Kim Jong Un’s perceived flare for the dramatic is something he shares with his late father, Kim Jong Il. The elder Kim was a noted cinephile and James Bond fan, and analysts say his fondness for spy thrillers appeared to influence his leadership — South Korea says he tried to assassinate enemies with a pen, and kidnapped movie stars in order to boost the country’s own film industry.
And Kim Jong Il also created of what’s known as “Office 39.”
The US Treasury Department says Office 39 is the bureau that “provides critical support to North Korean leadership in part through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds.”
The money basically hides in plain sight, according to Harvard-based North Korea specialist John Park. “North Korean overseas networks have been extremely adaptive to the combined pressures of international sanctions, in large part due to their ability to nest and disguise their illicit business within the licit trade,” according to Park.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States will try to further stymie North Korean operations by punishing third parties that help Pyongyang skirt sanctions. Though Tillerson did not specify how those third-country sanctions would work, part of the strategy involves asking countries around the globe to scale back their diplomatic relationships with Pyongyang. Experts say China cracking down on its unruly neighbor may be the key to stopping Pyongyang’s illicit activities.