Won is a currency unit that serves as the national currencies to the countries Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea commonly known as North and South Korea though values of two versions are not same! The word "won" had commonly been originated from the words "yuan" in Chinese language and "yen" in Japanese language, all of them meaning "round shape". The South Korean version of the currency is known as South Korean won that has been serving as its official currency since 1962 when it replaced "South Korean hwan". The unit is depicted with a Latinised symbol, "?" and is divided into 100 equal parts by its subunit "jeon" that is no longer in use. Jeon is symbolized with "?" symbol in the Korean language. The 4217 standard of the ISO has entitled South Korean won with KRW as currency code and 410 as numeric code.
The history of Korean currency dates back to the time before the birth of Christ, specifically in around 3rd century BC, when first coins in the form of Chinese knife coins belonging to the state of Yan said to have been circulated. In 108 BC, under the reign of Chinese Han Dynasty, grain coins were put to use within the kingdom for a long period of time. The use of these Chinese coins came to a halt in the year 996 when the kingdom of Koryo issued its own version of grain coins and till 1097, it started specifying on the coins that the coins hold a Korean origination. Around this time, the first iron coins also started to get minted and used. Coins made from metals other than iron like copper and also silver vase shaped coins were issued in the 10th and 11th century but their circulation was limited.
In 1392, the Goryeo kingdom that was ruling Korea was overthrown and the state of Joseon was founded. The founder of the dynasty, Taejong made several attempts to bring upon improvements in the prevailing monetary system but they were not a success initially. The attempts include issuing Korean version of Chinese paper currency and issuing coins instead of importing them from China. The coins issued in Korean being unsuccessful led to the issuance of a standardized note made of black mulberry bark called Jeohwa that was used in place of coins. The coins that were minted in the 17th century came out to be a success at last and as a result, 24 mints were established throughout Korea. Coinage formed a major part of the exchange system after this time. In 1633, "mun" was made the main currency of Korea and copper and bronze coins were issued denominated in this currency unit. It prevailed till 1892 when "yang" took over as the main currency. Yang was the first currency that used decimal system as it was divided in 100 equal fun, though it did not last long.
In 1902, won was introduced as the official currency unit replacing yang @ 1 won = 5 yang. The bank of Korea was established 1909 but soon after in 1910, Japan annexed Korea. Under Japanese rule, the country was made to use the currency unit "yen" in the name of Korean yen, which took over the Korean won at par. After the defeat in the World War II by the hands Allied forces, Japan had to set Korea free and this way the country gained its independence. The state of South Korea was established and recognized in 1948, and won was again made the official currency of the new state. "jeon" was made the subunit of the currency that divided it into 100 equal parts. Bank of Joseon issued the currency for independent South Korea for the first time that too in banknotes only. It was pegged to Japanese yen at par and the exchange rate of the currency with US dollar was 1 dollar = 15 won. Korean war fought between 1950-1953 resulted in drastic drop in the value of won and the dollar exchange rate shaped up in the contrasting figure that was 1 dollar = 6000 won.
The country then had to switch over to a new currency unit named "hwan" replacing won @ 1 hwan = 100 won. Like south Korean won, this currency unit was also issued in banknotes initially but in 1959, coins denominated in hwan were also issued and were the first circulating coins in South Korea. Hwan had a peg with US dollar but with time it also got devaluated. This was the reason for the reintroduction of won in 1962 as the official currency unit. South Korean currency was still pegged to the US dollar until in 1997 when it was floated into the world market.
South Korea is the largest economy in Asia and ranks 3rd in context of highest GDP in the continent. It also ranks 10th among the largest economies of the world. The country has made stunning improvement with in these 50 odd years since after the Korean War. The war left the country, as one of the poorest nations in the world but the current position of the country is an absolute contrast of the situation earlier. The structure of the economy has completely been changed from an agricultural economy in the beginning to service based consumer products oriented economy. "Miracle on the Han river" is the term often used for this metamorphosis of South Korea. Currently, the South Korean is counted among the "Next Eleven" nations as it has proved itself to be a promising and futuristic state of affairs. The economy has turned mature over a period of time, the best feature being restricted inflation and is placed among the fastest developing nations of the world.
A strong South Korean currency, won, well supports the accelerated growth of the economy. Since 1962, the year in which it was introduced, it had been pegged to the US dollar till the time of Asian financial crisis in 1997, when the country decided to float the currency. It was devalued by its value as soon as it was floated but now it has recovered well. Currency import and export in context of local currency is restricted for the amounts above 8000000 won that would need authorization. The imports exports of foreign currency are free up to an amount of US$10000 and the amounts exceeding this limit needs to be declared to get transferred.
The structure of the currency in South Korea is based on lesser denominations of coinage and paper currency as compared to any other currency in the world. The banknotes are issued in only 3 denominations and although the currency coins are issued in 6 denominations, 2 out them are rarely used. The management of the currency in the country is with the Bank of Korea that is the central bank of the country. It regulates the currency flow, ensures price stability, issues banknotes and coins and act as supervisory unit over other city banks. Korea Minting and Security Printing Corporation (KOMSCO) serve the mint and printer for the South Korean currency.
The banknotes, as mentioned above, are issued in 3 denominations that are 1000, 5000 and 10000 won. The notes in circulation belong to 1983-2002 series and 2006-07 series, the latter one having smaller banknote size and improved security features was issued due to hype in the number of counterfeited notes. All the face values had a separate color scheme in the previous series that is carried forward to the new series as well. The 1000 note has a blue dominated color pattern, the 5000 banknote has a red and yellow color scheme and 10000 notes has green as the dominating color. They show portrait images of important people from Joseon dynasty on their front sides under the reign of which, Korea was founded and the dynasty had a reign over 5 centuries long. The 10000 won notes of both the series show an image of King Sejong the great, the 5000 won note show picture of Scholar Yulgok and 1000 won banknote of both the new and previous series depict an image of Scholar Toegye.
An interesting feature of the banknotes of the South Korean won is that the notes dont possess the year of issuance of the series like in other currencies. Instead, the notes of same face value of different series are designated with the Korean letters in alphabetical order. The coinage in the currency is minted in 6 denominations that are 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 won, the smallest two units being almost out of use. The coins that are in circulation were issued in 1983 with a re-issued 10-won coin in 2006. The coins up till the face value 10 won are plain edged coins and the higher face value coins have milled edges. The reverse of all the coins is embossed with the face value of the coins along with the year of minting.
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