North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone is being cultivated as a hub for the precious metal trade, sources in the country say. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA
June 16 (UPI) -- North Korea has found new ways to circumvent international sanctions and is preparing to develop untapped gold mines, sources in the country say.
Pyongyang is pursuing revenue-making schemes through the use of a special economic zone, even as the Kim Jong Un regime is outwardly blaming sanctions for a delay in much needed humanitarian assistance, despite Seoul's offer to send medicine across the demilitarized zone.
Sources in North Korea told Radio Free Asia Pyongyang is earning foreign currency from the sale of unalloyed precious metals while attracting investment from Chinese companies.
North Korea plans to launch full-scale exports through the use of the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone, sources said.
One source in North Hamgyong Province, where the zone is located, told RFA North Korean trading firms are "making every effort to secure Chinese investors."
"Trade representatives are going in and out of China to attract Chinese investment in the mines," the source said, adding Chilsong, a company under Office or Room 39, the foreign currency holding arm of the regime, and Myohyang, a second firm, are "rolling up their sleeves" to bring in Chinese investors.
A second source told RFA the Rajin zone is "being promoted as the hub of gold exports...if the Rajin zone is used to export gold to China, international sanctions against North Korea can be avoided."
North Korea has blamed current sanctions for other problems.
A deputy of North Korea's health ministry stated in letters to United Nations agencies this week the sanctions have delayed medicine to fight tuberculosis and malaria.
"Some countries and companies are unwilling to allow the carrying out and transport of cooperation goods because of U.S. pressure under the pretext of the U.N. sanctions resolution and its aftermath," Kim Hyong Hun said in his message.
The letters were sent not long after North Korea postponed a visit by South Korean civic organizations, including a group ready to provide humanitarian aid and medicine for the diseases.
North Korea has claimed a willingness to provide aid does not improve inter-Korea relations.