North Korea

U.S. Reaffirms Commitment to Keep Luxury Items out of North Korea

  • May 3: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il leaves a hotel in Dalian, northeastern China.

    May 3: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il leaves a hotel in Dalian, northeastern China.  (Kyodo via AP)

  • Some luxury goods sanctioned include gold (Reuters), alcohol (Reuters), motorcycles (Yamaha), and cosmetics (AP).

    Some luxury goods sanctioned include gold (Reuters), alcohol (Reuters), motorcycles (Yamaha), and cosmetics (AP).

It's shaping up to be a crummy year-end bonus season in North Korea as the U.S. tries to make it even harder for the rogue nation's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-Il, to reward his honchos with expensive gifts.

Even the dear leader himself may have to settle for cheap homemade whiskey and stale old movies.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed Wednesday to impose new sanctions on the rogue state, she underscored America's commitment to ban luxury items -- things like jewelry, fur, rugs, alcohol and expensive cars -- from getting into the country, where Kim's cohorts tool around in luxury limos while their subjects undergo surgery without anesthesia and eat bark to survive.

The unanimous passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 in 2006 prohibited the entrance of nuclear, missile and chemical weapon technology, as well as equipment and materials into North Korea. 

But the resolution went further by adding an unprecedented ban on trading luxury goods with North Korea -- sanctions that were aimed directly at Kim's favorite upscale items, which he likes to bestow upon 600 loyalist bureaucrats and party members.

“Under the authority of Resolution 1718, all cargo ships must be inspected,” said Richard Grenell, the American spokesman for the U.N. when the resolution was passed.  

“During the Bush administration, we had something like the Coalition of the Willing that would stop and inspect ships and turn back many vessels trying to import banned items.”

Kim is known for his peculiar, yet extravagant, taste. He is reportedly a Scotch drinker and movie enthusiast, with over 10,000 different titles in his library. Satellite images have shown his residences to be lavish, complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool.  The "dear leader" also has six luxury trains for his personal use, since he never flies. Many train stations were reportedly built solely for his use. 

The sanctions banned all tobacco products and alcoholic beverages. Luxury and fashion apparel are also banned, including items made from leather, silk and fur. Also verboten are cosmetics, perfumes and designer clothing, all art and decorative items, rugs, tapestries, porcelain and bone china tableware, works of art, antiques, and collectable items.  

Jewelry, gems and precious metals are banned, as are musical instruments and recreational and sporting equipment.

Most electronic items, including DVD players, high-end TVs, all TVs larger than 29 inches, PDAs, personal digital music players and laptops are not allowed under the sanctions.   

Many transportation items are also banned, including yachts, luxury cars, racing cars, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and Segways. 

South Korea has published a list similar to the U.S. of luxury items banned for export to North Korea, but not every country has taken this approach. 

“It would be an enormous help if the member states of the U.N. would come up with a list of what a luxury good actually was,” said Claudia Rosett, a journalist-in-residence for Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  The resolution holds very little weight, she said, because interpretation on the implementation of the sanctions are at the discretion of each country.

Under the resolution, all member countries are required to comply with the weapons and luxury good bans and report to the U.N. on steps taken to enforce the sanctions, but not every nation appears to be committed to the sanctions as the U.S.

“Some countries aren’t seizing anything at all,” Rosett said.  “It’s very unlikely Kim Jong-Il is going without his favorite brandy and sushi every night.”

Ken Contrata contributed to this report.