It continues to be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea in March.
While prices for essential goods in the North remain stable, there are reports that business is stagnating at the economic development zones set up to attract foreign investment. The lack of international investment is, to some degree, the result of the U.N. sanctions that place increased financial restrictions on companies that do business with North Korea, and U.S. sanctions that authorize the seizure of assets from international organizations and individuals involved with banned North Korean industries like mining and banking.
But Adam Cathcart, an East Asia expert at Britain’s Leeds University notes that even without sanctions, international companies are reluctant to invest in North Korea’s economic development zones because they do “not provide enough infrastructure.”
There have also been reports that food and fuel prices in North Korea have not been affected by the new sanctions imposed this year. Analysts credit the growth of semi-legal private markets under leader Kim Jong Un for keeping food and fuel supplies stable despite the sanctions.
Beijing’s enforcement of international sanctions is considered crucial because 90 percent of North Korean trade flows either to or through China. North Korea analyst Andrei Lankov with Kookmin University in Seoul recently told Radio Free Asia that … “if sanctions implementation begins to threaten the survival of the Kim Jong Un regime, China will pull back.”