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[Opinion] Kim Jong Il’s Luxury Yacht

Posted April. 07, 2009 08:50,   


The late Hyundai Asan Corp. Chairman Chung Mong-hun met North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on a yacht off the east coast on Aug. 9, 2000. Kim called for Chung, who was visiting North Korea, to the yacht and said he would allow the industrial complex project in Kaesong. Kim had also met an Italian businessman, Carlo Baeli, on the yacht in 1992. Using a yacht as a meeting venue is a luxury for the rich in the West, not for the leader of a socialist country.

European financial authorities yesterday seized millions of dollars in North Korea`s accounts to buy a luxury yacht Kim wanted to buy. A North Korean official in Europe signed a purchase contract with Italian motor yacht maker Azimut. The funds were seized since their source was unclear and sale of a yacht to North Korea violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 banning exporting luxury items to the North (Oct. 2006). The Bush administration included a luxury yacht on the banned list along with iPods, plasma display panel televisions and scooters to stop Kim from splurging on luxury items.

The two yachts that the North wanted to buy cost as much as 20 million U.S. dollars, which is enough to buy rice to feed hungry North Koreans for a month. The 30 million dollars Pyongyang is assumed to have used to launch the long-range rocket could have purchased more than one million tons of food from the international market. While North Koreans suffer from hunger, Kim is splurging on missile shows celebrating the beginning of his third term and buying luxuries.

The U.S. Treasury Department forced Banco Delta Asia, a Chinese bank in Macau, to block Kim’s suspected money laundering in Sept. 2005. Kim was in trouble until the freeze was lifted after the Feb. 13 agreement of 2007. The world must block exports of luxuries to North Korea in accordance with U.N. Resolution 1718 for the sake of the 23 million suffering people in the communist country. Hopefully, Kim’s favorite French wine and cognac, Russian caviar and shark fin can be added to the banned luxury list.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)