South Korean won

Name of currency: South Korean won

Country / countries used: Republic of Korea


Brief history:

The won or  원 as it is written in Korean (hangul), is the national official currency of South Korea, the word has the same origins as the Chinese term ‘yuan’ and the Japanese term ‘yen’ all translating to mean variations of ‘round shape’. The subdivision of the won ‘jeon’ shares its origins with the Chinese term ‘qian’ literally meaning ‘money’. 100 jeon make up a won and due to inflation are hardly used for regular transactions and day to day trade only becoming useful when it comes to money exchange with foreign exchange rates.

Throughout the ‘Colonial era’ or sometimes referred to as the ‘Japanese imperial period’ when japan governed over Korea among other Asian nations, the won was substituted with the ‘Korean yen’ effectively Japanese currency it was valued equal to and considered the same just made explicitly for Korea. This continued until the aftermath of World War 2 when Korea became split into two separate countries, thus resulting in two separate currencies the Northern Won and the Southern Won which in terms of money exchange rates replaced the yen at par.

The original won was subdivided by jeon 100 in a won and pegged to the US dollar at a money exchange rate of 1 dollar to 15 won following with a sequence of devaluations partly due to the Korean War resulting in an ultimate exchange rate of 1 US dollar being equivalent to 6000 won.

It was decided that his South Korean won was to be replaced by the ‘Hwan’ in 1953 because of its severe devaluation. At a money exchange rate of 1 hwan being of equal value to 100 won. Although in many ways this was an unsuccessful change as it also suffered from extreme inflation in 1953 1 US dollar was worth 60 hwan but by the year 1961 1 us dollar came to the value of 1250 hwan’s. Thus brought on the introduction of the second South Korean won in 1962 at a rate of 1 won being equivalent to10 hwan, it was announced as the sole legal tender in 1975 following the removal of all remaining hwan coins still in circulation.