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Singaporean at heart of NK Pro investigation charged with sanctions violations, By Chad O’Carroll and Justin Rohrlich

OCN (S) Pte Ltd and T Specialist International under scrutiny for luxury goods exports to DPRK.

A Singaporean national at the center of an NK Pro investigation last year was on Thursday charged with 161 counts relating to United Nations North Korea luxury goods sanctions, court records show.

Investigation by NK Pro – MHI-NK News‘s sister publication – throughout July and August 2017 revealed that several companies directed by Ng ‘Leo’ Kheng Wah, 55, played a role in exporting goods including high-end liquors, designer watches, perfumes, and musical instruments for sale at boutique luxury shops in Pyongyang.

At the time, Ng called the allegations “baseless” and “fake,” but at 0930 Thursday, case number SC-906704-2018—Public Prosecutor vs Ng Kheng Wah—opened in Singapore State Court.

“Ng Kheng Wah, 55, is said to have engaged in a conspiracy with general wholesale trade company T Specialist International and two others – Sherly Muliawan and Li Ik – to commit the offences,” Singapore’s Straits Times reported on Frday.

Ng is the director of several Singaporean firms, including OCN (S) Pte Ltd and T Specialist International, two companies revealed by NK Pro last year to have supplied a wide range of luxury goods to Pyongyang’s Bugsae Shop and Pothonggang Ryugyong Store.

Japanese brands for sale at the stores – forbidden by the country’s law – included Sony, Panasonic, Yamaha, Seiko, and Pokka, as well as flat-screen TVs, laptops, jewelry, and cameras on display.

Tellingly, stickers bearing the brand name ‘OCN’ could be seen on multiple products within the stores, even including on plastic bags, with the ‘T Specialist’ name also printed on several Singaporean-brand products offered for sale.

Corporate documents filed in 2016 by T Specialist reported a little over $170 million (all figures in Singapore dollars) in revenue, showing the scale of Ng’s company activities, despite the company having almost no online or physical footprint in Singapore.

“Ng currently faces 161 charges while T Specialist International faces 88,” the Straits Times elaborated surrounding the charges brought against him on Friday.

Ng was offered bail of half a million Singapore dollars and could face a five-year prison sentence, as well as fines of up to $100,000 for each charge, the Singaporean newspaper added.

Ng’s colleagues, Sherly Muliawan and North Korean national Li Ik, were also accused of engaging in the conspiracy, though no details were provided about them in court documents, the Straits Times said.

But Ng, speaking through company representatives or locally hired lawyers, repeatedly denied all charges to NK Pro journalists last year.

“Our client has complied with all applicable laws and regulations and unequivocally deny any allegations to the contrary,” Chern Yang See, the lawyer formerly representing OCN / T Specialist director Ng ‘Leo’ Kheng Wah, told NK Pro in August last year.

The United Nations Panel of Experts (PoE) in a report earlier this year recommended that the Security Council designate two associates of OCN/T Specialist as sanctions violators.

Singaporean companies investigated for N. Korea luxury goods, financial sanctions: UN Report

The PoE’s report not only confirmed the companies’ exports of sanctioned luxury goods to North Korea, but also shed light on OCN/T Specialist’s reported illegal financial relationships in the country, including one with a bank sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“Our clients have no knowledge of the authenticity of the sale of goods in DPRK as included in your letter and no knowledge of how any such goods ended up in DPRK,” OCN representatives told the Panel of Experts.

The companies’ new law firm Edmond Pereira Law Corporation on Wednesday said that its client had not replied to a Monday-dated request by NK Pro for explanation surrounding the-then ongoing Singaporean government investigation into his activities.

Shipping company wins appeal over North Korea proliferation conviction

Edmond Pereira Law Corporation is, notably, the same firm that was used by the Singapore-based Chinpo Shipping Company (Private) Ltd to defend against claims it had facilitated a shipment of arms to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

While Singaporean authorities initially fined Chinpo USD$180,000 for the case, Edmond Pereira Law Corporation was successful in eventually persuading the Singaporean High Court to overturn the charges in May last year.

Hasil gambar untuk Edmond Pereira BuildingCL5.jpg

Ng is being represented by a team of attorneys from the firm, including Edmond Pereira, Amardeep Singh, and former Singaporean track-and-field star Goh Chui Ling.

“Chui Ling has been involved in criminal cases, involving corruption, cheating, and even breach of international sanctions,” her bio reads on the firm’s website.

