The South Korean Unification Ministry is tracking the import of luxury goods into North Korea, finding an increase in conspicuous wealth among the country’s elite.
The ruling Kim Dynasty and other high-ranking individuals in North Korea have increased consumption of designer imports and luxury items.
“North Korea appears to be introducing luxury goods worth hundreds of millions of Korean won to billions yearly for the Kim Jong Un family,” an anonymous ministry official told reporters, according to Yonhap News Agency.
He told media outlets the “volume of imported goods shrank during the COVID-19 pandemic due to border controls but has been recovering since the latter half of last year.”
Supreme leader Kim Jong Un and his family — sometimes called the Mount Paektu bloodline — have been documented in the past wearing high-ticket goods such as Swiss watches.
North Korea began as a communist country under the protection and mentorship of the Soviet Union following the end of World War II.
Since its establishment, North Korean communist ideology has mutated into a philosophy known as “juche” that places all functional power in the hands of the “supreme leader.”
The Mount Paektu bloodline and its satellite families have amassed immense wealth through this system, maintaining luxurious lifestyles even amid periods of nationwide destitution and famine.
“Kim gives luxury cars as gifts to officials who he particularly favors or those who have made special accomplishments in the military field,” the official said, according to Yonhap News Agency.
They added, “He also hands out Swiss watches like Omega or the latest electronic devices at events commemorating the birthdays of the Kim family or the party congress meeting.”
North Korea has been accused by international authorities of selling weapons to Russian invading forces in Ukraine and Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
This black market is a major income opportunity for North Korea, which suffers from foreign trade restrictions due to its long history of human rights abuses.