Korean Money

Korean currency is called the won (KRW). Bills are available in 1000, 5000, 10000, and 50000 increments. When we shop, we try to think of ₩1000 as about $1 USD.

The expat abrev, so we’ve been picking up, is to say something costs “5 thou” or “34 thou.” The zeros have really been throwing me off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed a cashier the 5 thou bill thinking it was the 50 thou bill. Oops. I need to remember the lady is on the 50.


Korean bills and coins


The exchange rate is not exactly even. Today, ₩1000 is equal to $0.85.

It’s strange not having a 20 or 100 bill. Unless you specify, the ATMs usually spit out 10 thou bills, which can get bulky if you have a decent amount of cash on you. There are also 1 and 5 won coins, but I haven’t come across any of those. They’re not widely used, and most items are rounded to the nearest 10 won.

These coins are worth about 50¢, 10¢, 5¢, and 1¢. Just knock off a zero:


Won coins


The art on the bills is very pretty:


Won bill art


Korean Won Detail


Aside from cash, we’ve found credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.

The cost of living is higher than the States and Turkey. The price of food kills me. (We spent less than $200 a month in Turkey on groceries!) But we’ve also found that eating out can be super cheap when you have a big group of people sharing heaping communal plates.


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