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North Korea 'Singapore shops' reveal familiar sanction gaps

In this Dec. 21, 2018, photo, a North Korean woman walks outside Bugsae Shop, also known as the "Singapore Shop," in Pyongyang, North Korea. Despite the unwanted publicity of a criminal trial for one of their main suppliers, business is booming at Pyongyang's "Singapore shops," which sell everything from Ukrainian vodka to brand-name knock-offs from China. The stores stock many of the very things United Nations' sanctions banning trade in luxury goods are intended to block and provide a nagging reminder that not all potential trade partners are lining up behind the U.N.'s pronouncements or the Trump administration's policy of maximum pressure on the North. Especially when there's a buck, or a few million bucks, to be made. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

PYONGYANG, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic Of — Business is booming in the “Singapore shops” that sell to North Korea’s elite and foreign visitors everything from Ukrainian vodka to brand-name knock-offs from China.

The stores stock many of the very things U.N. sanctions banning trade in luxury goods are intended to block.

And it’s a nagging reminder that not everyone conforms to the U.S. policy of imposing maximum pressure on North Korea. Especially when there’s millions to be made.

The well-stocked shelves belie the hit its supplies must have taken with the arrest of its former Singaporean supplier.

Ng Kheng Wah was charged on July 18 and granted bail. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 17. For each offence under the U.N. sanctions act, Ng faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail plus fines.

Eric Talmadge, The Associated Press