North Korea continues to hold military parades as economy collapses

North Korea typically unveils new, advanced weapons during its military parades. Last month, on September 9, North Korea held a military parade to mark the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the country. This recent military parade was the third in the year 2021. However, North Korea did not unveil new nuclear weapons this time around, which was odd and unlike previous parades and military practices.

Other than that, one of the fascinating things about the military parade was the weight loss of Kim Jong Un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. He had a slimmer appearance which made North Korean citizens speculate that the Supreme Leader was intensely feeling the impact of the economic crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic. You know it’s a shame the only guy in the country who gets a few seconds is starving.

North Koreans at the public screening of Kim Jong Un’s speech (Uwe Brodrecht via Wikipedia)

Effect of COVID-19 and UN sanctions in North Korea

After the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which emanated from North Korea’s neighboring country – China, North Korea has closed its borders since January 2020. The nation has set up border teams that operate in part of a fierce shoot-and-kill policy to deter migration and cross-border trade. This resolution and response to the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated North Korea and resulted in food shortages as many business activities are blocked.

At the same time, North Korea plays an important role in launching ballistic missiles during its annual military parades. Such nuclear launches are against the United Nations, and as a result, North Korea faces severe international sanctions and trade embargoes. These international sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the North Korean economy as they restrict trade in arms, military equipment, metals, vehicles and dual-use technology.

Apart from this, imposed international sanctions and trade embargoes have capped imports of refined petroleum products, natural gas and petroleum; therefore, the production costs increased rapidly. The United Nations measures have banned members of the United Nations from opening bank accounts and bank offices in North Korea, restricting international investors in North Korea. Members of the United Nations have also been limited in technical and scientific cooperation with North Korea.

The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with international sanctions and trade embargoes caused bilateral trade with China to fall by more than 80% in 2019. In addition, North Korea’s trade volume, which accounted for 21.9% of gross domestic product in 2016, fell sharply to 2.9% in 2020 after the border was closed and the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown.

North Korea continues to hold military parades as economy collapses
Tank in the DPRK Victory Day Parade. (Wikipedia)

Impact of US sanctions against North Korea

The United States of America has also imposed unilateral sanctions on North Korea that have restricted the country’s economic activity and affected North Koreans, international investors and their jobs. The unilateral US sanctions are contained in a piece of legislation – The North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act.

The law provides that the United States can freeze the assets of any individual, organization, firm or corporation that does business with North Korea. The United States government is also authorized to seize any property belonging to the North Korean government if it is under its jurisdiction. Apart from that, the sanctions are designed to restrict the sources of revenue and fuel that are vital to North Korea’s nuclear program.

Despite international sanctions and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of them has deterred North Korea in its efforts to develop missiles and nuclear technology. Without the ability to generate hard currency by exporting goods and importing necessary capital resources, North Korean citizens suffered from food shortages and volatility. Apart from this, the domestic product process has been constantly higher, threatening the national security of North Korea.

Given North Korea’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in the foreign diplomatic presence and foreign missions. Unless North Korea opens its borders, the country will have to resort to rigorous and draconian campaigns to deal with its economic problems.

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