North Korea is in serious financial trouble largely due to $110 million it has spent on the personality cult surrounding late leader Kim Jong-il.
The South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, says that one 23-foot statue of Kim, who died late 2011, erected in Pyongyang cost around $10 million. The country spent $20 million on replacing portraits of Kim, a source told the paper, and $1 million on badges depicting his face.
North Korea faces various economic sanctions and widespread waste, and the country has struggled to support itself financially in recent years. Despite this, the regime has been demanding “donations” from citizens to continue funding Kim Jong-il’s cult of personality, the Chosun Ilbo reports, and is reportedly seeking emergency loans with 20-40% interest from European and Russian lenders.
Kim’s son, new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, doesn’t appear to be in any rush to end the cult of personality. He appeared at the unveiling of statues dedicated to his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung, early this year, and reportedly ordered a military officer who he felt was not mourning enough to be killed with a mortar round.
Spending by the Kim regime has long been wildly counter to the problems faced by the country.
In August, floods left more than 200,000 people homeless and about 150 people dead, but Kim was photographed opening an amusement park.
Recently, a massive propaganda message about Kim Jong-un was spotted from space. The message built in the Ryanggang Province, according to the BBC, reads ”Long Live General Kim Jong-un, the Shining Sun!” and is more than half a kilometre long. Each letter is about the size of a small building.
According to the South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo, the practise dates back to the 1970s when Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s names were carved into the side of a mountain.
North Korea’s military spending is greatly out of proportion to its size. According to the U.S. Department of State, the country spends about 25% of its GNP on its military.
The U.S. spends about 4.7% of its GDP on the military.