Bitcoin in North Korea and Other Places You’d Never Expect

The number of bitcoin merchants surpassed the 100,000 mark in 2015 and has grown across Europe and Asia due to the expansion of well-established bitcoin startups like Coinbase, Bitpay and Coinify. BitPay alone has processed over 800,000 transactions totaling around US$260 million between 2013 and 2015.

Such growth has led to an increase of global bitcoin usage enabling cryptocurrencies to reach some of the most remote and unexpected parts of the world, including North Korea, Tenerife, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Siberia, and the Sahara.

North Korea

On a national tour with a bitcoin-friendly travel agency, Koryo Tours, the anonymous reddit user BitcoinDPRK sent US$100 in bitcoin from North Korea to Sean’s Outpost, a homeless outreach center in Florida.

A tourist who visited North Korea to watch a Dennis Rodman basketball game in January 2014 said:

"I believe that this is the first time a transaction on the blockchain has been broadcast from this country."

During his trip, the tourist gave out paper wallets with a few mBTC to the Korean guides on the tour.

In 2015, a bar and two restaurants in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, were listed on Coinmap.org as BTC accepting merchants.

However, since only a selected few are allowed Internet access, most of which are government officials and their relatives, bitcoin’s prospects in North Korea seem rather slim at the moment, particularly when compared to its southern neighbor.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see a decentralized, P2P currency perme