Thursday 13 December 2018

Kim's inheritance 'dwindles' after expensive missile tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, is said to have drained his ‘slush fund’. Photo: Korea News Service via AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, is said to have drained his ‘slush fund’. Photo: Korea News Service via AP

Nicola Smith

A vital slush fund controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly been drained by a series of missile and nuclear tests, and extravagant vanity projects.

Two Chinese sources with connections to North Korean government officials told Radio Free Asia that Mr Kim has been exhausting his inheritance, a fund intended to run the country, since coming to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

They alleged that the leadership's last-minute decision to take part in the South Korean Winter Olympics was part of a wider plan to boost the nation's failing economy.

"Due to Kim Jong-un's extravagant spending, the slush fund from his father, Kim Jong-il, is running out," said one source.

The source claimed to be "well-acquainted" with officials from Bureau 39, a secretive government body tasked with obtaining foreign currency for the North Korean elite through illicit activities.

"I heard them worrying about insufficient funds in Office No 39 a number of times," he said.

The exact amount in Kim's slush fund is unknown. However, the young dictator has carried out four of North Korea's six nuclear tests, and so far tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined, including 23 in 2017, and the country's first intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korean government analysts have estimated North Korea's nuclear spending to be $1.1bn to $3.2bn (€2.6bn).

Mr Kim has also splashed out on showpieces like the high rises of the Ryomyong Street neighbourhood in the capital, Pyongyang, and the luxury Masikryong Ski Resort, which critics have claimed the cash-strapped country cannot afford and which has been allegedly serviced by child labour.

It was the policy of former liberal president Roh Moo-hyun, whose chief-of-staff was the current President Moon Jae-in. Conservatives have blamed the decision for allowing the North's weapons programme to flourish.

While the North's move to open talks with the South in January was widely welcomed, analysts remain cautious about the potential for dialogue on security issues after the Olympics.

That hesitancy has been underscored by an order handed down by Mr Kim on January 19 for a new round of ideological training and combat preparation for the entire military, reported the 'Daily NK'.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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