North Korea ‘Panic’ After Surprise Currency Revaluation

From The Guardian:

North Korea‘s surprise decision to redenominate its currency has prompted panic and despair among merchants left with piles of worthless notes, even driving one couple to suicide, activists said today.

North Korea informed citizens and foreign embassies on Monday that it would redenominate its national currency, the won, diplomats said. Residents in the reclusive communist state were told they have until Sunday to exchange a limited amount of old bills, they said.

The news sent Pyongyang residents rushing to the black market to convert hoarded bills into US dollars and Chinese yuan, South Korea‘s Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified North Korean traders operating in neighbouring China.

Shops, bathhouses, barber shops and restaurants have closed, activists said.

“We heard business and market activities were all suspended,” said Lee Seung-yong, an official at Good Friends, a Seoul-based civic group that sends food and other aid to North Korea. “People have no money to engage in business.”

Authorities have threatened “merciless punishment” for anyone violating currency exchange rules, Good Friends said.

[Read more at The Guardian]