North Korea has reportedly began selling large amounts of gold to China in order to avoid an imminent economic collapse.
"Since several months ago, North Korea has begun to sell its gold," one source told South Korean news agency Yonhap News. "Overseas sales of gold are a barometer of whether the North Korean economy is in a crisis or not."
North Korea's economic paralysis is set to deepen after Jang Song-thaek, uncle and guardian to North Korean leader Kim Kong-un, was purged from the regime's inner circle as he is believed to have managed the country's economic dealings with foreign countries.
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The decision to dispose of North Korea's gold has sparked fears it could be trying to ward off an "imminent economic collapse". Such a move clashes with founding leader Kim Il-sung's order to never sell the country's gold.
According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, North Korea sold more than 2 tons of gold last year to raise around $100 million. North Korea is estimated to have around 2,000 tons of gold reserves worth over US$8 billion.
However, experts poured cold water on suggestions the country could imminently go bust. Aidan Foster Carter, honorary senior research fellow in Modern Korea at Leeds University, told the Huffington Post UK: "North Korea has often sold gold and they do it quite routinely. It's not a sign of imminent economic collapse."