A North Korean man was this week detained by Russian authorities following an attempt to bring 668.6 kilograms of buckwheat noodles into the country, customs officials reported on Wednesday.
The seizure, a release from the Far Eastern Customs Administration press office revealed, took place on board a train at the DPRK-Russia border crossing at Khasan.
“When inspecting a passenger car, customs officers found two-three bags of DPRK noodles in each compartment under the lower shelves,” the statement read.
“A total of 27 bags with a total weight of 668.6 kg were found,” it continued, adding that the man had then “explained that he was carrying buckwheat noodles for sale.”
“This product was not declared and significantly exceeded the allowance for personal consumption,” the release continued.
Under Russian import law, the North Korean man now faces a fine of between “one half to twice the amount” of the value of the goods seized, it added.
Buckwheat noodles (memil guksu), typically served cold with a broth, are sold cheaply in the DPRK: one regular visitor to the country, when asked by NK News, estimated that a single 100g packet was unlikely to cost more than 1000 KPW (€0.11).
One local expert said Wednesday’s seizure reflected the local authorities’ tight policing of the 22.1-kilometer-long border between Russia and North Korea.
“As far as I know, Russian border guards and customs officers exercise double vigilance when dealing with North Korean passengers and cargos crossing the Russian border,” Artyom Lukin, an International Relations scholar at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, told NK News.
“The heightened controls are needed to enforce the heavy UN sanctions on North Korea, as well as prevent traditional commercial smuggling by North Koreans.”
This tight security, he added, means there is “very little chance major volumes of illicit goods would go between North Korea and Russia undetected.”
“However, relatively minor incidents, like this one with the noodles, occur quite often.”
This week’s case is not the first in recent months in which North Korean citizens have been detained attempting to bring illicit goods into, and out of, the Russian federation.
October last year saw a DPRK citizen detained at a Vladivostok port, caught carrying USD$180,000 in undeclared cash– more than 18 times the legal limit.
The man, described by authorities as a ship’s captain, had entered the country on a DPRK-flagged ship sailing from the north eastern port of Chongjin.
Just over a month later, another North Korean was detained at Vladivostok International Airport in possession of USD$192,300 and 1000 euros in undeclared cash.
The man had been stopped for questioning by customs officials on his way to board a flight to Pyongyang, authorities said.