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FILE PHOTO: A view of Yanggang Province from the Chinese side of the China-North Korea border. (Daily NK)

A regular Daily NK survey of currency rates has found that North Korea’s foreign exchange rates continue to rise, but the rate of ascent has declined to a certain extent. Because hopes of expanded trade have been frustrated several times before, North Koreans are not rushing out to secure foreign exchange even when the government hands down orders regarding the expansion of trade. 

According to Daily NK’s recent survey of North Korean currency rates and market prices, the US dollar was trading at KPW 8,400 in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province as of Feb. 19.

As that figure represents a mere 0.2% increase from the previous survey on Feb. 5, when the dollar was trading at KPW 8,380, the rate does not appear to have changed significantly. 

In Pyongyang as well, the dollar was trading at KPW 8,360, more or less what it was on Feb. 5, when it was trading at KPW 8,370.

The dollar regained the KPW 8,000 line in late July and has remained in the low-to-mid KPW 8,000s for seven months.

Compared to January 2020, just prior to North Korea’s closure of its border, when the dollar was trading between KPW 8,300 and 8,400, the current exchange rate appears to have recovered to levels seen before the closure of the country’s borders in January 2020. 


In the case of yuan, the rate continues to climb faster than the dollar, but nevertheless, the Chinese currency has remained between KPW 1,100 and KPW 1,200 for three months since late November.

The yuan was trading at KWP 1,190 in Pyongyang as of Feb. 19, 2.5% higher than it was on Feb. 5 when it was trading at KPW 1,160, while in Sinuiju, it was trading at KPW 1,230, 2.5% higher than it was on Feb. 5, when it was trading at KPW 1,200.

In Hyesan, Yanggang Province, the yuan was trading at a similar level to Pyongyang and Sinuiju.

Despite the growing international strength of the dollar, the yuan is rising faster than the dollar amid government trade-related directives being handed down to Yanggang Province and North Hamgyong Province and preparations being made to reopen customs offices.

State-led trade led by major trading firms operating under powerful state agencies has usually been conducted in dollars through Nampo Port or Sinuiju. On the other hand, the small and medium-sized trading companies that conduct provincial-level trade are showing a preference for yuan.


With rising expectations of reopened trade repeatedly dashed over the last three years, trade-related directives from the North Korean authorities are not immediately translating into renewed trade, a reporting partner in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK recently, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

In fact, North Korean authorities issued orders on Feb. 10 to provincial trading agencies calling for submissions of general plans for import and export activities and foreign currency acquisition.

The reporting partner said trade has failed to restart several times during the COVID period even after the authorities said it would.

“As long as the government issues no clear permissions [to resume] trade, orders to merely prepare [to restart trade] are not leading people to buy yuan,” he said.

However, trade officials involved in China-North Korea trade still hope that trade will expand from March.

A reporting partner in China, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily NK that trade between North Korea and China is currently flowing “smoothly.”  

“When the two sessions [the meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress] are complete, trade will open up a bit more in Sinuiju, Yanggang Province, and North Hamgyong Province,” he claimed.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of reporting partners who live in and around North Korea. Their identities remain anonymous due to security concerns. More information about Daily NK’s reporting partner network and information gathering activities can be found on our FAQ page here.  

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