101 East

North Korea’s Secret Money

101 East reveals the shadowy financial operations funding North Korea’s economy and fueling its missile ambitions.

One man was sent to a construction site in Kuwait.

Another went to work in a bank in Singapore.

Over the years, an estimated 150,000 North Korean workers have been sent abroad to raise money for the ruling Kim family.

This film reveals the men and women who help generate billions of dollars for North Korea – from former high-ranking officers to the workers who toil in factories and on construction sites around the world, only to have most of their salaries go directly back to the pariah state.

101 East meets defectors who say the cash earned overseas goes directly to the Kim family and has helped fund the development of their nuclear missile program.

A former high-ranking official reveals how former leader Kim Jong Il created Office 39, which manages thousands of companies and factories overseas and provides half of the country’s gross domestic product.

That money comes from labourers like Lim II.

He describes how he worked day and night on a construction site in Kuwait for five months but was never paid any wages. Instead, he says, his salary was sent straight back to Pyongyang.

Another defector, Kim Kwang-jin, says he made tens of millions of dollars for North Korea when he was sent to Singapore in the early 2000s to work for the country’s North East Asia Bank.

“Our main goal was to make foreign cash and this foreign cash business is a complete secret,” he says.

101 East follows the trail of North Korea’s Secret Money.