Having closed their borders in a bid to stave off the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, North Korean authorities went on to enact measures aimed at regulating the country's economy.
As the use of US dollars at North Korean markets was restricted in the past several months, it caused the local currency, the won, to "appreciate sharply", which in turn triggered mounting public complaints, with authorities executing a "high-profile currency trader" Pyongyang in October as a "scapegoat", AP reports citing Ha Tae-keung, a lawmaker who "was briefed by South Korea's National Intelligence Service, or NIS".
Lim Soo-ho, an analyst at an NIS-run think tank, argued that Pyongyang likely seeks to "reassert government control over markets amid the pandemic", though he argued that this approach will ultimately fail since people are likely to exchange only a portion of their foreign currency savings, "in anticipation that the clampdown will eventually end."
Lim also suggested that, if the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout most of the 2021, the North Korean economy might face a crisis "unseen" since the famine that devastated the country in the 1990s.
These reports arrive as North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un prepares to open a massive ruling Workers' Party congress, set to launch next month, where he is expected to lay out new economic and foreign policies.