North Korea Owes NYC $156,000 in Unpaid Parking Tickets

Diplomats from the rogue nation have reportedly racked up more than 1,300 tickets and haven't paid a cent.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
September 21, 2017, 3:55pm
Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

As North Korea continues to ramp up its nuclear program, threatening to reduce the US to "ashes and darkness," President Trump has been struggling to find a way to deal with the country that isn't just giving its leader a terrible nickname. Meanwhile, it looks like the Hermit Kingdom has been giving a big old "screw you" to Uncle Sam by racking up more than $156,000 in New York City parking tickets and failing to fork over the cash.


According to NBC New York, North Korea's diplomatic mission to the UN has been slapped with more than 1,300 parking tickets in New York going back to the 90s, none of which have been paid. While there are some pretty serious things you can get away with under diplomatic immunity, New York traffic violations aren't covered—meaning the country is required to pony up for the fines. Under a 2002 agreement with the State Department, New York City can withhold diplomatic parking privileges from anyone with three or more unpaid tickets.

Jong Jo, secretary of North Korea's UN mission, told NBC New York there's no way his country could owe that much in petty fines.

"It's not true," he said. "Whenever we have a ticket, we pay. Because, you know, if we have three tickets the city does not allow us to renew their permission."

For its part, the State Department told NBC it "strictly enforces the rules and associated consequences concerning our extension of driving privileges to foreign mission members" in the US. Though the department warned it's "important for police to treat foreign diplomatic and consular personnel with respect," it insisted nations that don't stay in their lane, so to speak, need to face justice.

"This is a responsibility that we take very seriously," the department said in a statement. "Irrespective to an individual's entitlement to immunity, there are consequences when a foreign mission member fails to comply with US motor vehicle laws."

But it's tough to reckon the department's statement with just how much debt countries have racked up in unpaid parking tickets in NYC over the years. NBC New York found that delegations from various countries owe more than $16 million to the city for hanging out in no-standing zones or pig parking or whatever. And some of the worst offenders are countries America has some serious beef with: Syria owes $362,550, Iran owes $184,987, Russia owes $104,231, and China owes $398,736.

"Trump needs to do something about that, since he's complaining about everything else," New Yorker Sioban Huggins told NBC after having just paid a parking ticket herself. "He might as well do something about that, right?"

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