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Ex-North Korea diplomat: Pyongyang makes a fortune in insurance fraud

By
Elizabeth Shim
Thae Yong-ho, the senior North Korea diplomat who defected in 2016, says Pyongyang has been filing false insurance claims to make profits, according to Yonhap. File Photo screenshot courtesy of Proletarian TV/YouTube
Thae Yong-ho, the senior North Korea diplomat who defected in 2016, says Pyongyang has been filing false insurance claims to make profits, according to Yonhap. File Photo screenshot courtesy of Proletarian TV/YouTube

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The North Korean diplomat who defected from Pyongyang's embassy in London said North Korea has earned "tens of millions of dollars" annually through insurance fraud.

Thae Yong-ho, who arrived in Seoul last August, has been supplying the local press with new revelations about the Kim Jong Un regime. He said Pyongyang's scams have been going on for 30 years, Yonhap reported on Friday.

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North Korea began making money on the London international insurance market in the '80s, when North Korea founder Kim Il Sung was still in power and son Kim Jong Il was working as second-in-command.

Thae said there is a North Korean phrase, "Siphon [money] off the insurance market," during his interview with the South Korean news agency.

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"In North Korea, there is only one state-owned insurance company, so that even if it fabricates an accident, there is no way to verify its claims," Thae said. "After purchasing international insurance or reinsurance for state infrastructure, documents are forged [on alleged accidents], which earns the state tens of millions of dollars a year."

That source of revenue, however, was cut off in May 2016, owing to the implementation of economic sanctions against Pyongyang in the European Union, and in Britain.

Thae also provided a new disclosure regarding an explosion at a train station in North Korea in 2004.

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The incident known as the Ryongchon disaster, caused by flammable cargo, resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people, according to South Korean press reports at the time.

Thae said the tragedy prompted Kim Jong Il to order the executions of North Korea's railway chief and several other transportation officials.

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