North Korean imitations of Japanese cigarettes being transported to South Korea and Taiwan were verified by a foreign vessel inspection by the Japanese maritime security force.
The Japanese maritime security force did not confiscate the North Korean imitation cigarettes, however, since they were not being smuggled into Japan. Instead, they traded information with foreign authorities.
Two kinds of cigarettes from Japan, Mild Seven and Seven Star, and several more American and English cigarettes such as Marlboro were found aboard a ship sailing from North Korea. These cigarettes have different packaging, but consist of the same ingredients.
America has recently pointed out imitation cigarettes as North Koreas biggest source of illegal profits. Japans maritime security forces view is that as smuggling drugs or stimulants became difficult, North Korea chose imitation cigarettes as a new source to obtain foreign currency.
The maritime security force gave chase to a North Korean vessel in 2001, when it neglected orders to stop and fled in front of Kagoshima Island. After this incident, it has executed maritime inspections against foreign vessels sailing within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to the maritime security force, imitation cigarettes have been found on Cambodian, Taiwanese, and Mongolian ships sailing from North Korea since two years ago.
Information from reconnaissance satellites and sailors statements leads us to believe that imitation cigarette carriers load their goods at North Koreas Wonsan, Cheongjin, or Najin harbors and transfer them to Taiwanese or Korean mafia vessels in the Taiwanese or Busan sea.
Hundreds of thousand of packs of cigarettes are loaded onto every ship, and these are sold at 60% of the price of authentic ones. The profit from these cigarettes, minus the cost of materials reaches up to tens of millions of yen.
A Japanese newspaper commented that due to the Japanese goods circulation system that uses vending machines at a fixed price, imitation cigarettes are not brought into Japan.
The Mild Seven series is a popular brand that was the most sought-after cigarette in Taiwan last year, and is among the five most popular cigarettes in Korea. Marlboro, which had the most loadage in imitation cigarettes, was exposed thirteen hundred times between 2002 and 2005.
Mass production of cigarettes supposedly began when Chinas cigarette producing machines flew into North Korea as crackdowns on cigarettes in China became harsher.