North Korea

House of Lords written question – answered on 20th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports concerning the export of North Korean natural resources and “blood minerals”, including gold, produced by forced labour from political prison camps, reaching London and other European markets; and whether there is a European Union prohibition on investment in North Korea’s mining sector.

Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Senior Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Jointly with the Department for Communities and Local Government), Senior Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Faith and Communities) (also in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We are deeply concerned at reports of the use of political prisoners as forced labour in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). While trade in gold, diamonds and precious metals from the DPRK is banned under existing EU sanctions aimed at preventing the further development of the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, there is no general prohibition on the import of minerals and other natural resources from the DPRK, or on investment in the DPRK’s mining sector.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for the information he has provided regarding imports of magnesite from the DPRK into the EU by a Swiss company in 2009. As the noble Lord knows, information in the DPRK can be hard to verify. However, officials have looked at the map showing the location of the magnesite mines and plants and compared them with the locations of political prison camps as identified in a 2012 publication by the US non-governmental organisation, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. The mines do not appear to be in any of the areas where there are known to be prison camps. Officials are also investigating whether there are links between the DPRK company involved and individuals or organisations listed under EU or UN sanctions such that a breach of EU or UN sanctions might be being committed.

We are unaware of any imports of DPRK minerals into the UK or of any British companies being involved in the DPRK mining sector. If presented with information suggesting products of political prison camps were being imported into the UK, we would of course investigate and consider what action we could take to prevent this.

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