How North Korea Makes Money ?

About a three-hour drive from North Korea capital, Pyongyang, lies what could be the the most isolated ski resort in the world. Masik Pass offers 11 slopes and 4 ski lifts, plus an equipment rental store. The adjoining luxury hotel has 120 rooms, with swimming pool, sauna, bar, and karaoke room. Snowmobiles were imported from China and chairlifts from Austria, after the refusal of a Swiss company to sell them, which North Korea called violation of human rights ". The resort has four and a half stars on Trip Adviser to genuine and happy tourists.

The majority of its visitors, however, come in North Korea. 

While the country is almost exclusively represented like a poor and hungry relic from the past, recent defectors reports began to paint a much more nuanced picture. In fact, Pyongyang cafes are full of customers reading tablets and teens make phone calls, drive BMWs and Mercedes. The key to understanding who really is charge, if a revolution will ever occur, and what everyday life is like is seeing how North Korea - both the state and the people within it - earn money. After Swiss cheese, bad hairstyles and emptiness buildings, North Korea is best known for wanting to end the human race in a giant nuclear explosion.

Photo by Steve Barker on Unsplash

When Kim Jong-Un finds his country in an unusual way starving or one of its yachts needs repairs, the country turns into this boring child the playground that will not close before you share your hot Cheetos. Insults are thrown, threats are made and missiles launched. Inevitably, the United States sees no choice but to respond, agree to ease the sanctions or grant food aid in exchange for a return to normalcy. Now with freshly fed mouth, Kim and his countrymen will suddenly turn away from murderers dictators to charming, balanced, although, admittedly, stylistically eccentric ... diplomats. Then, 6, 12, 18 months later, like clockwork, we will all have Already Seen. But while Kim's apparent obsession with nuclear toys get almost all the media attention, in fact, this is just one of the many strategies the most secret regime in the world has for achieve its much larger objective: to stay living.

The fundamental challenge for North Korea is that it cannot really, verifiably and permanently abandon its nuclear capacities without becoming, at best, unimportant. At the same time, he can't really thrive with the level of international sanctions which come with threatening to sink an entire United States State. Thus, the three generations of leadership were forced to master the art of negotiation: to extract just enough aid to stay afloat without ever giving up his unique and only source of leverage. Before founding the democratic people Republic of Korea, Kim Il-Sung was an unlikely chief. Having fought alongside the Chinese Communists and later in the Soviet army, the first Kim was well prepared, militarily, but lacked general skills no longer deemed necessary to oversee a communist republic. Her education was poor, Korean poor and understanding of Marxist theory deemed insufficient.

Despite this initial hesitation, he eventually chosen to lead the new state, although, with a lot of surveillance. Soviet advisers drafted North Korea's constitution and approved all his major speeches in advance, which makes it an almost perfect puppet state, or, in milder terms, a "Soviet satellite Diet". At the end of the Korean War, Kim Il-Sung had become a national hero and an icon - praise which fueled greater ambitions. His devotion to socialism quickly turned into a strong sense of nationalism - a desire to to be more than the puppet of Moscow or Beijing. Many Soviet officers were purged from government positions and for several decades, North Korea intentionally positioned itself between the Soviet Union and China, realizing that they could play on each other. Everything Moscow has given or promised, Beijing was sure to match, and then some, and vice versa. Both countries knew they were played, of course, but I preferred that to the worst alternative: cede influence to the other. This reluctant support dynamic, in fact, has more or less continued to this day. Conventional wisdom portrays China as the North Korea’s only ally, even the puppet state. The reality is that North Korea was not true puppet state for many decades, and with China, it has less a marriage and more one opportunistic relationship.

China's strategic interests overlap with The sustainability of North Korea, not necessarily success or prosperity. At the grassroots level, what Beijing wants is nothing - stability. By far, his worst case scenario is a or failed North Korea, after which, until 25 million, unskilled, culturally different refugees will flock to some of its most economically weak northeastern provinces. Even worse would be the advance that accompanies it American forces at the gates of China. The North, in other words, acts like a beautiful buffer of US troops stationed in the south. As long as the North does not push the tensions too high, China is more or less happy to maintain the status quo. Ideally he would like to see Kim Jong-Un follow their own example of economic reform and open up, making it less dependent on nuclear threats to survival, and potentially justifying a retreat of the American forces. But realistically, China also knows its influence is limited. China is indeed North Korea's largest trade partner, a mile and a half, but it's easy to overdo it the leverage effect of trade with a country whose propaganda can counteract almost any challenge. Simply put, Beijing could destroy the North Korea - militarily or economically.

