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Illegal rhino horns found on NKoreans arrested in Mozambique

North Koreans are able engage in the illegal trade as their diplomatic license plates exempt their vehicles from border inspection.

By Elizabeth Shim
Illegal rhino horns found on NKoreans arrested in Mozambique
In China, where demand for rhino horn is soaring, 2.2 pounds of the animal keratin can easily fetch $60,000 in the black market. Photo by jo Crebbin/Shutterstock

MAPUTO, Mozambique, May 27 (UPI) -- Two North Koreans were arrested in Mozambique after local police discovered illegal rhinoceros horns in the trunk of their car.

The arrests occurred on May 3 in the Mozambique capital of Maputo, Voice of America reported on Thursday, Seoul time.

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At the time of the arrest, police found ten pounds of rhino horn in the North Koreans' possession, as well as $99,300 in cash and about $200 of spare money in the South African currency.

In China, where demand for rhino horn is soaring, 2.2 pounds of the animal keratin can easily fetch $60,000 in the black market.

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A spokesperson at the South Korean embassy in South Africa said the two North Koreans were identified by name and affiliation.

One man, Pak Chol Chun, is a North Korean diplomat working at Pyongyang's embassy in South Africa, and the second suspect was identified as North Korean taekwondo master Kim Jong Su.

Olandu Mudumani, the spokesman for the Maputo police, confirmed the two were arrested but later freed on bail set at $30,000.

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Upon release, the two North Korean nationals used a land route to cross the border into South Africa, reported South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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The South Korean embassy source said the North Koreans regularly access the land route to Mozambique, in order to acquire horns of protected wildlife. The revenue is needed, the source said, to keep the North Korean mission in operation, and the horns are sent to China where they are sold as medicine in the black market.

In China, misinformation has led rhino horn buyers to believe the substance is a cancer cure, as well as a treatment for other ailments.

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North Koreans are able engage in the illegal trade as their diplomatic license plates exempt their vehicles from border inspection, according to the South Korean embassy.

International arrests of North Koreans engaged in illegal activity have been on the rise. In April, a North Korean diplomat and his wife were arrested in Pakistan, after selling alcohol on a Karachi roadside.

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