North Korea has tested a series of ballistic missiles since Donald Trump became President. Analysts believe Kim Jong-un is flexing his military muscles to demonstrate to President Trump that his country is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a mystery to those in Asia and the West as to how Kim Jong-un has been able to maintain an iron grip over a country with ambitious leadership and a poor citizenry.
Normally, this would be a recipe for disaster for a leader, especially a young one. In a new report, CNN reveals Kim Jong-un is able to keep the elite happy by granting them exclusive access to the mysterious “office 39” — a world class mall filled with near impossible to find luxury goods. A happy elite reduces the risk of a coup.
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New images released as part of a yearlong investigation by NK Pro, an independent North Korea monitoring group, shows just what money can buy in two luxury Pyongyang department stores.
In much of the countryside, humanitarian groups say North Koreans live in grinding poverty. But in the capital, there is clearly money to spend.
“I saw North Koreans paying with hundred dollar notes for items costing more than $2,000,” said a senior Western diplomat who was based in Pyongyang and visited the stores several years ago.
Anybody with hard US currency was allowed to shop there, he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un likes to keep the ruling elite loyal with sweeteners says Kim Kwang Jin, a North Korea defector who helped finance illicit imports into North Korea.
But Kim Kwang Jin says there is another reason.
Kim’s personal ‘slush fund’
“They earn a lot of dollars and cash from these luxurious department stores by selling all these goods and they re-allocate these dollars into their priorities like the nuclear and missile program,” he said. “Luxury goods sales help them build more missile and nuclear material.”