North Korean Won

Name of currency: North Korean Won

Country / countries used: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


Brief history:

The history of the North Korean Won is an interesting one despite the relative newness of the currency. Prior to 1945 and the division of North and South Korea, the national currency was the Yen (1910-1945: the period of direct Japanese Colonial rule), which consisted of specially issued Japanese currency. Currency within Korea can be dated back to around the 3rd Century, when grain and knife coins were used alongside a barter system. Over the subsequent centuries the currency has changed a number of times, with the varying levels of influence from Japan and various dynasties.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was created in in 1945, when Korea was divided along the 38th parallel. Northern Korea was under Soviet control and adopted a socialist regime, which remains today, while the South became a Republic. During the intervening years the Southern economy has prospered, while the Northern economy has been destabilised by economic policy failures and the events within the country such as famine and an overzealous militarisation.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to use the Yen until 1947, when the North Korean Won was adopted as the citizen’s currency. As with many socialist countries, there is a differentiation between internal currency and that used by foreigners. At the time of inception the Won was given a fixed exchange rate (pegged) to the Soviet Ruble until 1959 when it was valued at a rate of hundred to one. Between 1978 and 2001, the Won Exchange rate was fixed at 2.16 (allegedly in honour of Kim Jong-ils birthdate of the 16th of February). Due to rising inflation and the prevalence of the black market, the peg was removed in 2001. Due to the shroud of secrecy surrounding the country official exchange rate figures are uncertain, however in in 2010 the official rate was ₩143.07 to the USD.