Koreans You See Everyday

Hello dear readers!

Today’s post will be about the Koreans you see everyday. I bet I got you there! Now probably you are thinking who might be those people. Ha-ha. Okay, I won’t keep you waiting and wondering.

Since you are already in Korea, of course you have been dealing with the South Korean Won – the official currency in the country. You are using and seeing money pretty much every day and that means you will be seeing the people’s face featured on them, too!

So don’t you think that if you are seeing somebody every day, the least you could do is getting to know their names?

Those people are also somehow some of the most famous people in Korean history, too. Here they are.


50,000 Won – Shin Saimdang (신사임당) (1504-1551)


The most recent addition to the Korean won banknotes is the only woman to be on Korean money. Shin Saimdang was a calligraphist, poet, writer and artist. But what she is really known for is simply being a good wife and wise mother.


10,000 Won – King Sejong the Great (세종대왕 – SejongDaeWang) (1397-1450)


If you don’t know this man, you will once you come to Korea. Everyone knows King Sejong the Great. He is probably one of the most famous and immensely praised people in Koreans ever. Before him Koreans used Chinese characters to write Korean but this great man came along and became most famous for leading the effort for the creation of Korean alphabet. A brand new writing system, called Hangeul.


5,000 Won – Yi I (이이), also known as Yulgok (율곡) (1536-1584)


The son of 50,000 won mommy Shin Saimdang, this man was one of the smartest one. By the age of 3 he was already reading, by 7 he was done with his Confucian classics lessons, by 13 he passed the Civil service literacy exam, and by 16 he decided to devote himself to the study of Buddhism by moving to the mountains. More than his political contributions and multiple works as an author, he is most famous for his Neo-Confucian teachings, stuff that most of us just can’t even begin to understand. He was also a kind of Nostradamus of his time as he suggested that Korea should build up its military, warning that the Japanese were going to come soon.


1,000 Won – Yi Hwang (이황), also known as Toegye (퇴계) (1501-1570)


There are two really famous guys for being smart in Korean history. Yulgok (5,000 won guy) was one, and his teacher Toegye is the other famous Korean child prodigy and really, really smart guy. He learned the Analects of Confucius at age 12. And by 18, just about when most people finish high school, he had already written one of his major poems. Just like Yulgok, he held many different positions in the government, and he even had a really cool job called secret royal inspector.


100 Won coin – Admiral Yi Sun-shin (이순신) (1545-1598)


If you’ve ever been to Gwanghwamun (광화문) (a famous tourist attraction in Seoul), there’s this ultra-awesome statue of a guy with a big whooping stick. This is Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, one of Korea’s most legendary badasses. He fought off Japanese invaders during the Imjin War (임진왜란) that Yulgok (5,000 won guy) warned about. And he did it with these super cool ships called Turtle ships (거북선), complete with a spiky shell and smoke breathing dragon head.


Speaking of money, a good thing to know in case you are a future coming student to Korea is that 1,000 Won is roughly 1 US Dollar. You just get rid of the 3 zeros to get an idea of how much the Won is compared to the dollar.

Also, here at Hanyang campus there are two Shinhan Bank offices, where you can exchange your foreign currency but better exchange rates could be found at private currency stands in Itaewon (이태원) or Myeongdong (명동).


Article by Jani from Bulgaria

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