He almost certainly also has a plan for the diet change if ever deemed necessary. 

What it lacks is the fine-grained ability to influence it. And because China first wants stability and above all, there is no reason, at present, to use his blunt weapon, leaving him a affecting. While there is a clear power dynamic between the two nations, neither is likely do something too dramatic. When Kim met Xi Jinping in 2018, the we saw the supreme leader obediently take note as the Chinese president spoke. China has historically condemned its missile tests and voted in favor of UN sanctions. And yet, Xi recently made the first visit to Pyongyang by a Chinese leader in 14 years. North Korea, for its part, understands need, at a minimum, not to get angry up close thing he has to a friend. He's too familiar with the cost of loss an ally. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, North Korea suffered a devastating famine who ultimately killed somewhere in between 200,000 and three million people. Before that, food was distributed through its Public distribution system - PDS - which had farmers give their harvest to the government, who then distributed it among the population. This model worked well during the 50's, 60's, and the 70s, even making Chinese cities jealous border. In the 80s and 90s, however, the system came crash violently. 450 grams of food rations per day in 1994 became 128 grams in 1997.

Soon only six percent of the population received any food from the government that has promised to feed it. It was arguably the most crucial moment in the history of the nation, alongside the dead of its first two directors. The PDS never fully recovered, leaving most of its 25 million people to fend for himself. Officially, capitalism does not exist here - private property and commerce are illegal. In practice, however, it can be seen everywhere - from those living in poverty to highest levels of the diet. Almost everyone is assigned a government job, and yet 62% of defectors surveyed in 2010 say they have worked unofficially on the gray market jobs. Married women can register as full-time housewives rather than working a formal job - give them the freedom to set up a private business. Across the country, women can be seen by the roadside markets selling food, and home made or imported goods like Russian and Chinese cigarettes Beer. Ironically, because of this, women's rights are surprisingly strong in North Korea, where they tend to make many multiples of their husband's income.

As expected, the government is aware of this illegal activity and could, in theory, eliminate entirely. 

But never having recovered from a now-three ten-year-old famine, most of the population depends on private markets for basic survival. In addition, the majority of this trade is carried out only for material and non-political purposes, the reasons. The poor just want to get by and the rich only seek a more luxurious life - not an end on a diet. The State therefore simultaneously manages the markets through selective application and sometimes also even encourages it. The "August 3 rule", for example, allows one to pay a fee and be exempt from work - mainly taking advantage of the space to crack down on private companies. Yet there are limits. North Korean banknotes have been ordered to be traded in 2009 with a limit of 100,000 Earned per person - wiping out many family savings, and causing the closest thing to North Korea has probably attended a demonstration before. This taught North Koreans not to trust their own currency. Thus, today, most unofficial transactions involve a foreign currency - usually the Chinese yuan. And just as individuals resort to capitalism - the same goes for government committees and departments.

For decades, many offices have limited or no resources, forcing them to generate theirs. 

Anyone with authority, therefore, is likely use their influence to start a business, sometimes using the national army as workers. Those who corrupt the good people and play the game may well get fabulously rich - even according to international standards. These newly rich families drive luxury cars, owning a cell phone, and eating western food in Pyongyang, which some jokingly refer to like the "Dubai" of North Korea. In this way, and many others, North Korea it's two very different countries: the North Korea seen by the outside world, and that lived by the vast majority of its population. North Korea high and bright buildings the lights you see in tours and pictures, and the one, just a few minutes away, of the sprawling fields and, if applicable, flickering electricity.

The famous monument of socialism and the private stores selling western clothes only blocks away.
And, finally, an unwavering ally, on the surface, which, in reality, is ambivalent at best. For now, the system is working. Inevitably, however, someday in the future, like the machines of the Soviet era on which his factories are running, North Korea will just shut down work - for an unlimited number of the reasons. In truth, it is remarkable how long he has work. But, for the moment, this filmed together, sometimes in need of kicks, rigged by a jury the machine continues to move slowly and inefficiently along. For all its strangeness, the genius of North Korea, the reason for its survival - is its relative self-sufficiency. He knows how a small nation like itself has it in the wider world.

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