North Korea trade fair in Russia violates sanctions

North Korea is trying to get away from the sanctions by opening the North Korean Goods Festival, a trade fair in Russia. (Image: Era Seo)

A North Korean trade fair in Russia at the end of June directly challenged sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. 

The event, held in Vladivostok June 26 to 30, even featured a model of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile which was the basis for the sanctions.

Coming on the heels of the state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the upgrading of bilateral ties, the trade fair appears to be a deliberate provocation endorsed by the Russians.

The sanctions date back to 2017 when the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2356 over Pyongyang’s ballistic missile tests. It included additional sanctions on four specific organizations and 14 individuals. Later that year, the UN adopted three more resolutions in response to successive missile and nuclear tests.

The North Korean Goods Festival, as the trade fair was billed, was held at Vladivostok’s Dynamo Stadium with 150 representatives and 20 managers from several trading companies.

One was the Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, an affiliate of the Mansudae Art Studio, which is a major foreign currency earner for the regime and one of the organizations on the UN sanctions list. 

Founded in 1959, the Mansudae Art Studio exports paintings, handicrafts, ceramics and other works of art, including statues and architecture. 

Among the artworks on display at the trade fair were “Towards 2012” by Ham Sung-chol, a ceramic vase by Woo Chol-ryong, and an embroidery work called “Fairy” by Ri Won-in.

More unusually, the event featured a water tube for children in the shape of the Hwasong-15. This was a violation of the prohibition on displaying models of such missiles by the Security Council and appears to have been a blatant challenge to the international community.

With Russia a permanent member of the UN Security Council, analysts assume that the provocation was deliberate and approved by Moscow. 

The two allies share pariah status, following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The two leaders signed a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement” on June 19 that commits them to come to one another’s aid in times of conflict.

Era Seo

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