Chinese group doing business in N.K. on top of trade: report
BEIJING, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- The female head of a Chinese conglomerate, who has been arrested on charges of having exported U.N.-banned goods to North Korea, has also been conducting brisk business activities in the North, a Chinese news outlet reported Monday.
Ma Xiahong, head of Liaoning Hongxiang Group and in her 40s, began trade with the North in the 1990s by exporting China's oil to the North and importing mineral resources from it, and even set up a mineral joint venture in Pyongyang, according to the online media site Xianzhaiwang based in China's Hubei Province.
Ma's transactions with the North have been going on, although trade between the two nations was somewhat affected by the North's nuclear tests between 2006-2009, the site said.
Via trade with the North, the Hongxiang Group has developed into a firm that ranked 189th on the list of China's top 500 trade firms in 2010, the media said.
This undated photo shows Ma Xiahong, chief of China's Liaoning Hongxiang Group, who is suspected of having made illegal deals with North Korea. (Yonhap)
North Korea experts here said the report shows Ma has maintained close relations with the North Korean regime in business projects in the North as well as conducting intermediate trade between the two nations.
A source in North Korea said, "As far as I know, Ma has made investments in mineral companies in the North as the North has done so in Hongxiang subsidiaries in China."
Based on wealth accumulated via trade with the North, Ma was chosen as one of the top 10 female leaders in the Chinese border city of Dandong in 2011 and a talented female entrepreneur in 2012, the source said.
She even become a council member of the Liaoning Province in 2013, although she was recently dismissed from the post under the pretext of election fraud in the wake of revelations by the latest South Korea-U.S. joint research report, the source said.
According to the joint research report released by South Korea's Asan Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) in Washington a week ago, six Hongxiang subsidiaries have transacted with sanctioned North Korean entities and have traded in various goods and services that raise nuclear proliferation concerns.
Titled "In China's shadow: Evolution of North Korean Overseas Networks," the report said that the Chinese conglomerate
exported aluminum oxide, which can be used in uranium enrichment, to the North in recent years.
The company has been also selling other "dual-use" items, such as aluminum ingots, ammonium paratungstate and tungsten trioxide, all of which can be used in the North's missile or nuclear programs, according to the report.
In 2009, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co., one of the six subsidiaries, also partnered with the North's Korea National Insurance Corporation (KNIC) to form a joint venture engaged in the wholesale trade of textiles, stationery, electrical equipment and other goods, the report said. The KNIC is an European Commission-sanctioned North Korean entity.