A sanctioned North Korean bank has rolled out a new electronic debit card named “Kumgil,” numerous photos taken earlier this year in Pyongyang reveal.
Kumgil, which means “gold road” in Korean, is issued by Korea Daesong Bank (Choson Taesong Unhaeng) – currently blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
The bank, which is allegedly owned and controlled by “Office 39 of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)”, was included in the latest Resolution 2321, adopted by UNSC members on 30 November 2016.
“Kumgil electronic payment card is a means of electronic payment which [people] can use instead of cash when purchasing goods and paying service fees at the shops,” an image of a poster, obtained by NK News, reads. The image cannot be published as it might jeopardize an anonymous in-country source.
These rules suggest Kumgil is a foreign currency debit card, much like the “Narae” card. The poster, however, doesn’t specify the range of use, whereas instructions concerning the Narae cash card, launched in 2010, say the card can be used at “all stores across the country” which accept hard currency.
According to the description, those who issue a new Kumgil card and cardholders who want to top up their bank account should pay in “hard currencies at the designated branches with instant issuance”.
An image of the new card was posted by Koryo Tours’ Simon Cockerell on Instagram back in October.
Cardholders can withdraw money from their card based on daily exchange rates at designated branches. In the case of the Narae debit card, which is operated by Foreign Trade Bank of the DPRK, foreigners can use services at airports and hotels where they are staying.
Narae remains the most widely used card in North Korea.
“Narae is number one for sure. The most well-known and most widely-accepted card,” a regular visitor to North Korea, who wished to remain anonymous, told NK News.
“The fact that it uses the Narae machines means it is a bit more acceptable and streamlined at least so it may catch on, but if you have a Narae card then why do you need a Kumgil card as well? That I don’t know,” the source said, “I use my Narae card all the time, literally on every trip I make. Usually to top up my phone or other people’s phones.”
The source said the new card was launched early this year, adding it can be obtained by paying $2 at a Narae debit card machine.
“I haven’t used it or seen anyone using one since then,” the regular visitor said. “I was told that the Koryo Card system is now dead and Kumgil has basically replaced it.”
North Koreans have an increasing range of payment cards they can use. The prepaid “Koryo” card was issued in 2011 by Koryo Bank, which was sanctioned by the Department of the Treasury on December 2, 2016.
Apart from Narae, Kumgil and Koryo cards, the North has also launched a credit card dubbed “Sangyon” which can be used in certain department stores, claiming the new system can be used 24 hours a day and that it was developed by North Korea’s Institute of Commercial Science.
In March, the state-run DPRK Today also announced the launch of the “Jonsong” debit card, operated by the central bank, saying all cardholders can “quickly and accurately” pay as well as send money to other cardholders and withdraw money from the bank.
Photos obtained by NK News shows Narae and Jonsong card can be used at the Masikryong Ski Resort, and the Jonsong card is described as a cash and deposit [prepaid] card.
The Golden Triangle Bank also issued the “Sonbong” card, which can be locally used in the Rason Special Economic Zone in the country’s north-east, last year.
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