North Korea’s ‘largest car theft in history’ from Sweden still hasn’t been resolved | World | News

The planet understands North Korea for its position as the Hermit Kingdom: the place the place no a person can leave and handful of can enter. In the latest years, the isolationist point out has flexed its nuclear abilities on the earth phase, on a regular basis launching missiles at vacant targets outside its borders. Some of these missiles, its leader Kim Jong-un statements, can even arrive at Europe and the US. Switch back again the clock nearly 50 several years, on the other hand, and North Korea was in the headlines for anything really unrelated to armageddon.


In 1974, Pyongyang obtained away with a single of the best automobile heists in heritage. When it agreed on a offer to acquire 1,000 Volvos from Sweden, on receiving them, North Korea refused to spend.

Footage of the 1,000 cars and trucks the state ordered has recently absent viral on the net, labelled the “major car or truck theft in background” by Twitter web site @Historicvids. The video has reignited inquiries about the episode and regardless of whether North Korea was at any time pursued by Sweden.

The place, then led by Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, asked for the autos be produced and sent by Sweden Stockholm adopted by way of on the request and later that yr the motors have been on their way to Pyongyang.

Unearthed accounts display that Sweden has ongoing to ship expenses to North Korea 2 times a 12 months, with curiosity accruing on the volume it is owed. A 1st Publish report predicts that the financial worth of the cars and trucks is at present close to €300million (£266million).

The saga by itself was noted on by The Wall Avenue Journal’s journalist Urban Lehner, who frequented North Korea for the story in 1989. Crafting about his knowledge, the reporter described how the Volvos “screeched about tight curves”.

He continued: “In a further country, it would be a suicide trip, but in North Korea, so couple autos ply the highways that every single can usually have the street to itself.

“You had an interpreter and a driver and a Volvo, and you were being a spouse and children for two months. Actually, they were wonderful automobiles. Even when you slalomed across five lanes, they had been in essence risk-free.”

Referencing the theft safa, Mr Lehner included: “We had listened to the tale that the North Korean [authorities] had bought these vehicles, then stiffed Volvo and not paid out. We joked that we ended up using close to in stolen vehicles.”

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At the time of North Korea’s Volvo purchase, the nation was in a interval of flux. Financially, it was executing effectively, and was rising as an economic system exactly where dollars could be made.

Jonathan D. Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Establishment, told NPR in 2019 that right after the Korean War, which finished in 1953, Pyongyang’s “overall economy was rebuilt”.

He ongoing: “It turned a functioning industrial state, nonetheless quite help-dependent — but it wouldn’t have appeared like this kind of a terrible bet, underneath the conditions.”

As a end result, Sweden happily shipped over the items and was so happy with relations among the two countries its still left-leaning leadership even demanded a diplomat be sent there.

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Erik Cornell, the guy tasked with the task, was despatched and stayed until eventually 1975. He outlined in his 2002 memoir, North Korea Beneath Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise, how the state experienced overestimated its abilities.

He explained factories remaining remaining to rust, and the overall economy staying falsely advertised as flourishing. But by opening an embassy in Pyongyang, Sweden and Mr Cornell had acquired the dictatorship’s have confidence in. At the time it even aided act as an “intermediary amongst North Korea and the outside the house globe”.

Mr Pollack ongoing: “The Swedes are very superior at this. The Swedes have usually performed that sort of a job in diplomacy of various kinds. They are observed, in some evaluate, as an honest broker.”

But the automobiles continue to went unpaid for. Journalist Florin Amariei described how Sweden “by no means expected North Korea to not supply on its guarantee… which is why they waited for the dollars”.