North Korea's punters, who once risked three years hard labour for gambling, are now able to bet on local horse races as the isolated country scrambles to unearth new sources of income amid intensifying international sanctions. Laura Frykberg reports.
The odds are, you wouldn't usually link sanction-hit North Korea with horse racing. But the isolated island is bucking the trend. Pyongyang now allowing people as young as twelve to place bets. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) KOREA ECONOMIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE, NA JEONG-WON, SAYING: "The number of rich people in North Korea has increased, and the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening. They may have reached the level where the country can run a gambling business because of local demand." State TV says a series of horse races took place at the Mirim riding club on Sunday - one of leader Kim Jong Un's flagship developments. It, along with ski resorts and theme parks are being built to - according to the state - to improve North Korean's lives. Analysts though, bet that's not the real reason. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) KOREA ECONOMIC RESEARCH INSTITUTE, NA JEONG-WON, SAYING: "The purpose of these projects is to earn foreign currency and draw capital from the wealthy locals for the state's economy, rather than to prop up the people's well-being." All signs point towards that being the case. North Korea's access to foreign currency has been squeezed by recent sanctions imposed by the international community. Even North Korea's main trading partner China is toughening its stance. As Pyongyang shows no signs of ending its race towards powerful nuclear weapons.