The won (sign: ₩; code: KPW) is the currency of North Korea. It is subdivided into 100 chon. The won is issued by the Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. One North Korean won (as of August 20, 2010) is equal to 8.16610 South Korean won or about 7/10 of one US cent.
Won is a cognate of the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen. The won is subdivided into 100 chon (전; 錢; McCune-Reischauer: chŏn; Revised Romanization: jeon).
The won became the currency of North Korea on December 6, 1947, replacing the Korean yen that was still in circulation.
North Korean won are intended exclusively for North Korean citizens, and the Bank of Trade (무역은행) issued a separate currency (or foreign exchange certificates) for visitors, like many other socialist states. However, North Korea made two varieties of foreign exchange certificates, one for visitors from "socialist countries" which were colored red, and the other for visitors from "capitalist countries" which were colored blue/green. In recent times, FECs have been largely depreciated in favor of visitors paying directly with hard currency, especially the euro.
Dollar peg removed
Since 2001, the North Korean government has abandoned the iconic rate of 2.16 won to the dollar (which is said to have been based upon Kim Jong-il's birthday, February 16) and banks in the country now issue at rates closer to the black market rate. More recent official rates have shown the North Korean won (as of 24 Aug 2010) to be ₩143.07 to the US dollar. However, rampant inflation has been eroding the North Korean won's value to such an extent that currently it is believed to be worth about the same as the South Korean won. A report by defectors from North Korea claimed that the black market rate was ₩570 to the Chinese yuan in June 2009. In any case, the U.S. dollar and other currencies are still worth more in North Korean won on the black market than officially. This is also apparent when one examines the dates of issue or series of the different denominations of banknotes[clarification needed].
The won was revalued again in November 2009 for the first time in 50 years. North Koreans were given seven days to exchange a maximum of ₩100,000 (worth approximately US$40 on the black market) in ₩1,000 notes for ₩10 notes, but after protests by some of the populace, the limit was raised to ₩150,000 in cash and ₩300,000 in bank savings. The revaluation, seen as a move against private market activity, will wipe out many North Koreans' savings. The Times speculated that the move may have been an attempt by the North Korean government to control price inflation and destroy the fortunes of local black market money traders. The announcement was made to foreign embassies but not in North Korean state media. Information was later carried via a wire-based radio service only available within North Korea.
As part of the process, the old notes ceased to be legal tender on November 30, 2009 with notes valued in the new won not being distributed until December 7, 2009. This meant that North Koreans would not be able to exchange any money for goods or services until that date and most shops, restaurants and transport services had been shut down for the week. The only services that remained open were those catering to the political elite and foreigners which continued to trade exclusively in foreign currency. The measure had led to concerns amongst North Korean officials that it would result in civil unrest; this was not the case. China's Xinhua news agency described North Korean citizens in a "collective panic"; army bases were put on standby and there were unconfirmed reports of public protests in the streets in a handful of North Korean cities and towns that forced authorities to slightly increase the amount of currency people would be allowed to exchange. Piles of old bills were also set on fire in separate locations across the country, old paper notes were dumped in a stream (against laws of the desecration of images of Kim Il-sung) and two black market traders were shot dead in the streets of Pyongyang by local police, according to international reports. Authorities threatened "merciless punishment" for any person who violated the rules of the currency change.
Pictures of the new notes were published on December 4, 2009 in the Chosun Shinbo, a North Korean newspaper based in Japan. The paper claimed that the measure would weaken the free market and strengthen the country's socialist system. However, the won plummeted 96 percent against the U.S. dollar in the ensuing days after revaluation. According to one report however, North Korea backtracked on some aspects of the revaluation following a riot by market traders which led to 12 executions.
In February 2010, some of the curbs on the free market were eased and a senior party official sacked after incidents of unrest. Pak Nam-gi, the director of the Planning and Finance Department of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, was later executed in 2010. North Korea denied any serious crisis relating to the revaluation.
Older coins for circulation were the 1, 5, 10 and 50 chon along with the 1 won. Later coins were the 10 won, 50 won and 100 won.
During the Cold War, there was a special system of marking coins for different groups of people. Coins with no stars were for North Koreans, coins with one star were for "socialist visitors", and coins with two stars were for "capitalist visitors". Besides the circulating coins, there are an abundance of different commemorative coins minted in the name of the DPRK. Most, if not all of them are sold to foreign numismatists.
Coins will be issued in 1, 5, 10, and 50 chon and 1 won denominations. These coins feature the national coat of arms on the obverse and flowers, particularly the Kimjongilia and the Kimilsungia, on the reverse.
Banknotes of this issue came in 15, 20 and 50 chon along with 1, 5, 10 and 100 won in 1947. The won was replaced with the second in 1959 at a rate of one new won to 100 old won.
As explained above, there are two varieties of foreign certificates. For the 1978 banknote series, foreign certificates were implemented by overstamp and serial number color, except for the ₩100 Kim Il Sung value which was not given to foreigners:
In 1988, the Bank of Trade (무역은행) (as opposed to the Central Bank) issued two unique series of foreign certificates. They both included 1 chon, 5 chon, 10 chon, 50 chon, ₩1, ₩5, ₩10, and ₩50. The series for "capitalist visitors" was blue-green, while the series for "socialist visitors" was pink. The chon notes had a simple design of patterns and the values, while the socialist won notes depict the International Friendship Exhibition, and the capitalist won notes depict the Chollima statue.
In 2006, ₩1,000 and ₩5,000 banknotes were revised, in which the coloured fields behind the text no longer extended all the way to the margins. The ₩100, ₩1,000 and ₩5,000 bills were essentially based on a common design with the exact same subjects, varied only by colour.
The current series of banknotes of the third won are issued in values of 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1 000, 2 000, and 5 000 won. Kim Il-sung is depicted only on the obverse of the highest denomination, with the 100 won note featuring the Magnolia (National Flower) and other notes depicting generic people or various monuments in North Korea. The exchange rate was 100 second won to 1 third won.
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