Are you traveling to South Korea or sending money home? Are you watching Squid Game and curious to know more about South Korean currency? We’re fascinated by world currencies here at Remitly, so we understand.
The won, also spelled hwan, is the official currency of South Korea. South Korea is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. The largest city and capital is Seoul. The Bank of Korea has the exclusive authority to issue banknotes and coins for South Korea.
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The currency code for the won is KRW and subunits of the won are called jeon, which equals 1/100th of a won. Bills come in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 50,000. Coins come in values of 10, 50, 100, and 500 won.
The plural of “won” is “wones.” The Republic of Korea is the only country that uses the Korean won as the national currency. The official symbol for the South Korean won is a capital letter “W” with two parallel lines across it (₩).
6 Interesting Facts About the Korean Won
Love to learn about currency? Take a look at these interesting facts about the Korean won.
1. The name is a blend of Yuan and Yen.
The word “won” is a cognate term derived from the Chinese “yuan” and the Japanese “yen.”
These coins have in common the same Chinese symbol, one that denotes the round property of an object. The term “jeon” means “money” in Korean.
2. Banknotes feature famous Yi Dynasty figures.
The banknotes feature the early Yi dynasty figures on the reverse, including 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.
The early designs released by the Bank of Joseon were similar to those of the Japanese notes of the period of the Japanese invasion.
However, there were two key differences: The paulownia, emblem of the government of Japan, was replaced by a rose of Sharon, the Korean national flower. The text about the interchangeability of the won with the Japanese yen was eliminated.
3. Both the coins and banknotes are very hard to counterfeit.
In 2006, many of the banknotes in circulation were being falsified, such as the 5,000 won, which prompted the government to introduce a new series of banknotes with better security measures.
The official printer of banknotes is the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation.
Many of the new measures can be found on other major currencies as well, including the Canadian dollar, euros, pounds, and Japanese yen.
These include 3D holograms that change color and watermarks with portraits. Even newly minted coins also included a substance that makes them easy to detect against counterfeit coins.
4. 1-won coins were once made of brass.
Originally, the 1-won coin was made with brass. But in 1968, the brass with which the coin was made exceeded its face value!
At that point, the government replaced the metal with aluminum, which remains the material for the 1 won today. The government chose aluminum because the material has a low face value.
5. The South Korean won is the latest in a series of Korean currencies.
During the Colonial era, the won was replaced by the Korean yen as the official currency of South Korea. But in 1945, Korea was divided into North Korea and South Korea. Each of these territories adopted a different currency, although in both cases it was called “won.”
The hwan replaced that early currency on February 15, 1953. At that time, the Bank of Joseon minted the coins and issued the notes. Officials created the Bank of Korea in 1950, at which point, they introduced new banknote denominations.
The second major development for the South Korean won took place in 1962. The government reintroduced the won with an exchange rate of 10 hwan to 1 KRW.
On March 22, 1975, the KRW became the only legal currency in South Korea. Authorities withdrew the last of the remaining hwan coins.
6. The Bank of Joseon issued the money first.
In 1946, the Bank of Joseon introduced 10-won and 100-won notes. These were followed in 1949 by 5-won and 1,000-won notes.
In 1950, a new central bank, the Bank of Korea, was established and assumed the duties of the Bank of Joseon.
Notes were introduced (some dated 1949) in denominations of 5, 10, and 50 jeon, as well as 100 and 1,000 won. Five-hundred-won notes were introduced in 1952.
The Value of the Korean Won
Since the latter half of the 20th century, the South Korean won tends to perform well due to the stability and growth of the economy in the Republic of Korea. The country is one of the world’s largest automobile producers and shipbuilders and is home to many large construction companies. South Korea is a developed, high-income country and is a member of the OECD.
In fact, South Korea’s was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world from the 1960s to 1990s. It remains one of the fastest-growing developed countries in the 2020s, right next to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. As a result, the won tends to be one of the better-performing currencies in world trading.
However, the won hasn’t been as strong recently. The COVID-19 pandemic affected its value against the dollar, and the currency still isn’t performing as well as it did pre-pandemic.
Korean Won Exchange Rates
The Korean won is the only legal tender in South Korea, so if you travel there, you’ll need to get your USD, CAN, or GDP exchanged. You can withdraw Korean money directly from ATMs while in the country, exchange your funds at a bank, or stop by an exchange counter in the airport.
So, how far will your foreign currency stretch in Korea? At the time of this writing, one U.S. dollar is worth about 1,117 Korean won.
Exchange rates are affected by supply and demand, economic stability and growth, and more, and often change daily. For more on understanding foreign exchange rates, browse through our guide here.
You can check with your bank or your favorite money transfer company for current Korean won exchange rates.
With Remitly, for example, simply log into our app and select Korea as your destination. You’ll be able to see the current rates for USD to KRW, GBP to KRW, and more.
Sending Money to Korea
If you need to send money to Korea, Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable.