North Korea Building Cryptocurrency to Combat U.S. Sanctions

A digital currency could help the country circumvent sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives at a railway station in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

According to a Thursday VICE story, the North Korean regime is building its very own cryptocurrency in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions which have leveled its economy.

“Pyongyang has long shown an interest in cryptocurrencies, with the country recently bringing together homegrown experts with foreign companies at its first-ever blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in April,” according to the piece.

VICE confirmed the existence of the crypto-building project with a member of the North Korean regime.

Alejandro Cao de Benos, who is in charge of the project and is a special delegate for the Committee for Cultural Relations for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), said that the digital currency will be “more like bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies,” according to the piece.

Cao de Benos is an interesting character, who has been featured in documentaries and done several international interviews on behalf of the so-called Hermit Kingdom. Born in Spain, he is one of the few – if not the only – foreigner to hold dual citizenship with North Korea and another country. He is an honorary member of the Korean Worker’s Party, the totalitarian party that rules the country, and the Korean People’s Army.

“We are still in the very early stages in the creation of the token. Now we are in the phase of studying the goods that will give value to it,” he reportedly said. He also said that there are “no plans to digitize the [North Korean] won for now.”

The “won” is North Korea’s currency.

North Korea’s embassy to the United Nations in New York did not confirm Cao de Benos’ report, but according to VICE, the North Koreans have the technology to build such a currency.

“The secretive country has repeatedly turned to cryptocurrencies to raise cash through illegal avenues,” VICE said. “Recently, North Korean hackers were accused of stealing cryptocurrencies, mining them and using them to avoid restrictions imposed on traditional banking systems by international sanctions.”

The country often commits ransomware attacks, and demands Bitcoin as payment in exchange for not publishing the data that it captures in such attacks. A U.N. report said that state-sponsored North Korean hackers have stolen $2 billion in fiat and digital currency which has helped them continue to grow their nuclear program. The country denies that claim.

Creating a cryptocurrency would be another sign that the mysterious nation, known for its crippling poverty, human rights violations, and testing nuclear weapons, is paying attention to the goings on in the Western world.

NBA legend and Hall of Fame member Dennis Rodman visited North Korea where he met with dictator Kim Jong-un, helping to ease tensions between the United States and a country that is bent on destroying us. Kim is a known lover of basketball. Rodman and Kim have become unlikely friends, and apparently they stay in touch.

Rodman was on “Fox and Friends” Thursday morning, during which he told the panel of hosts that “Kim Jong-un will be in America in 18-24 months.”

“He’s coming to do one thing: to visit America,” Rodman said.

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