Some unusual facts inspired journalist Lovisa Lamm to investigate Sweden’s relationship with North Korea more deeply.
First, North Korea has a debt to Sweden of $370 million.
Secondly, following a 1970's scandal involving North Korean diplomats running a smuggling ring in Scandinavia, North Korean ambassadors were expelled from Denmark, Norway and Finland, but not Sweden.
Lovisa Lamm talked about all this, and more, in her new book, “The Embassy in Paradise”.
Lovisa believes this is an embarrassing story for Sweden, and that’s why not many have heard about it.
[Lovisa Lamm, Journalist]:
“It was not a relation that they wanted to boast about during 1980`s, because North Korea has a very large debt to Sweden, they owe us a lot of money, and it was not something that the Swedish government was proud about.”
Back in the 1960's North Korea had higher GDP than South Korea.
This aroused the interest of the Swedish business community, who saw a potential export market.
1000 Volvo cars were shipped over, and North Korea started putting in big orders with the Swedish mining and shipping industries.
Following these business deals Sweden gave North Korea diplomatic recognition, becoming the first western democratic country to officially recognize the rogue state.
Then in 1975 Sweden established the first western embassy from a democratic country in Pyongyang.
But not long after the embassy was established, North Korea asked for a moratorium on its debts to Sweden.
Around this time it was discovered that North Korean diplomats were running smuggling operations in Sweden.
Although the smuggling ring was busted, those involved received diplomatic immunity.
North Korea threatened not to pay their debts if Sweden expelled the diplomats.
It was later revealed that the disgraced diplomats had been acting upon direct orders from the North Korean regime.
Today, both the debt and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang remain.
The embassy is now a protecting power for United States, it means representing United States interests in Pyongyang.
And Sweden is now also an aid donor to North Korea.
NTD News Stockholm, Sweden