South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea (Daehan Minguk), is an East Asian country occupying the southern portion of the Korean peninsula. It is bordered by the East Sea (Sea of Japan) to the east, the East China Sea to the south, the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north. North and South Korea are bordered by a demilitarized zone that was established in 1953 after the Korean War. Its capital, Seoul, is the fifth largest metropolitan area in the world. South Korea is one of the most advanced democracies in Asia with the highest level of press freedom and the seventh highest position on the Human Development Index in Asia. Its economy is the world’s tenth-largest by nominal GDP as the world’s fifth largest exporter and eighth largest importer.
South Korea adopted three monetary systems: the South Korean won in 1948, the South Korean hwan in 1953, and the new South Korean won from 1962 to the present. All three monetary units are equivalent to 100 jeon. The Bank of Chosen was founded in July 1909. It was the central bank of Korea under the Japanese administration and of South Korea under the American administration. When the South Korean won was adopted in 1948, it was initially pegged at a rate of 15 won to 1 US dollar. The Bank of Korea was established in 1950 and assumed all issuing authority. Meanwhile, the Korean Minting and Security Printing Corporation (KOMSCO), a government-owned corporation responsible for producing South Korea’s coins and banknotes, was founded in 1951. The 1952 series of won notes expressed the date as the number of years since the founding of the Tan’gun dynasty. These notes featured President Syngman Rhee in a hanbok in front and the Pagoda Gongweon at the back. In 1953, the South Korean won was replaced by the South Korean hwan at a rate of 100 won to one hwan. Early hwan notes were denominated in Chinese text, but the name of the currency in English and Hangul were still in won. This mismatch was because the notes were printed before the currency change law was passed. In 1953, this mismatch was rectified and the hwan appeared in English, Chinese, and Hangul text. In 1957, an updated portrait of President Syngman Rhee in a suit and tie replaced his previous portrait on the notes. A commemorative 50 hwan note was issued in 1958 to celebrate Korea’s liberation from Japan. Starting from 1960, the Bank of Korea printed its name in Hangul instead of Chinese text on the notes. On June 9, 1962, the won was reintroduced at a rate of 125 won to 1 US dollar. The won replaced the hwan at a rate of 1 won to 10 hwan and became the sole legal tender in 1975. The notes featured Western dates and bore the imprint of KOMSCO, even though larger denominations were printed by De la Rue. A newly designed family of banknotes were introduced in 1966, with the 100 and 500 won having intaglio printing and the 50 won being lithographed. These notes featured different notable Koreans in front and different landmarks at the back. Banknotes that included tactile marks below the watermark area were introduced to aid the sight impaired. Improved security features were added to banknotes in 2006, including Omron rings on all denominations, Western prefixes and suffixes, and updated serial numbers. A commemorative 2,000 won banknote was introduced in 2017 to commemorate the Pyongchang Winter Olympics. The note was not circulated but sold as a numismatic product.