North Korea is reportedly working on developing its patent cryptocurrency in an attempt to avoid international sanctions.
While development is still in its early stages, Alejandro Cao de Benos, a special representative of the Foreign Ministry of North Korea says that the yet to be named token can be expected to be “more like Bitcoin cash or other cryptocurrencies.”
Benos is also responsible for managing North Korea’s cryptocurrency conferences and helped coordinate the International Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Conference in April 2019. There are plans to hold a second cryptocurrency conference in early 2020.
Although officially Benos states that “big names” in the fields of medicine, education, and finance have signed contracts with the North Korean government in April for the use of cryptocurrencies, the claim is hard to believe and remains unverified.
In 2018, The Diplomat reported that North Korea’s interest in the technology is based on “high anonymity, difficulty in tracking funds, and easy cash flow” – all of which is ideal for a nation accused of international crimes of drug trades, human trafficking, and sales of arms.
Accusations aside, there are other, more concrete reports of North Korea being involved in hacking and disabling online services all over the West, and stealing all kinds of cryptocurrency.
Most recently, Reuters reported that North Korea was allegedly involved in the theft of $2 Billion in the form of cryptocurrency. The claim came from independent experts and was presented to the U.N. Security Council. It stated that North Korea has used “increasingly sophisticated” hacks to steal the money.
The country’s attempt to launch its own cryptocurrency follows Venezuela’s attempt to create a cryptocurrency that “overcomes the financial blockade.” In early 2018, Venezuela launched its own cryptocurrency ‘Petro.’ It was meant to make for a better economy – by mainly circumventing U.S.-led penalizations.
It failed miserably and was banned from the U.S. entirely by President Donald Trump. It has now been somehow refocused on providing public housing in Venezuela.
Benos adds that there are “no plans to digitize the [North Korean] Won for now.” When North Korea’s Embassy in New York was questioned about Benos’s claims, a spokesperson said: “I am not in a position to give you an answer” before hanging up.
Law enforcement across the globe are well equipped to track suspicious bitcoin transactions. Other cryptocurrencies are also under surveillance. However, a whole new cryptocurrency from a country like North Korea will be tough to keep track of.
Also, North Korea will have control over how the currency will work – and hence will keep getting patched in the event of a bypass.
It is another reason why other nations – including Iran and Russia have worked on making their unique cryptocurrencies.
The circumstances created by the country over the past three years paint a very suspicious picture.
At the end of the day, this unnamed cryptocurrency can be perceived as propaganda, rather than an actual effort by North Korea to get their finances right.
However, if they are really on to something, the reactions of other economies in the days to come will be interesting to gauge. An encrypted, hard-to-track digital coin manufactured by one of the most closed nations on the planet, could have ramifications that none of us might have speculated.