FUKUOKA--A young man who turned a quick profit by selling a North Korean beer he bought in China after arriving back in Japan has found himself in trouble with the law.

The prefectural police referred investigative papers on the 19-year-old to prosecutors on July 11, announcing that the Fukuoka resident, originally from China, is suspected of violating Japanese trade laws.

The teen is believed to have brought a bottle of North Korean Taedonggang beer from Shanghai Airport to Saga Airport in Saga Prefecture by concealing it in his suitcase in early October 2018, without obtaining the necessary permission from the trade ministry, according to sources.

He paid between 200 yen ($1.85) and 300 yen for the bottle and sold it over an auction site for more than 10,000 yen. He was quoted by police as saying that he did it for pocket money.

Police confirmed in 2018 through its cyber patrol unit that a Taedonggang beer had been sold online in Japan and the young man was identified as the seller.

The man had visited China many times over several years buying Chinese character and other specialty goods and auctioning them online, according to police.

The Japanese government prohibits the import of all goods made in or shipped from North Korea as part of economic sanctions on the country, which has held numerous nuclear tests and repeatedly conducted missile launches in recent years.


Tagged with such terms as "specialty" and "phantom beer," Taedonggang beer from North Korea is highly sought after on Internet auctions, with a single bottle fetching as much as 25,000 yen.

The beer's name originates from the Taedonggang river flowing in the northwest part of the Korean Peninsula.

According to Yasushi Hatta, a columnist on Korean food culture, Taedonggang beer was born in 2000 when the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, father of Kim Jong Un, ordered the production of beer that could compete on the global market.

While North Korean goods are banned from being imported into Japan, they are available in China, which has diplomatic relations with the hermetic country.

A variety of items purportedly from North Korea were found on the auction site used by the 19-year-old, including a 500-won gold coin marking the 40th anniversary of North Korea's independence, priced at 174,000 yen, and a North Korean flag-shaped badge featuring the face of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un, priced at 30,000 yen.

Toshio Miyatsuka, a former professor at Yamanashi Gakuin University specializing in modern Korean economic history, said that visitors to North Korea from Japan have increased in the past 10 years, as the country has ramped up its tourism initiatives.

“People who visit the country tend to collect such goods,” Miyatsuka said.

(This article was compiled from reports by Kaigo Narisawa and Amane Shimazaki.)