By Park Jae-hyuk
North Korea is expected to upgrade its own mobile payment app to bypass international sanctions against its financial transactions and to improve the country's financial infrastructure, according to a private think tank here, Friday.
The KB Financial Group Research Institute said in its recent report that North Koreans have used a mobile payment app named "Woolim" since 2018.
The app, which is known to be an imitation of China's WeChat Pay and Alipay, allows its users to make magnetic and near field communication-based payments with money loaded onto prepaid cards.
Its users can buy products on North Korea's e-commerce platforms using the app.
In addition, Woolim enables money transfers between its users.
Although the app has yet to be used frequently even in Pyongyang, researcher Sohn Gwang-soo, the report's author, forecast the North Korean authorities will induce North Koreans to use the app for better monitoring of financial transactions.
"Woolim is intended to naturally absorb the function of private loans into the public sphere," he said.
"The mobile payment system shows the North Korean authorities are desperate to induce the use of domestic currency."
The researcher also expected the app will be used for the transfer of foreign currency from China.
"If some yuan are sent from China to North Korean users via WeChat Pay or Alipay, the North Korean users can send North Korean won to other users in the country via Woolim," he said.
"Although the sanctions against North Korea have banned financial transactions with the North, it is difficult to monitor financial transactions via mobile payment apps."