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currency would probably be the first thing foreigners do when they arrive in Korea. After exchanging money, one might begin to look at the money and pose the question: What's behind the currency itself?

The Korean currency consists of a ten thousand, five thousand, and one thousand won note. At the front of bills are the great men in Korean history. Moreover, the famous places associated with these great men are depicted on the opposite side of the bills. Let¡¯s take a close look at them, both sides
King Sejong (reign 1418-1450)
King Sejong
Great King Sejong, the fourth king of Joseon Dynasty (1392?1 910), is represented on the front side of the banknote. He had a new alphabet designed to fit the Korean language, han-geul, and led the nation to prosperity not only in economics but also in politics and culture.
Next to his picture is a water clock, mulsigye, created by the top scientist of the Joseon period, Jang Yeong-sil. This amazing clock was made in 1438. It would strike a gong and a drum at regular intervals. An improved version was made in 1536, and has since been kept in Deoksugung Palace.
Gyeonhoeru pavilion (an outdoor palace pavilion)
Gyeonghoeru pavilion on the back side of 10,000 won note
This is the largest and most magnificent structure at Gyeongbokgung Palace. Nowadays visitors rest here on a bench among beautiful trees. Surrounded by high walls, however, the structure was never entered without special permission during the Joseon Dynasty.
King Taejong (reign 1400?1418), Sejong¡¯s father, extended the structure and built a big pond all the way around. It was used for important national events and dinners for foreign envoys before it was burned during the Imjinwaeran War (a war provoked by the Japanese invasion of 1592 to 1598). The structure was rebuilt in 1867 and has been well preserved to this day.
Scenic view
Gyeonghoeru pavilion
Serene and stunningly beautiful, Gyeonghoeru pavilion is mirrored in a pond. The three stone bridges across the pond to Gyeonhoeru pavilion differed in size and were used by visitors of varying social status. They are decorated with sculptures in the shape of propitious animals, to protect Gyeonghoeru pavilion. During Korean War one of the sculptures bulgasari, a mythical animal, was somewhat broken by shelling, but Gyeonghoeru pavilion has been kept almost completely preserved. When most of Seoul was flattened during the war, could it have been possible that the bulgasari may have protected the Gyeonghoeru pavilion through some mysterious power?
Yi Yul-gok (1536 ~ 1584)
Yi Yul-gok
Yi Yul-gok was a prodigy, receiving top grades on the official government appointment tests nine consecutive times and as great a Confucian scholar as Yi Hwang (on the thousand-won note). He presented important political thought and philosophical theories, and endeavored to put it into practice but was met with great difficulty.
Ojukheon, the birthplace of Yi Yul-gok
Ojukheon on the back side of
5,000 won note
This is one of the Korea¡¯s oldest existing houses, built in the period of King Jungjong (1506?1544), in Gangneung, Gangwon-do. Yi Yul-gok was a great politician and scholar of the Joseon Period. He was born in this house and lived there with his mother Sinsaimdang, who was one of the finest artists of the Joseon period and a top scholar in her own right. The Ojukheon Municipal Museum now has its exhibits inside the house.Look at the ink stone next to Yi Yul-gok on the front side of the banknote. His personal ink stone is on exhibit there at Ojukheon.
Yi Hwang (1501 ~ 1570)
Yi Hwang was a great philosopher and Confucian scholar. Even though he had assumed leadership of the politic situation of his time, he declined a high government position in 1559, he returned to his hometown to study and educate younger scholars. His favorite game was tuho, throwing arrows into a jar. When young men came to him for learning, he had them play tuho to help them focus. Note the vase and arrows pictured on the front of the 1,000 won bill.
Dosan Confucian School
Dosan Confucian School on a
1,000 won note
Located in Andong, Gyeonsangbuk-do, this school was built on the site where Yi Hwang educated his disciples. He was highly esteemed by the royal house and the academic world. Because many scholars studied together there over hundred years, it became a center of learning in Gyeonsang-do. It is one of the three great Confucian schools that survived beyond the Joseon Period. There are over 4,000 books there, as well as Yi Hwang's grave.
Take a close look at the banknote. There is a pine tree over the letter N in the word WON, which will be removed from the printing plates this year as a result of expressed public opinion. Former Korean President Pak Jeong-hee planted this Japanese gold pine, but it will be removed to another site. Also pictured on the note, to the bottom right of the picture, are locust trees which withered and have been cut down.
Source: english.visitkorea.or.kr