Security Council. This company did not create any joint ventures or cooperation organization, but in fact participated in a tender for some communal works in Yuzho-Sakhalinsk city, and won this tender, so it got the contract.
Sometimes, North Korean companies which are legally working in Russia publish announcements about hiring people. This is also not a violation because they do not hire North Korean citizens.
Another major accusation is that Russia is delivering oil and oil products to North Korea. For example, the quantities of such oil are rumored to be more than 600,000 tons, which is much more than the official Russia-North Korean trade turnover.
Of course, there may be cases of smuggling, where Russian ships do leave Far Eastern ports and reload oil products onto North Korean ships or other ships hired by North Koreans, and they find their way to the DPRK.
But these are not big ships and this is not a common practice, so I don’t believe that we can speak about some kind of big quantities of oil – maybe several dozen thousand tons a year.
There were also accusations that Russia transported oil products by railroad, masking them as deliveries to China. There was some analysis, for example in the Asan Institute report, mentioned above, that Russia delivered carriages carrying oil products, disguised as going to China, to Khasan, and then they found their way to North Korea.
This is a totally ridiculous claim because, for one thing, there is no railroad link between Khasan and the Chinese territory: it would not be possible to fill in papers at Russian customs to cross the border with cargoes bound for China from Khasan station.
Also the Khasan station is controlled by our security services and the police, and the only transit cargoes that can pass through are bound for Rajin, namely coal, not oil.
There were some deliveries of oil products to North Korea through Khasan by legal contract – within the quota – but for the first half of this year, it was maybe several thousand tons, certainly not more than 10,000 tons, and some of them are contracted and used by Russian companies that are working in Rajin for transport and heating.
In truth, we see a bunch of fake news which is aimed at disrupting Russia-North Korean relations, as well as getting another irritant into the Russia-U.S. relations, and also trying to frighten off companies who are interested in doing legal business with the DPRK.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Office of the Russian President
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 920 words of this article.