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N. Korea's official media silent about currency reform

All Headlines 11:33 December 02, 2009

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea remained silent to the outside world over its reportedly drastic currency revaluation while locally implementing the reform through municipal propaganda channels, a local aid group with inside sources said Wednesday.

North Korea's official media has yet to announce the currency revaluation that reportedly took effect on Monday. In a second-hand confirmation, diplomatic missions in South Korea said their counterparts in Pyongyang received an "oral briefing" on the revaluation on Tuesday.

"North Korea is disseminating the news of its currency reform through 'Third Broadcasting' to inform the residents," Lee Seung-yong, a lead staffer with Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group that has sources inside North Korea, said.

Third Broadcasting refers to a North Korean municipal network that disseminates internal information for residents within individual towns or counties. Residents listen to the broadcasts through speakers installed in homes, farms and public buildings, with content involving mostly lectures praising the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, government notices and sometimes music and readings of historic novels.

"Central broadcasts are not carrying the news, but the revaluation continues being disseminated to the people," Lee said. "I don't know why they are not making an announcement to the outside world."

The media's silence was in contrast to their usual custom of making an official announcement on the day that past currency reforms took effect, with the latest case in 1992.

North Korea sharply raised the value of its currency, with a 100 to 1 exchange rate for new denominations, in an apparent bid to tackle inflation and curb free market trading, according to various sources here and in China. A kilogram of rice was set at 44 won at state-run markets in the North's 2002 economic reform, but the price has now spiked to 2,500 won in free markets, according to Good Friends.

Shops, public bathhouses and restaurants in the North were mostly closed, the aid group said, and public anger has mounted over the sudden reform that rendered old denominations into "useless paper overnight."

The aid group said the maximum amount of the new currency allowed for exchange was limited to 100,000 won per household.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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