24 October 2017

Zimbabwe: Govt Buckles to UN Pressure On North Korea Dealings

Photo: thierry ehrmann/Flickr
Graffiti of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Government is investigating local businesses suspected of having ties with North Korea as Harare buckles to pressure from the United Nations (UN) Security Council over questionable dealings with the Asian country's rogue regime.

Responding to questions yesterday, Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha told the Zimbabwe Independent that government was committed to upholding United Nations Security Council resolutions.

This comes as it emerged that three North Korean officials were in Harare last week on a reported mission to secure the reclusive regime's business interests in Zimbabwe in the face of ever-tightening United Nations Security Council sanctions against the reclusive Asian state.

A report dated September 5 2017 reveals that a United Nations Panel of Experts wrote to government officials demanding to know the operations of North Korea's Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP) Group of Companies.

According to United Nations Security Council resolution 2371 adopted on August 5, the company allegedly funds the North Korean regime, which is accused of threatening international peace and security through its nuclear developments.

MOP through its company, Mansudae Art Studio, was involved in the construction of the country's National Heroes Acre, including the statue of the Unknown Soldier. MOP also constructed the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo's statue.

The situation was compounded by the adoption of another UN Resolution, 2375, on September 11 that bans existing joint ventures between North Koreans, whether at government level or not, with nationalities of other countries.

If investigations by the UN establish that Zimbabwe continues to assist or is doing business with North Korea, the country or local companies dealing with the eastern Asian country run the risk of having their assets frozen.

Bimha said government was ready to comply with inquiries of North Korean businesses in the country.

"We have had several inquiries on the matter and we are in the process of investigating the matter. Whatever the result, the government of Zimbabwe will comply with the UN resolution on the issue," he said.

High-level sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the three North Korean officials, identified as Ji Song Bok, Pak Chol Gap and Ri Hyok Chol, arrived in Harare on September 23 and left on October 2.

The three officials, chauffeur-driven in a silver VW Touran, departed at Harare International Airport on October 2 just after 4pm.

The officials were accompanied by two North Korean representatives based in Harare, one of them identified only as Kim.

It is believed that the three came to assess the security of their investments in the country after the United Nations Security Council recently resolved to ban the regime or its citizens from entering into joint ventures abroad.

Sources suspect that given North Korea's nuclear developments, the activities of the regime in Africa are meant to enhance its armament programmes and that they were targeting South Africa which once had similar nuclear enrichment developments during apartheid.

In Zimbabwe, the North Korean regime reportedly also has interests in the tobacco sector.

One of the North Korean firms slammed with United Nations Security Council sanctions, Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP) Group of Companies, is allegedly operating in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, there is a company registered as Mansudae Boka Design Company, whose directors have denied any links to Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies.

Mansudae Boka Design Company is into the manufacture of jewellery, mainly gold and silver rings, and badges, brochures, buttons and rank medals for the military, while Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies is reportedly well-known for "construction-related activities, including statues and monuments to generate revenue for the DPRK government or the Workers' Party of Korea".

Mansudae Boka Design Company has three shareholders -- Rudo Boka with 6 000 shares, Hyo Song Pak with 7 000 shares and Kyong Chol Yun with 7 000 shares. Rudo Boka is registered also as the company secretary. Pak and Yun are North Koreans.

Boka has denied any links with the North Korean company, arguing it was mistaken identity and mere coincidence that her company had North Korean directors and shared the same name prefix.

Contacted on Wednesday on whether she met the North Korean officials last week, Boka said she never met them.

Asked on her thoughts about UN Resolution 2375, Boka replied: "You said they (UN) wrote to government. They did not write to me. So I stand guided accordingly by the authority."

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