Monday, September 28, 2009
Until very recently, the largest bill in Korea was worth 10000 won (bottom of picture), which according to today's exchange rate, is $8.36. Can you imagine withdrawing $200 and getting it in $8 increments? Yikes. Luckily, there is now a 50000 won bill (top) so when I fork over the 480000 won I have to pay (in cash) for my rent, I'm not counting out 48 of those guys. In korean, the word for ten thousand is "man" (만), so instead of saying "four hundred and eighty thousand" you would say "forty-eight ten-thousands." I'm still getting used to calculating everything in units of 10,000.
The smallest coin is worth 10 won (barely a penny!) and they've started making them teeny tiny - on the top bill is the old coin, and on the bottom bill is the shiny new one. I don't know what it's made of, but it is very light and kinda feels like toy money. I feel like it would be unheard of in the US to suddenly make the penny a different diameter and weight, but I suppose there are very few vending machines in the US that really even accept pennies anymore. I haven't tried to use a 10 won coin in a vending machine here yet, but most likely both types of coins are recognized.
It's kind of nuts that using a coin worth less than a penny is even possible here, but the coffee machine (커피 자판기) I visit every day has black coffee for 150 won. I splurge and go for the 200 won "maxim milk coffee" - seriously, that stuff is like crack.