Korean Won Facts You May Not Be Aware Of

October 14, 2021
Korean Won

You’ll need to convert your finances if you’re traveling to South Korea or sending money home. These facts will teach you all you need to know about the South Korean won, KRW conversion rates, and sending money to the country.

The won, sometimes written as hwan, is South Korea’s national currency. South Korea is a sovereign state in East Asia, situated on the Korean Peninsula’s southern tip. Seoul is the largest city and the country’s capital. South Korea’s banknotes and coins are issued exclusively by the Bank of Korea.

The won’s currency code is KRW, and its subunits are called jeon, which equal 1/100th of a won. 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 50,000 dollar bills are available. The denominations of the coins are 10, 50, 100, and 500 won.

“Wones” is the plural form of “won.” The Korean won is the only country in the world that utilizes it as its official currency. The South Korean won’s official symbol is a capital “W” with two parallel lines across it ().

Do you enjoy learning about money? Take a peek at some of these fascinating Korean won facts.

The name is a combination of the words Yuan and Yen

The term “win” is taken from the Chinese “yuan” and the Japanese “yen,” respectively.

These coins all share the same Chinese sign, which represents an object’s roundness. In Korean, the word “jeon” signifies “money.”

Famous Yi Dynasty figures appear on banknotes

On the reverse of the banknotes, early Yi dynasty characters such as writers Yi Hwang on the 1,000-won note, Yi I on the 5,000-won note, and King Sejong on the 10,000-won note are shown.

The early designs issued by the Bank of Joseon resembled those of Japanese notes issued during the Japanese invasion.

There were, however, two significant differences: The paulownia, the Japanese government’s emblem, was replaced by a Sharon rose, Korea’s national flower. The text describing the won’s interchangeability with the Japanese yen was removed.

Brass was once used to make one-won coins


The 1-won coin was originally composed of brass. However, in 1968, the brass used to make the coin was worth more than its face value!

The government then replaced the metal with aluminum, which is still used to make the 1 won today. Aluminum was chosen by the government because it has a low face value.

Both coins and banknotes are extremely difficult to forge

Many banknotes in circulation, including the 5,000 won, were forged in 2006, prompting the government to release a new series of banknotes with improved security features.

The Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation is the official banknote printer. Many of the new measures are also available on other major currencies, such as the Canadian dollar, the euro, the pound, and the Japanese yen.

These include color-changing 3D holograms and watermarks on portraits. Even newly produced coins include a chemical that aids in the detection of counterfeit coins.

South Korea’s won is the most recent in a long line of Korean currencies

During the Colonial period, the won was replaced as the official currency of South Korea by the Korean yen. However, in 1945, Korea was split into two parts: North Korea and South Korea. Each of these territories adopted its own currency, which was referred to as “win” in both cases.

The South Korean won was initially pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 15 won to one dollar. Following that, the currency was subjected to a succession of depreciations, owing in part to the Korean War.

On February 15, 1953, the first South Korean won was replaced by the hwan. The Bank of Joseon struck the coins and issued the notes at the period. The Bank of Korea was not established until 1950, at which time new banknote denominations were introduced.

In 1962, the South Korean won underwent its second major transformation. The won was reinstated with a 10 hwan to 1 KRW conversion rate.

The KRW became the sole legal tender in South Korea on March 22, 1975. The final hwan coins have been removed or are no longer in use.

The Bank of Joseon was the first to issue the currency


The Bank of Joseon issued 10-won and 100-won notes in 1946. In 1949, 5-won and 1,000-won notes were introduced. The Bank of Korea, which took over the functions of the Bank of Joseon, was created in 1950.

Notes in the denominations of 5, 10, and 50 jeon, as well as 100 and 1,000 won, were introduced (some dated 1949). In 1952, the five-hundred-won note was launched.

Additional Interesting Facts about the South Korean Won

  • The South Korean Won has been one of Asia’s most successful currencies. This is attributable to the economy of South Korea’s stability and expansion. They are one of the world’s largest automakers, shipbuilders, and home to a slew of large construction firms.
  • A capital letter ‘W’ with two parallel lines across it is the official emblem for the South Korean Won.
  • This currency is only used by South Korea. Outside of South Korea, it is not used.
  • The Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation is the official banknote printer. Meanwhile, the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation produces the coins.

Exchange Rates for the Korean Won

Since the Korean won is the only legal tender in South Korea, you’ll need to exchange your USD, CAN, or GDP if you visit. While in Korea, you can withdraw money from ATMs, exchange your funds at a bank, or stop by an exchange counter at the airport.

So, how far can you stretch your foreign dollars in Korea? One US dollar is now worth around 1,117 Korean won at the time of writing. Exchange rates are influenced by supply and demand, economic stability and growth, and other factors, and they can fluctuate on a daily basis.

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