It’s no secret that economic sanctions have really hurt the North Korean Government. The value of the North Korean Won has fallen over the years to the point that it is worth about 1/10th of 1 US cent. It is worth so little that the very limited private markets that exist in the country no longer accept North Korean bills, they’ve actually transitioned to using foreign currency like the Chinese Yuan and even the…dollar.
Yep, that’s right. Despite being the life-blood of decadent Yankee imperialism, the dollar is now the primary currency used in Pyongyang. And when you’re part of the Kim family, so famous for their extravagance that Kim Jong-Il was perpetually the world’s single largest consumer of Hennessy, you’re going to need a lot of them.
So, what’s a dictator to do when he needs to break out the good booze to impress Dennis Rodman and he controls a ton of government grade printing presses producing money that is worth less than the paper it’s made of?
Well, apparently you start cranking out super realistic replicas of 100 dollar bills. The “Super Dollar”, so called because in some cases it actually has more intense security features than the real deal, is a forgery of the US 100 dollar bill which is currently floating around markets worldwide. It’s so realistic that when a North Korean defector presented one along with a story of printing them in a secret facility, the South Korean intelligence service examined it and, at first, declared him a liar.
The bills are being printed by a secret North Korea agency, according to the US at least, because no one really knows for sure where they’re coming from. The agency in question, sinisterly named Room 39, is dedicated to funding the party boy lifestyle of the Kim regime with a series of illegal activities including arms dealing, human trafficking, and even making and selling good old-fashioned Methamphetamine.
According to US intelligence, the bills the agency produces are distributed to North Korean diplomats on their way to foreign countries, particularly Russia, where they trade them for as little as 20 real dollars each when purchased in bulk with people ranging from Russian mobsters to the IRA.
Once the bills are in circulation there is little that can be done to separate them, since they are so difficult to distinguish from the real deal, which means you might have one in your wallet right now and have no idea.
The issue is a frequent subject of conversation during official talks with North Korea though they have thus far basically thrown up their hands and declared they have no idea what the US is talking about. So, with talks stalling and North Korea again threatening to rain nuclear fire on everyone if they don’t get their way, it doesn’t seem like the supply of forgeries is going to dry up anytime soon. Good luck ever looking at a 100 dollar bill the same way again.
On the plus side, maybe Kim Jong Un can use some of that money for a new haircut.