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The name of the NK missiles are "No dong" missles. Well, at least they can't screw us!!! LOL|
How Kim Affords His Nukes
The myth of a failing economy.
Published May 30, 2009 NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE
From the magazine issue dated Jun 8, 2009
North Korea, with its malnourished populace, frequent famines and obsolete conventional weapons, is as famous for its poverty as it is for its provocations. That has many observers now wondering how a country that can barely afford to keep the lights on can foot the bill for a missile and nuclear-weapons program.
Part of the explanation lies in the Stalinist nation's "military-first" policy, under which the Army gets to pocket a huge chunk of the national income梪p to 40 percent, according to Marcus Noland, a North Korea expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The other answer is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, North Korea isn't broke梐nd its economy has been moving away from collapse in recent years. The Hermit Kingdom may not be getting rich梩he CIA estimates its GDP at roughly $40 billion, ranking 96th in the world. But it's not failing either, and for the past decade, its economy has grown at an average rate of about 1.5 percent a year, according to South Korean statistics. While Seoul estimates that the North's GDP shrank by 2.3 percent last year, some analysts say it actually expanded, arguing that South Korea's recent figures on the North are deflated for political purposes.
To understand how the Dear Leader has managed this, you must first drop a few of the myths surrounding his country. First, the North Koreans haven't been living in caves for the past two decades, nor is their economy de-industrializing, as is sometimes reported. Instead, with help from Beijing, Pyongyang has revamped its outdated infrastructure in recent years and repaired the mining facilities that were battered by massive floods during the mid-'90s. It now aims to shift from recovery to growth, with a focus on steel production, mining and light-industrial manufacturing.
Second, the North doesn't have to rely on the black market to support itself. True, Pyongyang has sold missiles to Iran, Syria and Pakistan, and annual revenue from such exports is roughly $100 million, but analysts say that other illicit activities like drug trafficking and counterfeiting add very little to that sum. According to a former U.S. diplomat in East Asia who asked not to be named discussing sensitive intelligence, during the Bush years Washington investigated the oft-heard counterfeiting accusations, and found that the notes in question had actually been produced privately by former Chinese military officials, in China. "The Treasury Department couldn't find a single shred of hard evidence pointing to North Korean production of counterfeit money," the American says.
The biggest myth is that North Korea remains isolated. Despite supposedly comprehensive sanctions, Pyongyang today has diplomatic and commercial relations with more than 150 countries, including most European Union members. North Korea trades its abundant gold reserves梕stimated at 1,000 to 2,000 tons梚n cities like London, Zurich and Hong Kong, and buys and sells shares on the New York Stock Exchange via a legitimate London-based brokerage firm it essentially owns. While there are no figures on the volume of such transactions, the former U.S. diplomat says that such activities are "a substantial source of hard currency for North Korea." In recent years, European firms have also begun eyeing investment opportunities there; In 2004, the London-based energy firm Aminex signed a 20-year deal with Pyongyang for exclusive rights to explore on- and offshore oil-and-gas deposits. Other companies are looking for ways to exploit the North's cheap labor supply, and while most of these deals have yet to take off for technical and political reasons, ties to the outside world are expanding. In 2008, the country's overall trade rose 30 percent from the previous year, reaching a record $3.8 billion, including imports of $2.7 billion, according to Seoul's Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
North Korea has proved adept at avoiding restrictions: when Tokyo slapped it with sanctions five years ago, Pyongyang simply reshuffled its deals, turning to the BRIC economies as well as South Korea and Singapore. Meanwhile, China now accounts for nearly three quarters of North Korea's total trade, sending it crude oil, petroleum and manufactured goods in exchange for coal, steel and rare metals like tungsten and magnesite. The North's natural resources have become a major growth engine: the Musan mine in the country's northwest is now said to be one of the largest iron-ore fields in Asia, and could eventually yield 10 million tons of ore a year.
Finally, there's the southern connection. Despite deteriorating relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, factories at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex are still operating at full gear, earning the North about $35 million annually梕nough for eight or nine No-dong missiles. And that figure was projected (before the current crisis hit) to jump to $100 million by next year, says Lim Eul Chul of Seoul's Kyungnam University.
Of course, North Korea's economy could take a big hit this year if the U.N. Security Council imposes further sanctions and China imposes its own. The KIC is also in jeopardy, as South Koreans could pull out if tensions mount further. Still, the hard truth is that Kim Jong Il already has his stash of nukes and missiles梐nd perhaps the money to make more.