North Korean defectors have provided details about how they unwittingly created Kim Jong Il's "slush fund" — a system that they say is still used by his son, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The North Korean government division Office 39 "underwrites comfortable lifestyles" for the Kim family, The Wall Street Journal reports. Choi Kun-chol told the Journal that the money was called the "revolutionary fund," and he didn't know the funds, generated from both licit and illicit means, were going directly to Kim Jong Il.
Choi told the Journal that Office 39 has thousands of employees, who are told they are "generating money to build a strong socialist economy." He estimates the private fund is worth billions of dollars. "We were proud of our work and given a lot of power, but only a few senior people knew it was money for Kim Jong Il," Choi told the Journal.
The U.S. Treasury accused Office 39 of "engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenues for the leadership" in 2010. The illicit activities mentioned include counterfeiting, narcotic and weapons sales, and even insurance scams.
Defectors have stated that Office 39 was created in the 1970s under the reign of Kim Jong Il, and security officials believe the fund still allows Kim Jong Un to buy support from Pyongyang's elite by providing them with lavish items. Analysts and security officials also told the Journal that Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle, may have been executed for halting Office 39's cash flow.