North Korea prints highest denomination 50,000-won voucher
- Published: Jul 11, 2022, 8 AM
North Korea’s Central Bank has printed a 50,000-won voucher, the equivalent of about U.S. $8.30, worth 10 times the hermit nation’s current highest currency denomination.
This may indicate that changes are underway as part of an effort to curtail the use of foreign currency in transactions between businesses. The news was disseminated by Radio Free Asia, with some of its information provided by North Korean escapees, some by the South Korean central bank, and some by South Korean spy agencies.
There are different hypotheses by South Korean authorities as to why these are called vouchers rather than currency. One possibility is that North Korea lacks the paper and ink necessary to print proper money due to the suspension of imports at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Another possibility, says South Korea’s central bank, is that North Korea is attempting to avoid inflation by not printing actual currency.
The current North Korean denominations range from the essentially worthless 5-won note to the 5,000-won note (83 cents U.S.). People generally use a mixture of foreign currencies like U.S. dollars and Chinese yuan along with the North Korean won to pay for goods and services.
The J.M. Missionary Union, a Seoul-based organization provided RFA with images of the note. It has the name of the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and an issue date of “Juche 111,” the current year in the North Korean calendar that starts in 1912, when founder Kim Il Sung was born. Mt. Paektu, a mountain on the China-Korea border that is sacred in Korean culture, appears in the background on the face.
South Korea’s central bank explained that the economic downturn in the north disrupted cash flow, and the vouchers can increase the money supply while real cash held by businesses can be retained by authorities in reserve. They could then convert the money vouchers to currency if and when economic circumstances improve.
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