Embargoes and sanctions on Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)

Information on embargoes on Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and how to apply for an export licence.


This guide contains information about embargoes and sanctions on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and provides information for exporters. You can find more general information here on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions, and a list of all the countries where there are current restrictions.

Almost all national governments in the world control the export of goods for various reasons depending on the nature and destinations of the proposed export. In particular, the export of strategic goods and technology are controlled for various reasons, including:

  • concerns about internal repression, regional instability and other human rights violations
  • concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction
  • foreign policy and international treaty commitments, such as the imposition of EU or UN trade sanctions or arms embargoes
  • concerns for the national and collective security of the UK and its allies

There is currently an arms embargo in force on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), as well as an embargo on Dual-Use items which could be used for weapons of mass destruction. There is also an export ban on ‘luxury goods’ and some other restrictions that affect trade with North Korea. This embargo is imposed by both the UN and the EU and has been implemented in UK law.

This guide outlines relevant information about the sanctions imposed on North Korea.

Export control updates

If you intend to export to North Korea you should keep yourself well informed of the current situation through the media and other information channels.

To keep informed of latest updates about arms embargoes and changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

Extent of the arms embargo on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related material’ - eg military ammunition, weapons and goods - which may be imposed by a number of organisations, including the UN, the EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It may also be imposed at a national level.

The UK generally interprets an arms embargo as covering all goods and items on the UK Military List (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists), unless stated otherwise.

Some goods which are not on the UK Military List might also need an export licence. Read the guide on Military End-Use Control.

Sanctions on ‘luxury goods’

UN Security Council Resolution 1718 (2006) introduced a ban on the supply of ‘luxury goods’ to North Korea The resolution did not provide a definition of ‘luxury goods’.

The EU subsequently interpretated ‘luxury goods’ to mean the items listed in Annex III to Council Regulation (EC) No 329/2007, as amended. This list continues to remain in force.

Download EU Council Regulation (EC) No 329/2007 including Annex III listing of luxury goods items.

To sell, supply, transport or export (directly or indirectly) such listed items to North Korea requires a licence issued under the provisions of the Regulation by the relevant authorities in the EU country (member state).

Some of the descriptions used in the EU list of luxury goods are subjective. The terms ‘high-quality’, ‘luxury’ and ‘pure bred’ precede the description of certain sanctioned items. 

If you clear that the items are ‘luxury items’ as listed, you will need to apply for an export licence.

However, if you wish to argue that the items would not be caught by sanctions, you may wish to contact the Export Control Organisation (ECO) for an opinion. To do this you need to supply the following information:

  • description of the items - including brand names and manufacturer where applicable
  • quantity
  • value of individual items
  • total contract value
  • end-user
  • an explanation of why, in your opinion, the items cannot be considered to be ‘high quality’ or ‘luxury’ items

The ECO will let you know, based on the information you have supplied, whether a licence is required or not.  

Applying for an export licence to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Exporters can apply for an export licence for their goods using the ECO’s system for export licence applications, SPIRE. All applications will be considered by the government on a case-by-case basis in line with the provisions of the Consolidated Criteria for UK and EU Arms Exports. Read the guide on assessment of export licence applications - criteria and policy.

For details on different export licences available see the guide on licences - export, trade control and transhipment.

When applying for a licence, you should be aware of the current licence processing times by destination. You can view details of licensing statistics on the ECO Reports and Statistics website.

In applying and using any licence, exporters should be aware of their responsibilities. Read the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

If you are unsure if your goods are controlled, you should read strategic exports: when to request an export licence.

Sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) - important legislation

The arms embargo on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been imposed by UN and EU laws, and implemented in the UK by statutory instruments.

UN Security Council resolutions

The UN adopted Resolution 1718 on 14 October 2006. This imposed a partial embargo on arms exports to and imports from North Korea. The resolution prohibits the supply (directly or indirectly) of conventional weapons and certain weapons of mass destruction, sensitive goods and technology, and technical assistance.

Additionally the resolution encompasses an export ban on luxury goods.

You can find copies of relevant UN Resolutions on the UN website.

EU legislation

Following the adoption of the UN resolution in 2006, the EU adopted Common Position 2006/795/CFSP in November 2006. The EU arms embargo prohibits the transfer of all arms and related material to North Korea. The embargo has subsequently been extended, renewed and modified by the following measures:

  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 689/2009 adopted on 29 July 2009 and came into force on 31 July 2009 - made amendments to Annex I list (goods and technology) by adding certain graphite and fibrous or filamentary materials and to Annex IV (list of persons, entities and bodies whose funds and economic resources were frozen)
  • Council Regulation (EU) No 1283/2009 adopted on 22 December 2009 and came into force on 23 December 2009 - extends prohibition on the supply, sale or transfer of certain items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile related programmes. Also imposes new restrictions on obtaining technical and financial assistance from North Korea.

You can read Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) legislation on the Europa website.

UK legislation

The relevant statutory instruments implemented in UK law are:

Read about the Export Control Order 2008.

You can find copies of any UK legislation on the website.

Other export restrictions on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)

North Korea is also subject to other sanctions including an assets freeze and travel ban.

You can view a current list of asset freeze targets designated by the United Nations (UN), European Union and United Kingdom, under legislation relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Further information

UK Trade & Investment Enquiry Line 020 7215 8000

Download EU Council Regulation (EC) No 329/2007 including Annex III list of ‘luxury goods’ from the Europa website (PDF, 64K)

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

Goods Checker on the ECO Checker website (registration required)

Security Council resolutions on the UN website

CFSP legislation on the Europa website

UK legislation search on the website

Official Journal of the EU on the Europa website

A to Z countries listing on the UK Trade & Investment website

Published 23 August 2012
Last updated 4 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Included links to financial sanctions content on GOV.UK
  2. First published.