Curious about Korean currency? We’ll give everything you need to know about South Korean currency, also known as South Korean Won, Korean Republic Won, or KRW if you want to call it by its three-digit currency code.
Over the past decades, we’ve seen South Korea evolve into one of the strongest economies in Asia. It’s fascinating to know that the South Korean economy and the Korean currency have improved a lot after what the country has gone through in the past, including what happened during World War II and the Korean War.
Let’s read on to know more about the South Korean Won.
- 1 Korean Currency
- 2 Do I need to know the Korean money?
- 3 Korean Money
- 3.1 Korean Bills
- 3.2 Korean Money #1: ₩1,000 (won)
- 3.3 Korean Money #2: ₩5,000 (won)
- 3.4 Korean Money #3: ₩10,000 (won)
- 3.5 Korean Money #4: ₩50,000 (won)
- 3.6 Korean Money: Coins
When learning more about the South Korean Won, you can’t help but also learn about Korean history. Korean currency dates back hundreds of years during the Joseon Dynasty. During Joseon, Korean currency made use of Korean coins made of bronze and iron which are known as 통보 and 정보 respectively. Paper money or 저화 in Korean was first used during the Joseon Dynasty.
Fast forward to our present day, Korean currency makes use of Korean bills and Korean coins. In them are printed images of people who have made significant contributions to South Korea.
Do I need to know the Korean money?
If you’re planning to visit or live in Korea, or do business with Koreans, then it’s valuable to know about Korean money.
Getting familiar with the different Korean money (Korean bills and Korean coins) will help ease your life with anything related to spending money.
The official name for Korean money is “Won”. This is the name used for both South Korean and North Korea. This has become the official currency for both countries after they were divided into two.
The name “won” originated from a Hanja character which is similar to the Chinese Yuan and Japanese Yen. Their value is quite different though, 1 KRW is equal to 0.10 Japanese Yen(JPY), and only 0.01 for Chinese Yuan(CNY). Another way of looking at it would be, 1 US Dollar to South Korean Won would be 1,184.15 KRW, 6.47 CNY in Chinese Yuan, and 111.97 JPY in Japanese Yuan.
The first South Korean Won bills were issued by the Bank of Joseon but later on, were issued by the Bank of Korea.
There are 4 different Korean won bills issued by the bank of Korea and are used both in South Korea and North Korea. They are 50,000 won, 10,000 won, 5,000 won, and 1,000 won. The bills get larger in size as they go up. The 5,000 won bill is slightly larger than the 1,000 won bill, and the 10,000 won bill is slightly larger than the 5,000 won bill.
We will start small and work our way up. Let the fun facts begin!
If you can’t read Korean characters yet, you can learn them free in about one hour here.
Korean Money #1: ₩1,000 (won)
The US dollar exchange rate of this Korean bill (KRW) is less than 1 USD, it’s around $0.89.
Front: 퇴계이황 Toegye Yi Hwang (1501 – 1570)
Yi Hwang was a famous Confucian scholar from the Joseon Dynasty (That’s the 500 year Confucian dynasty in Korea!) who was big into calligraphy and poetry. If you’re wondering who Toegye is, great question! That was his pen name. Yi Hwang was a busy guy.
Back: 계상정거도 Gyesangjeonggeodo
In addition to being an impressively long name for a painting, the back side of the 1,000 won bill also represents a painting of Yi Hwang in Dosan Seowon (area of Korea). If you’ve ever visited Andong in Korea, then you were actually at present day Dosan Seowon!
Korean Money #2: ₩5,000 (won)
The US dollar exchange rate of this Korean bill (KRW) is roughly around $4.47.
Front: 율곡이이 Yulgok Yi I (1536 – 1584)
Like Yi Hwang, Yi I (pronounced “yee-ee”) was also a mover and a shaker back in the 1500s. He attained fame as a Confucian scholar, and also flew under the radar with his pen name Yulgok.
Back: 초충도 Chochungdo
On the back side of the 5,000 won note, you’ll see a painting by Shin Saimdang (Yi I’s mother) called “Insects and Plants” ( “Chochungdo” is the name of the painting). More on her in a bit.
Korean Money #3: ₩10,000 (won)
The US dollar exchange rate of this Korean bill (KRW) is roughly around $8.93.
Front: 세종대왕 Sejong the Great (1397 – 1450)
If you haven’t heard this 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty, then consider this the first of many times that you will! He is the one responsible for introducing Hangeul into Korean society. Hangeul is really important to Korean society, it even has its own holiday!
Back: 혼천시계 Honcheonsigye
Since “sigye” means “clock” in Korean, we can call the picture on the back of this note the “Hocheon Clock”. 혼천시계 (honcheonsigye) is an astronomical clock that was made in 1669 and is still in existence today. If you’re ever sitting in your house and wondering what the position of the universe at any given time, then you’ll want to stop by Korea University to consult with the Hocehon Clock in person!
Korean Money #4: ₩50,000 (won)
The US dollar exchange rate of this Korean bill (KRW) is roughly around $44.69.
Front: 신사임당 Shin Saimdang (1504 – 1551)
Try saying that name 4 times fast! Shin Saimdang was mother of Yi I, as well as a writer, artist, calligraphist, and a poet. Her artwork captured beautiful and delicate images of insects, flowers, fish, and landscapes. People liked her because she was a model of Confucian ideals.
Back: 월매도 Wolmaedo
Fairly simple; this is a painting of a bamboo and a plum tree.
There you have it, the big four in Korean currency. Lets move onto the coins!
Korean Money: Coins
Crack open your piggy banks, we’re about to give you the need-to-know information for each of those famous coins you see so often. Your trips to the vending machine will take on a whole new dimension of fun!
|10 won||다보탑 (Dabotap Pagoda)||Famous temple in Gyeongju|
|50 won||stalk of rice||rice is tasty!|
|100 won||이순신 (Yi Sun-sin)||Korea's favorite navy admiral|
|500 won||두루미 (Red-crowned crane)||Beautiful crane you can find in Korea|
One Hundred Korean Won Coin (Front & Back)
Five Hundred Korean Won Coin (Front)
Five Hundred Korean Won Coin (Back)
Hopefully, you know a bit more about Korean money. Which Korean bill or coin is your favorite? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
Which Korean bill or coin is your favorite? Please feel free to leave a comment below!