Among the many luxuries North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is known to enjoy is the German luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz.
But a big question has always remained: despite the heavy sanctions on the regime, how does Kim get his hands on the top-of-the-range motor vehicles.
According to a new report by the New York Times, his cars, including his latest armored Mercedes-Benz Maybach S600, are smuggled into the North via a circuitous route.
The report says stops include China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Through this extensive sanctions-busting network, Pyeongyang has been able to import more than 800 foreign cars and trucks, including luxury models from multiple countries since 2016.
The report, put together in partnership with the Centers for Advanced Defense Studies, noted that analysts used "software and systems" with connections to the U.S. Intelligence Community and the U.S. military, in order to support their work.
The study focused mainly on Kim's two armored vehicles, at least one of which appeared publicly during his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
However, due to the number of countries involved in the smuggling of the vehicles, the report says their origin is unclear.
Taking the example of a case in 2018, cars were reportedly smuggled from the Netherlands, to China, then to Japan.
The cars later arrived in South Korea's port city of Busan in a Togo-flagged ship,which then headed to Russia before possibly making its way to Pyeongyang.
Due to the intricate steps North Korea takes to receive the luxury items in question, watchers say it's difficult to crack down on the illegal shipments.
Lee Seung-jae, Arirang News.