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North Korean won
조선민주주의인민공화국 원 (Korean)
朝鮮民主主義人民共和國圓 (Korean Hanja)
Old 1000 won banknote of the second won
Old 1000 won banknote of the second won
ISO 4217 Code KPW
User(s)  Democratic People's Republic of Korea
1/100 chon (전/錢)
Plural The language(s) of this currency does not have a morphological plural distinction.
Coins 1, 5, 10, 50 chon, ₩1[1]
Banknotes ₩5, ₩10, ₩50, ₩100, ₩200, ₩500, ₩1000, ₩2000, ₩5000[2]
Central bank Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

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.



Won is a cognate of the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen. The won is subdivided into 100 chon (전; 錢; McCune-Reischauer: chon; Revised Romanization: jeon).


The won became the currency of North Korea on December 6, 1947, replacing the Korean yen that was still in circulation.[3]

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)[4] and banks in the country now issue at rates closer to the black market rate. A more recent official rate has shown the North Korean won to be 142.45 to the 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.[5] 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 (see below).

2009 revaluation

The won was revalued again in November 2009[6] for the first time in 50 years.[7][8] 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.[9] The revaluation, seen as a move against private market activity, will wipe out many North Koreans' savings.[9] 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.[10] The announcement was made to foreign embassies but not in North Korean state media.[11][10] Information was later carried via a wire-based radio service only available within North Korea.[12]

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.[10] 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.[10] The only services that remained open were those catering to the political elite and foreigners which continued to trade exclusively in foreign currency.[10] The measure had led to concerns amongst North Korean officials that it would result in civil unrest; this was not the case.[10] China's Xinhua news agency described North Korean citizens in a "collective panic";[13] 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.[14] 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.[15][16] Authorities threatened "merciless punishment" for any person who violated the rules of the currency change.[17]

Pictures of the new notes were published on December 4, 2009 in the Chosun Shinbo, a North Korean newspaper based in Japan.[18][19] The paper claimed that the measure would weaken the free market and strengthen the country's socialist system.[20] However, the won plummeted 96 percent against the U.S. dollar in the ensuing days after revaluation.[21] 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.[22]

In February 2010, some of the curbs on the free market were eased and a senior party official sacked after incidents of unrest.[23] Pak Nam-gi, the director of the Planning and Finance Department of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, was later executed in 2010.[24]


Second won

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.

Circulated Coins
Value Technical parameters Description Date of minted year
Diameter Composition Obverse Reverse General issue
(no star)
Socialist visitor
(1 star)
Capitalist visitor
(2 stars)
Year last
1 chon 16 mm Aluminium[25] State title, Coat of arms, year of minting Value, (optionally, star(s)) 1959, 1970 1959 1959  ?
5 chon 18 mm 1959, 1974 1974 1974  ?
10 chon 20 mm 1959 1959 1959  ?
50 chon 25 mm Bank title, Coat of arms, value Chollima statue, year of minting,
(optionally, star(s))
1978 1978 1978  ?
₩1 27 mm Bank title, Coat of arms, value, year of minting Grand People's Study House 1987 N/A N/A  ?
₩10 23 mm Value 2005 N/A N/A 2009
₩50 25 mm 2005 N/A N/A 2009
₩100 27 mm 2005 N/A N/A 2009
For table standards, see the coin specification table.

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.

Third won

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.[18]

Circulated Coins
Value Technical parameters Description Date of minted year
Diameter Composition Obverse Reverse
1 chon  ? mm Coat of arms, Value Flower, Year of minting 2008
5 chon  ? mm Flower, Year of minting 2008
10 chon 19.5 mm Flower, Year of minting 2002
50 chon 21.6 mm Flower, Year of minting 2002
₩1 24 mm Flower, Year of minting 2002
For table standards, see the coin specification table.


First won

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.[26]

Second won

Stack of North Korean 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:

Variation of the 1978 Series
Overstamp Serial number color Target users
None 1 red, 1 black General circulation
Green with Korean text 2 black Socialist visitors 1983
Red with Korean text 2 red Capitalist visitors 1983
Red guilloché with numeral 2 red Capitalist visitors 1986
Blue guilloché with numeral 2 black Socialist visitors 1986

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.[27] 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.[28]

Banknotes in circulation for the second won, up to December 2009, were as follows:

1992 Series
Value Dimensions Main Color Description Date of issue
Obverse Reverse Watermark
₩1 116 × 55 mm Green Young woman with flowers Mount Kumgang Chollima statue 1992
₩5 126 × 60 mm Blue Students with a globe Grand People's Study House 1992, 1998
₩10 136 × 65 mm Brown-orange Factory worker, Chollima statue Flood gates
₩50 146 × 70 mm Orange Young professionals, Juche Tower Landscape Juche Tower 1992
₩100 156 × 75 mm Red and brown Kim Il-sung The birthplace of Kim Il-sung, Mangyongdae-guyok Arch of Triumph 1992
₩200 140 × 72 mm Blue and green Magnolia(National Flower) Value Chollima statue 2005
₩500 156 × 75 mm Dark green Kumsusan Memorial Palace Suspension bridge Arch of Triumph 1998
₩1000 Green-cyan Kim Il-sung The birthplace of Kim Il-sung, Mangyongdae-guyok 2002
₩5000 Violet
For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

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.

