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South Korean executives bought artwork at sanctioned North Korean studio

By Wooyoung Lee
South Korean executives bought artwork at sanctioned North Korean studio
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) visits the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 19. File Photo by Pyongyang Press Corps/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- South Korean customs authorities discovered that South Korean businessmen purchased paintings at an art studio in North Korea that is under United Nations sanctions.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said some of the members of the World Federation of Korean Association of Commerce, which consists of Korean executives running businesses overseas, bought artworks at Mansudae Art Studio during their visit to Pyongyang in November. A total of 97 business magnates went to Pyongyang to attend a business conference Nov. 15-18.

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The state customs service discovered some 20 paintings during a random inspection at Incheon International Airport and seized them as undeclared items.

"Whether it's a breach of the sanctions would be decided according to related laws. The matter is under discussion by government officials," ministry spokesman Paik Tae-hyun said in a Wednesday briefing.

The U.N. Security Council banned the Mansudae Art Studio' export of artworks in November 2016 under the Resolution 2371. It accused the art studio of attracting money from overseas through the sales.

According to the ministry, the entity under the sanctions is the Mansudae Overseas Development Company Group, an official name for the Mansudae Art Studio.

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The ministry said it wasn't notified of the businessmen's plan to visit the studio. Those who plan to travel to North Korea are required to submit their plans to the ministry beforehand.

"Their itinerary stated visits to commercial and industrial facilities, plus city sightseeing in Pyongyang. So, we didn't know details of their plans," Paik said.

In September, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the art studio during his summit trip.

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