North Korea, UN and big bully US

Al Jazeera recently reported that North Korea will soon get its money. The procedure to release a number of bank accounts frozen has started while the world awaits for North Korea to finally abandon its nuclear ambition. North Korea, however, missed the mid-April deadline to scrap its nuclear program but it never missed to test a short-range missile towards the sea of Japan

With this development, the US is eager to start anew the six-nations talks by early July so they could move forward to the agreement that was made on February 13, 2007 where North Korea agreed to do as follows (Source: Al Jazeera Report):

  • Shut down its main nuclear reactor facility within 60 days of deal
  • Allow UN nuclear inspectors entry for all monitoring and verification
  • Discuss list of all nuclear programs and materials including plutonium extracted from fuel rods
  • Declare all nuclear programs and disarmament of all existing nuclear facilities
  • Begin talks on normalizing diplomatic ties with the US and Japan and resume high-level talks with South Korea
  • US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea to initally ship 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil within initial phase
  • Additional aid up to the equivalent of 1M tonnes of heavy fuel oil to be delivered to North Korea upon compliance

Around US$20 million was reportedly deposited with the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia and was frozen after the US alleged that it was linked to North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting. However, the US apparently not only eyed this bank but even suspected development funds coursed through the United Nations as a source for money laundering and other illegal activities.

According to a source inside the UN, the US accused UN projects in North Korea as a source of money for the communist regime. My source informed me that the US went as far as threatening to withdraw its funding with the UN unless the UN withdraws all of its projects based in Pyongyang. The UNDP bit the US bluff and withdrawn all of its projects in North Korea this year.

UNDP made a statement in connection to the US allegation and has consistently denied that its funds are transferred directly to the communist regime. It strongly asked the US to substantiate its allegations but have not received any to date.

Here’s the excerpt of UNDPs statement on the US allegations:

Allegation: In 2001 and 2005* UNDP transferred US$7 million to a North Korean government entity called the National Coordinating Committee for UNDP (NCC).UNDP Response: The NCC is UNDP’s counterpart agency within the North Korean government.  UNDP’s records show transfers to the NCC for 2001 and 2005 totaling only roughly $175,000, most of which was used by the North Koreans to host agricultural workshops for participants from Africa and Least Developed Countries in Asia.  The workshops covered topics such as vegetable growing and seed processing.  The money was used mainly for consultants and training activities and not for equipment.

Allegation: $2.8 million was transferred by the NCC to North Korean missions in Europe and New York, which used the money to purchase buildings and houses.UNDP Response:  As stated above, UNDP records show that total UNDP payments to the NCC for 2001 and 2005 amounted to only roughly $175,000 and that a large part of this funding was in support of agricultural workshops.

Allegation: UNDP paid nearly $2.7million to purchase goods and services from companies linked to a North Korean entity designated under U.S. law (E.O 13382) as the main North Korean financial agent for sales of conventional arms and ballistic missiles.
UNDP Response: UNDP has no record of any dealings with one of the companies.  In 2004 our records show that UNDP procured $22,000 worth of workshop equipment and supplies from the other company, on behalf of UNESCO.

Allegation: UNDP procured “dual use” equipment for North Korea, including a GPS system, computers and accessories, and a mass spectrometer. 
UNDP Response: As part of a project to monitor floods and droughts devastating vulnerable arable land in North Korea, in June 2006 UNDP did procure a GPS system costing $65,000 (including 18 personal GPS devices); spectrometer equipment costing $6,000; and various computers, printers, etc.  The project, which centres on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS), was initiated by UNDP and the British government in 2000.  GIS/RS systems are increasingly common in many developing countries and assist with land use classification, natural disaster monitoring and crop yield estimation.  UNDP supports similar initiatives in the Maldives and India.  The project in DPRK has progressed quite slowly since 2002 and was reassessed by an international expert in 2006.  The equipment in question was procured as a result of this reassessment. 

Allegation: On several occasions UNDP local employees withdrew from UNDP’s accounts and circulated counterfeit US funds amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
UNDP Response: UNDP takes allegations of possible counterfeiting very seriously.  It knows of no instances of possible counterfeit currency linked to its operations in North Korea. UNDP recently transferred to U.S. authorities $3,500 in suspect counterfeit funds that do not belong to it but had been in its safe in North Korea for some time. 

Allegation: UNDP retaliated against a staff member who expressed concerns over UNDP operations in DPRK, and threatened several others.
UNDP Response: UNDP has not retaliated or threatened any staff members. A former consultant who served on a series of short-term contracts for UNDP, including in North Korea, has raised concerns over some aspects of UNDP’s operations there.  These concerns have been reviewed, including by UNDP senior management.  The individual was interviewed by the UN Board of Auditors as part of the recent external audit of UNDP’s operations in DPRK.  The individual does not currently work for UNDP, having left the organization in March 2007, upon the expiration of his most recent short-term contract. 


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