North Korean Money

5 12 2009

Ah, North Korea. Land of crazy giant rabbit eaters, the worlds best golfer (sorry Tiger) and wonderfully peculiar communist art. Like many such things, their money is a great reflection of their culture. Shame most people anywhere never get to see too much North Korean cash.

I was lucky enough to get hold of some pristine condition banknotes, so thought I would share them here. The information all is thanks to Wikipedia’s article on the subject.

From what I can tell, it is illegal for foreigners to obtain or posses the currency of North Korea. If you are in North Korea you use hard foreign currencies, paying the highly inflated costs associated. Out of North Korea? Well the currency isn’t supposed to be exported. How did I get it? Simple. A year ago we went on a DMZ tour up to Panmunjon and in the military base gift shop, they sell a few North Korean products, including banknotes, soju and other alcohols.

These pics are all scans of my actual notes. Click on them to go to my flickr page and view the high res images. You can really appreciate them at a much larger size.

1 won note features a “Young Woman With Flowers” and “Mt Geumgang” on the reverse.

North Korean 1 won note front North Korean 1 won note back

5 won note with “Students on a Globe” and the “Grand People’s Study House”.

North Korean 5 won note front North Korean 5 won note back

10 won features “Factory Workers” while the reverse has some “FloodGates”.

North Korean 10 won note front North Korean 10 won note back

50 won designs are some “Young Professionals” with the “Juche Tower” and a North Korean “Landscape” on the back.

North Korean 50 won note front North Korean 50 won note back

100 won used to be the highest denomination, hence features “Kim Il Sung” and his birthplace, “Mangyongdaeguyok” on the reverse.

North Korean 100 won note front North Korean 100 won note back

Introduced in 2005, the 200 won note is a departure from the usual. Much more boring and less artistic. It simply features some Flowers on the front and the value on the reverse.

North Korean 200 won note front North Korean 200 won note back

The 500 won is one probably my favourite. The best images and artwork, the “Kumsusan Memorial Palace” and a large “Suspension Bridge” on the rear.

North Korean 500 won note front North Korean 500 won note back

Both the 1000 and 5000 won notes, respectively the highest value note at the time of their issue feature the same imagery as the 100 won note, namely “Kim Il Sung” and his birthplace, “Mangyongdaeguyok”.

North Korean 1000 won note front North Korean 1000 won note back

North Korean 5000 won note front North Korean 5000 won note back

As of December 7th 2009, North Korea are reforming their currency. At its most basic the new won, the 4th such “new won” is a simple 100 to 1 trade. However the government is causing huge unrest by limiting the value that people can trade to W150,000 in notes and W300,000 in bank savings. It might sound a lot but on the black market, W100,000 is only about US$40. To compare, W100,000 of South Korean won is currently about US$87 but people regularly have millions or even billions of the stuff.

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