- Teenager concealed a bottle of Taedonggang beer in luggage before boarding a flight from Shanghai to Japan, in the hope of selling it for a premium online
- Japan has a blanket ban on all imports from North Korea, as part of unilateral economic sanctions over abductions and missile tests
A Chinese resident of Japan has been charged with violating the foreign trade law for importing a single bottle of North Korean beer.
The 19-year-old man, who has not been named because he is a youth under Japanese law, has been charged with concealing a bottle of Taedonggang beer in his luggage before boarding a flight from Shanghai to Saga Airport, in southern Japan, in October last year.
According to documents filed with the Fukuoka District Public Prosecutors' Office, the man did not declare the item to authorities and failed to obtain approval from the trade ministry to bring it into Japan, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
The unemployed man, who lives in Fukuoka, reportedly told police: "I thought (North Korean beer) could be sold at a high price."
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Japan introduced a blanket ban on all imports from North Korea in 2009, as part of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed over Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese nationals. Those sanctions have been tightened due to subsequent nuclear tests and missile launches.
The man told police that he frequently travelled between China and Japan, purchasing items in China that were expensive or difficult to obtain in Japan. He would then sell them online for many times the price he paid for them.
His activities first came to the attention of the cyber unit of Fukuoka Prefectural Police, with authorities confirming he paid 200 yen (US$1.85) for the North Korean beer in China, but sold it for 16,000 yen (US$148.05) via an online auction site.
Once an important money-spinner for the regime in Pyongyang, Taedonggang beer had established a firm following abroad " primarily in China and South Korea " before international sanctions halted official shipments. Despite the sanctions, the beer has remained largely available in China.
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While the brew has for years been popular among North Koreans, it's roots are distinctly British.
The North Korean government decided in 2000 to start producing a high-quality range of beers, but lacked the experience to do so. The solution: buy a foreign brewery.
After satisfying international concerns that the brewery would not be used to manufacture chemicals for weapons, Pyongyang bought a redundant facility in, previously owned by Ushers of Trowbridge, in Wiltshire, UK, for GBP1.5 million (US$1.8 million).
The UK brewery was dismantled and shipped to Pyongyang, where it was rebuilt with the addition of German-made computerised brewing control technology.
The brewery produces four different ales, including a brown ale and a Pilsner-style lager that has been described as full-bodied but a little on the sweet side, and with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
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