North Korea Security Threats

Data and information about security threats from North Korea’s black market. Intelligence and security information collected from government agencies, news articles and other public data sources.

According to intelligence agencies and police reports, the purity of the crystal meth that is trafficked out of North Korea has been tested to have a 99 percent purity rate.

The production of crystal meth is a big business for the North Korean state. Intelligence agencies estimate that up to 40 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade levels comes from black market activities, of which the trafficking of crystal meth is a large portion.

In the Northern areas of the country, between 40 to 50 percent of the population is reportedly addicted to crystal meth.

(Prices of meth around the world.)

Source:  Lizzie Parry, “Brea-KIM bad! 99% pure crystal meth made in North Korea floods U.S. drug markets,” Daily Mail, April 26, 2014.

There is an active black market in North Korea for Choco Pie, a marshmallow chocolate pie that is sold around the world.

Media reports state that North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex first came across the pie when working for South Korean firms. The firm would pack a lunch box for the workers and include a Choco Pie as a dessert. The workers began taking it home with them and sharing it with their families, which later spread throughout the community.

According to news reports by CNN and the Daily Mail, the price of a Choco Pie on North Korea’s black market in $10, with some reports of the pie being sold for $23.

The pies are manufactured in South Korea at a cost of $0.50 per pie.

The average income for a typical North Korean worker is between $100 to $200 a month.

(More goods and services bought on the black market.)

Source:  “The chocolate treat so popular in North Korea that workers are buying it for up to a day’s wages on the black market from South,” Daily Mail, January 27, 2014.

According to defectors and intelligence analysts, North Korean security agents are increasing their inspections on regional offices after an order by leader Kim Jong-un. As a result of the increased surveillance, the amount of bribes being paid to the security services have increased in 2013.

According to intelligence sources in North Korea, local party officials offer drugs, cash, meals and other gifts to the inspectors when they show up. Top officials receive up to $2,000 in bribes, while propaganda officers, state inspectors, and Defense commission members all receive up to $1,000 per visit.

(Examples of political corruption worldwide.)

In addition to the increase in bribes, a mass execution recently took place in a stadium as a results of security services finding contraband materials. Along with executions that took place across 7 cities, up to 80 people were executed in a stadium that authorities filled with over 10,000 residents in Wonsan. The crimes including watching South Korean dramas on pirated videos, being in possession of a Bible, and distributing pornography.

Source:  “How Oppressions in N.Korea Fuels Corruption,” Chosun Iblo, November 18, 2013.

Source:  Carol J. Williams, “North Korea executes 80, some for minor offenses, newspaper says,” Los Angeles Times, November 11, 2013.


In an article by the Korean Times, a 26 year old female stated that she was working as a prostitute after defecting from North Korea. The woman stated that she borrowed $6,000 from a broker to obtain the necessary documents to help her defect to South Korea. The woman was told that she would be working at a karaoke bar in order to repay the loan.

Once in South Korea, the woman had her passport taken and was forced to work in a brothel. The woman would earn $70 for each session she had with a customer.

The sex industry in South Korea is estimated to be worth $12 Billion, with 46,000 brothels in operation.

(More earnings and income from the black market.)

Source:  Kim Young-jin and Kim Jae-won, “Int;l sex trafficking – Korea’s open secret,” Korea Times, October 14, 2013.

According to a report by Radio Free Asia, the price of a gram of methamphetamine in North Korea is $11 (70 Chinese Yuan).

(More prices of meth from around the world.)

Due to the high cost for residents of North Korea, up to 20 people share one gram and consume the drug together.

It was previously reported that up to 40 to 50 percent of the residents near the border of China were addicted to meth.

(More facts about meth addiction and trafficking.)

Source:  Sung Hui Moon, “‘Ice’ Use Spreads, Worsening North Korea’s Drug Addiction Problem,” Radio Free Asia, September 19, 2013.

According to the author of a study about methamphetamine abuse in North Korea, an estimated 40 to 50 percent of residents in the northern part of the country are addicted to crystal meth. The author believes that almost everyone in the area surrounding the North Korea and China border has used meth at least once in their lifetimes.

As methamphetamine keeps the user awake for long periods of time, meth addicts in North Korea reportedly buy sleeping pills on the black market to counteract the crystal meth.

Previously, meth was produced in government-run factories. However, in recent years, the production of meth has become decentralized and is now being cooked at home.

(How much does a gram of meth cost?)

Source:  Jason Strother, “North Korea Grapples With Crystal-Meth Epidemic,” Wall Street Journal, Korea Rea-Time Blog, August 20, 2013.

According to intelligence sources, over 30 percent of North Korean athletes involved in a 2012 sporting event tested positive for drug use.

Drug use by residents of North Korea began to increase during the 2000s, according to security officials. Major drug factories are located in Pyongyan and Kangwon Province.

Previously, drugs were produced to be trafficked to overseas markets in order to generate revenue for the North Korean government.

Source:  “Prostitution, Drug Abuse Spread in N.Korea,” Chosun Ilbo, August 19, 2013.

Smugglers from North Korea are smuggling boxes full cigarettes into China and earning up to $8 per box. Each box consists of 500 cigarettes produced in North Korea. One smuggler told a reporter that he is able to make up to $8 per box when sold illegally on the black market in China.

China has over 300 million smokers and consumers one-third of all cigarettes worldwide.

In North Korea, a pack of cigarettes costs about $0.50 (3,500 North Korean Won) on the black market. Popular brands of tobacco in the country are Gohyang, Craven, and Yeomyeong.

Source:  Sung Hui Moon, “North Korean Smugglers Cash in as More Chinese Light Up,” Radio Free Asia, April 3, 2013.

Security analysts estimate that up to 40 percent of North Korea’s total trade levels could be made up from illicit revenue. Intelligence reports state that government agencies in North Korea actively participates in criminal rackets such as counterfeiting, production and sales of methamphetamine, and the illegal exporting of missile sales.

Source: Parameswaran Ponnudurai, “Global Bid to Cripple North Korea’s Illicit Trade,” Radio Free Asia, March 5, 2013.

Between 1998 and 2012, the North Korea Government is estimated to have spent between $2.8 Billion and $3.2 Billion on its missile program. The amount of money spent on the missile program would have been able to feed the entire country with corn for 3 years.

Source:  Jane Perlez, “Despite Risks, China Stays at North Korea’s Side to Keep the U.S. at Bay,” New York Times, December 13, 2012.