Luxury spending for North Korea increases

North Korea has increased its spending on top-shelf liquor, designer clothing and other luxury goods this year, continuing to defy international sanctions on such goods, an official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said imports of products by Armani, Gucci, Rolex and Omega among other goods had increased.

The splurge for its elite comes as a quarter of its population suffers from acute food shortages, according to the United Nations.

It also comes as the regime tries to curry support for its tricky power handoff from leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, Jong-un. It often presents elites with such gifts on special occasions such as Kim’s birthday.

Imports of cigarettes from companies including Marlboro jumped by 117 percent to $7.5 million, while those of Hennessy Cognac and other alcoholic beverages saw a 94 percent increase. Many say the U.N. sanctions on the North have lost some of their teeth amid steadily increasing economic cooperation with Beijing.

Pyongyang this year has repeatedly asked the international community for aid. While Brussels has approved such a move, Seoul and Washington have yet to agree to government-level help.

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Source: koreatimes.co.kr