Korean Won As A Symbol Of The Korean Peninsula
If you plan to visit Korea, you should understand the local currency. Of course, the first thing you need to know is the exchange rate. But history is also important. You will constantly deal with Korean banknotes and you will see the same faces on them during the whole trip. And, as a respectful tourist, you should learn a little more about the people whose faces are printed on Korean money.
Korean banknotes and coins begin their life at KOMSCO in Daejeon. From there, they are transported to the Bank of Korea’s vault in Seoul, which is carefully guarded by armed security officials in order to begin their cash circulation cycle. Throughout theirlife, as a medium of exchange, banknotes and coins move at different speeds, for example, especially 1,000 won bills – they change hands many times before going out of circulation, while many coins spend most of their time on shelves in a closet or in a piggy bank. Cash is often threatened firstly by plastic cards, and now also by smartphones and growing digital payments.
The Korea Herald presents interesting numbers related to Korean won:
- Korean won exists in 10 different denominations - six coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 won and four banknotes in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 50,000. Coins with 1 and 5 won are no longer issued and are rare, but are still legal tender. - The exchange rate was 1161.50 won per US dollar (January 10, 2020). For a long time, the exchange rate was about 1,000 won per dollar.
On the obverse of Korean banknotes are portraits of Korean historical figures. On a banknote of 1000 won, a portrait of Toegye Lee Hwang (scholar, 1501~1570) is depicted, in 5000 won – Yulgok Lee I (scholar, 1536~ 1584), in 10000 won – King Sejong the Great (1397~1450), in 50,000 won – Shin Saimdang (1504~1551). The digital face value of the banknote is shown in the lower-left corner in a horizontal position and in the upper right in a vertical position. The name of the issuing bank in Korean is shown in the upper center of the bill. The name of the issuing bank in English is shown in the upper central part of the banknote. The reverse of Korean banknotes depicts fragments of paintings by prominent Korean artists, objects symbolizing science, and so on. On the back of a banknote with a denomination of 1000 won, a fragment of the landscape by famous Korean artist Gyeomjae Jeongseonis depicted. On 5000 won, a fragment of the painting by Shin Saimdang “Insects and Plants” is printed. On 10000 won, a telescope, a globe and a map of the starry sky is printed and on 50000 won, Korean traditional paintings named Wolmaedo, Poongjukdo are depicted.
The design of Korean coins is also quite interesting. There is an image of Sharon’s rose on 1-won coin , Kobu kseon - the historical turtle ship – on 5 won, Dabotap – the pagoda designated as a national treasure - on 10 won, stalk of rice on 50 won, the portrait of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin on 100 won, the crane in flight on 500 won. In addition to the title images on the obverse of the Korean coins, their denomination in Hangul is also minted. On the reverse of the coins, their digital face value, the name of the issuing bank and the year of issue of coin are minted. Korean coins of all nominal denominations have a regular round shape.
Korean money is fairly easy to distinguish: banknotes and coins are distinguished by color and size. Like money of many other countries, it contains cultural and historical meaning for local residents, and for tourists, it can be a good souvenir if you suddenly did not have enough time to buy magnets. you can also visit the Bank of Korea Museum (한국은행 화폐박물관). The museum allows visitors to learn about the history and the culture of money in Korea.The museum plays a role of cultural space and performs all efforts to create places that fulfill an educational function.
Photo credit by KOMSCO