Kim Jong Il’s CafePress Shop

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The North Korean government starves their own people, imprisons American journalists, and has recently stepped up production of nuclear weapons. The North Korean regime also appears to be involved in selling souvenirs through the California-based personalized gift seller CafePress.com.


The Korean Friendship Association, a state-run organization dedicated to “defend[ing] the independence and socialist construction” of North Korea has a CafePress shop where they sell mousepads, t-shirts, hoodies, trucker hats, pins, and other items emblazoned with propaganda posters and insignias glorifying the government.

We don’t speak Korean, so we don’t know what the text says on any of the items in the shop, but several of them feature dramatic pictures of soldiers and machine guns. North Korea’s CafePress shop is promoted on the country’s official web page and their “seller bio” on CafePress also links to the official site. CafePress shares the profits from their sales with all of their sellers, so this site seemingly provides the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il with income.

Sanctions against North Korea administered by the U.S. Treasury Department prohibit American companies from importing “goods of North Korean origin… into the United States either directly or through third countries, without prior notification to and approval of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.” Regulations also bar American businesses “from engaging in transfers from the Government of North Korea.”

CafePress handles all of the production of the items in their stores, so the souvenirs in the Korean Friendship Association shop are not being imported from North Korea, but they are clearly being sold on behalf of Kim Jong Il’s regime.

When we asked CafePress about the store, the company’s PR Director Marc Cowlin wrote us an email saying “I can confirm that checks are not sent to North Korea or any government agency.” If the KFA has been transacting with CafePress via a middleman with an address outside of North Korea it is conceivable the company may have been unaware they were working with a representative of the North Korean government. Cowlin also told WebNewser that he forwarded our questions “directly to the owner of the shop,” thanked us for bringing the matter to his attention, and added that “we’ve sent the information on to our content usage team for review — they will determine if it is in violation of our policies or law.”

As of this writing, the Treasury Department has not responded to our request for a comment on this story.