Procurement: The North Korean Super Shopper Speaks

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March 16, 2010: A 75 year old former North Korean official (Kim Jong Ryul) went public in Austria, with the recent publication of a book, "Im Dienst des Diktators" ("At the Dictator’s Service"). Written by Ingrid Steiner-Gashi and Dardan Gashi, the book details Kim's career as a covert purchasing agent for North Korea. Eventually, in 1994, Kim faked his own death and defected to Austria. For two decades before that, he travelled throughout Europe to obtain legal, and illegal, items for the North Korean leadership and security services. He frequently just paid 30 percent or more to get around restrictions on selling some goods to North Korea, and sent the goods home using bribes and diplomatic immunity. He travelled with a diplomatic passport.

Kim defected because he was fed up with the way the rulers in North Korea lived in luxury, while many North Koreans starved. The famines there in the 1990s killed about two million people. He had to fake his death to prevent having his family sent to prison camps, or worse. Kim thought that the government in North Korea would collapse, or be overthrown, because of the famine, and sorry state of the economy in the 1990s. But that didn't happen, so he decided to cooperate in the writing of the book, in the hope that it might hasten the end of the communist dictatorship that has ruled North Korea for 65 years. Now that he has come out of the shadows, he fears that the North Korean secret police will hunt him down and kill him.

Kim's book is just one of many recent revelations of the dual society in North Korea. Google Earth satellite photos have revealed the luxurious mansions, in gated communities on the outskirts of the capital, that house the ruling elite. There are country houses and recreational facilities, with similar security. Investigators have uncovered some of the overseas bank accounts of the senior leadership. While there is growing unrest inside North Korea, the revolution has not yet arrived. But another famine is underway, with nearly half the population going hungry. The economy is again sliding backwards.

 

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