North Korean Sanctions

Putting Pyongyang on Notice

Germany North Korea
The Cityhostel Berlin (pictured left), located on part of North Korean embassy property, must shut down. Source: AP/Markus Schreiber

Germany is tightening sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program, obliging a large convention center and popular hostel in Berlin’s main tourist district to close its doors.

Officials confirmed media reports on Tuesday that Pyongyang will no longer be allowed to earn revenue by leasing out embassy property.

The convention center and 890-square-kilometer, 435 person capacity hostel, known as Cityhostel Berlin, must end their contracts or face hefty fines. Both properties have been providing the embassy with tens of thousands of euros a month since 2004, with the cash going towards embassy operations and financing North Korea’s weapons programs, experts say.

Germany has taken action following a UN Security Council resolution in November 2016 to impose sanctions after the East Asian country’s fifth nuclear test.

The North Korean embassy and its rental buildings are relics of communist East Germany, which had diplomatic relations with Pyongyang until German reunification in 1990. In 2004, the embassy allegedly started leasing out the property, large square concrete buildings typical of GDR architecture.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which first reported the story, claimed that the North Korean embassy in Berlin has long been a contentious issue in government circles. North Korean diplomats have been repeatedly exposed for conducting dirty deals overseas, from drug and ivory trafficking to arms dealing, in order to finance leader Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship.

The embassy in Berlin has also come under scrutiny over the years for allegedly procuring goods for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. According to defectors, at least one attempt to buy material for the country’s missile program took place in Berlin.


Barbara Woolsey writes for Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author:

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