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


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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