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Ford vans seen in Kim Jong Un’s entourage

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency released at least two photos of vans used in Kim Jong Un’s motorcade that appeared to be made by Ford Motor Co., suggesting that Pyongyang has again evaded U.N. sanctions.

One Feb. 29 photo of a groundbreaking ceremony shows Kim walking on a red carpet lined with soldiers at attention with the black passenger vans in the background. 

Another shows the four of the vans bearing the Ford logo on the front driving behind a luxury black sedan. 

The vehicles appear to be fourth generation Ford Transit vans that have been manufactured in North America since 2021. The photos didn’t show any passengers in the vans.

A 2013 U.N. sanctions resolution bans the import of luxury cars into North Korea. Another U.N. resolution in 2017 banned the import of all means of transportation.

But it’s widely believed that luxury goods are still being smuggled into North Korea.

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Two black Ford Transit vans are seen in the background during North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to air force headquarters on Dec. 1, 2023. (KCNA)

 

T.R. Reid, director of corporate and public policy communications for Ford, told Radio Free Asia that Ford “fully complies” with sanctions against North Korea and other countries, and “doesn’t provide products or services in, to or through agents of the country.”

“How these vehicles were procured for use in and brought to North Korea is unknown,” he said.

In January 2023, a vehicle presumed to be a Mercedes-Benz Maybach GLS 600 belonging to Kim was revealed in images from North Korea’s Korean Central Television. 

And at the end of last year, Kim and other top North Korean officials were seen arriving at Party Central Committee headquarters in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class car.

Allowing the Ford vans to be photographed was a demonstration by Kim that he can still access luxury items from all over the world, said Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the Rand Institute.

“American things like a Ford. German things, like a Mercedes,” he said. “He’s basically demonstrating his power and access that his people can get around all of these sanctions.”

Translated by Jisoo Kim. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.