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North Korea’s 50-Year-Old Debt: Sweden Still Awaiting Payment For Volvos Sold in 1975

North Korea-Sweden Debt Relationship
Sweden Exported Volvo to North Korea 50 years ago
North Korea Still Hasn’t Paid

Source: NPR

Is there any country that is friendly with North Korea? Surprisingly, Sweden, a Nordic country, was the first Western nation to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea. After establishing these relations, they even exported cars to North Korea, but it’s said they still have not received payment. The export took place a whopping 50 years ago.

North Korea and Sweden established diplomatic relations in 1973. Sweden considered North Korea an emerging export market with great growth potential at that time. It encouraged its domestic companies to export $70 million worth of mineral extraction equipment, cargo trucks, and 1,000 Volvo sedans for taxi use to North Korea.

The Volvo model exported then was the “Volvo 144”, a sedan released from 1966 to 1974. A total of 1.25 million units were produced, making it a popular vehicle that achieved the record of selling over a million units for the first time in Volvo’s history.

Source: NPR

However, North Korea imports vehicles and has not paid for them for 50 years.

According to the Swedish export credit agency EKN last year, Sweden is in regular contact with North Korea regarding the increasing debt that has not been repaid since 1975.

The original debt was approximately 600 million Swedish Kronor, or about $55.3 million, but after 50 years, it has increased to 2.8 billion Kronor, or about $250 million. In Korean Won, that’s approximately 335.5 billion.

EKN reminds North Korea of the debt every six months, but there is no news of any payments.

X@SwedenDPRK

However, it has been confirmed that the Volvo cars imported in 1974 are still being used in some regions of North Korea.

In 2016, the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang posted on social media a picture of a Volvo taxi in North Korea with the caption, “Still alive and well. One of the 1974 Volvos still operates as a taxi in Chongjin without payment. The mileage is about 310,685 miles!”

Source: NPR

Meanwhile, Sweden often plays a bridging role in North-US relations and North-South relations. Occasionally, Stockholm hosts contact or working-level talks with North Korea as part of its diplomatic activities. Panmunjom (Military Armistice Commission Joint Security Area) participates in the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) with Switzerland and Poland.

Although Sweden still has diplomatic relations with North Korea, it has deeper ties with South Korea and supports South Korea. It has reduced its exchanges with North Korea in response to UN sanctions against North Korea.

In November 2019, Sweden reported to the UN that no North Korean nationals lived in the country.

During the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world three years ago, the Swedish Korea Heart Foundation donated 800 non-contact thermometers to the “Korean Education Fund,” established by North Korea to support educational facilities.

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