Q

Korea/North

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, is an East Asian country that occupies 55% of the Korean peninsula. It is surrounded by China and Russia to the north and South Korea to the south. The Korean Demilitarized Zone separates North and South Korea. Its capital is Pyongyang. Pyongyang is a major industrial and transport center near the west coast of the country.

North Korea currently uses the North Korean won as its official currency. It replaced both the Soviet won and the Korean yen at par in 1947. The Central Bank of North Korea was established by Kim Il Sung and the People’s Committee of North Korea in 1947. The bank issued the first series of North Korean won notes. These notes were printed on white paper because the watermarked notes were sold by corrupt officials. These notes featured a farmer and a man with a sledgehammer in front and the Paektu Mountain at the back. The Central Bank of North Korea was renamed the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in September 1948. Eleven years later in 1959, the North Korean won was revalued at a rate of 100:1. The revalued 1959 series was the first North Korean won to use only Hangul text. The 1959 series also featured different landmarks and cultural vignettes on both sides.  

In 1978, every denomination of North Korean won notes, except for the 100 won note, had five different varieties with different colored serial numbers and overprints. Notes that did not have overprints and had black and red serial numbers were used for general circulation. Notes with green seals and black serial numbers were used as foreign exchange certificates between visitors and locals. Notes with blue guilloches and black serial numbers were used between foreigners. Notes with red seals and red serial numbers were used when visitors bought from locals. Lastly, notes with red guilloches and serial numbers were used when foreigners bought notes from each other. The color varieties between guilloches, seals, and serial numbers were used to show what the note was used for.  

In 1998, the bank issued notes that used both the Juche and Gregorian years. The Juche is the North Korean calendar. It started in 1912, the birth year of Kim Il Sung. The 1998 notes also had lower quality, with cruder engravings and lithographed printing. The 500 won note was also introduced in the same year in the Lajin-Sonbong Free Trade Zone. However, the denomination started officially circulating in 2002. Three years later, the 200 won was introduced.  

The won was again revalued in 2002 at a rate of 100:1. This revalued won replaced the national currency. There were nine new won denominations including the 2,000 won. However, the 1 won note was replaced with a coin.


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