Counterfeit Cigarettes Finance North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

From: Voice of America

Executions, Brutal Purges Prompted High-level North Korean Official to Defect

Baik Sungwon
Senior North Korean defector Ri Jong Ho, who worked for the North Korean government for about 30 years, speaks with VOA Korean Service’s Baik Sungwon.

[VOA] Editor’s Note: In a two-part series, VOA’s Korean Service spoke with senior-level North Korean defector Ri Jong Ho in his first public interview since his defection in late 2014.


Because banking activities are severely restricted due to heavy sanctions imposed to curb its nuclear weapons development, North Korean officials must open bank accounts under false names in order to trade.


“Along the same lines, Daehung had to put a halt to its drug production and export 25 years ago,” he added, emphasizing that counterfeit drugs, cigarettes and money, all of which provide the North Korean regime with hard-currency income, are not handled by Office 39, but by other special units.

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