North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is an Eastern Asian country constituting the northern 55% of the Korean peninsula. The country is surrounded by China and Russia to the north and South Korea to the south. A heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone separates North and South Korea. Pyongyang, its capital, is a major industrial and transport center near the west coast.
North Korea uses the North Korean won as its official currency. The won replaced the Soviet won and Korean yen in 1947.
The Central Bank of North Korea was established in 1947 by Kim Il Sung and the People’s Committee of North Korea. This bank issued the first series of Korean won notes that were printed on white paper after the watermarked notes were attempted to be sold by corrupt officials. These notes featured a farmer with a hoe and a man with a sledgehammer in front and Paektu Mountain at the back. In September 1948, the Central Bank of North Korea was renamed the Central Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In 1959, the won was revalued at a rate of 100:1 and a new series of banknotes were issued. The 1959 series of won banknotes were the first to use only Hangul text. These notes featured different landmarks and cultural vignettes on both sides. In 1978, every denomination of won banknotes, except for the 100 won, had five different varieties with different colored serial numbers and overprints to denote its intended use. Notes with no overprints and red and black serial numbers were issued 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 serial numbers were used when visitors bought from locals, and notes with red guilloches and serial numbers were used when foreigners bought notes from each other. The notes issued in 1998 had cruder engravings, lithographed printing, and both Juche and Gregorian years. The Juche (Korean calendar) Year 1 is 1912, the birth year of Kim Il Sung. The 500 won note was introduced in the Lajin-Sonbong Free Trade Zone in 1998 and was later put into circulation throughout the country in 2002. In 2005, the 200 won was introduced. In 2002, the won was revalued at a rate of 100:1 and replaced the national currency with the new won. There were nine new won denominations, with the 1 won being replaced by coins and the introduction of the 2,000 won denomination. The Central Bank has issued many commemorative series to celebrate different milestones of Kim Il-Sung’s life.