North Korea could struggle economically under heavy sanctions, analyst says

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 9, 2017 at 11:23 AM
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SEOUL, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A former World Bank official says economic goals outlined in Kim Jong Un's New Year speech won't be easy to achieve because of heavy sanctions against the country.

Bradley Babson, who has previously consulted for the United Nations and is a member of the executive committee of the National Committee for North Korea, recently told Voice of America he is skeptical Pyongyang could realize the goals outlined in Kim's five-year economic plan.

Multiple U.N. Security Council sanctions will pose difficulties for the North in raising trade performance and attracting foreign investment necessary for economic development, according to the report.

Babson said the most recent November sanctions, if fully enforced, especially in China, would lead to serious difficulties for North Korea in obtaining what it wants.

In November, when Resolution 2321 was adopted, coal exports were expected to decline by 60 percent, leading to a loss of about $800 million in revenue for North Korea.

That number represents about $3 billion in total North Korea exports.

Babson also said another force in the country, North Korea's newly emerging class of entrepreneurs, could continue to find more effective and innovative ways to make money and break into the outside world.

The state may also be turning its attention to exporting items that are not sanctioned, including apparel, the analyst added.

Kim, whose birthday was on Sunday, may have celebrated a low-key birthday because of his family history, Yonhap reported Monday.

Seoul's unification ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said Monday Kim's age and "obstacles to his idolization" in the North are responsible for the quiet observance, a reference to his mother.

In North Korea "it is unreasonable to proceed with the idolization of Kim Jong Un's mother, which is why it does not take place as an event," Jeong said.

The only wife of former leader Kim Jong Il who was officially recognized by his father, Kim Il Sung, is Kim Yong Suk, one South Korean government source told Yonhap.

Kim Jong Un's mother was originally from the ethnic Korean community in Japan. North Koreans from Japan occupy a relatively lower place in the state's social classification system, according to the source.

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