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5 North Korea Won
The North Korean Won, also known as the Korean People’s won (Symbol: ₩; Code: KPW; Korean: 조선인 원) or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea won (Korean: 조선민주주의인민공화국 원), is the official currency of North Korea. It is subdivided into 100 chon. The currency is issued by the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, based in the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang. Won is a cognate of the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen. All three names derive from the Hanja 圓 (원), which means “round shape.” The won is subdivided into 100 chon (전; 錢; McCune-Reischauer: chŏn; Revised Romanization: jeon).
1947–2009 – After the division of Korea, North Korea continued using the Korean yen for two years, until the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established on 6 December 1947 and the first North Korean won was issued. In February 1959, the second North Korean won was introduced, equal to 100 old won.
From 1978 on, the North Korean government maintained an iconic rate of 2.16 won to the US dollar (which is said to have been based upon Kim Jong-il’s birthday, 16 February). A report by defectors from North Korea claimed the black market rate was ₩570 to the Chinese yuan (about ₩4,000 per U.S. dollar) in June 2009.
2009 revaluation – The third North Korean won was introduced in a revaluation in November 2009, the first in 50 years. 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. The official exchange rate at this time was around $740. The revaluation, seen as a move against the private market activity, wiped out many North Koreans’ savings.
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