North Korea is seeking international investors to back a floating casino operation just as US legislators vow to clamp down on the regime’s online gambling operations.
On Thursday, South Korean media reported that a North Korean website was inviting foreign investors to bet on a proposed cruise ship venture that would ferry customers from the port of Kosong to Russia’s far east and other southeast Asian destinations. The ship would feature “various amenities” including “a casino business.”
North Korea used to have such a casino cruise business, but the South Korean company that operated the 30k-tonne ferry halted operations after a North Korean soldier killed a South Korean tourist visiting North Korea’s Mr. Kumgang special international tourism zone in 2008.
North Korea says investors should be willing to plunge between US$10m and $20m into the cruise business over the next decade. To sweeten its pitch, North Korea says the business will be “guaranteed favorable conditions for economic activities.”
North Korea’s chances of finding deep-pocketed investors are slim, given the country’s perpetual threats to rain down nuclear weapons on its regional neighbors and the United States. The civilized world has responded by imposing harsh financial sanctions against the diplomatically isolated North Korean regime, leaving it starving for hard currency.
North Korea’s recent announcement that it had successfully tested new long-range missile technology prompted the US House Foreign Affairs Committee to propose even tighter restrictions on doing business with the Hermit Kingdom, including targeting the regime’s online gambling operations, which are said to earn over $860m per year.
The new Korea Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act calls for penalties for any individual or organization that “knowingly, directly or indirectly, engaged in, facilitated, or was responsible for the online commercial activities of the Government of North Korea, including online gambling.”
North Korea’s online gambling operations recently made headlines after one of the suspect’s in last month’s assassination of Dear Leader Kim Jong-Un’s casino-loving half-brother in Malaysia was said to have originally arrived in the country to operate online gambling and pornography sites.