North Korea Farms Scallops For Export Despite UN Bans

The move violatesUN sanctions on the export of seafood for badly needed foreign cash.

Disused fishing boats rest behind a fence separating North Korea from China in a file photo.

Defying U.N. sanctions prohibiting seafood exports, North Korea has set up off-shore farms for growing scallops, which it then plans to smuggle to neighboring countries, North Korean sources say.

The farms were established in June in waters off the port districts of South Hamgyong province’s Hamhung city, a source in South Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service.

“Scallop farming began in July, and the scallops will be ready for export early next year,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The company that operates the scallop farms is under the control of the military, which obtained permission from the Central Committee to operate the farms and sell the scallops to raise money for the military,” he said.

The export of seafood from North Korea is banned under international sanctions punishing the nuclear-armed country for its illicit nuclear weapon and missile programs.

Despite the ban, North Korean scallops remain popular in foreign markets, RFA’s source said, adding that the farms’ Chinese partner has provided infant scallops, or “seeds,” under an agreement that allows the Chinese firm to take 30 percent of the cultivated product.

“The scallops will be from 7 to 10 centimeters big, large enough to be exported, by February next year,” the source said.

About 1,000 tons of scallops will be collected, with plans to export one ton of the 7-centimeter scallops at $4,000 per ton and one ton of the 10-centimeter scallops at $6,000 per ton to China, the source said.

“But the trading company calculates that they can earn double this amount if they export the scallops to South Korea or other countries instead of China.”

“Trade workers from the North Korean military now in China are secretly looking for a South Korean company that wants North Korean scallops,” he said.

Encouraging export for foreign cash

Also speaking to RFA, a source in North Hamgyong province, bordering China, said that the number of North Korean shellfish farms continues to grow, with farms now operating in North Hamgyong’s coastal city of Chongjin and in South Hamgyong’s Hongwon and Riwon counties.

“As the U.S. continues to push for stricter economic sanctions, the Central Committee tries to develop the fishing industry and encourages the export of seafood for foreign cash.”

“Unlike Hungnam port, where large cargo ships enter, Seoho is known as a port where fishing vessels of a marine product management office and fishermen smuggle seafood to China,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

However, as more fishing companies are established by the military trading companies, ordinary fishermen have no chance to fish in waters close to shore, he said.

“Instead, they travel farther away to fish, and they often lose their lives in accidents,” he said.

Reported by Hyemin Son for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.