Can you open a bank account in North Korea? Or more specifically can foreigners open a bank account in North Korea? Here is our insight into banking in North Korea
These questions might seem a little bit redundant considering that North Korea is by far the most sanctioned country in the world, and getting said money out of the country would not be all that easy, but if the fancy takes you, you can indeed open a bank account in North Korea! And in some ways it is a lot easier than you might think.
Golden Triangle Bank of Rason
Rason is therein Special Economic Zone of North Korea that experiments somewhat with capitalism, or as they would put it a mixed economy. You can read more about the SEZ here.
All of our tours to Rason include a visit to Golden Triangle Bank, where although you don’t technically open a bank account you can purchase one of the debit cards and indeed top it up with money and use in Rason. Alas, it cannot be used in “mainland” North Korea. Not all that useful, but a North Korean debit card does make a great gift!
Debit cards in Pyongyang
A few years ago, North Korea launched not one, but two debit cards, like your Visa and MasterCard of you will! Namely Junganunhaeng, and the Naerai. You can arrange to purchase these with the help of your local guides. Again, not all places take both and you can’t exactly use them online. They do though make good souvenirs and can be used if you are, like us a frequent visitor to the country.
Koryo International Trade Development Bank
Above reception at the Yanggakdo International Hotel lies a bank, if you head up there it has prospectuses, information on products and feels like any other bank in the world (kind of). As a person doing business in North Korea, I was once permitted to open an account here! I didn’t deposit all that much money, and I guess I technically still have the account…
Foreign owned banks and branches
In Rason, there are branches of Chinese banks and indeed ways to bank and withdraw money. It is also possible to withdraw money from them in the casino in Pyongyang. To avoid controversy, we will not name them in the interests of this article!
The most famous foreign trade bank was of course the one which operated from the Pothonggang Hotel. It existed to facilitate business back in the days before the world went on a sanctions frenzy.
So, that is the log and short of doing banking in North Korea. Not easy (unless you are Chinese) but not impossible. Kinda….