Experts monitoring the secluded nation, state Room 39 is critical to the Kim family’s continued power, enabling them to buy political support and help fund North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. The financial activity stemming from this secretive location is overseen by the supreme leader’s sister, Kim Yo-Jong. The dictator’s sister, and possible successor, is thought to keep her hands on the nation’s purse strings through her control of the illicit activities performed in Room 39.
Through a wide variety of overseas investments, illicit trading and tax haven transactions, the room is the epicentre of the foreign currency reserves which allows the regime to stay in power.
North Korea experts Harry Kazianis, John Dale Grover, and Adriana Nazarko writing in February in The National Interest said: “While the extent of her role in maintaining the office is not known, it is likely that due to her position in managing the Kim family, she plays some part in overseeing financial transactions that directly relate to the slush funds financing the regime.”
US intelligence officials have tried for years to crack the levels of security to identify the full nature of illegal dealings coming from the location, with only limited success
Since former US president Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13551, which curtailed the finances of the despotic regime there has been an increase in the revenue generated from Room 39.
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The US-led sanctions targetted “individuals and entities facilitating North Korean trafficking in arms and related materiel; procurement of luxury goods; and engagement in certain illicit economic activities, such as money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking.”
Room 39 is the largest of three influential so-called Third Floor offices along with Office 35 tasked with intelligence and Office 38 which handles legal financial activities.
Room 39 is believed to be located inside a ruling Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, not far from one of the North Korean leader’s residences.
The room manages foreign currency earnings from foreigner transactions at hotels in Pyongyang.
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It also trades in commodities, such as gold and zinc, and agricultural and fisheries exports.
Up to 120 legitimate front companies are believed to be controlled by Room 39.
Include Zokwang Trading and Taesong Bank.
The profits from textile exports each year have phony “made in China” labels attached to them and the wages of the estimated 50,000 North Korean workers sent abroad to work are reported to be handled by the secretive location.
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