] Mineral resources have been North Korea’s key exports, providing a valuable source of hard currency for the impoverished communist state.
However, the country’s mineral reserves may be far smaller than it claims, South Korea’s public resources firm said on Oct. 21.
In 2015, North Korea’s exports of mineral resources to China came to US$1.34 billion, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the North‘s overall exports that year, according to the state-run Korea Resources Corp. or KORES.
According to KORES, the North claims to have 22.7 billion tons of coal in reserve, along with 4.7 billion tons of iron, 28 million tons of zinc and 972 tons of gold.
The South Korean public firm, however, noted such claimed amounts were based on what it called calculating standards of socialist nations, which apparently tend to greatly inflate a country’s wealth.
“Based on international standards, North Korea‘s actual natural resources reserves may be at 12 to 36 percent of what the North claims them to be,” KORES said in a symposium jointly held with Halla University in Wonju, Gangwon Province.
“North Korea’s natural resources, believed to be much greater in size than those of South Korea, are often considered an asset that can ensure joint development of the North and the South following a reunification of the two countries. But since North Korea‘s natural resource reserves may be significantly smaller than the country claims, a more accurate understanding of such assets is necessary,” it said.
Currently, North Korea has 728 mines, including 241 coal mines, according to KORES.