North Korea’s Secret Armada on FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT


On the beaches and in the bays of Russia’s far east, shipwrecks from North Korea’s secret Armada can be found everywhere. A few personal items are the only evidence that there was life on board.

“I’ve lived all my life in Vladivostok and only in the last 2 years have they started appearing.  There’s almost one stranded boat on every beach”

Olga Nesterova, Vladisvostok resident.

Every year thousands of makeshift North Korean boats invade the waters of Japan and Russia to strip their seas of fish. 

In a desperate bid for hard cash, and to feed his people, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is forcing his fleets further out to sea to illegally fish and break United Nations Sanctions.

It’s risky business with voyages often resulting in death for the North Korean fisherman. One Russian funeral parlour owner has been picking up their bodies that wash ashore and burying them himself. 

“They keep floating all along the coast, wherever the current takes them.  Sometimes I find just bones or parts of human flesh.”

– Vladimir Gorohowsky, Owner of Memory funeral homes.

Far out to sea in the Russian exclusive economic zone a secret war is going on. The Russian coastguard is stepping up its operations against the North Korean Armada. 

Sometimes it escalates into armed conflict with casualties on both sides.  The Russian coastguard has detained 7 of the North Korean Mother ships and arrested the crew, but it’s a battle the coastguard admits it’s not winning. 

On the China North Korean border, it’s confirmed the North Korean fishing fleets are firmly under the military’s control. Local Chinese guide, Mr Zhang takes us inside North Korea to see the fishing production units in operation.

“It’s part of the military first policy to ensure a well-fed army, the army consumes the catch, ordinary fisherman only receive 150 grams of rice.”

Mr Zhang says.

In the Chinese port province of Shandong it’s revealed the Chinese pay the North Korea leadership the much needed hard currency for permits to fish inside North Korean waters.

This trade is a direct breach of United Nations Sanctions imposed on North Korea in 2017.

Kim Jong Un is using his vast fishing fleets to prop up his regime.   He’s pushing them further and further out to sea, putting them at great risk.

Also in grave danger are the fisheries of the Northern Pacific, once the richest in the world, now being depleted year after year.

“North Korea’s Secret Armada” on Foreign Correspondent, 8pm Tuesday 14th July on ABC TV and iview.





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