Risky Business

Investing in North Korea might seem like a crazy idea, but some are betting that stronger commercial links could push the Hermit Kingdom toward reform

KCNA / EPA

Workers overlook iron and steel production at the Chollima Steel Complex in North Korea on November 7, 2006.

Afew years ago, Chris Devonshire-Ellis, a Beijing-based business and tax consultant, was in the bar at Pyongyang's Koryo Hotel when he ran into another foreigner. "The guy's name was Vlad," Devonshire-Ellis says. "He'd come from Moscow on a train to sell tractors to the North Koreans. He had all these guys around him. Turns out, they were his team of bodyguards. The North Koreans paid him in cash--1 million in U.S. dollars--and that's why he needed the bodyguards. He was comfortable doing business with the North Koreans. He said they always paid. But I must say, the guards with machine guns...

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