Kim Jong Un Runs North Korea on the Cheap

Say what you will about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the kid knows how to pinch a penny.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Say what you will about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the kid knows how to pinch a penny. Since coming to power in December, the 28-year-old leader has had big (platform) shoes to fill. But he's already on track for a banner year of fiscal austerity. Just look at his track record this week:

Rockets on the cheap. 

Sure, last week's rocket launch was a failure of global proportions but it was also a relatively inexpensive failure. Contrary to reports from South Korean intelligence officials that Pyongyang blew $850 million on the Unha-3 rocket, U.S. analysts now say the rocket was built on the cheap. In fact, the only apparent difference between the Unha-3 rocket it launched last week and the one it launched three years ago is a paint job. "The Unha technology for at least the first stage appears frozen to the early 2000s," Nick Hansen of the Center for International Security and Cooperation tells the Associated Press. "Hansen said the biggest difference between the rocket launched in 2009 and the one that failed last week was 'the paint that said 3 on the rocket body.'

North Korea's $15 website
Getting North Korea out of the Internet's 1995 dark ages, the DPRK launched a new Flash-heavy government website this week and it's a beaut. No, seriously! Check out its rich photography and dynamic slideshow transitions. (We're guessing the "journalists" who write on the country's state propaganda website are über jealous). Anyway, the website wasn't a drain on the government's finances, reports Wired's Spencer Ackerman, it only cost $15. "Michael DiTanna, a junior at Fordham, got an assignment in his Korean history/political science course to browse North Korean official media and analyze its content," writes Ackerman. "He quickly checked out the official webpage — and decided to check under the hood ...  A quick check on the source code of the IgniteThemes “Blender” template confirms that it’s what North Korea built. Price check? $15." Way to cut spending, Pyongyang!
Miserly missiles 
Sunday's military parade to celebrate Kim Il Sung was pretty extravagant in its pageantry and showmanship. But the actual goods on display, turns out, were decidedly modest. "Although the parade concluded with what appeared to be a new missile, experts say that wasn’t very impressive," reports the AP. “It appears to be much too small to be an ICBM,” missile expert David Wright told the news agency. Other experts agreed that the missiles were under-developed.
Stimulus restraint
It may be incredibly inhumane but in the face of mounting criticisms that the country needs to spend more on its starving people Kim's regime has remained resolute. The Economic Times has said the country should earlmark almost $900 million to a food program toward feeding its population. But Kim hasn't backed down. Before Sunday's parade, Kim vowed that he'll make the military his "first second and third" priority. And we know how much he's putting into that. Kim Jong Un: Fiscal hawk?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.