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Bitcoin offers North Korea a respite from crippling economic sanctions

Image: Shutterstock / Natali_ Mis

It’s tough to maintain a healthy national economy when most banks on the planet won’t accept your business.

That’s the dilemma facing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as mounting economic sanctions cut his country out of the world economy. To stave off the looming financial crisis, Kim has turned to what may be the nation’s best hope: Bitcoin.

The popular cryptocurrency is attractive because of its decentralized nature. Rather than relying on banks or individual governments, bitcoin (and other cryptocurrency) is built on a distributed network of users controlling verified transactions. It’s “internet money,” essentially, uncontrollable by any single actor.

There’s no comprehensive accounting of just how much Bitcoin North Korea holds, but its recent exploits have shown a consistent interest in the cryptocurrency. There’s even some evidence that North Korea has started mining their own Bitcoin

When you’re the leader of a heavily sanctioned country, then, loading up on decentralized currency is particularly attractive. It gives you some liquidity without having to rely on banks that either can’t do business with you, legally, or that may be in a position to freeze your assets at a later date, should additional sanctions come into play.

And so, North Korea has spent the last few years building up an investment in bitcoin.

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