April 23, 2021

North Korea’s Air Koryo spent nearly $1 million on Russian plane parts in 2020

Pyongyang ordered maintenance tools and spare parts despite putting a hold on nearly all travel over COVID-19

North Korea’s state airline imported nearly $1 million worth of plane parts for its fleet of Russian Tupolev jets, despite the fact that planes have mostly been grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to a new report from the U.N. Panel of Experts, North Korea’s Air Koryo purchased a gas turbine auxiliary power unit for one of its two Tupolev TU-204 midrange jets, as well as other parts like jacks, hoists, tow bars, wheel bearings and a range of specialist wrenches and hand tools. The purchase came years after Russia called for the U.N. to allow Air Koryo to buy new commercial aircraft to replace its aging jets, many of which date back to the Soviet-era and were deemed unsafe by organizations like the European Union. Air Koryo is unilaterally sanctioned by the United States and the U.N. has granted exemptions that allow the airline to purchase parts that ensure flight safety.