August 06, 2018 13:16
North Korea is going all out to export coal by illicit means despite UN Security Council sanctions because it is a major cash cow for the military and other organs.
Hong Song-won, who headed a military coal mine in the North until he defected in 2008, told the Chosun Ilbo on Sunday, "If coal exports stop, foreign-currency revenues will dry up and the coal mines will close."
"Coal has been a steady source of foreign currency since the Kim Jong-il era," Hong said. "When coal exports started generating lots of money starting in the mid-2000s, the North Korean military and other agencies got in on the action and started their own mining businesses."
Premier Pak Pong-ju advised Kim Jong-il against selling the North's resources, but was silenced by Jo Myong-rok, the then head of the powerful Army politburo, who challenged Pak to come up with an alternative to feed, clothe and supply fuel for 1 million soldiers.
North Korea slashed prices after the 2013 execution of new leader Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Song-taek, who was in charge of business, but then vastly increased output to make up for the price decline.
Hong said high-grade coal for export has a calorific value of between 5,500 to 6,500 kcal/kg and is mined in Dokchon, Jikdong, Kaechon and Sunchon coal mines in South Pyongan Province.
"If we don't export coal, we can't import materials for coal production, such as belts, mining pillars, trolleys, rails, explosives and tungsten alloy," so the mines will have to shut down.
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