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December 12, 2006

Emails between Søren Haslund, Klaus Simoni Pedersen, and Annette lassen

This document was made possible with support from Kyungnam University

John Pontoppidan


From: Annette Lassen

Sent: 13 December 2006, 11:54

To: Christopher Bo Bramsen

CC: John Pontoppidan

Subject: RE: Possible Sanctions against Iran outside of the Security Council, cf. Email of G.D. from Amb. Washington

Formal Email: No

Classification: Unclassified

Staff: No


Now we can shed light on North Korea. For both Klaus Simoni and Søren Haslund.


MVH Annette


----Original Message----


From:Søren Haslund

Sent: 13 December 2006, 11:24

To: Klaus Simoni Pedersen

CC: Annette Lassen

Subject: RE: Possible Sanctions against Iran outside of the Security Council, cf. Email of G.D. from Amb. Washington




As for the North Korean issue – if my memory serves me right, I can tell you the following, which can hopefully be of some help. Annette Lassen was not in PRO [Department of Protocol] at the time, and indeed I wasn’t either, although I’m familiar with the issue as I was told of the events by former Vice Chief of PRO, Jørgen Behnke. He had been deeply involved in the case as Vice Chief of PRO under PRO Chiefs Kønigsfeldt and Adamsen.


I don’t know the exact year, but it must have been in the mid-80s (perhaps 83-84?), while Otto Møller was Director of the Foreign Ministry; I came to PRO in September of -92, so a few years had already passed, and the North Koreans had long since re-established an Embassy in Copenhagen, that we had some issues with from time to time (see below!). PRO should have records of the exact year.


The issue was that it became increasingly apparent that the DPRK’s embassies in the Nordic countries, particularly in Sweden and Denmark, but also the others, were financing their operation (both the daily operation and living costs for the employees, who allegedly didn’t have actual salaries!, as well as e.g. full-page ads in Danish newspapers with texts praising the Dear Leader Kim Il-sung and the Juche-philosophy) by less than legitimate means, to put it mildly. It became obvious that the North Koreans imported VERY big quantities of cigarettes and spirits, quantities FAR surpassing the alleged – and physically possible – private consumption.


Danish authorities (police, customs etc.) knew this well, and they also knew that the North Koreans more or less openly sold their stock in a number of big workplaces in Denmark, among them B&W, Kødbyen and others. North Koreans diplomats had been observed many times driving to these locations in their well-stocked station wagon and opened their “unofficial” sales booths.


Both police and customs informed PRO on many occasions, and the PRO-Chief summoned the North Korean ambassador and made it very clear that tax-levied imports were strictly for private consumption. The North Koreans denied everything, of course, and promised to keep a keen eye on imports to make sure none of their employees were in breach of the rules. If that turned out to be the case, the North Koreans would administer an appropriate penalty or send them home. Despite PRO being aware that NOTHING happened in the North Korean Embassy without the knowledge of the [North Korean] Ambassador and the political/intelligence “watchdog”, PRO did not take immediate action, but maintained a running dialogue with police and customs.


Through dialogue across the Nordic countries and with the Germans, it became increasingly apparent that this was their “Mode of operation” in many capitals, and a coordinated/organized practice. The goods arrived at Schönefeld Airport in the DDR on the weekly flight from Pyongyang via Moscow, and were loaded onto trucks at the airport or more likely at the DPRK embassy in East Berlin, by Embassy staff from the Nordic Countries and perhaps also in Holland - although my memory might fail me with regards to the latter. Embassy vehicles are as you know extraterritorial and can therefore not be inspected on the border/by customs, although customs officers did take notes that they shared with the Foreign Ministry and the police.


The scale of the smuggling operation was clearly increasing, and it became apparent (I don’t know how, but that can probably be found in PRO records) that the North Korean enterprise involved hashish and supposedly also other narcotics, which was even better – and took up less space than crates of whiskey!. This was distributed on the black market in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and other capitals. Only when this was discovered did the Nordic countries agree to take stronger action.


