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Paper Pyongyang

PAPER PYONGYANG                                                      Sweeping currency

As the sinister shadow of North Korea and its nuclear and ballistic ambitions darkens the Globe, there is an opportunity to bring its recalcitrant ruler to a meaningful bargaining table by skyrocketing its money supply.

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing can print a won (the North Korean currency) indistinguishable from those printed by the NK government and drones can deliver and scatter the paper around the country. No explosives, no violence.

What would be behind the currency? If there is anything behind the current won, or for that matter the dollar in your pocket or purse, it is a belief tarnished by the history of all paper currencies that the monetary authority will not print too many.   Believing the convenience of having a medium of exchange may be worth a small penalty, you tolerate the slight annual shrinkage of your dollar. Proposed here is a cataclysmic shrinkage of the purchasing power of the won.

A hyperinflation, an inflation in which prices quadruple monthly or double daily, an inflation that has happened hundreds of times in World history, brings all economies to a halt and ushers in chaos and regime change.   With prices being marked up nightly, employees cannot wait to the end of the month to get their pay and businesses cannot make deals to be executed next week.   Business halts, unemployment and prices soar and that would happen to North Korea.

Canny leader Kim Jong-un will, of course, react promptly.   Appealing to the patriotism of his citizens, he will pass laws forbidding citizens from picking up the trash cash. Would they obey?

Consider Joon-woo Park whose duty is sweeping up hundreds of won notes identical to those he earns. The man/woman who can walk down a street littered with paper money and pick up none is rare.

And consider Ji-yoo Kim seen picking up her pay from the pavement – YES ILLEGALLY -, tried, convicted and sentenced. If jailed there is the desired blow to the economy; but if fined she excuses herself from court and returns shortly with enough money to pay the fine and a little extra to tip the magistrate.

The pious parson who had long prayed for supernatural help paying the mortgage on the priory would know that this manna from heaven was not a Machiavellian machination of Uncle Sam.

Cringing Bob Cratchit asking for a pay raise will be a thing of the past in North Korea. Ebenezer simply tells him to pick up his pay from the pavment and to be sure to pick up enough.

As difficult as it would be for the NK regime to persuade parents not to stoop to pick up the counterfeits, it would be impossible for Mom and Dad to tell their five-year old, who thinks inflation is just a word daddy doesn’t have time to explain, that free money is bad money.   Shortly after the drone deliveries, reliable national statistics would document a dramatic decimation of wholesale and retail inventories of Mars bars.

A man going shopping with a thick wallet, and wallets will be thick shortly after the drone deliveries, may decide to lighten his load by throwing his money in the street and picking up a like quantity on arriving at market. “Let’s see.   Did I throw down 200 won or 300?”

Public-spirited pianists and pedicurists, well-paid professionals, may be counted on to collect and destroy the counterfeits but many will wonder why they prefer to perform these duties at night.

It is not even necessary that somebody pick up the counterfeits to have an effect on the price level? It is enough if some citizens think others are picking them up.   The farmer who tills the soil near Chongjin has no reason to trust the soldier in Pyongyang who in turn has no reason to trust the farmer and the fear of each that the other is not obeying the law has an influence on the expectation of price increases.

Newspapers, adding to the sense of trauma, featuring stories about the hardship, will show pictures of rescue parties trying to extricate a hapless citizen from a mountain of money.

While trying to add a light touch, there is no suggestion here that there is anything humorous about hyperinflation and the accompanying unemployment, regime change and starvation.   A nuclear North Korea, deaf to all sanctions and international efforts to rein in its menace, has dropped missiles in the Sea of Japan, boasts that it can strike California and Alaska, that nuclear North Korea must be brought to a meaningful bargaining table.   Paper Pyongyang!

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