“Notably, Chui Ling assisted Mr. Edmond Pereira as he went before a three-judge High Court panel in 2017, which overturned the State Court’s decision in a high-profile criminal case involving the breach of sanctions under the United Nations (Sanctions – Democratic Republic of Korea) Regulations 2010.”

“In terms of comments, give me some time to discuss with my client,” Goh said when contacted by MHI-NK News.

Asked whether or not Singapore had ever punished individuals there for violating sanctions relating to North Korea, a Singaporean MOFA spokesperson last week provided a broad statement to NK Pro.

Hasil gambar untuk Edmond Pereira Law Corporation Building

“Singapore takes its obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) seriously. We will not hesitate to take criminal or regulatory action against any individual or entity that breaches our laws and regulations which give effect to the UNSCRs.”

Singapore is one of the “few countries that submit detailed National Implementation Reports to the UNSC in a timely manner,” the spokesperson added, saying that it cooperates “closely with and aid the UN Panel in its investigations as far as possible.”

“We have continuously stepped up our counter-proliferation efforts,” the spokesperson continued. “Specifically for the DPRK, we have instituted a prohibition on commercially traded goods (regardless of whether they are prohibited by the UNSCRs) that are imported, exported, transhipped or brought in transit from or to the DPRK.”

Ng has been charged with abetting the violation of Section 5(1) of the United Nations Act, along with Section 109 of the Penal Code “and others,” according to legal filings.

The United Nations Act of 1992 is meant “to enable Singapore to fulfil its obligations respecting Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations.” Article 41 allows the UN to impose sanctions.

Section 109 of Singapore law is abetment, and pertains to the “support and encouragement of others” in the commission of an offense: a crime for which individuals can be fined up to USD$500,000 and/or imprisoned for up to ten years.


Restaurant worker defection case may impede family reunions, warns DPRK media, By Dagyum Ji

Restaurant worker defection case may impede family reunions, warns DPRK media

Uriminzokkiri editorial says case could serve as “barrier” to improved relations

DPRK state media on Friday warned the unresolved restaurant worker defector controversy could serve as a “barrier” to upcoming reunions of families separation by the Korean War, while also denouncing South Korean President Moon Jae-in for making “presumptuous remarks” on North Korean issues.

In an editorial, the Uriminzokkiri – an outer-track outlet not typically accessible to a domestic audience – reiterated Pyongyang’s view that the purported mass defection of 12 restaurant workers in 2016 was a “plot” devised by the ROK government with the “impure purpose” of winning a then-upcoming legislative election.

The truth about the affair had been “exposed again,” the DPRK outlet claimed, citing recent coverage by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency and comments made in a news conference last week by UN envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana.

Sunday saw Yonhap report that the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) had coerced Heo Kang-il, the manager of the restaurant, into kidnapping the 12 women and promised him to give him South Korean citizenship and a restaurant in Southeast Asia.In an interview, Heo told the agency that the women were promised work in a restaurant in Southeast Asia and only knew they were flying to South Korea after boarding the plane.

UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana earlier in the month told a press conference in Seoul that he believed some of the restaurant workers had been brought to the South “without knowing that they were coming from.”“We can’t hold our vehement indignation against the anti-human misdeed of the group of traitors which misled the public opinion labeling it as defection and settlement…,” Uriminzokkiri said on Friday.

The North Korean media said the issue was a “brazen-faced behavior of South Korean officials,” attacking current Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon for his recent insistence that the 12 women came to the South of their own accord.

The DPRK-run media also suggested that a planned reunion event of families separated by the Korean War may not go ahead if the issue is not resolved.“The attitude towards the citizens of the DPRK forcibly abducted by the Park Geun Hye group is the touchstone to show the South Korean authorities’ will to improve the North-South relations,” Uriminzokkiri said.

“If the issue of repatriating women citizens of the DPRK isn’t urgently resolved, a barrier can be created in the reunions of divided families and relatives between the North and the South — which have been proceeded with —  and in the inter-Korean relations.”The two Koreas in June agreed to hold the reunions at Mount Kumgang between August 20 and 26 on the occasion of the country’s National Liberation Day.


Despite sanctions, multiple new construction projects emerging in Pyongyang, By Colin Zwirko

Despite sanctions, multiple new construction projects emerging in Pyongyang
Photos and satellite imagery reveal several developments underway in DPRK capital

Through the swirl of negotiations between North Korea and its neighbors in recent months and consistent offers of a “bright new economic future” from the U.S., economic sanctions against the DPRK have not been eased and, in fact, have only been strengthened in the past year.