The Nordic talks were high (director-?) level, and I believe the Germans were also present. The talks resulted in all the North Korean diplomats simultaneously receiving Persona Non-Grata status, and the Embassies were temporarily closed. The affair received a good amount of press coverage, and the North Koreans strongly disputed the decision, but to no avail – the diplomats were expelled and the embassies were closed. I believe the North Korean Embassy in East Berlin was allowed to continue to oversee the embassy facilities.


I don’t know how long it took before the embassies reopened and the new Ambassadors were welcomed, but as mentioned they were present when I arrived at PRO in September of -92. In the following years, up until the permanent closure of the DPRK Embassy in Copenhagen (and Oslo and perhaps also Helsinki) and the coordination of all Nordic activities at the Embassy in Stockholm in the late 90’s, we could time and again confirm that they continued their illegal activities, although limited the sale of cigarettes and whiskey to somewhat smaller quantities than before. The violation of the Vienna Treaty and the strict Danish laws on purchasing tax-levied goods was pointed out several times, only to meet persistent denial from the North Koreans. 


One time, we really caught them in the act. It must have been in the late 90’s, when customs was informed by contacts in Lithuania and Poland that North Korea’s embassy - supposedly because of PRO’s repeated questioning regarding their exorbitant purchases from Peter Justesen etc. – had found out that it was much easier to import Prince cigarettes, which was the most popular brand, from the Baltics. As you remember there were also several Danish smuggling gangs who used the same methods at the time. The cigarettes were legally exported to eg. Lithuania, where smugglers bought from duty-free stock and then brought them to Denmark in speedboats. The North Korean did not however need speedboats, as they usually took an embassy vehicle on the ferry to Klaipeda, where it was loaded with goods and then sailed back on the next ferry. In this particular instance, customs has been informed that a shipment was en route by ferry and asked me to contact the embassy to inform that Danish Customs wanted to inspect the vehicle, and wanted to give them the chance to send a representative (Vienna Convention rules), just as I also wanted to be present at the harbor. Strangely, they declined the offer and the car never left the ferry, but instead returned to Lithuania.


I actually made good friends with the last North Korean Ambassador in Copenhagen and his wife (he spoke French, which he practiced in his meetings with me, mostly I think, to annoy his lap-dog, who was always present, and did not speak French. He ended up going to Paris (UNESCO-delegation) and stayed in France (defected), where he had an adult daughter.


During a private goodbye-dinner for Karen and me, we had been invited by the Mr and Mrs Ambassador to a Chinese restaurant in Strøget [lively Copenhagen district], which was unheard of, as the North Korean’s immensely boring representation usually took place in the Embassy with the humble but loyal bunch of Danish Kim-il Sung followers!!! At this dinner, the lap-dog wasn’t present, and so the Ambassador went as far as (almost) admitting that the Embassy needed to adopt unusual methods of financing, simply because it didn’t receive a single penny from home! Not exactly verbatim, but it was quite clear from his phrasing that this was the case.


This was a longer story than I had planned, probably even too long. But perhaps you can entertain your colleagues in the sanctions committee with this excerpt from the memoirs of an old PRO-chief! I will however never write those memoirs, for as Behnke so elegantly put it, “When somebody wants to read the memoirs of a PRO-chief, one is not allowed to write them, and when one is allowed to write them, nobody can be bothered to read them”. I have however found the perfect title: “You would never believe this to be true!”


Best wishes – also to other colleagues in New York, among them Ellen Margrethe







Soren Haslund / [email redacted]


Mobile [Redacted]


Royal Danish Embassy



TEL. +98 (21) 2260 1363 / WWW.AMBTEHERAN .UM.DK


A summary of the North Korean smuggling case in Nordic countries with the motive and the result.


Document Information


Rigsarkivet, Udenrigsministeriet (0002), Journalsager gruppe 003-004 (1973-1988), 1567 (4 Q 110). Obtained by Charles Kraus and translated by August Mersyth.


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