North Korea faces serious financial difficulties after reportedly spending $100 million (£62m) in the past year building a personality cult around late leader Kim Jong-il.
Authorities in Pyongyang reportedly spent $10 million on a 75ft statue of Kim in the capital in April, according to the South Korena newspaper Chosun Ilbo. Seven similar statues costing a total of $50 million have been built around the country since Kim died last December.
The country also spent $25 million inscribing his name on 3,200 “towers of eternal life” at crossroads around the country. Kim Jong-un, the new leader and Kim Jong-il’s son, has also reportedly ordered senior party officials to raise more funds for statues and to renovate the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where his father’s body lies in state.
North Koreans working overseas are being asked to donate $150 (£93) each to pay for the memorials. The country is also borrowing money at rates as high as 40 per cent from Russian and Asian banks and European lenders, Chosun Ilbo says.
With the money, North Korea could have bought 380,000 tons of corn, the newspaper claimed, which would make up for the 500,000 ton food shortfall, according to UN estimates. A UN report earlier this year estimated two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million population suffer from chronic food shortage.
Separately, the Stalinist state has reportedly completed installing a long-range rocket on its launch pad, ahead of its planned launch this month in defiance of widespread international condemnation.