Kim Watch: A gentleman’s revenge

​The “Friendship Bridge” connecting Dandong China with North Korea, across the Yalu River.​
The “Friendship Bridge” connects Dandong, China, (foreground) and Sinuiju, North Korea. Some 70% of trade between the two countries goes through Dandong (source: dpa)

In early June, Chinese authorities arrested a North Korean man in the city of Dandong, in the northeastern Liaoning province. The sting occurred just a few days after Ri Su-yong, a senior North Korean envoy, had visited Beijing requesting food aid for his country. When Chinese security officials searched the North Korean man’s apartment, they found 30 million yuan ($4.5 million) in cash and a number of gold bars.

Dandong is a key Chinese city because of its location on the bank of the Yalu River, at the border with North Korea. A bridge less than nine hundred meters long connects the two countries there. Some 70 percent of trade between China and North Korea goes through Dandong. As such, it is the most important “business city” for Kim Jong-un’s regime.

North Korea has sent tens of thousands of people to set up trading companies in China, most of which conduct their operations in cash. That cash is brought back to Pyongyang by these “businessmen.” The scheme is not only an attempt to avoid international economic sanctions, but also helps the regime launder money.

Dandong is crowded with all sorts of people who want to obtain information on North Korea. The countless spies from countries across the globe make it feel like a scene from a Hollywood film. However, no one is lucky enough to escape the close eye of the Chinese authorities.

There is an old Chinese saying that goes: “Ten years is not too late for a gentleman to get his revenge.”


Although China did not seem bothered by North Korea’s attempted launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on the day Mr. Ri arrived in Beijing, you might wonder if the sudden arrest of the North Korean “businessman” serves as indirect retaliation for Kim Jong-un’s constant snubs.

What Kim Jong-un may not know is that there is an old Chinese saying that goes: “Ten years is not too late for a gentleman to get his revenge.” Perhaps when the Swiss cheese, French foie gras and Japanese tuna disappear from his table, Mr. Kim will wake up and realize why China has done this to him.

In Kim Watch, GIS Expert Kati Kang shares her insights into the policies of Kim Jong-un. For more, click here.

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