N.Korea 'Has Less Than a Year's Worth of Food, Oil Left'

  • By Kim Myong-song

    April 01, 2019 13:07

    North Korea urgently called back key representatives of overseas trading companies in charge of raising foreign currency for the regime and confiscated their U.S. dollar holdings.

    North Korean officials are taking increasingly drastic measures after last month's summit with the U.S. in Hanoi collapsed without achieving the easing of sanctions they had apparently been gambling on.

    The National Intelligence Service here told lawmakers on Friday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the Foreign Ministry to appeal to international organizations that the North is suffering a severe food shortage. Some experts estimate that the North's foreign-currency and food and oil reserves are not enough to last even a year.

    The regime "ordered the heads of its overseas trading companies two weeks ago to return to Pyongyang by March 25," a source said. "It punished some of them to warn others against corruption and extort loyalty money in return for being let off."

    They paid US$50,000-100,000 each from wherever they could find it, according to the source.

    Representatives from North Korea's state-run travel agency (left in front row) and the Vietnamese tourism industry (right in front row) sign an agreement at a tourism fair in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday. /Yonhap

    The NIS told lawmakers that the food situation in the North is indeed worsening, according to Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Lee Eun-jae.

    North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim Song sent letters to international organizations on March 20 appealing for food donations. Crackdowns on smuggling across the China-North Korea border are making matters even more difficult for the North as Beijing is wary of agitating Washington amid their ongoing trade dispute.

    Meanwhile, the NIS said North Korea already began rebuilding its missile facility in Tongchang-ri, which was partially dismantled in July 2018, before the Hanoi summit, and now work is almost complete.

    The NIS added that there are as yet no signs of the nuclear reprocessing plant in Yongbyon being reactivated, but it believes the uranium-enrichment facility there is currently operating.

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