North Korea becomes largest debtor to Sweden, owing $300+ million

Pyongyang has a weird and now record debt to the Scandinavian nation, which has hit 2.8 billion Swedish kronas ($302 million), according to local media citing government agency insuring export deals.

The unpaid bill includes a thousand model 144 Volvos and mining equipment supplied by Atlas Copco industrial company as well as other Swedish producers. The items were shipped to North Korea back in the 1970s, but the country has not still honored the debts.

After around 45 years of missing the deadline, the North’s initial debt rose from 600 million kronas ($65 million at the current rate) to record 2.8 billion ($302 million), the chief analyst of the Swedish Export Credit Agency (EKN), which serves as credit insurer for companies’ trade deals, told Sveriges Radio. Stefan Karlsson explained that the sum has been surging due to added interest, and rose by 100 million kronas ($15 million) in one year, thus making North Korea Sweden’s major debtor. Previously, Cuba held the position.

Sweden received the last payment from the North in the late 1980s, and Karlsson says that the chance that it will get the money back is pretty small given North Korea ‘s current economic situation.

Some of the exported Volvos were previously spotted in North Korea. Back in 2016, the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang posted a photo showing one of the “still unpaid” cars, saying it is used as a taxi in the northeastern city of Chongjin.

EKN reportedly reminds North Korea to pay off the debts twice a year, however, the requests are usually met with silence.