March 1, 2024
This article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding Korean currency, including its history, values, significance to the country's culture and economy, and tips for tourists and expat residents.


As a foreigner visiting or living in Korea, one of the most daunting tasks can be understanding the country’s currency. With unfamiliar names and values, it can be challenging to navigate daily transactions, let alone understand the significance of Korean money to the country’s culture and economy.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to Korean currency, from the names and values of bills and coins to the history and significance of the Korean won. We’ll also explore the country’s financial system and how it differs from other nations, the role of international trade in the value of Korean money, and tips for identifying and counting different denominations. Finally, we’ll examine the evolution of Korean currency and the rise of alternative payment methods, as well as offer practical advice for tourists and expat residents.

A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Currency: Learning the Names and Values of Korean Money

Before diving into the history and significance of Korean money, let’s start with some basic information about the country’s currency.

Korean currency is called the won (₩), with 1,000 won being the basic unit. Bills come in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 50,000 won, while coins are available in 10, 50, 100, and 500 won. The current design of Korean money features images of important historical figures, such as King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-sin.

When it comes to exchange rates, as of March 2021, 1 USD is equivalent to approximately 1,130 KRW (Korean won). However, exchange rates can fluctuate based on a variety of factors, such as political and economic conditions.

The Korean Won: A Brief History and Overview of the Nation’s Currency

Korean currency has a long and complex history, dating back to the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE-668 CE). During this time, individual kingdoms circulated their own coins, but these were mostly used for ceremonial purposes.

It wasn’t until the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) that a national currency system was established. At this point, coins were used as an official means of exchange, with paper money also being introduced by the late 17th century.

Following the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945, the Bank of Korea was founded in 1950, and the Korean won was introduced in 1962. Since then, the value of the Korean won has fluctuated, influenced by globalization and economic developments both domestically and internationally.

Money Talks: Understanding the Korean Financial System and Its Significance

The Korean financial system can seem complicated to outsiders, but it plays a critical role in the country’s economy. The system consists of several key components, including the Bank of Korea, commercial banks, securities firms, and insurance companies.

One key feature of the Korean financial system is its emphasis on debt. Korean companies have traditionally relied heavily on borrowing money for investment, with low interest rates and easy access to credit. However, this has also led to high levels of debt and the potential for financial instability.

Despite these challenges, the Korean financial system is an important contributor to the country’s economy, both domestically and internationally. For example, Korean companies such as Samsung and Hyundai have a global presence, with their financial success and stability tied to the strength of the Korean financial system.

The Significance of Korean Money: Exploring How It Reflects the Nation’s Culture and Economy

Korean money not only plays a significant role in the country’s economy but also reflects its culture and history. For example, the images on Korean bills and coins commemorate important figures in Korean history, such as Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-sin. By featuring these figures on the country’s currency, Korea is sharing its history and celebrating its heritage.

The value of Korean money is also tied to the country’s economy, with fluctuations based on global economic conditions and the strength of Korean companies. International trade also plays a significant role, with exports accounting for a large portion of Korea’s GDP.

Counting Korean Money: A Visual and Practical Guide to Sorting and Identifying Different Denominations

For foreigners, one of the most challenging aspects of Korean currency is identifying and counting the different denominations. Here are some tips and a visual guide to help:

– Take your time: Don’t rush when counting Korean money, and make sure you’re familiar with the different bills and coins before starting.
– Use your fingers: One effective way to sort Korean money is by using your fingers as a guide. For example, when counting bills, you can fan them out and use your index finger to separate each denomination.
– Be mindful of mistakes: Mistakes can easily happen when counting Korean money, such as misidentifying denominations or mixing up bills and coins. Take your time and double-check your work.

From Old-School Cash to Modern Mobile Payments: How Korean Money Is Evolving with the Times

Korean money has come a long way since its introduction in 1962. While cash is still widely used, alternative payment methods such as credit cards, online banking, and mobile payments are increasingly popular.

One reason for this shift is the convenience of mobile payments, which allow users to make purchases without the need for cash or credit cards. Korea is home to several popular mobile payment apps, including Samsung Pay, Naver Pay, and Kakao Pay.

While these alternative payment methods offer convenience, they also come with drawbacks. For example, users may face security issues and higher fees when using mobile payments. As such, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding which method to use.

Simplifying Korean Currency: Tips and Tricks for Tourists and Expat Residents Alike

For tourists and expat residents, using Korean currency can be challenging, but there are ways to make the process easier. Here are some tips:

– Familiarize yourself with the different denominations before arriving in Korea, and practice counting them before you go.
– Use a currency conversion app to help you quickly calculate Korean won to your native currency.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Korean locals are generally friendly and willing to assist foreigners.


Korean currency can be overwhelming at first, but taking the time to understand its history, significance, and practical use can make a big difference. From the history of the Korean won to the evolution of payment methods, this article has provided a comprehensive guide to Korean currency for foreigners. By applying the tips and tricks covered in this article, tourists and expat residents alike can safely and confidently use Korean money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *