A man shared a North Korean note online, featuring former leader Kim Il Sung, whom he smuggled out of the country in his sock.
The traveler, named John from New Zealand, shared a snap of the framed motto on Reddit’s Interesting as F**k forum on Sunday under the username u/Hos_In_Chi_Minh, aka John, where he collected more than 70,000 upvotes.
“I traded this with a local bus driver and hid it in my socks on my way out,” the photo said, showing a smiling Il Sung on a 5,000 won bill, which is worth around $5.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is one of the most secretive states in the world, presided over by Kim Jong Un since 2012. His father, Kim Jong Il, ruled from 1993 to 2011 and his father, Kim Il Sung, directed from 1948-1994.
Its communist regime is the subject of numerous global sanctions, mainly targeting the nuclear ambitions of the DPRK.
For more than a dozen years, economic and financial sanctions have been imposed by the UN, the United States and other countries, which prohibit “the trade in arms and military equipment, freeze the assets people involved in the nuclear program and restrict cooperation,” according to the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR.)
“North Korea’s leadership under successive Kims views nuclear weapons as the only way to guarantee its survival,” the CFR added.
Ordinary citizens are prohibited from leaving the state, and entry into the country is strictly controlled and monitored.
The U.S. State Department recently updated its travel advisory for North Korea, warning: “Do not travel to North Korea due to the serious and ongoing risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals. Exercise extra caution towards North Korea due to the critical threat of unwarranted detention.”
Talk to NewsweekJohn described his trip to North Korea, which took place a few years ago, and how he got the Note out of the country.
He said he got the note from a bus driver on an organized tour that included a trip to a store.
“The exchange was done in relative secrecy, I was the first to get back on the tour bus. I didn’t enter the store, rather I tried to play hacky-sack with the soldiers at the outside.
“The guide wasn’t sure if it would be allowed, but the soldiers were excited and happy to involve me. When I got back on the bus, it was just me and the driver. I asked him if he would be willing to exchange a banknote, which had the chief’s face on it, for 10 of my notes of the same value.
“Tourists are given different money to spend, this was the only one on my trip that had the chef’s face on it and my guide had previously said these tickets were no longer in circulation or available to tourists or the public. He also said that these notes should not be taken outside the country.”
The note is significant because it was released in 2009 as part of a complete overhaul of the country’s currency, which saw the release of new designs.
The only portrait left on the notes was that of Kim Il Sung on the 5,000 won bill, but that was changed in 2014 when the note was redesigned to show his official birthplace, Mangyongdae, the BBC reported. .
John continued, “I understand that DPRK money in general is meant to stay in the country, but I think they’re quite relaxed about that. They may not have been so relaxed with this. note, that’s why I chose to keep it in my sock The driver just multiplied the value of his money by 10 and he said he could just record it as a tip, so no danger on his part.
“I don’t know why you can’t take money out of the country, or if the punishment would be significant. I don’t think it falls into the same category as Otto who stole the poster. He stayed in our hotel a few weeks prior to my visit and we were regularly reminded of what had happened, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t take note if given the opportunity to do so again.”
“It could be construed as a lack of respect, and you should do your best to follow the rules set by any country you visit.”
The “Otto” he is referring to is Otto Warmbier, an American student, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for claiming to have stolen a propaganda sign from a hotel.
In March 2016, Warmbier, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was tried and sentenced.
It is believed that shortly after, the University of Virginia economics student fell into a coma.
After 15 months, he was medically evacuated to the United States, where it was determined that he had suffered severe brain damage. A few days after his arrival, he died on June 19, 2017, at the age of 22.
Young Pioneer Tours, with whom Warmbier traveled, said taking money out of North Korea was not illegal: “Technically, it’s not allowed to take North Korean currency out of the country.”
In June, a law bearing the student’s name, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act, passed the Senate after being introduced in 2021.
US Senators Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown and Chris Coons explained that the legislation provides $10 million a year to “counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while encouraging sanctions against those who allow this repressive information environment inside and outside North Korea.”
Brown said, “The treatment of Otto Warmbier by North Korean authorities that resulted in his death remains a powerful reminder of the brutality of Kim Jong Un’s regime.”
Commenting on the Reddit post, D0ctorwh010 said, “You risked everything for a memory.”
Yasai101 wrote, “No idea why anyone would risk their life just by visiting these countries let alone anything like this.”
Rab_Legend added: “So stupid a guy died because he was accused of stealing a poster.”