Report: North Korea sells paintings in violation of sanctions

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Dec. 6, 2017 at 11:22 AM
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Dec. 6 (UPI) -- North Korea is under the toughest sanctions yet in its history, but embargoes aren't stopping the regime from selling the works of state-commissioned painters outside the country.

The paintings from members of Pyongyang's Mansudae Art Studio have high value, and prices increase tenfold in 10 years, a North Korean saleswoman in Dandong, China, says, South Korean television network MBC reported Wednesday.

The works of Mansudae artists fell under United Nations Security Council sanctions in August, but the sanctions may not be being fully implemented in northeast China, where the MBC reporter went undercover to observe activities at an art gallery.

Paintings from North Korea's most celebrated artists are being sold at high prices, with some works priced in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to the report.

North Korean sales personnel on site would tell customers the art is underpriced and would have "high investment value," the report states.

"After 10 years, the price of the painting increases tenfold, so there are many people who buy North Korean paintings," one North Korean told MBC's undercover reporter.

Clients can also ask the artists, many of them celebrities in the North, to draw a customized portrait.

Minders or North Korean agents closely monitor the studios where the artists work, the report states.

Customized paintings can take up to 10 days to complete, and as many as five artists can work on one painting, a North Korean gallery representative says.

Sanctions are being implemented, and countries like Uganda have complied and expelled North Korean officials who once trained military and police.

But according to the Institute for Science and International Security, in Washington, D.C., dozens of countries continue to violate international sanctions, CNN Money reported Wednesday.

Nearly 50 nations have violated sanctions between March 2014 and September 2017, and some of them have ties to the North Korean military, according to the study.

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