North Korea has Cryptocurrency. A lot of it.
In a piece from Nikkei Asian review , it was reported that experts have testified to the UN that Kim Jong Un’s regime is sitting upon more than half a billion US dollars’ worth of Crypto. Clearly, there are plenty of reasons why the sanctions beleaguered nation would want to put in such a big effort to amass such a horde of coins. As the rest of the world has ramped up their opposition to nuclear testing on the Korean peninsula, so has the Korean leader sought ways to circumvent these restrictions. Let us not forgot that $670 million at today’s prices was a bag at one point, especially if Pyongyang was doing most of its hacking closer to the market peak.
As we reported before, North Korea looks to have had its hand in most of the hacking done around the world or at least a significant part of it. Lazarus, an infamous group, believed to be sponsored by Kim Jong Un himself, had their hands in a lot of wallets with the headline $530 million hack of Coincheck widely believed to have originated from in Korea. Here’s the quote from the UN,
“Virtual Currencies provide the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with more ways to evade sanctions, given that they are harder to trace, can be laundered many times and are independent from government regulation.”
Obviously, because of how the media operates, we know that Cryptocurrency is going to get all the hate for this one. Particularly given that nuclear capability has continued to accelerate and not diminish in the cash-strapped rogue state. Honestly, the whole concept that digital currency is terrible because dictators use it is an exhaustingly narrow-minded argument and hypocritical argument. Guess what else they use to preserve their autocracies? Computers, Cars, Weapons, I mean I could keep writing things for hours.
North Korea’s malfeasance isn’t just in Bitcoin and its affiliates. They are widely documented to run large smuggling rings, utilizing shipping, in particular, to help keep their country alive. No-one is talking about how boats help Kim Jong get around the trade barriers.
So the critical point here is that economic sanctions as a tool of controlling dictators have become the preferred method. Why fly in with Apache helicopters when you can strangle a country with financial roadblocks . Well, this method might do a great job of keeping a conflict cold and avoiding actual military conflict, but in reality, all it does is prop up dictatorships . The problem is that sanctions hurt everyday people more than they hurt the leaders of a country. In practice all this does is give the regime leverage and a rallying point to cement their power. A weakened populous is easier to control, and you can make the sanction-ers into foreign devils.
North Korea has been doing this for years, but the tougher things get, the easier it is for him to say it’s the US’s fault. Usually, Kim Jong Un is just making stuff up. Misinformation is one of the biggest problems. As you can see in this video, North Koreans un-officially are not the giant haters they are portrayed to be.
Worryingly, regulators will try to pin the success of Pyongyang in creating nuclear weapons on digital assets. The blame-game has already begun (warning: don’t click on that link unless you want to be really, really annoyed). It is a real shame as it is just so narrow-minded and obtuse a perspective. Firstly, there is the fact as we discussed before that economic sanctions are a blunt tool for this job. Bitcoin might have changed the game by providing a technological advancement, but that doesn’t mean you should hide your head in the sand and try and reverse time.
Imagine you are a European King 100 years or so ago. You are unhappy with a mad ruler somewhere, so you cut off their hay supply to stop them feeding their horses and traveling easily. Would you try and ban automobiles if the Andorrans shunned their horses for the new technology? You could try, but you’d have held back the world from major progress.
Secondly, by obsessing over the wrong things, North Korea does with its Cryptocurrency you ignore the fact that many people considered Bitcoin and other coins as an incredible lifeline. Just look at Venezuela. So many people managed to secure their livelihood by getting Bolivars into digital currency. Ask a man on the street about it, however, and he will probably say “Oh yeah, Maduro uses those to get around sanctions. #petro” or something annoying like that.
Just look at this quote:
“30,296 with fatalities, killing 32,999 and injuring 2,239,000. About 2,000 children under 16 die every year.”
We need to ban this quickly right? Clearly, we need more education on how to stop this major threat to the US mainland. More than 2 million injured!
Guess what, Un and Maduro have access to this technology as well so be afraid. These are actually Tesla crash stats from last week (just kidding!) It was car crash statistics from the United States in 2010 .
There are a lot of people with a lot to lose from Bitcoin’s success. North Korea might have been one of the bad guys who benefitted from its rise, but you can’t blame Cryptocurrency. Government use an archaic and people squashing economic method of trying to reign him in (which doesn’t even work). Instead of complaining about Pyongyang’s holdings why not look at how you might build bridges with everyday people in countries afflicted by a dictatorship. Mining technology and self-banking could help people make money and build the strength they need to oppose dictators.
Alternatively, the west can keep starving the people and hope it makes them angry enough to foster a revolution. I can’t even be bothered to go into the fact that Un presumably has a much more considerable amount of smuggling-related fiat currency, because well, that’s not a headline. Obviously.