The North Korean authorities also finally announced the currency reforms publicly through the “third broadcasting,” the colloquial name for cable broadcasts sent directly into North Korean homes.
A source explained in a telephone conversation with The Daily NK today, “There was a broadcast on currency reform from yesterday at 2 P.M. The exchange starts officially from today.”
The source explained more, “For five days, from December 1, they said they will exchange old bills for new ones at a 100:1 exchange rate, according to an additional decree. The new bills go into circulation on the 6th.”
There was reportedly chaos among the people when the news began to spread; in the source’s words, “Stations and the jangmadang everywhere were pandemonium.”
According to a further source, the jangmadang was closed from 11 A.M. on the 30th when the news of currency reform was released officially. It apparently caused real chaos.
When the news arrived in Pyongsung, a major distribution center, the jangmadang was reduced to floods of tears as traders from remote locations all tried to go home simultaneously. The station was apparently uncontrollable.
Since then, the jangmadang has been paralyzed, so small-scale traders who generally live from hand to mouth have been forced to hunt high and low in search of food.
As telephone lines got swamped, one telecommunications office also apparently crashed.
As confusion reigned in the cities, the Chosun Central Bank did not signal the start of the money exchange, which was supposed to be at 12 P.M. on the 30th. Citizens were only able to exchange their old bills on time in some neighborhoods in Pyongyang.
The authorities subsequently summoned meetings with cadres and other officials to cope with the situation.
Provincial committees and people’s committees also attempted some counter-measures, such as advertising the need for currency reform through People’s Units.
However, noting the confusion, the authorities eventually conceded some ground at last night’s cadres meetings, expanding the maximum amount which could be exchanged from 100,000 won to 150,000 won in cash and adding the ability to convert 300,000 won in savings.