US and North Korea’s $6 trillion in mineral wealth
While oil has been the motivating factor for US-led wars in the Middle East, many are wondering what might be behind their constant belligerence towards Pyongyang. But while North Korea may not have oil, the estimated value of their mineral deposits is a staggering $6 trillion, according to the South Korean government.
North Korea is sitting on world’s second-largest supply of rare earth metals, which are essential for modern electronics like laptops, smartphones, solar electricity panels and precision missiles. The US, along with their allies Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, three major producers of sophisticated electronics, are surely interested in this vital supply of natural resources.
But China already accounts for nearly 95% of the world’s rare earth production, as nearly half of all Chinese firms registered in North Korea are mining companies.
North Korea’s rugged mountains, which cover 85% of the country, also contain huge deposits of coal, iron, gold, copper and over 200 other valuable minerals. For many South Koreans, cheaply selling these resources to the Chinese is yet another cost of a divided peninsula.
While war is always profitable, the massive presence of US corporations in South Korea shows that reconstruction is where the long-term money is found. If Washington and Seoul decide to occupy the North, it would mean that they profit from rebuilding a nation of 25 million people.
North Korea already requires an abundance of modern infrastructure projects and consumer goods, while their workforce offers a 99% literacy rate and desperation for manufacturing jobs which pay less than $3 a day.
If North Korea has such natural wealth, why are they so poor? The answer is that their companies aren’t sophisticated enough to take advantage of their own resources, and their mines operate at less than 30% capacity. Many say the main reasons for such underdevelopment are the UN sanctions which have prevented legitimate business and kept the country in an impoverished and isolated condition.
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