North Korea's Kim Il-Sung disappears from banknotes

Last updated 12:10 12/08/2014

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The portrait of Kim Il-Sung, founder of North Korea and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, has disappeared from the nation's bank notes.

The move has baffled North Korea commentators as they try to work out what the removal of the "Great Leader" from the 5000 won notes could mean.

The new notes now feature an image of of Kim's childhood home on one side, and on the other an image of a museum in Pyongyang that contains gifts from international leaders.

According to South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo, 5000 won is nominally worth around US$50 ($59), but its actual market value is closer to US$1. 

North Korean state workers are paid an average 3000 won a month.

When the new bank notes were officially announced on July 25, people believed it was the result of a currency reform and began stockpiling food, the newspaper reported.

But some North Korea watchers say the change was simply to ensure consistency, as other notes feature images of the birthplaces of Kim Jong-il and his mother Kim Jong-suk.

Other sources told the Chosun Ilbo it was because the note was easy to forge, and there were too many fakes in circulation.

South-North Korea relations expert Yoon Young-kwan of Seoul National University said by removing his grandfather's image, Kim Jong-un was showing he would follow an "independent path" to develop North Korea's economy.

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