South Korea’s spy agency warned people on Thursday of a rise in scammers selling defunct North Korean currency that they claim will rise in value as the country edges closer to a fully fledged peace agreement with its traditional enemies.
According to a report from Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) warned that crime syndicates in China and Southeast Asia have secured large quantities of defunct local currency taken out of use in 2009 as part of the communist regime’s currency revaluation that saw millions of people have their savings almost entirely wiped out.
As such, many fraudsters are offering people the money at 30 to 40 percent below normal North Korean currency, on the promise that the currency is likely to rise in value as North Korea.
One criminal organization in Thailand was caught selling five million won, while a businessman in South Korea was offered two billion in cash. Other cases have also been reported across the region, with the fraudsters most likely to target South Koreans.
Although the currency offered by the fraudsters has no worth whatsoever, genuine North Korean currency is also practically worthless due to the country’s exceptionally weak economy and lack of international trade. As a result, Kim Jong-un and other Korean Workers Party elites are reliant on inflows of foreign currency to keep up their lavish lifestyles.
However, some investors believe that the country could present a lucrative investment opportunity with the possibility of the Kim Jong-un developing more open trade ties and the international community lifting economic sanctions in the wake of a potential peace agreement with South Korea and the United States.
Optimists argue that this potential opening, combined with its considerable mineral wealth, geographic location, and availability of cheap labor, the country’s economy could grow exponentially in years to come. Yet others point to the long history of overseas firms failing in their attempts to set up business, citing the country’s Stalinist style repression and lack of legal guarantees.
Some of dictator Kim Jong-un’s own economic plans include expanding the country’s limited tourist industry, as well as the opening of some multinational businesses including the American fast food chain McDonald’s.