FOLLOWING a series of nuclear weapons and missile tests, a critical slush fund controlled by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is nearly empty, leaving the Supreme Leader looking for new ways to bolster the economy of the isolated regime, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Two anonymous Chinese sources with connections to North Korea’s ruling elite, reportedly told the newspaper that Kim had nearly exhausted the financial handout inherited from his father. They also said the lack of funds was a factor in his decision to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, hoping the move would boost the country’s failing economy.
“Due to Kim Jong Un’s extravagant spending, the slush fund from his father, Kim Jong Il, is running out,” said one of the sources.
“It won’t be easy to control North Korea’s high-level executives, who are [cunning] like raccoons.”
According to the source, who said he was “well-acquainted” with the North Korean elite, the lack of funding is no secret and is discussed amongst the top executives of government. Much of the money has been spent on Kim’s weapons development, he said.
“We can speculate that he spent a lot of money from the number of missile [and nuclear weapons] tests he carried out,” he told RFA.
“Most of the funding for nuclear weapon and missile development is coming from Kim Jong Un’s slush fund.”
North Korea’s leader has conducted four nuclear weapons tests and nearly 20 missile tests over his seven-year reign. He has also spent lavishly on development flagship projects, such as the Ryomyong Street neighbourhood in the capital Pyongyang and the Masikryong Ski Resort in eastern North Korea’s Kangwon province.
Kim’s refusal to stop his nuclear programme led to international sanctions that have crippled the already fragile economy and cut off access to foreign currency.
Following a nuclear test in September, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions prohibiting any country from accepting North Korean workers, and on Dec. 22 passed an additional resolution requiring North Korean workers abroad to return home within two years.
According to RFA, these latest measures dealt serious financial blow as latest UN estimates suggest over 100,000 North Koreans working abroad send some US$500 million in earnings to the Kim regime annually.
“International sanctions on North Korea have made it extremely difficult to earn foreign cash, and the slush fund is now running out,” the source said.
Kim hopes the decision to participate in February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea will help to improve relations and aid in their financial woes.
“North Korea’s warm gestures toward South Korea have underlying intentions: to use the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that will be held there from Feb 9 as a breakthrough for their financial difficulties,” another source told RFA.