WASHINGTON — By all accounts, North Korea’s cash-strapped economy is flagging under crippling international sanctions and the slowdown means the traditional elite and a rising merchant class may be feeling pinched, experts say.
“The elites in Pyongyang are really feeling it,” said Joshua Stanton, a Washington attorney who helped draft the North Korean Sanctions Enforcement Act in 2016.
“They’re having a very tough time right now. I think they’re losing their wealth rapidly. And they’re concerned about the government’s policies and directions, and the failure to get sanctions lifted in Hanoi,” he continued.
The most privileged government and military officials, considered North Korea’s aristocrats, are estimated to number about 2,000 people. Born into families who backed the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung in the 1940s and 1950s, they are fiercely loyal to the Kim dynasty, said William Brown, former CIA analyst and a North Korea economy expert.
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