It’s no secret that North Korea, at least for those sitting atop the political pyramid, has some money to throw around.
Every now and then the watching world gets a glimpse of the abject squalor many of its citizens are forced to live in, but most of the time we see expensive missiles being fired off and a dictator leading a life of opulence.
So how does the country afford all this, given that they are on the receiving end of trade sanctions from most of the world?
CNN decided to take a closer look at what keeps the economy ticking over, with more than 80% of North Korea’s trade taking place with China.
Its biggest source of foreign currency is believed to come from the millions of tons of coal it sells to China every year. They accounted for about a third of official exports in 2015…
North Korea also exports other commodities, and basic goods such as iron ore, seafood and clothing, to China.
Even assuming China gets tough on trade, North Korea is thought to have racked up hefty “rainy day” funds from booming coal sales to China, particularly during the spike in global commodity prices in the previous decade.
Harvard’s [John] Park says he believes Pyongyang has kept “very large sums” in China that the regime can use to buy what it wants for its weapons programs.
By keeping the money in China, North Korea can more easily dodge sanctions aimed at cutting it out of the global financial system.
Since early last year, another potential revenue stream for North Korea has come into focus: hacking banks.
The country is now being linked to attacks on financial institutions in 18 countries, according to a new report from Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.
“You’re looking at a situation where the North Koreans are particularly sophisticated,” said Park. “It’s a big source of revenue going forward.”
Selling forced labour
[The country] is sending thousands of North Korean workers abroad to toil under forced labor [sic] conditions in places like China, Russia and the Middle East, according to a U.N. report from 2015. They are believed to work in industries like mining, logging, textiles and construction.
You have to keep the lights on somehow, but there are few economies in the world as dirty as North Korea’s.
Mind you, I don’t imagine that is going to keep Kim Jong-un up at night.
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