Inside North Korea’s Notorious Revenue-Generating Practices

Exploring North Korea’s Revenue-Generating Practices

North Korea is known for being one of the most isolated and secretive countries in the world. The country’s economy is largely based on state ownership and government control, with very little private enterprise. However, despite its economic struggles, North Korea has managed to find ways to generate revenue. In this article, we will explore how North Korea makes money, from its involvement in illicit trades to its natural resources, labor exportation, and cybercrime activities.

North Korea’s Weapons Trade

North Korea is one of the most prominent players in the illegal arms trade worldwide. The country has been involved in selling weapons to countries like Iran, Syria, and Libya. The arms trade generates significant revenue for the country, estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars. In addition, North Korea has been accused of providing military support to countries like Syria and Palestine, which could also generate significant revenue.

Illicit Drug Trade

North Korea is also involved in the production and trafficking of drugs, primarily methamphetamine. The drug trade is believed to be a significant source of income for the country, with some estimates suggesting that North Korea is responsible for up to 50% of the world’s methamphetamine supply. The country’s involvement in the drug trade is closely controlled by the government, with the police monitoring production and trafficking activities closely. Recent reports suggest that North Korea might also be involved in the production and trafficking of opioids.

Labor Exportation

North Korea is known for sending its citizens to work overseas, primarily in Russia, China, and the Middle East. The country’s practice of labor exportation generates billions of dollars in revenue for the government, with the workers’ salaries being sent back to the government. However, North Korean workers are often subjected to poor working conditions and have their basic rights ignored. Reports indicate that conditions in many labor camps are harsh, with workers forced to work 10 or more hours a day, sometimes without pay.

Natural Resources

North Korea is home to rich natural resources, including coal, iron ore, copper, and gold. The country’s mining industry generates significant revenue for the government, with most of the minerals exported to countries like China, Russia, and India. The country also has a significant fishing industry, with seafood exports generating millions of dollars in revenue for the government.


North Korea has become increasingly involved in cybercrime activities in recent years. The country’s hackers have been accused of carrying out several high-profile cyber attacks, including the WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS in the UK and attacks on banks in over 40 countries. Cybercrime activities generate significant revenue for the country, with reports suggesting that North Korea could be making as much as $1 billion a year from these activities.


North Korea has also been involved in counterfeiting activities, including the production of fake cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, and luxury goods. Reports suggest that the country has also been involved in the production of counterfeit US dollars. These fake products are sold overseas, generating significant revenue for the government and criminal networks.


North Korea’s economy might be heavily controlled by the government, but the country has found ways to generate significant revenue through illegal and illicit activities. From the arms trade and drug trafficking to labor exportation and natural resources, North Korea has a variety of sources of income. The country’s involvement in cybercrime and counterfeiting activities suggests that it will continue to generate income illicitly, despite international sanctions. However, the country’s people are often the ones who pay the price for these activities, with poor working conditions and lack of access to basic human rights. As the international community works to address North Korea’s revenue-generating practices, it’s essential to keep in mind the impacts these activities have on the country’s people and the need to find sustainable solutions to improve their lives.

Webben Editor

Hello! I'm Webben, your guide to intriguing insights about our diverse world. I strive to share knowledge, ignite curiosity, and promote understanding across various fields. Join me on this enlightening journey as we explore and grow together.

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