In what has to be one of the more interesting internet finds in the history of blogging, Webnewser's Hunter Walker has stumbled across an official North Korean CafePress page where you can purchase brutal totalitarian regime-themed mugs, T-shirts, caps, etc.
The North Korean page on the CafePress site is run by an organization called the "Korean Friendship Association," which states on its website that it "has full recognition from the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and is the world-wide leading organization of its supporters." This statement seems all the more true when considering that the Korean Friendship Association's web address is housed by North Korea's official website, which states:
Since 2000, this webpage has been the primary site for the country, including the main source of information about activities lead by the KFA for promoting international ties of friendship such travels to the country, exhibitions, conferences, various cultural events and undertakings. Nowadays it receives an average of 4 million hits per month.
When taking into consideration that the United States government strictly prohibits trade with North Korea or any kind, it would seem as though CafePress, a California-based company that produces and sells user-designed merchandise on the web, could be in violation of some pretty serious federal statutes for a) producing the items sold on its site on behalf of North Korea, and b) for sending regular payments to an arm of the North Korean government as compensation for the items sold on the site, something Walker inquired with CafePress' spokesman about.
"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.'"
Well that settles it! We're sure that the families of people like Laura Ling and Eula Lee will be relieved to hear that the CafePress royalty checks aren't made out directly to Kim Jong Il and sent to a P.O. box in Pyongyang. However, we're pretty sure that the United States Government might have something to say about it before it's all said and done. Maybe.