But despite this fact, Pyongyang has over the same period seen the emergence of multiple new major construction projects.

Many of the projects listed below either began or saw major development in the middle of last year, and have continued to see progress so far this summer. The photographs were all provided by NK News sources inside Pyongyang and were taken between May and July.

The example that stands out the most in Pyongyang is the Ryugyong Hotel, whose facade was recently upgraded with a full color LED light wall. Large curved LED screens were installed at the very top of the building in March, and later in May the lights affixed vertically between window panels were turned on for the first time.

It has been seen displaying alternating solid colors, more abstract multi-colored designs, and even animations and movie scenes. The display appeared to be having technical difficulties in early July and has been intermittently running, but mostly turned off during recent weeks, sources indicated to NK News.

Multiple construction projects are also underway surrounding the National Reunification Monument along the Tongil Highway. Satellite images suggest one site situated next to the monument is almost complete, while multiple separate sites have seen major development further south down the highway.

A review of satellite imagery shows clearing work for the newest project (West Tongil Highway project) began in March this year. But as the satellite imagery above shows, a great deal of work was done between mid-May and mid-June.

In the photograph from the ground in June shown above, the foundation and first floor of one building appear to be nearing completion. The site appears active with dozens of workers, but the purpose of the project has yet to be determined.

Work on another project on the east side of the road (East Tongil Highway project) began in 2013 but quickly fizzled out before resuming in 2015 and speeding up in mid-2017 – like many other construction projects in the city.

Construction on the complex of large buildings directly to the west of the Reunification Monument began in late 2014 but slowed in 2016. Work was accelerated in the summer of 2017 and appears to be nearing completion as of July according to the latest satellite imagery.


North Korea-linked oil tanker acquired by UK-based company, By Leo Byrne

North Korea-linked oil tanker acquired by UK-based company

8008-tonne Koya was formerly operated by DPRK-backed sanctions evaders

An oil tanker with ties to North Korea-linked sanctions evaders is now owned by a Chinese-owned and UK-based company, in another apparent instance of British businesses appearing in the DPRK’s networks. While the tanker was not directly implicated in oil smuggling, it was purchased at around the same time and by the same people who purchased.


A new crackdown? North Korea’s fashion police are making a comeback, By Andrei Lankov

A new crackdown? North Korea’s fashion police are making a comeback
A campaign against “Anti-Socialist Activities” suggests any reforms are taking place on shaky ground

Beginning early last year, foreign visitors to Pyongyang and other major North Korean cities began to frequently encounter a very peculiar picture – even though, admittedly, only a tiny fraction of them could only fully appreciate the meaning of what they were seeing.

At major crossroads in Pyongyang, as well as some other major cities, one could frequently notice groups of two or three women, all dressed in some kind of uniform. This outfit is generally based on the traditional Korean dress, known in South Korea as the “hanbok,” but of a rather unusual and formal color scheme: long black skirts and white blouses. At least one of these women is equipped with a large Chinese-made plastic whistle, and she also might keep a large book of instruction under her arm.

These groups of middle-aged women are the dreaded “Fashion Police” patrols or, as they are officially known in North Korea, patrol units of the Women’s Union (nyomyong kyuchaltae).Their task is to stop and interrogate all people whose dress or haircut does not agree with the officially prescribed norms – norms explained in a large book of instructions.

haircut photo

The bans are manifold. It is known that they include strict warnings against excessively short and revealing skirts. Trousers for women are permitted these days, but should never, ever be rolled up over the knees. Dyed hair is one of the gravest possible offenses – all hair in North Korea should be of uniform and patriotic black color, unless it has turned grey due to age.

If the patrol intercepts a misbehaving North Korean, punishment will follow. The exact type of sanction varies: from relatively small fines to short-term administrative imprisonment.

One of my contacts has complained that in recent months he has been intercepted a few times a day because of his dyed hair. It is not a great deal for this young man: even though he looks perfectly North Korean and indeed has spent most of his life in Pyongyang, he is a hwagyo – a Chinese citizen with permanent residency in North Korea – and as such, he can dress and cut his hair in any way he considers suitable.

Foreigners, including hwagyo, are exempted from such regulations. But, for a North Korean who is found guilty of such a hideous crime as dying his/her hair, the story might end with a big fine or even short period of mandatory labor.

