N. Korea sells gold in sign of imminent economic collapse: Source

This undated picture, released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 13, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C), accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju (L), enjoying performance given by the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Korean People's Internal Security Forces (KPISF) in Pyongyang.

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) — North Korea has begun to sell large amounts of gold to China in a bid to tide over its economic crisis, multiple sources familiar with North Korea affairs said Wednesday.

The disposal could be an indication of an imminent economic collapse as it goes against founding leader Kim Il Sung's order to never sell the country's gold, according to the sources.

"Since several months ago, North Korea has begun to sell even its gold," one source said, asking that he not be identified. "Overseas sales of gold are a barometer of whether the North Korean economy is in a crisis or not."

It is the first time that North Korea has sold gold since its leader Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011 following the death of his father Kim Jong Il, the sources added. Kim Il Sung is the current leader's grandfather.

According to South Korean government data, North Korea holds about 2,000 tons of gold reserves worth at least US$8 billion.

North Korea's economic situation is expected to worsen following the recent purge of Jang Song-thaek — Kim Jong Un's once-powerful uncle and guardian — as he had handled all economic projects with foreign countries, another source said.

An economic collapse in North Korea could lead to greater economic cooperation with South Korea but also increase the risk of a military provocation against the South, experts said.

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