N.Korea Stiffs Egyptian Telecom out of Earnings

  • By Roh Suk-jo

    November 17, 2020 10:13

    Egypt's Orascom has complained that North Korea is sitting on earnings of US$600 million from the telecom business that set up the mobile phone network there.

    Naguib Sawiris told the South Korean ambassador to Cairo recently that the North Korean regime has refused to remit his profits for several years.

    Naguib Sawiris /Yonhap

    According to People Power Party lawmaker Cho Tae-yong on Monday, Ambassador Hong Jin-wook visited Sawiris at Orascom's headquarters in Cairo on Oct. 5.

    They discussed how to support South Korean businesses operating in Egypt, but Sawiris also mentioned his difficulties doing business in North Korea.

    Sawiris reportedly said his company earned about $600 million in profits from the telecom business in the North but he has virtually given up on the money because the North is refusing to pay it.

    The regime cited international sanctions, but according to South Korean authorities, the North could have remitted the money through several channels until recently.

    Sawiris also said Orascom has invested some $215 million in Pyongyang's perpetually unfinished 105-story Ryugyong Hotel. Construction has hit yet another snag as a result of conflict with the regime over the supply of building materials.

    Sawiris had been widely warned by experts that the North rarely pays a penny it owes and breaks business contracts or unilaterally changes the terms almost as a matter of principle. Its modus operandi in dealing with South Korean businesses has been sooner or later to expropriate them, be it in the scenic Mt. Kumgang resort or in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

    The latest revelation is embarrassing for the South Korean government, which may have hoped for a more upbeat message in its quixotic drive to stimulate cross-border business.

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