's paper and coin won currency
comes in the following denominations:
10 won, 50 won, 100 won, 500 won..
1,000 won, 5,000 won, 10,000 won.
For electronic financial transaction and interest calculations, the 1 won unit does exist. Most prices have the VAT
included in the price and are typically rounded up to the nearest 100 won level. Few prices ever terminate in a 50 won or 10 won price. For example, an item might be 2200 won. Few prices are 2250 won or 2230 won.
The 10 won coin is made from brass
and features the 10 denomination on the head and a pagoda
on the tail.
The 50 won coin is a silver-colored nickel alloy
. It features the 50 denomination on the head and a rice
stalk on the tail.
The 100 won coin is a silver-colored nickel alloy. It features the 100 denomination on the head and the bust of Admiral Yi Soon-shin
on the tail.
The 500 won coin is a silver-colored nickel alloy. It features the 500 denomination on the head and a crane
on the tail.
The paper bills are roughly the same size as American paper currency but different colors.
The purple 1,000 won note has a picture of a famous scholar named Yi Hwang
on the front. The reverse side has a picture of a famous Korean school called Dosan Seowon
The brown 5,000 won note has a picture of another famous scholar named Yi Lee
on the front. The reverse side has a picture of his birthplace.
The green 10,000 won note has a picture of the inventor of the Korean Hangeul
alphabet King Sejong
. The reverse side has a scene from Seoul's Gyeongbok Palace
A 1,000 won note has roughly the same purchasing power of US$1. A meal at a McDonald's or a KFC
chicken restaurant , for example, will run you about 5,000 won or $5. Prices for American tourists are pretty easy to figure out. You just knock off three zeros.
Despite Korea being a high tech paradise -- one of the leading makers of RAM memory chips, cell phones, and flat screen TVs -- Korean society has been a very cash-based society. Credit card
s have only come in vogue
in the last several years with rather disastrous results (huge numbers of people have defaulted on their cards). Another innovation making inroads are many stores now process POS
sales via cell phones.
Those recent changes aside, paying for large ticket items with a stack what are essentially $10 bills has been problematic for years. To get around the traditionally low acceptance rate of credit cards and having to carry around large stacks of bills, most major banks issue bank checks in higher denominations (for example 100,000 won). One can withdraw them from an ATM
machine just like cash and spend them just like cash. They're similar to travelers checks. The down side is there's a fee.
Recently the Bank of Korea (BOK) announced it's planning to introduce large denomination bills by 2006 to save customers having to pay these service charge
s. It also signaled that the nation should look at a re-denomination of the won to knock off a couple zeros. It suggested 2008 as a good time to re-jig the won. Korea's BOK also suggested it might add pictures of famous Korean women to some new bills.
One of the positive unintended consequences
of having no large denomination bills in circulation is it makes criminal transactions (drugs, black market
) and bribery
yes, I too hate when people needlessly expand and repeat the last character in an acronym
… "give me your SSN