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更新时间:2017-10-10 12:04:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Hosting Proms and Selling Cows: North Korean Embassies Scrounge for Cash

SOFIA, Bulgaria — While the embassies of most countries promote the interests of companies back home, North Korea’s are in business for themselves.


A series of tough sanctions by the United Nations and an executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump have sought to economically isolate the nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong Un. But Pyongyang has held on to an array of profit-making ventures, some of which operate in the roughly 40 embassies of the hermit kingdom.


Many of these enterprises are hard to trace, but at least one is impossible to miss. For years, neighbors have complained about the noise coming from a large, fenced-in building here in a southern section of Bulgaria’s capital city. It hosts parties a few times a week, many of them capped off with a late-night flurry of fireworks, shot from the roof.


“It isn’t loud now,” one neighbor, Bonka Nikolova, said as a parade of wedding guests filed into the building. “But if they paid for fireworks, there will be fireworks.”

“现在动静倒是不大,”一个名叫邦卡·尼科洛娃(Bonka Nikolova)的邻居说,当时一群参加婚礼的客人正走进那栋大楼。“但是如果他们买了烟花,就会放。”

Nikolova has called the police, but there isn’t much they can do. The building, filled with gilded halls that can be rented for events, enjoys a kind of diplomatic immunity courtesy of its owner: the government of North Korea.


North Korean embassies have spent decades running cash-raising schemes, nearly all them illicit under current international law. Diplomats and their underlings have brokered deals for weapons and drugs and more mundane products like machine tools and cows. They have also smuggled liquor, cigarettes, luxury cars and anything else that can be imported duty free and then sold at a gain.


“My late father-in-law was an ambassador,” said Marcus Noland, who studies North Korea and is executive vice president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, “and he told me that in India, years ago, it was known within the diplomatic corps that if you wanted to buy beef, you could knock on the backdoor of the North Korean Embassy in Delhi. They ran an abattoir in the basement.”

“我已故的岳父是大使,”华盛顿彼得森国际经济研究所(Petersen Institute for International Economics)副所长、朝鲜问题专家马库斯·诺兰(Marcus Noland)说,“他告诉我,在印度,很多年前外交使团都知道,如果你想买牛肉,可以敲朝鲜驻德里大使馆的后门。他们在地下室经营着一个屠宰场。”

Earning money is a necessity for the embassies — North Korea doesn’t fund them. Instead, they are expected to support themselves and send home any surplus.


Despite the sanctions it is under, North Korea did $6.5 billion in trade last year. Analysts estimate that embassy revenues represent a small sum compared with the country’s other low-profile foreign ventures.


Those included cadres of bodyguards leased to dictators who don’t trust their own citizens, laborers dispatched to work sites around the world who must remit their wages and state-owned companies that export ballistic missiles and other arms to countries like Syria.


In some cases, diplomats get involved with weapons deals. The third private secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Beijing doubled as an employee of Haegeumgang Trading Co. The company, according to a U.N. report, supplied surface-to-air missiles and radar systems to Mozambique.

在某些情况下,外交官也会参与武器交易。朝鲜驻北京大使馆三等私人秘书就在海金刚贸易公司(Haegeumgang Trading Co.)兼职。联合国的一份报告称,该公司向莫桑比克提供地对空导弹和雷达系统。

Diplomats for the country have been ad hoc entrepreneurs since at least 1976. That year, Norway’s police found through surveillance that every member of the North Korean Embassy in Oslo was involved in the import and sale of as many as 10,000 bottles of spirits and 100,000 cigarettes.


Today, sanctions have forced many embassies to curb their ambitions, with some intent on keeping the lowest possible profile.


The North Korean Embassy in London sits unobtrusively in Ealing, a suburblike section of London, just another brick house in a row of them. The difference is a small sign, barely visible from outside the wrought iron fence: “Residence and office, embassy of D.P.R. Korea.”


Aside from black luxury sedans in the driveway, there are rarely signs of life in the building, even to neighbors.


“I’ve never seen anyone go in or out of there,” said Ali Wiseman, a student who lives in a group house two doors down. “And I’ve been here a year.”

“我从来没有见过有人从那里进出。”阿里·威斯曼(Ali Wiseman)说。他是一个学生,住在隔着两个门的合租房里。“我来这里有一年了。”

His roommate, Rupert Thomson, has seen people there. “I once saw three women working on the lawn out front, and they did everything to not look at me,” he said.

他的室友鲁珀特·汤姆森(Rupert Thomson)倒是见过有人在那里。“我曾经看到三名妇女在屋子前面修草坪,她们竭尽所能地避免看向我,”他说。

In Poland, 40 businesses are listed at the address of the North Korean Embassy in Warsaw, including a pharmaceutical company, several advertising agencies and a yacht club. How many of these businesses are actually staffed there is unclear.


In Sofia, the embassy owns a number of buildings on two properties. One is a complex that includes the embassy itself. Passers-by can pause at a glass display case — standard issue for embassies in the city — filled with photographs. One captures the Supreme Leader beaming at a crowd, others were of missiles that had just been launched.


The event space, known as Terra Residence, is a 15-minute walk east. It’s the former home of the North Korean ambassador, built in the 1980s with dazzle instead of comfort in mind. Photos on Terra’s promotional website show an interior that is essentially a communist take on Versailles — a series of huge and austere halls with chandeliers, gold curtains and paintings of ballerinas.

那个举办活动的场地名为特拉居(Terra Residence),从大使馆向东走大约15分钟即到。朝鲜大使官邸之前就设在那里,它建于1980年代,看上去令人炫目,而非让人想到舒适。特拉居的宣传网站上贴有一些室内照片,感觉是对凡尔赛宫的共产主义式模仿——它有一系列巨大简朴的大厅,配有吊灯、金色窗帘和以芭蕾舞女演员为主题的画作。

Terra rents out the space for magazine photo sessions, music videos and television ads, including a handful for national banks and one for the Bulgarian version of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Its main business is weddings, proms and corporate events.

特拉居将空间出租给拍摄杂志照片、音乐视频和电视广告的人使用,其中包括一些国有银行和保加利亚版的《名人学徒》(Celebrity Apprentice)。其主要业务是举办婚礼、毕业舞会和企业活动。

Surprisingly, residents didn’t seem particularly vexed about living near an enterprise that has pumped money into the world’s most repressive and notorious regime. But that may say more about Bulgaria’s government than the dangers of North Korea.


“When you live in a place where it’s so difficult to get even trivial stuff done,” Nikolova said, “it’s hard to worry about World War III.”