Who Is The Richest Person In North Korea

When it comes to North Korea’s richest person, the public perception is that leader Kim Jong-un is the wealthiest individual in the nation. That is not necessarily true.

Even though Mr. Kim is one of the wealthiest individuals in his country, his exact source and size of wealth is unknown. It is believed that Mr. Kim earns his wealth through various legitimate and illegitimate means.

The most likely candidate for the wealthiest person in North Korea is Jang Song-taek. He was Kim Jong-un’s uncle, and until 2012 was the second most powerful figure in North Korea. He had a very broad portfolio of businesses.

Some believe that Jang’s estate may have been worth in the tens of billions of US dollars. He acquired his wealth from investment in resources such as coal and gas, foreign currency trading, real-estate purchases, gold-mining, and luxury goods.

Aside from Jang, there are other billionaires in North Korea. They include the Kim family and their loyalists. These individuals draw their wealth from various government appointments, government contracts, and other legitimate sources.

Unlike in other countries, the exact wealth of the North Korean elites is not certain due to a lack of transparency. It is difficult to pinpoint which individual is the richest and by how much.

Kim Family

The Kim family is widely known to rule North Korea through its two generations of leaders. Kim Il-sung founded the Communist state in 1948, and his grandson Kim Jong-il took power in 1994. Kim Jong-un became leader in 2011 after the death of his father.

The Kim family is highly influential in North Korea’s political and economic structure, wielding vast control in key areas such as foreign relations, surveillance, and security. They also own or control a significant portion of North Korea’s resources, which provides them with opportunities to accumulate vast sums of wealth.

In 2018, the US Treasury estimated that the Kim family earned at least US$500 million from legitimate and illegitimate business sources, including trade in counterfeit goods and money laundering, over a five-year period, making them one of the wealthiest families in North Korea.

Overall, it is difficult to determine the exact economic status of North Korean elites, particularly those who are close to the Kim family.

Relation between Kim’s family and citizens

Despite the fact that the Kim family and their circle are widely believed to be the most wealthy people in North Korea, the general public still lives in poverty.

In 2006, the United Nations declared North Korea to be in a state of humanitarian crisis, with nearly three-quarters of the population living in extreme poverty and over 6 million people facing food shortages.

Although North Korea’s public sector has grown since 2011, poverty levels have remained high. Furthermore, the government does not provide enough food for the public or clean drinking water. Public health services are inadequate, and the lack of medicine and medical supplies has led to a high mortality rate.

Additionally, the North Korean government does not allow its citizens to freely access the internet, control the media, or express their opinions. This has further restricted public mobility and effective distribution of wealth.

What Future Prospects?

Due to the inefficiency of North Korea’s economic system and its lack of economic growth, it is unlikely that the economic situation in North Korea will improve in the near future.

North Korea’s poorest citizens will continue to lack basic necessities without improved access to international markets and investment opportunities.

Furthermore, the country’s economic situation could worsen as the US and South Korean governments impose economic sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The most likely solution would be a gradual thawing of relations between North Korea and the rest of the world. This could open the door for increased investment, trade and other economic opportunities that could help the citizens of North Korea live better and healthier lives.

International Negotiations

The international community can play a vital role in the improvement of North Korea’s economic situation by encouraging the leaders of North Korea and the US to engage in direct negotiations. This could lead to the lifting of economic sanctions and increased foreign investment in the country.

Negotiations could also lead to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a key issue for the international community.

The advancement of North Korea’s economic situation is dependent on its ability to remain peaceful and reduce the threat of war. Therefore, international diplomatic efforts to improve relations between the two nations should be a priority.

Role of Civil Society

Civil society organizations have the potential to play a vital role in the improvement of North Korea’s economic situation. These groups can help inform and empower citizens to advocate for their rights and a better quality of life.

Organizations can also provide education and resources to North Koreans to enable them to better understand their economic situation and voice their concerns. Additionally, civil society organizations can work to promote collaboration between North Koreans and the international community to help improve economic prospects.


In conclusion, it is difficult to determine who the wealthiest person in North Korea is. It is likely that the Kim family and their circle remain the most wealthy individuals in the nation. However, the lack of transparency and accountability make it difficult to quantify the exact source and size of their wealth.

The economic situation will not improve without a thawing of relations with the international community, increased investment and trade opportunities, and increased access to media and information. The international community and civil society organizations have the potential to play a key role in improving North Korea’s economic situation.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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