North Koreans Protest Currency Issue
New reports emerged Tuesday of protests and violence in North Korea as the country's authoritarian regime over the past week seized most of its citizens' money and savings via a new-currency issue.
One South Korea-based news report said police in a suburb of the capital city of Pyongyang on Friday shot and killed two market traders who tried to skirt the limits on the amount of old North Korean currency that could be exchanged for new currency. Another said women who work in goods and produce markets were protesting the action in defiance of authorities.
The reports suggest that North Korean officials may be experiencing more difficulty than expected in using the currency issuance to collar the expansion of private wealth in the country.
"They've tried to wind back the system, but they're potentially teaching the people that markets can't be controlled," says Shaun Cochran, head of Korea research at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, who published a report on North Korea's move.
Pyongyang announced Nov. 30 its decision to issue new currency and limit the amount of old currency that could be exchanged to about $40, based on unofficial exchange rates, a step that essentially scrapped all other private money.
Mr. Cochran said that the regime's money grab "could be the single most important event in defining North Korea over the next decade."
Earlier post: North Korea: "shock therapy" on currency