Behind Secret Global Arms Trade, a North Korean Duo

Ship weapons to Iran, Syria, Myanmar

By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 31, 2010 9:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – North Korea operates a vast global arms and nuclear materials trading network, and two men related by marriage largely control this expanding operation. In announcing economic sanctions yesterday, the Obama administration named Chun Byung-ho and Yun Ho-jin—likely Chun's son-in-law—who have shipped components for nuclear reactors, long-range missiles, and other arms to Iran, Syria, and Myanmar. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the shadowy pair.

Chun runs a committee overseeing Office 99, North Korea's little-known foreign trade office, which sells arms and funnels the proceeds directly to dictator Kim Jong Il. Yun owns an arms company. Together the two have built a network of front companies in Asia and Europe and have partnered with Asian crime syndicates to move money and goods. Yun also does business openly in China, making deals with a Chinese state-owned firm. "There is no reason to assume that Chun and Yun won't sell nuclear weapons," says a former Bush administration official who spent a decade tracking Pyongyang's arms trade. "There needs to be an active effort to disrupt their WMD networks and drive them out of business now, before it's too late."

A visitor points with am umbrella at a poster of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, painted by North Korean defector Sun Moo, at the Korea War Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010.
A visitor points with am umbrella at a poster of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, painted by North Korean defector Sun Moo, at the Korea War Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
FILE - This Friday Aug. 27, 2010 file photo released by China's official Xinhua news agency, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province.
FILE - This Friday Aug. 27, 2010 file photo released by China's official Xinhua news agency, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province.   (AP Photo/Xinhua, Ju Peng, File)
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