Monday, June 29, 2009

Who wants to be a trillionaire

The money's funny.

Actually, the layout of the bills makes a lot more sense than ours: The 1000 Won notes are blue, the 5000s peach, the 10000s green, and as the denominations get larger, the bills do, too, a little bit. There are 10, 50, 100, and 500 Won coins as well, which also get bigger as they get bigger.

However... there are no personal checking accounts. At all. Everything's transacted in three ways. First, you can use a credit/debit card (and all the major corporations have their own cards, so you might get a ten percent discount at E-Mart if you buy certain products using your BC Card, the only card Costco accepts is the Samsung Card, and so on.) Secondly, when you get money out of the bank, you can take it in a mixture of bills and "checks", 100000 Won certificates that the banks print themselves and are as good as cash. Finally, you can just carry a truckload of bills; until last week, the largest bill was the 10000, which meant that if I got my monthly salary in bills, I literally couldn't close my wallet.

But now the government has introduced the 50000 Won bill; I still haven't actually seen one for real, but there it is in all its glory above, with Korea's first example of a woman on its money, unless the crane on the front of the 500 Won coin is a female; it's kind of hard to tell. The picture on the bill is a prettied-up depiction of some medieval Korean heroine in hanbok (traditional dress). Actually, when she wore it, I guess it was just regular ol' clothing.

The three characters to the left of the lady read O Man Won (Five Ten thousand Won); large numbers are done in multiples of 10,000. The characters below the serial number read, phonetically, Bo Gi, which may or may not be a touching tribute to Humphrey Bogart; I like to think so.

...and then there's the fact that everything is priced in multiples of ten Won, which means that an enormous amount of cumulative time, effort and resources are devoted to adding that extra meaningless zero to every single amount. (Currently, 1000 Won equals 78 cents American.) But at least that means that every payday, I'm a millionaire. And I didn't even need Regis.

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