I thought I'd post this under the General Cycling Discussion forum.
80,000 Japanese bikes shipped to North Korea? How many Japanese bikes are shipped to the U.S.?
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Despite the government's economic sanctions on North Korea, there is steady growth in exports of some goods to the country--especially of bicycles, shipments of which jumped more than fivefold this year.
Though Japan has banned all North Korean ships from entering the nation in the wake of Pyongyang's nuclear test in October last year, exports of bicycles from Japan to North Korea this year surged to 81,268 units--a record high.
Though the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry knows about the shipments through reports from customs offices, the ministry has not taken any action, saying that only North Korean-registered vessels are subject to the restrictions. The bicycle exports are carried by ships from third countries, and thus cannot be investigated.
Some businesspeople and economists have pointed out that this leaves a big hole in the sanctions.
After the nuclear test, the government banned all North Korean-registered ships, including the passenger-cargo ship Man Gyong Bong-92, a regular visitor, from entering Japanese ports.
Imports from North Korea also have been banned, and export to the country of luxury goods, such as jewelry, has been prohibited. On Oct. 9, the Cabinet decided to extend the economic sanctions for another six months.
The effects of the sanctions can be seen in trade statistics. Imports from North Korea were zero between January and August. The total value of exports to North Korea in the period fell about 80 percent from a year ago to about 693 million yen.
But North Korea has accelerated moves to charter cargo ships registered in third countries, such as China and Cambodia, to import goods from Japan.
The volume of goods exported to North Korea on the third country-registered ships has been rising.
Bicycles are one item that has been exported every month. A dealer engaging in Japan-North Korea trade said bicycles are now the "main moneymakers" for traders both in Japan and North Korea.
Before the sanctions, the bicycle trade with North Korea was mainly conducted by small North Korean ships that brought marine products into Japan and took bicycles back.
Many of the third-country ships now being used are large cargo vessels. This has allowed an increase in the size of each shipment, and sharply increased the number of bicycles exported.
The bicycles sent to North Korea are ones that were abandoned by unidentified owners outside train stations. Local governments sell such bikes to dealers, who then apparently sell them on to traders dealing in exports to North Korea.
The bicycles are shipped from three ports--Sakai Port, straddling the border of Shimane and Tottori prefectures; Shimonoseki Port in Yamaguchi Prefecture; and Yatsushiro Port in Kumamoto Prefecture.
At Sakai Port, about 11,000 bicycles were exported to North Korea in April aboard a Belize-registered cargo ship.
On Thursday morning, bicycles and refrigerators were unloaded from trucks and placed in lines along a pier in preparation for transportation to North Korea.
In response, the government has said that it may take action if it can be proved that the loophole is significantly undermining the sanctions.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said, "The government may need to take action in the future."
(Oct. 26, 2007)