Kim Jong-un loses access to his coveted wristwatches

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Kim Jong-un loses access to his coveted wristwatches

Switzerland exported no luxury watches to North Korea in May or June in accordance with a new round of sanctions levied on the Communist state in May.

According to data from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry in Switzerland, where Kim and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong studied abroad at a boarding school in their teenage years, there was not even a single watch exported to the totalitarian state in May and June, as Switzerland banned exports of luxury items to the country in line with UN Security Council resolutions, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported Friday. The sanctions were imposed in March after the North’s nuclear test in January and long-range missile launch in February.

Switzerland’s ban on exporting expensive watches to the North is certain to have disappointed Kim, who took control of the country in December 2011 and has been seen publicly wearing Swiss watches such as Movado a number of times. Aside from his personal interest, Kim imports expensive watches to use as gifts for senior officials in the elite circle in Pyongyang to win their loyalty and cement his grip on power.

The lack of luxury watches is a stark contrast to just a year before, when Switzerland shipped off a total of 451 Swiss-made watches and other watch-related items between January and June of last year, worth about 87 million won ($76,688).

In a testament to Kim’s craze for Swiss watches, Pyongyang paid 216,423 Swiss francs ($219,559) to import them in 2012, the second year of Kim’s rule, four times more than the 59,947 francs paid in 2010 when his father Kim Jong-il was in power.

Prior to Switzerland’s levying of new far-reaching sanctions in May, it shipped 87 watches to North Korea from January to April this year. In addition to the prohibition of watch exports, Switzerland had already ordered the freezing of assets held by North Koreans in the country and closure of their bank accounts and funds owned by the North Korean government.

Switzerland also ordered the closure of Swiss bank branches operating in Pyongyang. In addition to an export ban on watches, Switzerland prohibited the selling of rare earth minerals, ski equipment, coal and iron under its May sanctions.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]


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