March 24 (Reuters) - (Corrects final paragraph to reflect Red Cross contribution not intended solely for North Koreans)
SEOUL, March 24 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has sent half a million dollars to aid Korean expatriates in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Pyongyang’s official news agency said on Thursday.
Decades of tightly controlled economic policy that has seen North Korea channel much of its scarce resources to arms development has left the country acutely short of cash although its leaders continue to live lavishly, according to South Korean news reports. Food is also reportedly scarce.
Japan, formerly Korea’s colonial master, is frequently lambasted as a “war monger” in North Korea’s state-controlled media along with South Korea and the United States.
“Leader Kim Jong-il sent (a) relief fund of 500,000 U.S. dollars to Korean residents in Japan who suffered from the killer quake and tsunami happened there,” KCNA news agency said.
Half a million U.S. dollars is equivalent to the annual average income earned by 520 North Koreans in all of 2009, according to Bank of Korea data.
U.N. sanctions in 2009 imposed for its nuclear and missile tests that defied international warnings have further cut into North Korea’s finances, choking off much of its lucrative arms trade.
The North’s Red Cross has separately sent $100,000 in disaster relief to Japan, KCNA said. (Reporting by Jack Kim, editing by Miral Fahmy)