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A brigade of drivers for the North Korean military have been arrested for stealing vehicles belonging to the military and selling them off for parts so that the drivers could keep their own personal vehicles running and filled with gasoline.
According to the blog DailyNK, the stolen vehicles were used to transport people and cargo due to a lack of adequate transportation in the isolated Communist country. Having a private car in the “Hermit Kingdom” is a very big deal, and the drivers were eager to maintain this privilege by any means necessary.
One unnamed source is quoted by DailyNK as saying “An official’s cars projects his pride, so if a driver cannot run his car properly even on condition of having no gas or parts, it is difficult to hold on to that position.” The drivers apparently thwarted any investigation into the impropriety by having party officials interfere with the investigation, and parked the vehicles on army bases where civilian investigators were prohibited from entering.
The cars of North Korea (affectionately known as The Hermit Kingdom) have aroused a lot of interest over the years. Kim Jong-Il, North Korea’s dictator, is apparently a big fan of Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans, and the state owned industry even made some knock-off Mercedes 190Es for a time.
But recent photos have surfaced, showing dignitaries from Myanmar’s government (another brutal, authoritarian regime) paying a visit to North Korea. In the pictures, a fleet of identical white Volkswagen Passats can be seen, bearing North Korean number plates, while an older, 1970′s era Mercedes sedan is visible in the background of one photo.
What relevance does this have on your life? Not too much. But we find dictators to be fascinating, and in a country where having a private car is like having a Gulfstream G550 jet, it’s cool to see just how prestigious a steel-wheel wearing Passat painted white – also known as a ‘base model’ here- is revered by the North Korean peasantry.
[Source: NK Econ Watch]