Fashion police themselves are not a new presence on North Korean city streets: in one form or another these people have been around since at least the late 1960s, if not earlier. The government, like many communist states (and, for that matter, many religious ones as well), believes that it is its sacral duty to ensure that the citizens are dressed in a proper and morally acceptable way.

However, in the past, “fashion patrols” were quite limited in the scale of their operations. Yes, the restrictions of the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il eras generally were even more demanding and stringent. For example, until the early 2010s, it was illegal for women to wear trousers when not at work. However, in the past, the enforcement of these regulations was remarkably lax.

WIDER CRACKDOWN?

Over the last few months, there have been reports about a significant strengthening of what is known as the “Eradication of Anti-Socialist Activities Campaign.” The patrols, consisting of police, party officials, and other government personnel are said to be cruising the streets in search for traces of “unhealthy” activities – such as selling smuggled goods from China.

They stage sudden inspections of small companies where private capital is invested, and they reportedly even investigate some private entrepreneurs – albeit on a small scale. Authorities have begun to pay attention to the visitors of posh restaurants which have proliferated in Pyongyang recently.

Under Kim Jong Un’s watch, North Korea has remained remarkably restrictive in the areas of politics and ideology. The new leader and his immediate entourage have been working hard to strengthen the self-isolation, which got somewhat rusty under his father’s watch, and to keep populace isolated from the outside influences.

However, at the same time, until now Kim Jong Un has proved himself to be a remarkably pro-market leader, so he has never tried to decrease neither the freedom of individuals to make money, nor their freedom to spend this money as they see fit.Current events, however, suggest that Kim Jong Un might be changing his mind.

 

The latest from the podcast:

A Conversation with Two North Korean Refugees – MHI-NKNews Podcast ep.28 

A Conversation with Two North Korean Refugees – NKNews Podcast ep.28
Former DPRK citizens share their take on the recent detente, stories of adjusting to life in South

Often overlooked in the pomp and circumstance of summit diplomacy are the millions of North Koreans that have the most to gain and lose from how those negotiations play out.

In this episode of the North Korea News Podcast, we sit down with two former DPRK residents to gauge what they think about the recent warming of relations between the two Koreas, the role they see themselves playing in inter-Korean relations, cultural differences, and much more.

Ann originally comes from Musan, a county in central North Hamgyong province. She escaped the North 12 years ago at the age of 14. She now lives together with her parents in Incheon and has recently graduated with a major in international trade and economics.

Jenny is from Hamhung, the capital of South Hamgyong Province (North Korea’s second biggest city). She left her hometown ten years ago at the age of 16. Now graduated from Korea University with a degree in Sociology, she is currently doing her Masters in North Korean Studies in Seoul.

About the podcast: The “North Korea News Podcast” is a weekly podcast hosted exclusively by MHI-NK News, covering all things DPRK: from news to extended interview with leading experts and analysts in the field and insight from our very own journalists.

Listen to the full episode at MHI-NK News

Top MHI-NK Stories from around the web:

S.Korean officials visit N.Korea to jointly inspect railways (Korea Herald)

A group of South Korean officials left for North Korea on Friday to jointly inspect railways as part of efforts to modernize and connect rail links over the inter-Korean border. The 15-member team led by Hwang Sung-gyu, a senior transportation ministry official,crossed into the North at around 8:30 a.m. by using the eastern cross-border route. The one-day trip is intended to jointly conduct inspections with North Korea on railways running along the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. The North will also send six officials for the work.

This is a follow-up to the agreement reached during working-level inter-Korean talks in June to cooperate in modernizing and eventually reconnecting railways running along the peninsula’s eastern and western regions.

Subject to inspection are the route running from Mount Kumgang on the North’s east coast to the Military Demarcation Line that separates the two Koreas. The Kaesong-MDL line in the western region will also be looked at on Tuesday, the ministry said.North Korea’s railway system is said to be so decrepit that it might need modernization or even replacement to be connected to South Korea’s.

This marks the first time in about 10 years that the two Koreas have conducted such joint inspections related to railway cooperation.The leaders of the two Koreas held a historic summit in April to halt hostile acts against each other and promote cross-border exchanges and cooperation in diverse areas.


