The fourth time North Korea replaced its currency was in July, 1992.
It was at a time when trading was not a regular sight in North Korean society, so we did not see much money. Only those people trading internationally in the border regions and cadres taking bribes used to obtain much money at all, really. But at least the shock of that currency replacement was limited to the upper classes.
In 1992, the authorities limited the exchangeable amount of money to just 300 won per person. This was not a problem for the majority of us at the time, though, and anyway, richer cadres could always ask their acquaintances to exchange money for them.
At the time I had this neighbor who traded goods at the station, and earned a lot of money by doing so. Her name was Kim Jin Suk, a woman in her late-40s.
When the decree was released, she racked her brain trying to find a way to exchange as much money as possible. She ended up giving 300 won each, the limit for exchange, to friends and relatives who did not have money, then gave 100 won of the new money to each as a reward.
Some others who had close relationships with cadres in party organizations or factories used a different way: with the cooperation of cadres they exchanged their money under the organization’s name, and then both sides shared the new money 50-50. Indeed, after that period, several cadres in Shinuiju were sent to reeducation camps for their corruption.
For quite a few days after the money exchange was finished, torn old bills could be found in public restrooms.
In Changbai, China, the city across the Tumen River from Hyesan in Yangkang Province, Chinese traders doing business with North Korea burnt the old North Korean bills by the border so that the North Koreans could see.
Even at that time, there were lots of complaints among the people, such as, “The state is killing us,” and, “The father is stealing the son’s pocket money.”
After that time, people wisely started suggesting to each other that they should keep their money not in North Korean won, but in Yuan or Yen for safety.