North Korean counterfeiting takes many forms. From counterfeit American bills and cigarettes to imitation Viagra.
It's a process which has been going on for some time now, reportedly since the 1970's.
While the DPRK's abilities to reproduce American dollar notes wasn't the best in the early days, they had perfected their craft by the 2000's with well over $130Mn CAD in counterfeit notes in circulation.
These notes had become so well forged that intelligence experts which examined them did not believe them to be fake. Subsequently one can see how so many of these $50's and $100's have managed to circulate around the globe since then. They were coined 'Superdollars' as a result, and were one of many catalysts which prompted the United States to issue a new $100 bill in 2013.
The majority of these counterfeits were issued and dated as '2001' and '2003' bank notes however, and for a time the hermit kingdom seemed to cease producing them. But recent reporting suggests they've returned to their old ways and have subsequently begun dating new counterfeits as '2006' notes.
What's more is they even follow the pattern of proper bank notes which change colour once tilted and have a sense of texturing to the paper. Hence why it is so difficult to determine counterfeits from the real thing.
But US currency isn't the only money the North Koreans have been suspected of forging. Since 2013 North Korea has allegedly been printing high quality Chinese notes which are tested in a country outside of China for security before being distributed within China it self and en masse.
The revenue from these operations continues to earn the DPRK tens of millions of dollars per year.
Other lucrative markets for the North Koreans involves counterfeiting various cigarette brands, such as Marlboros, Dunhills & Winstons which have been intercepted while in transit toward countries like Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even the United Kingdom.
Similarly to their high grade currency, these cigarettes bare the same striping, labels and markings of authentic brand cigarettes and are difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
Middlemen are often utilized when trafficking these contraband goods. Libyan & Syrian businessmen for example, as well as criminals from the Phillipines, which boasts a massive market for counterfeit goods.
Proceeds from these illicit activities are reportedly put toward North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but what is really done with the money is anyone's guess. The DPRK runs an extensive gift politic campaign to buy loyalty wherein agents of the regime spend all their working time travelling abroad to places like Spain, Italy, Japan & China in order to pick up luxury suits, alcoholic beverages and even cars to bring back to the North for members of the countries elite.
There's also the matter of North Korea's imitation and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The pills are known for their outlandish claims, such as solving sexual dysfunction, kidney malfunction, brain artery hardening and spontaneous gangrene.
They produce thousands of the pills, with knockoff Viagra appearing in distasteful brown granules seeming the most common, and for a fraction of the price. How much the DPRK actually makes off these ugly little things is difficult to determine, as is what sort of other pharmaceuticals they've taken to reproducing.