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North Korea stole 1000 Volvos from Sweden in 'simplest grand theft auto' in history

North Korea stole 1000 Volvos from Sweden in 'simplest grand theft auto' in history

It turns out when you've got your own army, stealing things is really easy

North Korea once stole 1,000 Volvos from Sweden and there was pretty much nothing that could be done to get them back.

Let's face it, North Korea is, quite frankly, a terrifying country which is packed full of all the awful poverty and misery you'd expect to see in a third-world authoritarian state. But they also have nuclear weapons.

While some of the people who are born there have put their lives on the line in attempts to escape from the country, many do not succeed.

Meanwhile, the state is ordering citizens to give their newborn children patriotic and ideological sounding names such as ones meaning 'loyalty' and 'bomb' after they believed foreign influences were leading to softer naming customs deemed to be too lacking in revolutionary fervour.

Kim Jong Un.
Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

There's always the hope that North Korea will put aside their controversial ways and embrace the international community, and sadly there's always people willing to embrace North Korea because there's money to be made.

The nation has a chequered history of making deals with other countries and ones which have tried to work with North Korea in good faith have come away burned, like Sweden in the 1970s.

Winding the clock back a few decades, North Korea was starting to emerge as a potentially attractive site for foreign aid and investment.

They were still lagging far behind much of the rest of the world but there was a kernel of an idea that with the right aid and investment they might catch up, and the first ones to offer help would find plenty of rewards to reap.

With that in mind Swedish businesses started expanding into North Korea, signing big deals with the country to export all sorts of things from heavy mining equipment to 1,000 Volvo cars.

According to NPR, about $70 million worth of goods was shipped from Sweden to North Korea in the 70s, and the Swedes even became the first Western country to open an embassy in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

The Volvo 144 - there's 1,000 of these still rolling around North Korea which were never paid for.
Ann Stewart / Alamy Stock Photo

The niceties didn't last long as not long after that, North Korea's trade with Western countries came to a screeching halt for a very good reason - they weren't paying for the stuff they'd had shipped over.

Not able to afford to pay and not inclined to give back all the things they'd got, North Korea decided crime was the best option and kept everything.

Since they were on the other side of the world without an army of their own, there wasn't much Sweden could do to stop a thousand cars from being stolen.

Soviet diplomats called it 'the largest car theft in human history' and Sweden can't do much but send North Korea a bill a couple of times a year for everything it owes, and that original $70 million has ballooned to hundreds of millions.

It's probably never getting paid back.

Featured Image Credit: Gavin Hellier / Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: World News, Weird, North Korea, Cars, Crime

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