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Singapore firm denies link to North Korean front company

Pan Systems' office in Ubi. Managing director Louis Low categorically denied any links with North Korean front company Glocom and said that while Pan Systems sold electronic goods in the North Korean market from 1996 to 2007, the business dealings we
Pan Systems' office in Ubi. Managing director Louis Low categorically denied any links with North Korean front company Glocom and said that while Pan Systems sold electronic goods in the North Korean market from 1996 to 2007, the business dealings were all "above board".ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Pan Systems MD refutes report and says his firm began pulling out from N. Korea from 2007 after UN scanctions

Singapore-based firm Pan Systems had no connection to Glocom, the North Korean front company that violated United Nations sanctions by selling battlefield radio equipment, claims its managing director, Mr Louis Low.

His denial comes after a report by Reuters yesterday, citing a UN report drafted for the Security Council, which said Glocom was operated by the Pyongyang branch of Pan Systems.

The report also said the North Korean branch of Pan Systems made use of bank accounts, front companies and agents in China and Malaysia to trade in radio components and accessories.

Mr Low claimed that his firm had begun withdrawing from North Korea from 2007, after the UN imposed sanctions on the secretive regime.

While confirming that Pan Systems sold electronic goods such as IBM PC-compatible computers in the North Korean market from 1996 to 2007, he insisted the business dealings were all "above board" and categorically denied any links with Glocom, short for Global Communications Co.

Mr Low suspects that his firm was implicated in the Reuters report when a North Korean air shipment of military radio accessories, labelled "Glocom", was seized last July and traced to his company through a middleman he had used for his North Korean transactions.

The middleman, Ms Ryang Su Nyo, was an agent with Liaison Office 519, the North Korean intelligence agency in the Reconnaissance General Bureau tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement, according to a Reuters source with direct knowledge of her background.

Ms Ryang - a listed shareholder of International Global System, the company that registered Glocom's website - reportedly visited Singapore and Malaysia regularly to meet representatives of Pan Systems.

Her main task was to engage customers for Pan Systems' business in North Korea, said Mr Low, who denied having any prior knowledge of her links to government branches.

He also said that by 2010, his contact with Ms Ryang and business in North Korea had been terminated after the imposition of UN sanctions.

 

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The sanctions, including the 2009 UN resolution which imposed an embargo of military equipment and all related material against North Korea, were compounded by increasing competition from Chinese-made products, which affected Mr Low's profit margin, forcing him to eventually withdraw.

He claimed his firm, a member of the Singapore Business Federation and Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, was a victim of stolen identity, targeted by Ms Ryang because of its good reputation.

He said she continued using Pan Systems' name to set up bank accounts for illicit purposes after 2010, and that he learnt of the misuse only late last year when he was contacted by the UN for clarification.

"It was the first time I heard it and came as a complete shock," he said.

Besides Ms Ryang, Reuters also identified Pan Systems' representative in Kuala Lumpur, a North Korean man named Kim Chang Hyok. Mr Kim was reportedly the subject of an expulsion request made by a UN panel to the Malaysian government.

However, Mr Low denied that his partnership with Mr Kim was evidence of his links to Glocom or any North Korean activities that violated UN sanctions, which he said he took "very seriously".

He reasoned that the Malaysian branch of Pan Systems was liquidated almost 30 years ago, before he ventured into the North Korean market or worked with Ms Ryang.

Mr Low added: "Pan Systems is aware of the allegations and has already been contacted by the UN last year for clarification."

Yesterday, South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers that four of the eight North Koreans whom Malaysia has identified as suspects in Mr Kim Jong Nam's killing were agents from North Korea's Ministry of State Security, or its secret police.

Two of them worked at the North Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry, and two others were affiliated with state-run carrier Air Koryo and Singwang Economics and Trading General Corp. The latter is one of the North Korean companies facing UN sanctions, reported Reuters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore firm denies link to N. Korean front company'. Print Edition | Subscribe