Quantifying the Effectiveness of Nuclear Inspection in North Korea (Asan Institute)

Hasil gambar untuk The Asan Institute for Policy Studies Building

Kim Chong Woo and Ham Geon Hee try to determine what the chances are of detecting any violation assuming North Korea is cheating–how many inspections are required and how confident should the inspectors be to improve these chances of detection? “In the previous section, we have determined P from a range of values of n,m and p…”

Figure 1. Probability of detecting one or more violations with different n,m and p

The probability of detecting at least one violation assuming that North Korea is cheating. The higher the value of P, the more likely that we will catch North Koreans red-handed. The factors that determine P are the number of sites in violation (n), the number of inspections allowed (m) and the probability of correctly identifying a violation by the inspectors assuming that they are at a violating site (p). The exact mathematical equation for  and the conditions under which it can be used are explained in detail in the appendix.

Hasil gambar untuk The Asan Institute for Policy Studies Building

Appendix: Inspection Violation (Confidence) Model

Suppose that there are altogether N detected disturbances among which n are violations and suppose mn  inspections are allowed. Let p be the probability of correctly identifying a violation. Then, denotes the probability that M or more violations are detected, given by the equation below.

[Issue Brief] Quantifying the Effectiveness of Nuclear Inspection in North Korea.

The following simulation settings are chosen to see how P ‘evolves’ with different values of n,m and p. For n which is unknown to us, we have chosen the values 20, 40, 60, 80 which correspond to 5%, 10%, 15%, 20% of N. North Koreans will make as small as possible. For each fixed n, five different values of m corresponding to 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% of n have been chosen. For p, the range of values from 0.4 to 0.9 are used. One of the mathematical conditions demands that the number of inspections, m, be less than equal to the number of sites in violation, (see footnote 18). Figure 1 below shows P, the probability of detecting at least one violation, with different values of n,m and p.


We need a Plan B for North Korea (Washington Post)

Everyone wants Trump’s North Korea diplomacy to succeed, but not preparing a Plan B now will leave us with a binary choice of accepting a nuclear North Korea or war.

It’s not all bad news. North Korea has frozen missile and bomb tests in exchange for Trump freezing major U.S.-South Korean military drills, which is reversible. Tensions have gone down. Still, it’s time for the United States to own up to the likelihood that a grand bargain may not be possible. Kim simply might not be interested in giving up his nuclear program at all. He may not think Trump’s proposal to turn North Korea into a modern economy is in his best interest.

The domestic politics of North Korean diplomacy are good for Trump, so he has a personal incentive to keep it going. Like President Richard Nixon in 1969 , he can use the issue to distract from other scandals and present himself as a “peacemaker.” Trump bragged about the media attention on his Kim summit and attacked the media for negative coverage; that’s a win-win for him. There’s no political upside to ending the process, especially not before the next election.

“The national security implications of a long, drawn-out negotiation — one in which Kim plays Trump until Trump realizes it — are severe…”Nobody wants Trump to resort to a military solution, so other options must be readied. Congress should hasten work on new sanctions bills. The State Department must prepare a diplomatic strategy to pivot back to maximum pressure when the time comes, focusing on China. The Pentagon must update the military options so they remain credible, thereby lowering the prospect that they might ever be used.


N. Korean leader calls in overseas mission chiefs to Pyongyang (Yonhap News)

Hasil gambar untuk N. Korean leader calls in overseas mission chiefs to Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called in his ambassadors and heads of other overseas missions to Pyongyang, sources said Thursday. The heads of the North’s embassies and other missions were brought in for what is presumed to be an ambassadorial meeting, according to the sources.

It has not been confirmed yet whether the meeting is an annual event or a specially arranged one, the sources said.

The North reported on its 43rd ambassadorial meeting in July 2015, but no such reports have been compiled ever since.

The meeting, if confirmed, would come about a month after leader Kim Jong-un met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore and agreed to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Observers say that the meeting might be intended for Kim to instruct policy directions and encourage hard work ahead of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the North Korean regime on Sept. 9.


North Korea Economy Contracts as Sanctions Bite, South Officials Say (Wall Street Journal)

Hasil gambar untuk North Korea Economy Contracts as Sanctions Bite, South Officials Say

North Korea’s economy is estimated to have contracted the most in two decades last year, data from South Korea’s central bank showed, in a sign that its regime is feeling the pinch from stricter international sanctions.

North Korea’s gross domestic product plunged 3.5% in 2017, the biggest drop since 1997, the Bank of Korea said. That was a marked turnaround from 2016, when North Korea’s economy expanded 3.9%—the fastest pace in 17 years.

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