North Korea is pushing every angle to try and obtain more foreign currency to bolster its coughers and fund its 2012 festivities.
According to North Korean sources, apart from the standard blanket expropriation of a large proportion of the $200-1500 per month incomes of laborers based abroad, in recent times the authorities have also started to move in on the reserves of ordinary citizens inside North Korea’s borders.
Various enterprises and organizations are said to be in fierce competition to get hold of whatever foreign currency and gold is held by the people. Trade banks have also apparently responded to the situation by offering to exchange foreign currency at the black market rate of 2,800 won per U.S. dollar, instead of the laughable official exchange rate.
Elsewhere, mobile phone sales are helping the regime to dredge currency from the people. The North Korean Ministry of Communications is reportedly making impressive profits by monopolizing the importation of phones made by Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei, buying them for $80 per handset and reselling them for $300. Based on known prices, connection fees and a service take-up of 700,000 people so far, the authorities have presumably managed to earn $250m through this practice alone.
Overseas Koreans also say they are being pushed to add to the funding drive. Ethnic Koreans in the United States have claimed that North Korea has offered them the chance to reunite with long lost family members in the North for a cost of several thousand dollars per person, including brokerage and security fees, although this has been apparently going on for a number of years.
Over in Japan, meanwhile, it was also revealed by weekly publication AERA that North Korea has sent letters to elderly members of the Chongryon inviting them to return to North Korea with the promise of being able to live well on their pensions. It is suspected that the North hopes to be able to withhold news of their eventual passing so as to keep receiving the pensions in the medium term.
Finally, the workers and businesses at the Kaeseong Industrial Complex have also become a target of the fund raising drive. North Korean management in the Complex requested back in August that South Korean businesses stop offering ‘Choco-pies’ (a South Korean snack) to North Korean workers and give them cash instead.
However, the overall results are unlikely to be positive. The planned illusion of plenty may be briefly achieved next year, but the majority of experts agree that the North Korean regime is now distorting the economy more and more by focusing on events idolizing the Kim family at the expense of other issues that will inevitably come back to haunt the regime later.