WHEN North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year speech to highlight coal as a ''primary front'' in developing the economy, he was making a case for what analysts see as a flawed but key resource on which his country increasingly relies.

Coal has been a major resource for North Korea, and Kim's call for self sufficiency in the face of international pressure is a recurring theme.

But as international sanctions have increased over the past year, coal is is one of the few local resources to which Kim can turn as he tries to make good on promises to improve life in a country notorious for limited electricity, analysts and defectors say.

Last year Kim declared that his nuclear arsenal was ''complete'' and vowed to focus on building the economy.

South Korea based analysts and North Korean defectors report that with sanctions still blocking most coal exports, the North has put most of its stockpile to use domestically.

''My acquaintances in North Hamgyong province told me they get power for 14 to 15 hours a day in 2018, versus 8-10 hours in 2017,'' said Kim Young Hui, a defector who now works as an economist at South Korea's state run Korea Development Bank.

''A highly noticeable'' increase in electricity in 2018 compared to the year before has increased power availability for many homes and boosted the operations of factories and trains, said Kang Mi-jin, a defector who now writes about North Korea for the website  Daily NK and speaks to sources inside the North. [Agencies]

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on North Korea continues.


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