N.Korean Military 'Seizes Control of Economy'

      November 04, 2009 11:45

      The North Korean military has seized charge of the economy, elbowing out other ministries and the Workers' Party, the Washington Post said Tuesday. According to the daily, North Korea's military has "grabbed nearly complete command of the nation's state-run economy and staked out a lucrative new trade in mineral sales to China to make money for its supreme commander, Kim Jong-il."

      "The army has earned hundreds of millions of dollars selling missiles and weapons to Iran, Pakistan, Syria and other nations." But its two nuclear tests in October 2006 and in May 2009 "have triggered UN sanctions that are now choking off arms sales," prompting the military to seek other sources of income, it speculated.

      According to recent trade statistics, the North makes up for foreign currency shortage by selling coal, iron ore and other minerals to China. "As the Army has taken over management of mines in North Korea, mineral exports to China have soared, rising from US$15 million in 2003 to $213 million last year." North Korea's mineral reserves are worth $5.94 trillion, according to an estimate. "Kim is increasingly creaming off a significant slice of Chinese mineral revenue to fund his nuclear program and to buy the loyalty of elites," the daily quoted "North Korea, Inc.," a recent report by the U.S. Institute of Peace, a Washington-based group funded by the U.S. Congress, as saying.

      The military has a part "in the daily lives of the country's 23.5 million people. Soldiers dig clams and launch missiles, pick apples and build irrigation canals, market mushrooms and supervise the export of knockoff Nintendo games. They also guard the country's 3,000 cooperative farms, and help themselves to scarce food in a hungry country," the daily said. It "is also sending trucks to state farms to haul away as much as a quarter of the annual harvest for its soldiers, analysts say."

      According to the Strategic Studies Institute, the research arm of the U.S. Army War College, North Korea is the most militarized state on earth, with about 5 percent of the country's population on active duty. The paper recalled that all references to "communism" were removed this year from the North Korean constitution and replaced with the word "songun" or "military first." "'The army is the people, the state and the party,' the government has declared."

      The paper concluded "military first" is "a literal description of how the economy works, how citizens are forced to organize their lives and how Kim remains powerful -- and wealthy."

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