North Korea Ramps Up Foreign Currency Collection After Failed Satellite Launch
North Korean Trade Officials Meet With China
In a recent move, North Korean authorities have ordered trade officials to intensify their efforts in collecting foreign currency, citing an urgent need for funds in the country's military industry, media reports explained.
A source in China, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, informed Daily NK last Tuesday that a North Korean consulate in China convened a meeting with North Korean trade officials in mid-June. The officials were instructed to aggressively gather funds and identify potential overseas investors.
The consulate officials specifically cited North Korea's recent failure to launch a military spy satellite into space as a reason for the increased financial need:
"China has completely lifted its COVID-19 quarantine, so it's best to identify new investors and make money rather than just sitting around. The defense sector needs more money now because the government's satellite launch failed and it must prepare for a second launch," the consulate officials reportedly said.
While North Korean trade officials in China were aware of the failed satellite launch, many were taken aback when the consulate explicitly mentioned it during the meeting, the source revealed.
The Rodong Sinmun reported on the Eighth Enlarged Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee held from June 16 to 18, stating that the Political Bureau "strictly reviewed the shortcomings that were revealed in some fields that cannot be overlooked. The most serious one was the failure of the military reconnaissance satellite launch, the important strategic work in the field of space development, on May 31."
North Korea acknowledged the launch's failure just two hours and 30 minutes after liftoff through the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) for foreign audiences. However, North Korean media outlets did not mention the failure until the report on the enlarged plenary meeting of the Central Committee.
The consulate's mention of the satellite failure, before the expanded plenary meeting, left some trade delegates bewildered. However, they soon realized that the mention of the satellite's failure was aimed at emphasizing the urgent and unavoidable need to expand foreign currency earnings, the source said.
During the meeting, the consulate encouraged trade officials to identify business people friendly to North Korea to obtain financial cooperation or introductions to other investors. They were told they could be rewarded with the Hero of the Republic honorific if they do so. Essentially, the consulate ordered trade officials to identify collaborators who can send or launder money, even if these people cannot directly invest in North Korea.
Daily NK reported in late June that the recent expanded plenary meeting called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of External Economic Relations, and Reconnaissance General Bureau – all of which manage trade officials and laborers overseas – to aggressively reach out to overseas investors and identify people who can help raise funds.
Meanwhile, South Korea's military, after studying the retrieved wreckage, stated that North Korea's failed satellite was not capable of conducting military reconnaissance from space. The long-range rocket, which North Korea claimed was part of a space-based intelligence system, plunged into the sea off the Korean Peninsula's west coast after launching in May.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said debris had been recovered in a 36-day operation with "numerous" and "key" parts of the satellite salvaged by navy ships, aircraft, and divers. Experts from South Korea and the US concluded after examining the debris that the satellite was not capable of military reconnaissance.