N.Korea Spends Billions on Lavish Fireworks

      April 17, 2012 13:21

      Fireworks explode over the Juche Tower on the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang to celebrate North Korea's nation founder Kim Il-sung's centenary in Pyongyang on Sunday. /Reuters-Yonhap

      North Korea reportedly spent W19 billion on massive fireworks in celebration of Kim Il-sung's centenary on Sunday, or over three times the amount it spent on the same annual ritual in 2010.

      Sunday's visual pyrotechnics display lasted for one hour from 8 p.m. and was staged on the banks of the Taedong River in Pyongyang with its new leader Kim Jong-un present.

      "Fireworks brightly lit up the sky in an area near the Juche Tower in Pyongyang while the 'Song of General Kim Il-sung' played in the background. Fireworks of various colors decorated the sky spectacularly," reported the state-run [North] Korean Central News Agency.

      A South Korean government official who is familiar with North Korean affairs said, "The fireworks this time were less ostentatious than those staged in 2010, but firework shows took place nationwide this year, not only in Pyongyang. Two hundred tons of firecrackers were imported from China, and if transportation and performance costs are counted, the expense must have added up to around US$16.7 million."

      However, this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg out of its whole spending for the preparatory projects for the centenary events.

      According to the same source, North Korea spent $850 million on the failed launch of what it claimed was a space rocket on Friday, $820 million on remodeling projects in Pyongyang, including the construction of skyscrapers near the Mansudae district, $210 million on renovating the Ryukyong Hotel, and $38.6 million on installing new gigantic statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

      If the total cost of all these projects is factored in, North Korea spent about $1.16 billion on the centenary. That could have bought 3.4 million tons of corn produced in China to relieve the chronic food shortage for four to eight years. The country is believed to be short of between 400,000 and 800,000 tons of corn a year.

      A senior North Korean defector said that lavish spending instead of taking care of people's wellbeing was predictable when North Korea announced that it would continue to follow Kim Jong-il's policies and lessons after his demise.

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