Third won

The first banknotes of the third won were 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.[18] The exchange rate was 100 second won to 1 third won [29]

2009 series[18]
Image Value Dimensions Main Colour Description Date on notes Remark
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse Watermark
₩5 145 × 65 mm Navy blue Scientist and student Hydroelectric dam Mongnan (Seibold’s magnolia) flowers Juche 91, 2002
₩10 Olive Green Three soldiers Victory Monument of the Korean War
₩50 Purple Engineer, farmer and working intellectual Monument to the Founding of the Workers' Party of Korea
₩100 Green Magnolia(National Flower) Value Juche 97, 2008
₩200 Burgundy Chollima statue
₩500 Grey Arch of Triumph
₩1000 Red House in Hoiryeong Samji lake The obverse depicts Kim Jong-suk’s birth place
₩2000 Blue Log cabin on Baekdu Mountain, Jong Il Peak Baekdu Mountain The obverse depicts Kim Jong-il’s alleged[30] birth place
₩5000 Brown Kim Il-sung Mangyongdae
For table standards, see the banknote specification table.
Current KPW exchange rates

Note: Rates obtained from these websites could be substantially different from black market rate

See also


  1. ^ "북한의 새로 발행된 화폐들" (in Korean). December 4, 2009. 
  2. ^ North Korea revalues and replaces currency. December 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Cho, Lee-Jay; Kim, Yoon Hyung (1995). Economic systems in South and North Korea: the agenda for economic integration. Korea Development Institute. p. 161. ISBN 978-8980630011. 
  4. ^ Hoare, James; Pares, Susan (2005). North Korea in the 21st century: an interpretive guide. Global Oriental. p. 145. ISBN 978-1901903966. 
  5. ^ Yong, Lee Sang (June 24, 2009). The Color of North Korean Money. Daily NK.
  6. ^ Ho, Jung Kwon (November 30, 2009). North Korea Replaces Currency. Daily NK.
  7. ^ The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday December 2, 2009 North Korea Reissues Won, a Blow to Unofficial Economy
  8. ^ The Wall Street Journal, Thursday December 3, 2009 North Korea Begins Won Swap, Curfew
  9. ^ a b Harden, Blaine (December 2, 2009). 'North Korea revalues currency, destroying personal savings'. The Washington Post.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Parry, Richard Lloyd (December 2, 2009). North Koreans in shock as cash is 'banned'. The Times.
  11. ^ Currency reform sparks anger in North Korea. Press TV. December 2, 2009.
  12. ^ Hyun, Kim (December 2, 2009). N. Korea's official media silent about currency reform. Yonhap.
  13. ^ North’s currency action shocking to its citizens. Joongang Daily. December 3, 2009.
  14. ^ McNeil, David (December 3, 2009). "North Koreans dares to protest as devaluation wipes out savings". The Independent. 
  15. ^ Ramstad, Evan (December 9, 2009). "North Koreans Protest Currency Issue". The Wall Street Journal. 
  16. ^ "North Koreans burn bills over currency reform". The China Post. December 5, 2009. 
  17. ^ "N Korea cash switch 'sparks panic'". Al Jazeera. December 3, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c d Kook, Park Sung (December 4, 2009). "New Denomination Images Unveiled". Daily NK. 
  19. ^ Kirk, Donald (December 4, 2009). "North Korea admits drastic currency reform, is silent on protests". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  20. ^ AFP (December 9, 2009). "Currency change cripples N.Korea markets: report". 
  21. ^ Lim, Bomi (December 9, 2009). "North Korean Won Plunges 96% After Government Revaluation". Bloomberg L.P.. 
  22. ^ "N.Korea backtracks on currency change: report". AFP. December 15, 2009. 
  23. ^ Parry, Richard Lloyd (February 4, 2010). "Food shortages and violence mount in North Korea as Utopian dream fails". The Times. 
  24. ^ "North Korea Executes Official for Currency Reform, Yonhap Says". Bloomberg. March 17, 2010. 
  25. ^ Bruce, Colin R.; Michael, Thomas (2007). Standard Catalog of World Coins 1901–2000. Krause Publications. p. 1313. ISBN 978-0896895003. 
  26. ^ Schuler, Kurt (2004). "DPRK Economy". Tables of Modern Monetary Systems. 
  27. ^ Bruce, Colin R.; Shafer, Neil (1999). Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Modern Issues, Volume 3. Krause Publications. p. 424. ISBN 978-0873417464. 
  28. ^ Bank notes of the modern world – North Korea.
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Profile: Kim Jong-il". BBC News. 16 January 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
North Korean won
Preceded by:
Korean yen
Reason: Division of Korea and moving toward a full sovereign nation from Allied occupation
Currency of North Korea
18 April 1980 – 12 April 2009
Note: 1st Won: 1945 to 1959
2nd Won (equivalent to 100 1st Won): 1959 to 2009
3rd Won (equivalent to 100 2nd Won): 2009 onwards
Succeeded by:


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