RUSI collaboration with the FT recognised at Future of Media Awards 2023

RUSI’s Open Source and Intelligence Analysis (OSIA) report, Inside North Korea's oil smuggling: triads, ghost ships and underground banks, which shone a spotlight on North Korea’s oil smuggling practices, won the ‘Digital Storytelling’ award in collaboration with the Financial Times.

The report drew on satellite imagery and a range of data to show how business figures in east Asia linked to organised crime have helped facilitate illicit deliveries of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

The digital-first report, delivered in partnership with the Financial Times, shed new light on how North Korea’s economy has been propped up by intelligence and financing operations in the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Using novel data visualisation and typographical techniques to present key findings, the report created an accurate, vivid and alarming picture of North Korea’s illicit oil trade.

Describing the report, the judges said: “This was digital-first storytelling at its best using video, photography, graphics, typography and data visualisation to bring an impressive body of evidence to life.”

James Byrne, RUSI’s Director of Open Source Intelligence and Analysis said: “Our joint report with the Financial Times, delivered also in partnership with Planet, has helped to illuminate the illicit networks and routes used by North Korea to circumvent UN oil sanctions. We’re pleased that this work has been recognised for the strength of its digital storytelling and look forward to continued collaboration with our partners to shine a spotlight on illicit international practices.”

The Financial Times’ Visual Stories Editor, Sam Joiner said: “A year-long investigation by the Financial Times and the Royal United Services Institute revealed how business figures in east Asia have helped facilitate illicit deliveries of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil to North Korea.

“Combining visual storytelling with traditional investigative reporting and open source intelligence, we answered a question that has frustrated governments, think tanks and NGOs for years: who is providing oil to North Korea in violation on UN-security council resolutions?

“In the wake of this project we have seen a change in the activity of the ships and individuals referenced in the story. The visual approach was also appreciated by readers, the most-liked comment summing up the thoughts of many: “This is what journalism should look like — thank you.””


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