North Korea’s high income bracket, the “dollar is the only way to live”

[imText1]Recently, among North Korea’s high income brackets, the “dollar wind” is blowing. Exchanging North Korean hard currency and all assets into dollars is a new trend among comparatively rich people in North Korea. It is worthy to note that such a phenomenon derived from a psychological fear of the collapse of the regime.

Jo Won Ik (pseudonym), who is working for a North Korean trading company, came to Liaoning and Dalian in China to earn foreign currency, agreed without hesitation to have a drink with a reporter even though he knew the reporter was from South Korea. As he drank, he stated secretly, “North Korea would not last longer” and “lately, rich North Koreans collect dollars and hide it in their houses. I have also collected about ten thousand dollars.” Such situations where low-ranking officials in North Korea honestly confess their sentiments to South Koreans, are increasing lately.

Assuring Ways of Living Double and Triple the Time

In North Korea, rich people are mostly the ones with power, and they are regarded as ‘the biggest betrayers’ by the mass of North Koreans. This implies that rich, high-ranking officials’ faithfulness toward the government has been weakened. North Korea’s economic hardship rather gave them opportunities to become the “newly rich,” who listen to foreign media through Japanese-made radios and also enjoy South Korean movies and music. Thus this group of people is aware of affairs outside of North Korea more than any other group.

These people were already beginning to waver, but as they heard about the failure of the Baghdad garrison who were famous for their firepower, they did not trust the North Korean forces anymore. Also, along with the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, a rumor circulated that the US will attack North Korea is causing people to waver even further.

According to Kim Chun Hee (pseudonym) who visited China with a legitimately -issued passport, is a high ranking person in a North Korean business company, dealing with South Korea said “Kim Jong Il regime is almost finished, thus it is now time to find our own way to live.” When Kim went to her uncle at the Central Power Agency to ask for help in obtaining a ‘legal passport,’ he asked her if she was going to come back to North Korea. Then he told her “if you want to go, go. The fate of this regime seems to be done.”

The high ranking official “A” told Kim’s uncle, “I think now I only have three choices left: 1. run away to the US, 2. defect to South Korea or 3. hide in China.” “A” advised Kim’s uncle, “Whichever country it is, the value of dollars is valid, thus collect them while you can (rather than collecting North Korean money which does not have a value). “A” continued, “You do not know how you would end up if you only trust Kim Jong Il. This government only has three years left at the longest.” “A”’ is a well known high ranking official involved in business with South Korea. It is unusual that a North Korean high-ranking official would tell such a story; and the person who heard it tells their relatives about it.

If the higher ranked waver, Kim Jong Il’s regime will be threatened

Fearing the high-ranking officials’ wavering, recently a “security control for anti-socialism” was appointed by Central party is active throughout all North Korean provinces. In early December (2003), “security control for anti-socialism” inspected rich people’s houses in cities in North Hamkyong province including Musan, Hwaeryong, and Onsung. From the inspection, 60-70 people were arrested and were put in custody to Chungjin. They are still under investigation and a rumor that they will soon have a public trial and public execution is circulating.

Gye Chul Min (pseudonym, 43), a Chinese smuggler who often travels between North Korea and China said, “Usually, the North Korean rich keep their assets through a connection with a powerful figure in their province, but “security control for anti-socialism” from the Central party made things difficult.” Park also said, “However, many people have escaped from it. If there is a rich person gone, then there will be next rich replacing them again. “These days, the North Korean rich are not interested in Chosun (North Korea) money, but are only interested in dollars.”

Mid-ranking officials who have been the important part in maintaining North Korean regime and their ‘connected rich people’ are now faltering in their support of the regime. If this phenomenon continues, along with the public’s alienating from the government, it can be predicted that Kim Jong Il’s regime will face difficulties in maintaining the regime.

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