When one discusses North Korea, the images that come readily to mind are those of its leader Kim Jong Un and his missiles. His ambition is to be regarded as a Nuclear Power and he wants to prove his might to the United States. His country is faced with sanctions from the international community that should have had a major impact on its economy, but the ground realities appear to be quite different. In fact, the country is flourishing in spite of trade restrictions.

How is North Korea managing?

Fox News reports that diplomacy over the years by US Presidents and sanctions from the global community have not had the desired effect on North Korea.

It continues to pursue its programs of building nuclear weapons and its economy is improving. This is evident from recent satellite images provided by South Korea that show more lights visible in areas around Pyongyang, the capital, as compared to 2002. An obvious conclusion is that its economy has not only survived the sanctions but has made a turnaround.

The report is prepared by South Korea’s government-run Korea Development Institute. In its opinion, satellite images provide useful information like the extent of urbanization, density of population apart from economic activity. Bank of Korea in Seoul has indicated that the economy of North Korea had grown by nearly 4 percent in 2016 and it stands to reason that North Korea does not want to be cowed down by sanctions.

It has devised strategies to overcome such hurdles and declare itself as a nuclear power.

Is China the savior?

North Korea exports coal and other minerals to China and that is one of the factors that is believed to have helped in the fast rate of growth. US president Donald Trump had suggested to Chinese president Xi Jinping to put a check on trade with North Korea to defuse the nuclear crisis.

If China agrees to the proposal, it could reduce North’s earnings in the current year.

However, China is exporting its goods to North Korea. An example is a mobile phone. The Korea Information Society Development Institute has reported that there were more than 3-million mobile phone users in North Korea in 2015 which is several times more than approximately 70,000 in 2009 when ordinary citizens were allowed to use such devices.

It is proof that its people have acquired the economic power to possess such devices.

Another yardstick of prosperity is the increase in the number of government-approved markets that has doubled since 2010. These markets employ about 1 million people in various capacities. In addition, people are employed in private enterprises and have improved their living standards. Other positive indications are the increase in the number of cars on the streets of Pyongyang, and there are people who go in for online shopping and visit ski resorts and luxury hotels.

When taken in totality, it shows that Kim Jong Un is not only devoting his energies to build nuclear missiles and become a nuclear power in spite of sanctions but is also trying to ensure prosperity for a section of his people.