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North Korea's economic woes driving latest provocations, analyst says

North Korea's Kim Jong Un could be raising tensions with the South amid an economic crisis in his country, a South Korean analyst says. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korea's Kim Jong Un could be raising tensions with the South amid an economic crisis in his country, a South Korean analyst says. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

June 16 (UPI) -- The Kim Jong Un regime may be in a fight for its life amid the latest provocations, including the demolition of the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong on Tuesday.

Yun Duk-min, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and former president of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told South Korean newspaper Maeil Business the North may not be in a position to consider the exchange and cooperation that has been offered by the South.

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An underperforming economy, the result of years of sanctions, could mean the leadership in Pyongyang may be resorting to extreme methods in order to reinforce state authority and control, Yun said.

Yun's comments come a day after South Korean news service Daily NK reported the North has been unable to supply rations to residents of Pyongyang, the seat of power where the elites who support the regime reside in relative comfort.

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Rations in Pyongyang have not been delivered since March, a Pyongyang-based source said.

"The situation is so dire that there is even talk of a 'second Arduous March' among Pyongyangites," Daily NK's source said, referring to the famine of the '90s, when millions of people are estimated to have died due to mismanagement and a policy of isolation.

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North Korea's government rations have been on the decline for decades. In 2002, ordinances were passed instructing citizens to no longer depend on the government for rations. The changes were made at a time when informal markets began to supply the population with daily necessities and pirated media.

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Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday North Korea could run out of foreign currency reserves by 2023, as a result of sanctions.

North Korea has lost 90 percent of income from exports since 2017, according to the report.

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