BEIJING - North Korea will ban the use of foreign currency for purchases among both its citizens and foreigners beginning tomorrow, Chinese state television reported yesterday, in another sign the communist government is intent on reasserting control over the economy.
North Korean citizens "will be forbidden from directly using dollars, euros, and other foreign currencies in shops, restaurants, and other outlets," CCTV said in a brief report on its main evening news program.
To buy items, the report said, foreigners must exchange foreign currency for North Korean won.
The order by North Korea's state security bureau aims to "forbid the circulation of foreign currency," it said.
Weeks ago, the hard-line communist government said it would redenominate the won as part of a far-reaching currency overhaul aimed at curbing runaway inflation and reasserting control over the economy.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based online news outlet that reports on North Korean affairs, said the order banned all individuals and organizations apart from banks from possessing foreign currency. It said the decree was issued last Saturday and took effect Monday.
Although it is one of the world's most isolated countries, North Korea has long allowed foreign money to be used at specially designated outlets, which helped generate hard currency for the regime. The new order apparently would end that practice.
North Korea faces increasing economic sanctions over its nuclear activities, curtailing arms exports and other traditional sources of hard currency. Unable to feed its 24 million people, it began allowing some markets in 2002, including some permitting farmers to trade in produce.
While an economic success, the markets also sold banned goods such as movies and soap operas from rival South Korea, posing a threat to the totalitarian rule of leader Kim Jong Il. The country's largest wholesale market in Pyongyang was reportedly shut down in mid-June.
The won revaluation reportedly sparked deep anger among North Koreans, who are limited in how much old North Korean currency they can exchange for new bills. The rest must be deposited in banks, and many North Koreans apparently believe they will never be able to withdraw such deposits.