02:50 GMT +322 September 2019
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    DPRK leader Kim Jong-un at a ceremony to open a new residential area on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang.

    That 70's Bill: North Korea Ready to Pay Off an Old Debt to Finland

    © Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev
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    North Korea, which arguably remains the world's most secluded nation, has once again stunned the outer world with its desire to settle its 40-year-old debt to Finland.

    Forty years ago, Finland sold paper-making technology to North Korea for over 26 million euros, but the order has never been paid for in full. Today, Pyongyang is ready to start negotiations in order to settle its debt to the Nordic country, Pak Yun Sik, the head of the Northern Europe department of the North Korean Foreign Ministry told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.

    According to Pak, his country was unable to pay its debt due to economic difficulties.

    "We experienced very difficult times, not only in the 1970s, but also in the 80s and in the 90s," Pak Yin Sik told Yle, venturing that the country's economic situation has improved since. He also suggested that an amicable solution may be found through joint efforts on both sides.

    Today, trade relations between Finland and North Korea leave much to be desired. According to the Finnish customs, last year Finland exports to North Korea were worth a paltry sum of 1,500 euros. Goods worth 6,000 euros were received from North Korea, less than half the price of an economy-class South Korean car. In 2013, however, Finland delivered cranes and dental equipment to North Korea worth 8.5 million euros. For comparison's sake, in 2016, the South Korean brand Kia sold 7,168 cars in Finland, making it one of the top-10 foreign car brands in the country.

    During the interview, Pak noted that North Korea is ready to strengthen relations with Finland, but, according to the official, the future development is largely dependent on Finland itself. Pak also noted that it is still appreciated in Pyongyang that Finland was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1973. Pak admitted that he has never been to Finland himself except once, when he made a transfer at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. According to him, a future visit to Finland could be quite possible.

    At present, neither Finland nor North Korea currently have resident ambassadors. North Korea is represented by the North Korean embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, whereas Finland is represented by the Finnish embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

    Incidentally, a similar debt situation has occurred in Swedish-North Korean relations. In the 1970s, North Korea purchased a thousand Volvo 144 passenger cars, ship equipment, and Atlas Copco drilling equipment. Today, North Korea remains Sweden's largest debtor, and trade between the countries is almost non-existent.


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    debt, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Scandinavia, Asia-Pacific, Finland
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