North Korea has routinely been described as a poor country which heavily relies on Chinese aid and economic cooperation.
Recent reports have surfaced, however, that the hermit kingdom may actually be sitting on a massive fortune in the form of untapped mineral resources.
According to Quartz, researchers from South Korea have estimated North Korea’s mineral deposits of iron, gold, magnesite, zinc, copper, limestone, molybdenum and graphite, among others, to be worth at least $6 trillion.
The country also reportedly holds significant deposits of rare-earth metals, important metallic elements which are used to make components of computers, smartphones and other technological products.
It is important to note, however, that while researchers are certain that North Korea has massive underground wealth, they admit that the exact estimates are not easy to formulate.
According to visiting fellow at the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific, Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea, placing the figure at $6 trillion, while possibly unrealistic, is difficult to verify.
In an interview with News.com.au, Petrov confirmed that North Korea indeed has a wealth of natural resources, which the country has exported over the years to allies such as China and Russia.
With limited potential buyers and a lack of sufficient mining equipment, North Korea may not have been trading its products to its actual worth.
“North Korea is very rich in natural resources and while they have some technology, it doesn’t have strong foreign investment and investment capital,” Petrov explained.
Recent international sanctions, however, had further limited the country’s abilities to export.
Current political conditions have so far allowed China to secure a monopoly in the trade and Petrov said it intends to keep it. Currently, China partakes on about 90% of North Korea’s external trade.
“China is interested in keeping North Korea as a closed market for precious metals,” Petrov was quoted as saying.
How Kim Jong-un will further utilize its natural wealth is yet to be seen, but so far, it seems its military has been taking a huge portion of the country’s budget.
North Korea has conducted several ballistic missile tests in 2017, with the latest missile, the Hwasong-14, being fired on Tuesday, coinciding with the United States’ 4th of July celebration.
“American bastards would be not very happy with this gift sent on the July 4 anniversary,” Kim was quoted in a statement.