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What is the North Korean Won (KPW)?

Credit Ratings & Outlook

In the latest credit ratings from December 1970, Moody's gives North Korea a A1 rating, with a stable outlook. Fitch has a positive outlook with a A+ rating. Finally, S&P last issued a A rating, with a stable outlook.

Sovereign credit ratings play an important part in determining a country’s access to international capital markets, and the terms of that access. Sovereign ratings help to foster dramatic growth, stability, and efficiency of international and domestic markets.


The latest unemployment rate for 2012 is 0.00%.

Political Structure

The current head of the government is Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, who is also the head of state (in an executive role).

Currency Details

The North Korean won, denoted by KPW, is the official currency used in North Korea. Since December 2001, the North Korean government has abandoned the rate of 2.16 won to the dollar (of which the root is Kim Jong-il’s birthday, February 16). Instead, banks in the country now issue at exchange rates that are closer to those of the black market. However, unchecked inflation has been eating into the value of the won to such an extent that it is currently worth about the same as the won of South Korea. An interesting note on bill design: Unusually, the 100, 1000 and 5000 won bills are of essentially the same basic design, portraying the exact same subjects (although they are colored differently). North Korea has in the past issued whole series of notes in which the designs are exactly the same, right down to color, only the denomination being different.

Sovereign Ratings for North Korea

North Korea is not rated.

What does it look like?

Political Structure

North Korea, more formally known as The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a Communist state one-man dictatorship. The government has three main branches: the executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is comprised of the chief of state, head of government, and cabinet. A unicameral Supreme People’s Assembly, or Ch’oego Inmin Hoeui, constitutes the legislative branch. The Assembly contains 687 seats and its members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Finally, the judicial branch is made up of the Central Court. Judges of the court are elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Prominent Figures


Key Economic Factors

Economic Overview:

North Korea’s economy is among the most centrally planned and isolated economies worldwide. The nation’s economic condition is extremely poor industrial capital stock is almost beyond hope (after years of underinvestment and shortages of spare parts; industrial and power output have declined significantly; and the nation has suffered its eleventh year of shortage of food (due to lack of arable land, collective farming, weather problems, and more). North Korea was able to escape mass starvation due to international food aid deliveries, however the malnutrition and deteriorating living conditions remain prevalent throughout the population. The nation’s resources are largely consumed by large-scale military spending. In July 2002, the government took limited steps toward a freer market economy. Two years later, North Korea experienced increased political tension with key donor countries and general donor weakness threatened the much-needed flow of food and fuel aid. Black market prices in North Korea have continued to rise following the increase in official prices and wages in the summer of 2002 – thus, leaving some vulnerable groups (elderly and unemployed populations), unable to buy goods to the same extent. By 2004, the regime allowed private markets to sell a wider range of goods and permitted private farming, on an experimental basis, in order to boost agricultural output. Firm political control remains the Communist government’s overriding concern, which will constrain any further loosening of economic regulations.

Key Industries:

Military products, machine building, electric power, chemicals, mining (coal, iron ore, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy, textiles, food processing and tourism.

Agricultural Products:

Rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans, pulses, cattle, pigs, pork and eggs.

Import Commodities:

Petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles and grain.

Export Commodities:

Minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles and fishery products.

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