#2. A Counterfeit Dollar Industry
As a man who is not above murdering his uncle and partying with Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong-un is the kind of guy who knows a thing or two about straight-up madness. This element of what-the-shit-did-he-do-now unpredictability has played a large part in keeping him (and his dad, and his granddad) in power, and everyone around him in a state of mild worry and/or barely concealed amusement, depending on his latest antics. That's why it was never really a surprise that the Kims got into the counterfeit-money business. It's just the perfect mix of supervillain plotting and silly "crayons in basement" dabbling. What is surprising, however, is that they are pretty damn great at it.
North Korea, while able to fuck up almost every other concept in existence, appears to be something of an idiot savant when it comes to fake money. Particularly, fake American money. Their counterfeit $100 bills, manufactured by our old friends in Office 39, are so convincing the U.S. State Department refers to them as "supernotes." Because they are so well made, nobody can say for sure how many there are in circulation. If you have a $100 bill in your wallet right now, it might be a North Korean fake, and chances are you'd never realize it.
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The spy camera might be a giveaway.
For instance, you know who is really, really good at identifying bullshit money? That's right, Las Vegas casinos. Well, tell that to the North Korean agent who managed to feed millions of dollars worth of these supernotes into the economy through slot machines in various Vegas casinos. Just flat-out fooled all the electronic fraud detection systems each slot machine is equipped with.
And that was just one guy. It looks like there's a lot of fake North Korean manufactured American cash making rounds, and their diplomats are apparently crazy busy changing these fake super dollars into boring, ordinary real dollars they can ship back to the precious homeland. This means that, technically, American money is financing Kim Jong-un's bullshit. It also means that, since it took the U.S. Treasury three years and two failed print runs just to produce the new bills, it looks like North Korea is actually better at printing U.S. dollars than America is.
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"Fuck it, we're switching to Dogecoins."
#1. A Bizarre Money-Laundering Restaurant Chain
OK, so North Korea is not above shady dealings in acquiring its money. But how can it actually use any of that cash? No matter how isolated and ridiculous your country is, even oppressive dictatorial regimes need to have at least a modicum of legitimacy behind their financial streams.
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Have to keep up appearances, lest people get suspicious.
The answer is simple: Launder that shit.
Now, when we imagine money laundering, we imagine a shady, "secretly" mafia-owned restaurant that seems to be doing just fine despite its grumpy owner and borderline inedible food. North Korea's spin on the theme is that exact thing, only with tons and tons and tons of balls-out insane, semi-hostile restaurants.
"Come eat at Glorious Leader's Bar and Grill! This is not a request!"
The Pyongyang restaurants are counted in the dozens, in locations ranging from China to Thailand to Cambodia. These weird eateries are more or less the only places outside North Korea proper where you can enjoy authentic North Korean culture and cuisine. This is just as awesome as it sounds, which is to say, pretty freaking terrifying: The menu includes lovely items such as dog meat, icy noodles, sea cucumber booze, and crappy rice. The wonderful entertainment -- one of the main "draws" of the restaurants -- consists of North Korean girls performing traditional, heavily synchronized North Korean robo-dances wearing traditional robes and fixed, emotionless smiles. You can buy suspicious wine, $120 pills that "cure anything," and "authentic bear products" that totally improve any and all boning-related activities. In true North Korea fashion, cameras are not allowed in Pyongyang restaurants. Upstairs, where Westerners are banned from entering, strange things take place behind closed doors and the occasional armed guard.
Yeah, we weren't kidding about North Korea just taking the "Vito's Pizza Place" method of money laundering and turning it into an international business. Every single menu item is impressively overpriced, and it's a public secret that the chain's only raison d'etre is to act as a giant money laundry.
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"One order of fries and a Diet Coke, your total comes to $18,657."
"Oh, wait, I have a dollar off coupon!"
So far, this batshit insane scheme seems to be working, to the point that a sizable chunk of the chain's loyal customers are South Korean. Because if you can't pay ridiculous prices to eat the shitty dog meat soup of your worst enemy, then how can you remember why you hate them?
Related Reading: North Korea pretty much proves that our species won't reach Mars anytime soon. If you'd like to see what kind of video game this mad hermit state produces click here and read this article. And while we're at it, here are the four requirements of North Korean propraganda.